We camped at Black Rock campground about 3-4 times since it is the most convenient campground at Joshua Tree. With its proximity to the nearest town (about 5 minutes away), and with running water, it is easily the best pick if this is the first time you have ever camped in the desert!
Even though it is convenient, this campground doesn’t get my love at all! First of all, it is so close to the town that the light pollution can affect your sight of the Milky way, even though you can see the Milky Way with you naked eyes. You can see some light pollution on the horizon in the picture below.
Second, this campground is not close to any scenic rock formations or popular trails. You will need to drive about 20-40 minutes to those areas like Arch Rock, Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, etc. and it is certainly not convenient to drive in the dark from this campground.
Third, we gave up camping here once and we couldn’t sleep here twice due to super high wind here. The first time, the wind was so big that it knocked down my Canon 6D and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 down from the tripod so we took off the tent and went home. My view finder got broken after that and the expensive lens got some scratch on it. Luckily, I got new replacements for my camera and the lens when they got stolen from our car so my heart has been healed 🙂
The second time we camped here, we tried to beat the crowd during a long weekend in the Summer, so we drove from Orange County to this campground on Friday night. Boy, that was a bad decision! We were the only car in the entire campground! I must admit that I was really scared to be there without anyone close to us as we usually camp with other people, not only 2 of us. After taking some pictures of the Milky Way above our tent, we heard some rattle noise under the well lit sky of the full moon that scared our chicken hearts so much that we went into the tent and watched “Once Upon a Time” series to waste the night 🙁
During the night, we heard so many footsteps around our tent or I imagined, and the wind was pretty heavy. The Moon was so bright that you could easily see every detail hundreds of feet away from the tent! I tried to sooth myself to sleep but as a paranoid person, I barely sleep at all.
At 5AM, we heard several howls around our tents. Wait, there are wild dogs on the desert? Well, it turned out that there were lots of coyotes in Joshua Tree and we saw a few of them crossing the streets! At that time, I was losing s**t and I thought we were outnumbered. Luckily, we were not attacked by any of them that night!
That yipping sound that coyotes make is orchestrated to make you believe that their numbers are greater than they actually are. It’s probably just 2 or 3 coyotes, but they’re trying to sound like a pack of 15!
Typically they are yipping to tell the others in their group where they are – and usually that means dinners ready! (so, you are safe!)
…And it’s meant to make your skin crawl…
When the sun rose up, one could feel the heat from the ground in the Summer day. The temperature quickly raised from 80F to 100F at 6AM so we cleaned up quickly to drive back to home.
The third time we came back to this campground was for watching the over-hyped meteor shower in August 2017. It was a pretty disappointing night as there were not as many shooting stars as we hoped. There were a few that streaked across the sky but not easy to take pictures of. After a few tries, we gave up and went to sleep.
It was another sleepless night for all of us! The wind was so crazy that we thought our tents would be ripped off and fly away! It was a hot night but with the wind, the temperature went down about 70-80F and you could feel the chill from it. After 3 times of trying to camp here, I would not be willing to go back to this campground again even though it is pretty convenient 🙁
- Do not leave your shoes out of the tents or leave your tents open. Deadly spiders, scorpions, or all kinds of Nopes could sneak into you tents and wait there!
- Do not leave the restroom open since snakes could crawl into the toilet and stay there
- Do not feed wild animals or come close to them, even some big ass rabbits jumping around the tents (Yes, there are rabbits here)
- Bring plenty of water. It’s a desert here so the heat can be unbearable during the day, especially during the Summer time