Camping at Joshua Tree National Park is almost sacred. Sleeping under a dark, starry sky, surrounded by surreal landscape in all directions, with the sound of wind whipping around the boulders and nocturnal animals scurrying through the cacti is as close to nature and the authentic desert as it gets.

Within Joshua Tree National Park, visitors can choose from eight campsites with names such as Hidden Valley, Indian Cove and Jumbo Rocks. Many are located near popular hiking trails and rock-climbing spots. Amenities and vistas vary, but all have cozy fire pits, latrines and tables. There are even designated horse camps—Black Rock and Ryan—for equestrians riding the park’s trails.

Though Joshua Tree National Park enjoys beautiful weather year-round, the campgrounds usually fill up on weekends October through May, and from mid-February to mid-May (and during holidays), sites are commonly full throughout the week. During the off-season from June to September, all campsites are first-come, first-serve with no reservations necessary (check ahead for certain campground closures).

Those interested in exploring Joshua Tree beyond the national park will find several eclectic restaurants and shops—as well as additional campsites—nearby, including Joshua Tree Coffee Company, known for their locally roasted brews, and Pappy & Harriet’s, a live music mainstay serving up barbecue and beer. A farmers market unfolds every Saturday morning downtown, where vendors market their fresh flowers, produce and local art and housewares.

Be sure to visit the Joshua Tree National Park Service page for alerts and conditions and look up directions before setting out.