Encircled by massive boulders and punctuated by a number of twisty Joshua trees, Belle Campground is a picturesque place to lay your head on your visit to Joshua Tree National Park. A short hike earns travelers access to Arch Rock and Skull Rock—two notable and incredibly interesting rock formations. The easy hiking and numerous rocks provide a playground for kids and adults alike.
The boundless space and empty solitude of this corner of the desert is home to a surprisingly wide array of flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for softball-sized Coyote Melons that grow on spindly vines that twist across the desert floor. Despite their appearance and name, they are not okay to eat. Creostone abounds as does paperbag brush, jojoba, and various cholla. Desert juniper is rare to see. Those with a sharp eye can spot scorpions, sidewinder rattlesnakes, jackrabbit, and an array of hawks and other desert birds.
This is one of the closest campgrounds to the north entrance to the park, which is situated close to the eastern boundary of the park on the California Hiking and Riding Trail. As is standard with other sites in the park, it’s not super accommodating for large RVs, and the few amenities are vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no running water to speak of, so plan accordingly.
If you’re seeking a bit of a reprieve from the large numbers that flock to sites like Jumbo Rocks Campground, Belle is a great choice. And although it’s removed from the Mojave Desert highlights to which many travelers flock, the location is great for those wanting to tromp through Pinto Basin.
Also notable is the excellent climbing nearby. Although the climbing in this area of the park doesn’t compare to the perfect quality of the rock found in the western portion of the park, nearby Castle Rock – North Side hosts a number of great mid-grade trad routes, some bouldering, and some sport routes.