Joshua Tree National Park Wilderness Backpacking Permits

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a vast wilderness covering more than 792,000 acres of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts in Southern California. Of this approxiately 1200 square miles, roughly 85% is managed as wilderness. Ranging in elevation from less than 1000 ft at the park’s eastern boundary to over 5800 ft atop Quail Mountain in the heart of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, this park offers a variety of landscapes and unparalleled opportunities for unconfined, primitive recreation. Higher elevation sites offer sweeping vistas of steep canyons and rocky, exposed summits, expansive Joshua tree and juniper woodlands, as well as the park’s famous monzogranite outcroppings dotted with pinyon pine. Lower elevation sites along the eastern margin of the park offer the opportunity to study vast landscapes of playas, washes, sloping bajadas, and microphyll woodlands. The immense depth of geologic time is visible in the formation of desert varnish on long-exposed rock faces and in small cryptobiotic soil crusts tenaciously clinging to life in the bottom of vast sandy basins.   

Overnight, wilderness backpacking can be accessed from any of 13 backcountry trailheads scattered throughout the park [Wilderness Backpacking ]. These trailheads are accessible through a network of paved and unpaved roads. Most of these areas are accessible by paved roads, although high clearance 4x4 vehicles are needed to access Upper Covington, Geology Tour Road, and Pleasant Valley backcountry trailheads. Roads may be temporarily impassible due to flooding or snow. 

The park is divided into 14 backcountry zones (see map below). When making your online reservation, please indicate the zone in which you intend to camp each night. Boy Scout Trail is the only zone in which it is required to camp in designated sites. If planning to only hike the Boy Scout Trail and not enter other zones, please select a specific designated site along the Boy Scout Trail. In contrast, parking locations are designated under entry/exit point during the check out process and should match one of the 13 backcountry trailheads, unless entering the wilderness from outside the park boundary (e.g. along CA-62 east of Twentynine Palms). 

Cell service is spotty or unavailable throughout much of the park, and visitors should carry alternative forms of communication (spot devices) and make all necessary phone calls before entering the park. Potable water is available at Cottonwood Campground, Park Headquarters and the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center (in Twentynine Palms), Black Rock Nature Center (Yucca Valley), Indian Cove Ranger Station, and the West Entrance. Gas and other services are not available anywhere inside the park and may be obtained in the towns of Twentynine Palms (outside the north Entrance), Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley (outside West Entrance), or Indio (outside the South Entrance). Although distances may appear short on the map, it can take up to two hours by road to travel across the park. 

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

Permits are required for ALL overnight, wilderness backpacking trips. Day-use visitors do not need to register.       

Need to Know

You are responsible for knowing and abiding by all park rules and regulations and your own safety! Plan and Prepare! 

Planning and Registration Process 

Vehicles and Parking Information

Food and Water Storage

Human Waste

Fee Policy

Cancellation Policy

Cancellation Policy

The $6.00 reservation fee is 100% non-refundable, including for cancellations made prior to the 24 hour cancellation window. Under no circumstances will a refund be given for a cancelled, modified, or completed permit.


Change Policy

Contact Information

Mailing Address

74485 National Park Blvd Building 100 Twentynine Palms CA 92277

Phone Number


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