This out-of-the way campsite is privy to some of the darkest night skies in Southern California. Rarely does a raincloud obscure sweeping views of the stars overhead, and sleeping out is highly recommended. Plus, it's open year round.
Cottonwood Campground is best accessed from the southern end of the park. Though there are no Joshua trees that grow this far south, the area is bursting with intriguing desert flora, and the Cottonwood Spring Oasis is very close by. This area is unique in that it’s nestled into an ecological transition zone. The Sonoran Desert spans out to the east and the Mojave to the west. Therefore, creostone, jojoba, juniper, ocotillo, and many species of cacti abound while a short hike from the site gains access to tucked-away washes that host mesquite, willow, and smoketree.
Though campgrounds usually fill up on weekends between October and May, it’s slightly off the beaten path, making this campground one of your best bets if you visit the park in the high season. The three group sites are available by reservation only and prohibit RVs and campers, but there are a number of smaller sites that are first-come, first-served and welcome large vehicles. There are no hookups.
The campground is littered with man-made shade-giving shelter and though there is not much natural shade, the wildflowers are more prolific around here than almost anywhere else in the park thanks to its lower elevation. The small amphitheater onsite is often used for educational programs teaching campers about the flora, the fauna, the fascinating geology, and the rich history of the region.
The Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail, Mastadon Peak Loop, and Lost Palms Oasis are very easily accessible by foot from this campground, as is a limited amount of rock climbing.