About Cottonwood Campground
Cottonwood Campground is one of the best places in Joshua Tree National Park for stargazing and wildflower viewing. Easy access from Interstate 10, makes it a popular stopover for travelers. Visitors who enjoy warm, dry winters flock to Joshua Tree from October through May, when temperatures reach between 70 to 90-degrees during the day and drop to 40 to 60-degrees at night. Summer is the parks off-season due to the uncomfortably high desert heat. Cottonwood Campground is at an elevation of 3,000 ft. and has little shade from vegetation; however, there are picnic shelters that provide shade at each site. Natural Features: The landscape around Cottonwood is that of the Colorado Desert, which encompasses the southern edge of the park and a large portion of Southern California. Rather than being surrounded by large rock formations and uniquely-shaped Joshua trees, like campgrounds in the northern section, this facility overlooks flat, open-desert shrubland. It is also further from towns or cities that would contribute light pollution. As a result, it offers wide, dark and uninterrupted views of the night sky that draw astronomers and amateur sky watchers alike. Cottonwood is at a lower elevation than other campgrounds within the park, so desert wildflowers begin to bloom earlier in the spring than in other locations. Flowering occurs anytime between the beginning of February to the end of March; timing varies depending on the amount of winter precipitation and the arrival of warm temperatures. Recreation: Stargazing and wildflower viewing are among the most popular activities at this facility. Several hiking trails leave from the campground and several more trailheads are within a one to two hour drive. Facilities: There are 62 sites, each with a fire ring and picnic table. There are no electrical hookups. Drinking water and flush toilets are provided. Nearby Attractions: The General Patton Memorial Museum, a U.S. military history museum, is just over 12 miles away in the town of Chiriaco. ACTIVITIES Interpretive Programs: Evening Programs Hiking Wildlife Viewing Day Use Area: Amphitheater
National Park Service
Cottonwood Campground is located in California
The address below is not the physical address of the campground. To get to the campground, take Interstate 10 to the Mecca/Twentynine Palms exit and follow signs to Joshua Tree National Park. The exit is 25 miles east of Indio, California.
12 Reviews of Cottonwood Campground
We just got back from a weekend at Cottonwood Campground. This was an awesome campground. It’s super clean, paved, has potable water and running toilets. We had a scouting troop with us ages 5-12 and the girls had a blast. We hiked 3 miles locally and the terrain was amazing. Looked like Pixar’s Cars Land. Then we took a drive over to Skull Rock for some rock scrambling, and even made it all the way over to the visitor center at the north entrance before heading back for dinner. Afterwards we topped it off with a Ranger chat at the campground amphitheater where a local astronomer showed up and gave an amazing talk about the stars complete with astronomer pointer and telescope where we got to see Saturn! The girls LOVED it! We plan on coming back and hitting a northern campground - but definitely recommend Cottonwood. It won’t disappoint - the star viewing was awesome!!
Went here over Christmas school break stayed here two nights, there are 3 group sites here. Nice spaces with flash toilets and running water. There are several parking spots or each group site. While we were there we had several people park in the empty spots and sleep in their cars cause they didn’t have reservations, also during the day random people just show up and use the empty picnic tables at your site.
Nearly the southernmost location of Joshua Tree Natl Park. ~1 hr drive to the main area of the park (north side). A few hikes near Cottonwood Campground.
Cottonwood is the furthest south campground in the park, and was the only camp that had space. It's extremely clean and spacious. There are hiking trails just off the campground. The restrooms don't have showers or lights.
A great spot to camp! We were only there briefly, but it had everything we needed. Very well kept, a good fire pit, a picnic table and plenty of space for tents and parking
This campground was away from the primary campground like Jumbo Rock and therefore less crowded. Campsites included fire ring and picnic table. Flush toilets on premises and away from primary sites. Tent sites were very close together and as we found or a very popular site for star gazing and meteror showers. Required aunt of a drive to get into the primary park area and firewood not available in campgrounds (Walmart is the closest location it was available). Camp hosts were very nice however did not enforce quiet hours. We camp with our daughter (5 at the time) and unfortunately we were surrounded by many college students drinking heavily (not Joshua Trees fault). We ended up leaving a day early because of this. Aside from the other campers we had a good desert camping experience. I think next time we would try a different site to attempt to be more secluded and avoid this issue in the future.
Went on overnight trip with the Astronomy Department of my College. Two sites comfortably fit 20+ people and the large sunshaded eating areas were great for food prep and socializing.
I stayed in Joshua tree for 2 nights and this was the first campground for the first night. The campground had no shade and was pretty warm in the 90 degree heat. I arrived there around 5 in the evening and there was a majority of the campgrounds left. I didn't make a reservation and still managed to get a spot but it was a risky move.
The night was pretty chilly and had a pretty nice breeze. The restroom was about a one minute walk and was pretty clean. At night the campground had quite a lot of kangaroo rats running through trying to look for food. Asides from the heat the site was pretty good.
We stayed in group campground G01, which is the one closest to the road. It was spacious and offered 2 sheltered picnic areas and 2 fire pits, and was a short jaunt (crossing the next campground) to the restrooms (which had flush toilets!). It was a definite bonus to have running water as well! G01 is situated in a way that tents can be spread out and as communal or as secluded as you'd like (not counting the road). The campground is close to hiking and the Twin Palms Oasis loop is nearby as well! Be aware that this campground is NOT near the large rock formations in J.Tree but it is very convenient for large groups :)
The southern part of Joshua tree is the quieter end of the park (especially in the summer). We got up to watch the sunrise and didn't see another car for 2 HOURS.
The campground is sandy and dusty (as is the whole park since it's a desert), and each site has a concrete picnic table and a fire ring. Unlike most of Joshua Tree's campground, Cottonwood does have a water point (and flushing toilets)-- and it is just down the road from the Cottonwood Visitor Center (a very basic ranger station that also has bathrooms -- but no fancy gift shop of cafes like some other NPs)
Cottonwood is a great site if you are coming in from Palm Springs/Palm Desert/Coachella and you want to spend an incredible night under the stars. It's just 7 miles off of I-10, but there aren't any cities around so there isn't any distracting light in the sky. Also, because there aren't any cities around, bring whatever food and fuel you need. It's 40+ miles out of the park heading north to get gas, so make sure you get gas in Indio or Coachella when driving in.
Cottonwood is 20$ a night, (the other campgrounds without water are $15). During the summer sites are first come, and there were plenty to choose from -- There were only 3 other campers we saw there. Rumor is that this site is also last to fill up in the busy months because it is much further out of the way from the other campgrounds. Don't forget to fill up your water jugs before you leave if you're headed north deeper into the park.
If you want to make the Mastodon Peak hike (3 miles) or do the Lost Palms Oasis Trail (8 miles) this is best place to stay for an early morning start. I was lazy, and opted for a drive to the Cholla Cactus Garden, and a walk around the nature path.
There's not much privacy between sites since there aren't any trees -- and also no places to hang hammocks without some creativity.