Starry-Eyed Camp Surprise

Indian Cove Campground Joshua Tree

No trip to Joshua Tree National Park is complete without a stargazing party and the comfort of a campfire. The night sky illuminates spectacularly in the desert (especially during a new moon) and is best observed with good company. Indian Cove Campground, nestled 13 miles east of the park entrance and 9 miles west of downtown Twentynine Palms, is arguably the most solitary site for the ultimate desert camping experience. The secluded, sprawling campground (91 individual campsites and 13 group-only options) is completely surrounded by colossal rock formations that lend privacy to tent sites. Campers can scramble up nearby rocks to enjoy sunsets and stargazing, and there's also a half-mile interpretive trail on the west side of the grounds, featuring large quantities of yuccas, barrel cacti, and desert shrub. Keep an eye out for the elusive desert tortoise, known to roam the area in the fall, as well as chuckwallas and roadrunners, possibly with a coyote in tow.

BONUS OASIS: For a nearby hike that isn't subject to the park's entrance fees, travel east on Highway 62 for about a mile, turn right on Canyon Road and follow it to the trailhead of Fortynine Palms Oasis. This 3-mile out-and-back trek ascends 300 feet up a mountain and descends 300 feet down to a lush fan palm oasis with peaceful pools of water and plenty of boulders to set up a picnic on.

From Los Angeles, take I-10 east to CA-62. Turn right at Indian Cove Rd. and continue south on the road until you see signs for the designated space. Reserve ahead of time online at ReserveAmerica (it's first-come, first-served during summer months). Sites are $20/night; $20 minimum entry fee into the Joshua Tree National Park (good for 7 days) or $30 annual pass. The campground is dog-friendly. No dogs on the trails.

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