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Camping in JTree when you have a job - possible at all?


Original Post
Kristian Andersen · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 180

We love the great outdoors, we love climbing, so we'd like to go camping at JTree... Only it doesn't actually seem to be possible to ever secure a site?! Driving four hours (two hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic) on a Friday afternoon from San Diego to try and beat the crowds, only to realize that all campsites have been taken since Thursday?

So my question is - realistically, is there any way that it's possible to get a campsite at JTree, say, between the months of October to May? I asked the ranger and he said "forget about it" - you have to be here by Thursday at noon. Only, that's not possible because I have to work.

Am I missing something or are there any secrets to actually securing a campsite?

atomup · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 110

You can always drive outside the park, & camp free in BLM land. There's a private campground called Jtree lake or something too

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

You can reserve sites in Indian Cove.

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,122
Kristian Andersen wrote:We love the great outdoors, we love climbing, so we'd like to go camping at JTree... Only it doesn't actually seem to be possible to ever secure a site?! Driving four hours (two hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic) on a Friday afternoon from San Diego to try and beat the crowds, only to realize that all campsites have been taken since Thursday? So my question is - realistically, is there any way that it's possible to get a campsite at JTree, say, between the months of October to May? I asked the ranger and he said "forget about it" - you have to be here by Thursday at noon. Only, that's not possible because I have to work. Am I missing something or are there any secrets to actually securing a campsite?
If you want to camp in the park, take a couple of days off so that you can get there Thursday morning, or just camp at one of the various areas just outside of the park There are a couple mentioned above plus you can always stay at The Pit.
James T · · Livermore · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 80

Park at a bacountry board, fill out the form, hike in a few miles and set up shop. It's a big park and there's plenty of backcountry options, plus you get the real Josh experience and not a crowd of loud obnoxious campground hooligans.

Just be sure to LNT

Doug18 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 0

Forget Ryan's and Hidden Valley Just drive to Jumbo Rocks I wish they would add more seasonal spots at Ryan's. Maybe its time we start talking to the Park Admin.

Matt N · · Santa Barbara, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 273

We all have jobs and drive from SB (4hours w/o traffic) and manage just fine. Can't share the secrets, though ;)

Heck Halloween had sites open Fri in HV and Sat in Ryan! Go when its windy or snowing and you'll find open sites!

Sean · · Oak Park, CA · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,836
Kristian Andersen wrote:Driving four hours (two hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic) on a Friday afternoon from San Diego to try and beat the crowds
you're doing what the vast majority of others usu do. why would you expect that to work well?

the other funny thing is, whenever this issue reappears now and then, there would bound to be some loudmouths out to brag about how effective their own special method is, even if it's only so effective, which, of course, as soon as that's made more widely known, would lead countless others into doing the same and immediately lessen said loudmouths' own chances of having that to continue to work, thereby shooting themselves in the foot. pretty soon, they too would be among the rest who could do little else other than complain about how impossible to get a campsite inside the park, an unfortunate turn of their own making, prob bec of severe stupidity, or senility
Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 310

Doug18......

I have been complaining about the very same thing, NO CAMPING SPOTS, for like the last 30 years.... I do write letters to my congress person, the park Superintendent and every time I pull up to the keyosk to pay $$$$ (one time per year)....

When it became a Nat Park .... campsites disappeared!

Yes its time for some outrage, but your cries fall on def ears..... OUR TAX MONEY.

But take heart.... their are many- many better places to go and climb at,and camp at, once you look around.

Muscrat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,610

Pay a DB to get there? Offer to pay for the site for the week. Put it out on some site that focuses on climbing, like...oh, i don't know, Supper Burrito?

Kristian Andersen · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 180

Thanks for all the replies guys! I have looked at the camping options outside the park, but they aren't what we're after - not exactly the beauty of the great outdoors ;-).

Backcountry is definitely a possibility - any good places to hike out from? Also, since we often sleep in our car, would it be possible to 'camp' a long some of the dirt roads in the park?

Tried booking sites at Indian Cove, but it's impossible too - everything booked many many months in advance.

We drove past Ryan, HV, etc. this weekend and checked out all the campground (except Cottonwood) and everything was booked by Thursday - including Cottonwood. The park ranger told me this is the new normal. I was kinda hoping there might be a way to game the system...

What I would love to see would be on-the-day booking of some of the sites at e.g. Jumbo Rock - that'd avoid having to drive for four hours and hope (in vain) to secure a first-come-first-serve spot and also wouldn't require you to book 6 months in advance. Should be possible to do, no? First-come-first-serve is great in theory, but not if it requires you being there Thursday morning (which, as mentioned, most of us can't do).

