Joshua Tree Camping and Backpacking at Black Rock

On Friday afternoon, I packed up from Arizona and headed towards Joshua Tree with plans to spend a couple of weeks in the general area. After one night at a free spot on the South end of the park, I drove to the Black Rock area on Saturday and did a single overnight backpacking trip into the park’s wilderness. Getting back to the trailhead on Sunday, I went immediately to a campsite at the Black Rock Campground that I had previously reserved for the week.

With plans for next weekend at Joshua Tree, I wanted to get in to the area early. I have previously passed by a dispersed site just outside of the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park multiple times, and so I decided to head there for the night immediately.

Unfortunately, I ended up not getting back into camp until it was already dark on Friday night, so I drove in and simply grabbed an easy to get spot right beside the main road. In the morning, it became quite clear that there was plenty of more room on both sides of the road to choose from, although it was pretty clearly preferable to get there quite early on busy weekends.

While sitting in camp, I decided to look up available campsites within the park that would have decent cell reception, and I was able to make a reservation at the Black Rock Campground from Sunday night through Thursday night.

That left Saturday night open, and so I decided, quite last minute, to take a backpacking trip into the backcountry. Thankfully, there is a backcountry board right at the Black Rock Campground, which I was able to park at and head into the wilderness from.

Starting after noon, I headed out on the Black Rock Canyon trail, completing the Panorama Loop. The views there were worth a hike on their own, and I stopped near the top to eat a late lunch, despite the wind being more than bothersome.

Following the Panorama Loop, I continued on back towards the trailhead with my mind set on several other options en route. Alas, I decided to head off East on the Burnt Hill Trail. About an hour before sunset on this trail, I walked a little ways off the trail and setup camp for the night.

The wind was a pain in the ass the whole night, made worse by bringing along the wrong stakes and gear for hanging my tarp nicely. Nonetheless, I made do and was able to get a good night sleep in the quiet solitude of the Joshua Tree Wilderness.

Waking up Sunday morning, I made my way up to Eureka Peak, stopping to truly enjoy the views, especially at the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio mountains, but also back over the Mojave Desert to the north. Again, the wind was nearly unbearable, and the chill on top of the peak was notable. I only stayed briefly before heading back to the campground to check in for the upcoming week.

Overall, the backpacking trip totaled 15.54 miles with 4081.17 feet of total elevation gain. That’s in the range of what I would normally be happy to do as a simple day hike, but given that neither of the 2 days I was out was even a true half day, and the wonderful campsite I had for the night in the backcountry, I’m totally happy to have taken the trip.

Arriving back at the Black Rock Campground, I stopped into the Ranger Station and checked in, getting my campsite for the week ahead.


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