Situated just about as far north as you can get in Joshua Tree National Park and a stone’s throw from the town of Yucca Valley, Black Rock Canyon Campground offers some of the most comprehensive amenities in the park and is one of the only two designated horse camps.
After a few days camping elsewhere in the park, the running water and flushing toilets found at this site, though modest, can feel like a downright luxury. Even though there is potable water on site, it’s still recommended that you bring plenty of your own. Pro tip: The Jelly Donut just outside of the park makes some killer homemade sugar bombs.
If your sole mission is to cram in vistas with the highest concentration of Joshua trees, the Black Rock Canyon Campground is a good place to try and achieve it. The roads in are lined with the twisty, spindly trees, and if you’re lucky enough to nab a campsite along the outer edge of the campground, you’ll be privy to unobstructed views of the desert expanse littered with Mojave Desert flora. If you’re a geology geek, don’t expect to see many of the massive boulders and rock formations that characterize Joshua Tree National Park. For sites nestled among granite behemoths, venture to Indian Cove Campground.
Many flock to this site with the Panorama Loop on top of their tick list. The 6.25-mile trail finds it’s trailhead just beyond site #30 and is one of the best hikes for those wishing for a glimpse of rare pinyon and juniper woodlands. Though these woodlands proliferated across this landscape a mere 10,000 years ago, they are now considered a relic landscape and are forced to retreat into isolated pockets higher in the region.
The potential for spotting wildlife is remarkably high along this northern edge of the park and first-time visitors are generally surprised by the variety of fauna that the harsh desert climate hosts. Expect to see an impressive array of birds and reptiles, and keep an eye out for rattlesnakes. During the cooler months, desert tortoises are more active, as are coyotes, desert tarantulas, desert big horn sheep, and bobcats, though the larger mammals don’t typically tread near busy campsites.
Note: Black Rock Canyon Campground is typically only open during peak season, October through May. Call the park at 760.367.5500 for seasonal details.