Forget everything I’ve ever written about other campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park.
Our inaugural trip to Indian Cove had it all: Beautiful weather (though hot during the day), gorgeous views, peaceful drives, quiet neighbors, good friends, good food and good booze. It doesn’t get any better than that! It was the perfect kickoff to the 2015 camping season and I think this bodes well for our year.
Indian Cove is just off the 62 freeway near Twentynine Palms, and unlike other campgrounds in the park, the drive to this one is short. It takes about 10 minutes. Don’t be alarmed: You’re going to briefly drive through a residential area, then take a little detour through the ranger’s station, pass a group campground on the right, and finally, you will hit Indian Cove.
This trip was a small rite of passage for me: I arrived and set up camp all by myself in the dark, then spent the evening camping solo. It was wonderful! I unloaded my car, pitched the tent, got everything inside set up, then made myself a quick dinner of sausages, poured myself a glass of bourbon, then retired to the tent with Nabby to settle in and read. Although part of me missed sitting around the fire with Darren and some friends, I always enjoy some solitude.
We stayed in site No. 66, and that’s our view in the photo at the top. Not bad at all.
It’s a beautiful site, if a bit smaller than the others. It was so small, in fact, that we had to move our canopy every night to use the fire ring.
Four people fit here pretty comfortably, though. Next time, I want to grab either site No. 64 or No. 65 – they were not only absolutely massive, but they had all kinds of little coves to hide from the blazing sun.
We may or may not all have snuck over to the other campsites a few times during the day to hide in one of those shady spots. It was in the 90s, for Pete’s sake!
Despite being really popular with families and kids, Indian Cove is peaceful. We did hear a few kids in the mornings, but by and large, it was really quiet. And something about the rocks muffled the noise just a bit.
Families, I find, also tend to head out and see the sights early, and they’re gone until close to sunset. If you stick around the campground, you’re going to love the quiet.
Most people went to bed early each night, too. On Saturday, we shut down the campground and it was only 10 p.m. That never happens to us. Usually we’re the ones in our tents trying to sleep and praying to god that quiet hours will start soon.
Indian Cove is also a really, really popular place for climbers. You’ll see them all over, and they may even come into your campsite. It’s pretty cool to watch them, because they are totally crazy.
We really noticed the tranquility of Indian Cove after we took our friends on a drive through the park (they had never been before) and onto Jumbo Rocks, promising them that it was even more amazing than where we were staying.
Except it wasn’t. It was a total zoo, full of spring breakers and traffic.
So, hightail it back to Indian Cove we did. We spent the rest of the day kicking back with a few drinks, laughing a lot and photographing the sunset.
Indian Cove is, hands down, our new favorite campground in Joshua Tree. Between the views, the accessibility, the location, the nice campsites and the ability to make a reservation, you can’t beat it.
Ranger station: There are some knick-knacks sold inside, and Indian Cove has its own passport stamp if you have a National Park Passport. Be sure to check in there when you arrive.
Water: There is water at the ranger’s station, which is located about a mile from the campground. You can fill up anything from drinking bottles to big jugs.
Bathrooms: Alas, they are vault toilets. They were looking really rough by Sunday, though it does look like someone comes by regularly to tidy them up, at least. Wish they’d replenish the toilet paper, though. That’s why we always pack extra.
Supplies, food, firewood: There are a ton of stores outside the campground, including a Stater Bros. if you turn right and go about 3 miles, a convenience store located at the corner of Indian Cove Road and the 62, and more stores in the town of Joshua Tree if you turn left.
Parking: Sites are allowed only two parking spots each. If you have a third car, you’re supposed to park it outside the park. But I think you could probably offer a neighbor a beer in exchange for an extra parking spot if they have one.
After camping: Why not go to Pappy & Harriet’s? If you’re heading back toward Los Angeles, it’s right on your way out of town. Just turn right on Pioneertown Road and drive for three to four miles. Pappy’s is on your right. They have a dog-friendly patio! Get the Nachos Von Rabbit. You’re welcome.