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Best RV Camping in the Southern California Desert

Sam Leash-profile-image
Sam Leash
November 12, 2019

TL;DR: Picture this: California's Southern Desert isn't just a place on the map; it's a winter sanctuary for RVers seeking warmth and adventure. From the tranquil oasis of China Ranch Date Farm to the awe-inspiring landscapes of Death Valley NP and Joshua Tree NP, there's something for everyone. Stop by Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner for a taste of nostalgia, or delve into military history at the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum. For a touch of luxury, Palm Springs offers resort-style camping at Palm Springs RV Resort. And don't miss the Imperial Valley Desert Museum for a dive into desert lore and stargazing. It's not just a trip; it's an experience worth savoring.

Best RV Camping in the Southern California Desert

As one of the largest states in America, California has so much to offer. From pristine beaches to snow-capped mountains to towering forests and vast deserts, there are so many different landscapes and regions to see in just one state. As the winter approaches, snowbirds from all over North America tend to flock to Southern California. Here, the desert regions tend to stay warm and sunny, even in the cold winter months. This makes them a popular destination for winter RV camping. If warm winters sounds ideal to you, let’s escape the cold and head down to the Southern California desert for some fun in the sun.

1. China Ranch Date Farm

In eastern SoCal, just south of Death Valley National Park, you will find China Ranch Date Farm. Filled with palm trees and a variety of attractions, this Harvest Hosts location is like a small desert oasis. At this date farm, you can find a bakery filled with date products, several historical buildings, rail and mining ruins, a small museum and a riparian wildlife area. The museum and buildings provide insight into the historic and natural history of the area, while the farm itself provides visitors with a variety of new foods to sample and even some to bring home. Be sure to call ahead and reserve one of the four spaces, available to rigs of any size.China Ranch is an excellent Southern California Harvest Hosts location.

2. Death Valley NP

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the United States. It is also known for being the dryest, hottest, and lowest point in North America. This land of extremes is covered in a variety of colorful rock structures, as well as sand dunes, dry lake beds, craters, and even snow-capped mountains in the distance. Because it looks so much like another planet, several sequences of the Star Wars series were even filmed here. For RV camping, there are several campgrounds located throughout the park, with some being reserveable and others available as first-come, first-served. If you are looking for fun activities to enjoy, you will find plenty of hiking, biking, off-roading, backpacking, and sightseeing. Be sure to visit Death Valley in the winter months to avoid the record-breaking summer temperatures of 120+ degrees.Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous US.

3. Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner

On the way from Death Valley to Joshua Tree, be sure to make an overnight pitstop at Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner. This quirky roadside attraction was built in 1954 and offers a variety of delicious American comfort food meals. Besides the diner, you can find a nickel and dime store, a soda fountain, and a large desert garden. If you decide to stay at this Harvest Hosts location, be sure to check out Calico Ghost Town, located just three miles away.Peggy Sue's 50s Diner is a great Harvest Hosts location in the vast SoCal desert.

4. Joshua Tree National Park

At Joshua Tree National Park, two distinct deserts collide to create a fascinating ecosystem formed by strong winds and occasional torrential storms. Rich history, beautiful natural features, and a vast variety of plants and animals combine to create this unique area filled with so much to do and see. With nine campgrounds to choose from, RVers can easily snag a campsite within park boundaries. This is ideal for exploring this stunning park. Hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, biking, and stargazing are among the many activities to try at Joshua Tree. Be sure to visit in the winter or early spring months for optimum weather.Joshua Tree National Park is one of the prettiest desert parks in the country.

5. General George S. Patton Memorial Museum

Just south of Joshua Tree, you can find the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum in the town of Chiriaco Summit. This Harvest Hosts location offers unique insight into the military history of the area, while also honoring the service of local American veterans. Beside the museum, there is a cafe and a gas station. Here, you can spend a morning perusing exhibits and learning history before grabbing a bite to eat and heading on your way.The George Patton Museum is a great place to visit in the SoCal desert.

6. Palm Springs

A bit northeast of Joshua Tree, you will find the small resort city of Palm Springs. A mid-century modern vibe meets a desert oasis here, where people from all over come to shop, swim, eat, drink, gamble, golf, and relax. In the nearby San Jacinto Mountains, visitors can also enjoy hiking, scenic driving, biking, rock climbing, and plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities. For camping, we recommend Palm Springs RV Resort. With over 400 full hookups campsites, this campground also offers a variety of deluxe amenities, such as jacuzzis, pools, a game room, a library, shuffleboard, pickleball, and more. Be sure to reserve your site in advance as these tend to book quickly.Visit sunny Palm Springs, California for warm desert fun year round.

7. Imperial Valley Desert Museum

Almost as south as you can go in Southern California lies the Imperial Valley Desert Museum in the town of Ocotillo. This museum doubles as a Harvest Hosts location and is located in the heart of the Yuha Desert. Here you can learn about the area’s geology, Native American History, and more. There is plenty of nearby hiking, and the stargazing here is said to be spectacular.The Imperial Desert Museum is a great Harvest Hosts location in the California desert.Southern California is an ideal location to visit in the winter, when the sun is shining and the weather is warm. Consider any of these lovely locations for an excellent place to stay as you escape the cold and explore the deserts of California. RVing in the Southern California desert is quite popular.Have you visited the Southern California Desert? Where is your favorite place to stay? Feel free to share in the comments below!

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 5,612 small businesses across North America with no camping fees. Boondock at farms, wineries, breweries, attractions, and other one-of-a-kind destinations throughout North America, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing that a safe place to stay is always nearby!
Sam Leash-profile-image
Sam Leash
Sam is a seasoned traveler and RVer of 4+ years. She loves adventures of all kinds and spends as much time on the road as she can. When not exploring in her RV or writing about her travels, you can find her reading a good book, cooking a delicious meal, caring for her plants, or hiking with her dogs.