Kristian Andersen · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 180
Muscrat wrote:Pay a DB to get there? Offer to pay for the site for the week. Put it out on some site that focuses on climbing, like...oh, i don't know, Supper Burrito?
That might not be a bad idea and would definitely be considered gaming the system ;-).
Kristian Andersen · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 180
Guy Keesee wrote:But take heart.... their are many- many better places to go and climb at,and camp at, once you look around.
For sure - Idyllwild for example is a magical place and we absolutely love it (more than any other place in fact!). What's special about JTree is the desert environment though, and it'd be nice to experience that every once in a while. We could go camp in Anza-Borrego, but then, alas, no climbing.
Muscrat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,610

Try and get a Yosemite valley res! When they open the "bidding" at 7am, all sites are gone by 7:02. No lie, the month is booked for all valley sites in 2 minutes.
Too many people. Let's start an off thread rant, all the worlds problems can be reduced to....TOO MANY OF YOU!! (i don't count, i'm special).

Chris Norwood · · San Diego, CA · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 80

How set are you on having a spot entirely to yourself??

I see this train of thought pop up here a lot, and I'm usually smile to myself. I've had no problem staying in hidden valley every time I go to J-tree for the past 3 or 4 years, no matter when I show up. Your answer to my question will determine whether or not the technique will work for you, but here it is: be social and ask around!!

I cruise through the campground around dark, when climbers are just showing up back to their sites. I don't ask families and I don't ask couples that look like they're way into their own little thing. Almost any group of dirtbags will be willing to let you join them at their site if you come bearing beer and good conversation. Sometimes there will not be a space to park, but then you can go around and ask anyone else (including those couples or families) with only one car parked in their site (two-car max is enforced) if they mind if you just park your car there while camping at another spot.

I'd say I have 95% success rate with this technique. Do it a few times and you'll get to know who the dirtbags are that are staying for months, and next time you can show up and join their camp right away! Again, of corse this is very contingent on how willing you are to join in with the dirtbaggery and 'scene' that forms in HV during the season. It might be a little loud, people will be intoxicated, but if you have the right attitude, you're bound to have a good time and maybe even make some new, good friends :)

Same technique applies to Camp 4, but you will have to hitchhike/shuttle your car (El Cap Meadows is a good place to leave it) and sleep in a bivvy sack that you only set up after the rangers do their rounds and pack it entirely up as soon as the sun rises!!

Good luck!!!

Ashort · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 35

We've stayed at the Joshua Tree Lake campground (private). It was actually pretty quiet when we were there. Good value and hot showers. Sucks that you have to drive into the park everyday though.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Kristian Andersen wrote: Tried booking sites at Indian Cove, but it's impossible too - everything booked many many months in advance.
I just checked on recreation.gov for Indian Cove availability. Weekdays are good, but you want weekends. Looks like there are campsites available for Friday through Sunday, Jan 1-3 and Jan 8-10. Didn't check out past that, but I wouldn't say it's booked "many months in advance." Act now on this incredible offer!
matt c. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 155

We tried the back country thing and it really sucks. Check out the blm land. Its great and free.

Fat Dad · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 60

Since I was planning on dragging the kids out there this winter, this thread is a good reminder of the hoops required to snag a site. Even if you planning on camping at Jumbo Rocks (which is fine BTW), my recollection is that you better get there by midday on Friday.

Someone also mentioned never having a problem staying at Hidden Valley. That may be true, but my experiences vary. The last few times I've stayed there however, I've come back to my campsight and found people squatting. When you approach them they pull out the 'hey bro, mind if we share your site with you'. Seeing that they already have their shit spread out, my usual answer is to relent, but it's kind of a dick move IMHO. You could meet some total cool folks and have friends for life, or you may have some moochy interloper ruin your weekend.

en.r · · Long Beach, Ca · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 55

I have only been going to Josh for 4 or so years, but have never seen this kind of craziness. A total zoo -Wont go into specifics. For goodness sake, just play by the rules. Believe me I would love to do whatever I want unimpeded. But in a place like Josh it is just selfish and irresponsible.

Also, there are lines of people pounding the pavement asking when you are leaving. It is difficult to cook breakfast when people are trying to pressure you into sharing the site.

-Let me know how well you enjoyed the great outdoors. Cause Josh may be a rap for me this season. Maybe next year we all will have better luck.

Kristian Andersen · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 180

Judging by all the comments - looks like backcountry camping it is ;-). Any favorite spots?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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