AutoCamp Joshua Tree is a modern airstream oasis in the desert

Do you camp when you have your own thermostat, walk-in shower and four-star hotel linens?

That’s a question you might be wondering as you romp around the grounds of AutoCamp Joshua Tree, a luxury 47 Airstream trailer “camp” that began checking in guests in January but isn’t quite ready yet. (The swimming pool is due to be completed by the end of March.)

The location, about 125 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, clearly caters to couples and families who have the outdoors on their mind and have more money than time. And it will convince many.

A closeup of a cactus with a blurred airflow in the background.

AutoCamp Joshua Tree began its phased opening in January. It includes 47 Airstream trailers, luxuriously equipped.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

It’s already quite busy, perhaps because AutoCamp has previous guests to draw from at its Yosemite, Russian River, and Cape Cod locations. (Others are opening soon in the Catskills and near Zion National Park.)

If you’re offended by the idea of ​​paying $300 a night to sleep in a trailer, even a shiny, curvaceous one, it’s best to stay away. (Or head to the Hi Desert Motel or Safari Motor Inn, both nearby, very basic and under $100 a night.) If you’ve got a few bucks and you’re drawn to the idea of ​​a desert setting with simplified logistics, creature comforts and family-friendly amenities, this could be your place. I stayed one night and made the following notes:

The site: The 47 Airstream trailers and eight rectangular AutoCamp units (the size and shape of railroad cars) are spread across a largely flat 25-acre lot just north of Highway 62. Guests check in at the clubhouse (aka the lobby), which rises out of the sand and sage like a Midcentury Modern Quonset cabin. If Brad Pitt hired Frank Gehry to build a desert bunker out of military surplus material and then had Design Within Reach bring in some furniture, you’d get something like this. The property is located one mile from the center of tiny downtown Joshua Tree and six miles from the west entrance of the national park.

A bed flanked by Edison lightbulbs in an Airstream.

AutoCamp Joshua Tree’s Airstream caravans feature a living room, bathroom and bedroom with plush bedding.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

The atmosphere: It’s a shiny bubble of comfort in a rugged landscape. The clubhouse features a groovy 1960’s style freestanding fireplace and a counter for ordering food, beer and wine. The terrace, where musicians sometimes play at dusk, has heated concrete furniture. There is a communal fire pit (gas powered) and a stand with mountain bikes for you to borrow. The camp provides small red carts to cart your luggage to the trailers. Dogs are welcome ($75 each, maximum two).

The receptionists were particularly attentive, upbeat and helpful and stayed on duty throughout the night. In the lobby shop you’ll find McConnell’s ice cream for $15 a pint, S’mores kits for $15, extra firewood for $20 and a deck of cards for $18.

Three people around a large campfire with an arched building in the background.

In addition to individual picnic tables and fire rings, AutoCamp Joshua Tree offers a communal gas-powered fire ring where guests can gather.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

“The Airstreams are awesome, but it would be nice if there were more activities,” Mina Choe, 35, of San Francisco told me. When she booked she expected the pool to be open. When she arrived she was offended by the lack of cornhole. But soon she was sitting at a picnic table with friends, pointing to the color of the sky and sipping Fireball Cinnamon Whisky.

The units: If you’re 6ft tall, you’ll crouch a little to enter. But the interior felt spacious to me. The 31-foot trailers are basically three-room suites: First, you enter a kitchenette/living room area with a microwave, small refrigerator, kitchen utensils, and gray futon sofa. (Each unit sleeps up to two adults and two children.) To the right you’ll find a surprisingly spacious bathroom (shower, no bath). On the left, a bedroom with built in bedside tables, charging sockets throughout and a door allowing privacy for the family.

Seven people cheer with little red cups.

AutoCamp Joshua Tree guests toast Presidents Day weekend.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

In addition to a large, firm bed, the bedroom has a skylight, skylight windows, and a wall-mounted TV (although cable service wasn’t activated when I visited). Solid wifi. The white walls and lots of windows add to the sense of space inside, and the wall-mounted thermostat makes it clear you’re not roughing it. Outside, each unit has a small, gray picnic table, a pair of Adirondack chairs, and a fire pit where many guests roast s’mores and some cooked steaks.

The inside of a set up Airstream trailer.

AutoCamp Joshua Tree’s Airstream trailers feature kitchenettes with dishes and thermostats over the sink.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

The food: I appreciated the complimentary morning coffee and cereal, but found the prepared food expensive and unremarkable ($18.59 turkey sandwich and soda). It’s better to bring ingredients (or buy them at the Joshua Tree Farmers Market on Saturday morning) and grill in the open air. Or you can buy an AutoCamp barbecue set with organic boneless chicken breasts, cauliflower heads, or a pair of New York strip steaks ($79-$85).

The price: The trailers average $300 to $400 on weekends, less during the week, with prices varying by location. (I paid $356.13 after taxes for a Friday night on Presidents Day weekend.) The eight comparable-priced rectangular units are slightly more spacious than the Airstreams, and four meet ADA accessibility standards. To save on utilities, try the Dollar General Store a block away on Sunburst Street and Highway 62.

A man pulls a child in a wagon on the AutoCamp site.

AutoCamp Joshua Tree provides guests with small red wagons to transport luggage (and sometimes children).

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

The bottom line: On a family weekend or group of friends I would do it again thanks to the stylish, comfortable caravans and attentive service. But even with the cornhole and bar tempting, no one should stay at camp all day—the park’s rocks and Joshua Tree landscape beg to be explored.

When you go:
AutoCamp Joshua Tree, 62209 Verbena Road, Joshua Tree, California, 92252; (844) 366-9715, AutoCamp Joshua Tree is a modern airstream oasis in the desert

Russell Falcon

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