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Looking for Advice backcountry in Joshua Tree

My wife and I are going to adventure into Joshua Tree National Park in November. We plan on backcountry camping. We are new to the sport and are really excited. We plan on doing a couple of short one night trips to prepare. We will be at the park for 4 days 3 nights and we would feel comfortable hiking 5-10 miles per day. We have some experience with canoe and car camping. 

The advice I'm looking for is where to go! We are looking for a great variety and might spend one-two nights out and then drive to a new location for the last. I am trying to figure out how limited we will be with water since you have to pack it with you as well.

Any advice would be much appreciated and hope everyone has some great adventures coming up!

Hiking in the desert is difficult because you have to haul water.  It can still be very warm in November, so you need to plan on a gallon per person per day. A two day one night trip is going to require 15 pounds of water per person. The Park is not that big, but it is easy to get away from people by walking. 

I can attest: Ppine's water advice applies to dry camping in Josh.  While humping water is a beast of burden's work, dry camping allow you to haul water in your victuals (think steak and baked potato).  Other fluids, too...

Your local brick and mortar bookstore may have a josh related guide book.  But if not you can always get one on-line.  The guides I have read all suffice for an introduction. 

If you plan to roam the relatively featureless southwest quarter or into the Wonderland of Rocks, bring a USGS topo map and know how to triangulate with a compass.  People have perished from irreconcilable disorientation in those areas, regardless the park is rather compact.  I can easily get folks all switched around in the huge maze created by the rock piles and arroyos of the Wonderland of Rocks. And once discomberberated it is easy to end up traveling aimlessly in such territory.  

The "best" camping suggestions really are what suits you.  I have a secret location that offers total solitude and sweeping vistas.  Sorry, you'll have to find it on your own.  I prefer the higher parts of the park with the Joshua trees, huge rock jumbles and high plain vistas.  Others like the southern and western quadrants for their seclusion and extreme ecology.  These regions are very different experiences.  Three major desert ecology zones of the west merge in the park, making for a wide variety of life forms.  You will learn about that, and more in those guides.


Joshua Tree is bigger than Yosemite and when I stand out in it afoot with a pack, it seems vast spaces to me. 

For a first trip backpacking I'll second the Wonderland of Rocks area but you can't camp there, it is day use only. You have to camp outside the day use boundary. Get yourself a National Geographic Trails Illustrated map of Joshua Tree on their nice waterproof paper. It is a good scale for compass use. 

You can park at the Keys West board. Fill out an overnight permit and go up the Boy Scout trail at least a mile before you veer off to set camp. That is one of the park rules, camping is prohibited less than one mile from the road and less than 500' from any trail. There are some good and very beautiful places west of the trail, hidden by those amazing rock piles that are fun to climb and get some great views around camp. Then you can go into the Wonderland of Rocks for some amazing adventures. 

And yes you are going to be humping in all your water. No campfires allowed so take a stove too if you are going to have hot food and drink. November should be a great time to go. 

August 5, 2020
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