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Always a go to campsite, quiet and relaxing.
We have solar so choose Arroyo Secco at first. We live/work out of the RV during the Covid pandemic, so we bought a cell booster and WiFi relay, but even they couldn’t make any use of the provided WiFi.
We moved up to Chardonnay Bluff and were able to work with no issues. There is a huge difference in how much love KOA puts into each section. The top (Chardonnay Bluff) is beautiful with green grass and lovely well cared for trees, and full hookups. The bottom (Arroyo Secco) is dry, dusty, and many old trees with the tops loped off or otherwise poorly maintained. The sites at the bottom are slightly larger, have water and sewer, just no power.
We arrived on a Monday, the bottom was empty—literally had the place to ourselves. After we moved up top, we had many neighbors, many kids, many kids ATV’s. It felt like a suburb 😂
We had to go back down for the weekend because the top was booked, by the weekend the bottom was just as packed as the top. It actually felt kinda like a concert parking lot.
This was our first KOA, and did expect the population of kids, but I wasn’t expecting all the amenities—like a hoppin bar! I complimented the bar to the bartender and was told that this is the only KOA in the nation that has a bar. She told me that it had been around for decades under a different name, Buttercup I think. It has an established rotation of regular guests that come for access to wine country. She said KOA inherited the bar and it’s regular loyal following.
Funnily, we learned that KOA raccoons have impeccable manors, and leave very little trace after delicately choosing dinner from the bin, unlike the wild raccoons we encounter on BLM land. I’ll post a video of them.
Another thing they offer is propane, and at reasonable price.
We will return, but we personally enjoy a bit more wild and a bit less suburbia. It is a nice place to get some laundry done after a stretch of primitive camping. And, of course, socially distanced outside bar, deli, and coffee shop, convince store which sells a nice selection of wine, beer, setters, etc. the shop also has branded items that are worth peeking at.
Vivian Creek is one of the campsites on the way to Gorgonio Peak. We camped at the Peak. It is a long hike mostly due to the altitude. The last few miles seem like they take forever. We ended up getting to the peak camp around 10pm. It was pretty cold and dark by then. There are plenty of rock barrier campsites to protect us from the wind. Amazing view of the sunrise in the AM. Definitely worth heading up to the peak for a great view of the sunset/sunrise if you get the chance. Not many people camp up there. When we were there only 1 other individual was camping at the peak.
Depending on where you camp the roads go from semi rough to very rough. Tough if it rains. Lots of established camps at the beginning with a wide spread of space. Great for RV or none tent campers all around. I'm tent camping so drove to the outskirts and decided that the softer sand at the beginning was more suitable than the cracked surface of the once was lake. Lots of space between camps but not many high trees so isolated but in sight. That and the rougher roads plus high traffic led to the 3 rating. Free is free and no one within 100 ft so 3 is what it is for me. Not bad. Not good.
We drove up here blind not knowing what to expect. We had the time of our lives! First time was on 4th of July so we could still see fireworks from the top of the hill, so cool! All 4 of us fit in a small spot but there were plenty of larger ones. Second time we came was during winter and man was that fun!
Hidden Valley is pretty much the only first come, first serve campground within Joshua Tree National Park. All of the other reservable grounds fill up months ahead of time, making finding a space at Hidden Valley pretty cut throat. I did not find a space my first night and had to get a hotel.
There are a lot of people that come here to rock climb and they tend to set up camp for days at a time, making finding a spot even harder. This is definitely NOT a “one and done” camping place like I’ve seen at most other national parks. Campers hoping to snag a site at Hidden Valley will need to begin making rounds by at least 8 am.
I believe I had campsite 16. The actual camping area was set pretty far back from where the parking space was, which as a solo traveler made hauling my things from my car a bit of a challenge, but having the additional privacy was nice. Speaking of privacy, because of all of the rock climbing, there are generally people that could be looking down at your campsite at any given moment.
I was there in early November and the nights were brutally cold, so stock up on fire wood in town. Water is available at the west entrance gate or at the visitor centers.
Joshua Tree is probably my new favorite national park, so I hope you’re able to find a space!!
You need a 4x4 to get here, although the terrain changes with every season so it could be completely different by now. We love climbing, there’s tons of boulders all around. The stars are so vibrant. We didn’t see another human for a full 48 hours. That’s heaven.