From November through April, Southern California’s blazing hot deserts cool down and transform into pleasant, tranquil camping destinations with wide open desert views. Just last weekend I camped for three nights out in the Glamis sand dunes, and it was sunny and 70 degrees each day—and that was in January! Below are a few of my favorite RV camping destinations in Southern California’s deserts. None of these spots require a reservation, most of them are free to camp, and a couple require a permit for a small fee. Read on for more information about these remote, beautiful desert boondocking spots.
If you like to cruise endless desert dirt roads, crawl up rocky trails, and blast through dry lake beds, then Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area is a must do. Johnson Valley is located in Southern California’s high desert in Lucerne Valley off of Highway 247. Widely known as the home of King of the Hammers, an off-road Jeep race, Johnson Valley is full of dirt trails that meander amongst rocky mountains and wide open desert. I’ve camped at Johnson Valley several times to off-road and explore, and I’ve also watched Mojave Off Road Racing Enthusiasts (MORE) races zoom through the dusty trails. In fact, some of my friends used to race their class nine cars and class 1400 trucks and my husband and I would help out in the pits during their races. (And by helping, I would make racing videos; I’m not mechanically savvy!) Johnson Valley is a beautiful desert to camp and play in, so if you’re thinking about making the journey, here are a few tips and camping spots to check out.
Most people drive past Dumont Dunes on their way to Death Valley and wonder, “Are those giant sand dunes out there?” Yes, they are in fact sand dunes, and they are tall, steep, and incredibly fun to traverse in a dune buggy, side-by-side, dirt bike, or quad. Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Area is located about 31 miles north of Baker, California and is accessible via Dumont Dunes Road. The dunes rise above the desert floor to create a towering, sandy, off-roading playground, and they are surrounded by rocky, dirt trails that jet out into the surrounding Mojave desert. I’ve camped at Dumont Dunes many, many times—my family embarks on a yearly memorial camping trip and occasionally we will head to Dumont Dunes to ring in the new year. So if it’s your first time making the trip to Dumont Dunes or your 20th time, here are my favorite camping spots and a few tips to make your trip memorable. Read More
I’ve been camping and off-roading in Ocotillo Wells for the past seven years, and I love it so much that I normally make the trek multiple times each season. Camping is FREE and entrance to the state park is FREE! The off-road trails are diverse and fun to explore— there are washes to blast through, technical trails to traverse, and landscapes that make you feel like you’re walking on Mars. There’s a ton of geological action at work in Ocotillo Wells, such as the active Gas Domes, the odd pumpkin-shaped formations in the Pumpkin Patch, and the oyster shells at Shell Reef. And for the Jeep enthusiasts out there, the scenic Tierra Del Sol trail is a must-do! Never been to Ocotillo Wells and unsure where to camp? Read on for my favorite camping spots. Read More
Summer winding down doesn’t have to signal the end of camping season, especially if you live in Southern California. Once the extreme heat lessens and we swing into autumn, desert season officially begins. One of my favorite desert camping destinations is Glamis, officially called the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. It’s located in the southeast corner of California and borders Mexico, and it happens to be an offroading playground with giant, smooth sand dunes that stretch for miles. Keep reading for an explanation of the different camping areas at Glamis and what you need to know before heading out there.
This was it—the real shakedown trip for our 2008 Tiffin Allegro Open Road. We embarked on a three-night camping trip to Glamis for New Year’s, which meant dry camping or “boondocking.” No water, no electricity, and no paved roads whatsoever. Off we went with both kids, wondering if everything was going to work properly in the RV or if we would discover something new to fix. Read More
I’ve gone camping and exploring out in Joshua Tree numerous times, but can you believe I’ve never tried rock climbing? A few weeks ago, my brother and his family were in town visiting, and being the Joshua Tree rock climbing maniac he is, we planned a 4 day trip out to Joshua Tree so he could get his desert fix.
It was spring break, but we were lucky enough to find a nice, big site at Ryan Campground. We camped at site #2 and there was plenty of room for three big tents. Camping costs $10 per night at Joshua Tree, it’s all first-come first-served (no reservations), there’s no running water and restrooms facilities are pit toilets. It’s not fancy, but you can’t beat the desert views. We were able to hike around the campground and go bouldering with the kids around Headstone; plenty to do and see right within walking distance.
My brother, John, took us out to a climb called “Barney Rubble” to try out our climbing skills. John has been trekking out to Joshua Tree to climb since the 1980s, so he has a good grasp on the climbs and difficulty levels he was introducing us to. I gave it a shot, and wow, it was challenging and adrenaline pumping. Watch my video below to check out the climb we tried and how my niece and nephews did.