Desert Camping Done Right

Desert Hot Spots
joshua tree national park, california
Spaghetti Western: The wonderfully surreal boughs of the Joshua tree at sunset (PhotoDisc)

White Sands National Monument: Located at the north end of the Chihuahuan Desert, and headquartered in Alamogordo, New Mexico, White Sands (505.679.2599; offers more than missile testing. Nester cites White Sands for its variety of animals (44 species of mammals have been observed, including oryx, coyotes, and even mountain lions), while others enjoy extraordinary full-moon camping, as the bright light reflects off the gypsum sand.
Read More: Guide to White Sands National Monument (

Joshua Tree National Park: Located 140 miles east of Los Angeles, 800,000-acre Joshua Tree (760.367.5500; offers two deserts, the Sonoran (at an elevation of less than 1,000 feet) and the Mojave (starting at 3,000 feet) within its boundaries. The Desert Institute’s Erin Adams picks Pine City Canyon, near Queen Mountain, as her favorite camping destination. Because of heavier rains this year, Joshua Tree is experiencing a second blooming of wildflowers and cacti, and, says Adams, it is probably the best bloom in decades, lasting most likely through October.
Read More: Guide to Joshua Tree National Park (

Grand Canyon National Park: Over five million visitors a year flock to the Grand Canyon (928.638.7888;, but most head for the South Rim, leaving the North Rim quieter and less crowded. While the entire park is classified as a semi-arid desert, the North Rim, at 8,000 feet, receives enough snowfall that this section of the park is only open from May to October. Take the bone-jarring hour-long drive to Tuweep campground on the North Rim for an awesome start to any canyon trek; the campground looks virtually straight down the canyon’s gullet to the Colorado River.
Read More: Guide to Grand Canyon National Park (

Published: 28 Sep 2005 | Last Updated: 24 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »