AutoCamp Joshua Tree Is Open. Here’s An Exclusive Look
Expect an intimate Airstream experience alongside a midcentury modern clubhouse with a cocktail bar.
The creators behind AutoCamp Joshua Tree have finally put the finishing touches on the 25-acre glamping getaway in the California desert. As the property opens to its first guests, we got a sneak peek of the expansive site that sits just outside downtown Joshua Tree’s shops, bars, and restaurants. Here’s the inside scoop: A meandering dirt path takes you through an intimate Airstream experience anchored by a midcentury modern clubhouse that blends warm interiors with the vast, outdoor expanse.
There are two types of accommodations here: your typical, vintage Airstream with a not-so-typical walk-in shower, queen bed, and complimentary cast-iron for outdoor grilling at your private fire pit; and “X suites” housed in larger-size trailers with private bedrooms, fold-out sofas, and kitchens with a stovetop.
The stunner of the property sits at its entrance, where a towering duo of half domes are modeled after the Quonset huts often seen throughout the desert—like at the nearby Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum managed by the Noah Purifoy Foundation, an otherworldly art oasis that is worth a visit if you’re in town.
The Joshua Tree property is the first AutoCamp location that will feature a full beverage program—think curated cocktails, beer, and wine. The outdoor bar looks out over another first for the brand: a pool that will be cold in warmer months and transformed into a hot tub during the desert’s cooler season.
On those wintery nights, you’ll want to make your way over to lounges and love seats made by Bay Area siblings Aaron and Miranda Jones of Galanter & Jones, ultra-modern pieces that quite literally heat up to keep you warm.
More possibilities abound thanks to the desert’s temperate climate. On an outdoor deck, sculptural, woven resin-wicker lounge chairs from Los Angeles-based Fong Brothers Co. are “meant for sunbathing and stargazing,” says Shannon Niehenke, principal of San Francisco-based Narrative Design Studio. Niehenke’s interior design firm brought together furniture and custom artwork from makers up and down the West Coast for the clubhouse created by the architectural design firm HKS.
“Everything has a story,” adds Niehenke, who wanted to create an “extension” from the clubhouse to the landscape. Golden and caramel tones “really bring the outdoors in,” the designer says.
Inside the clubhouse, for example, a 6-foot sculptural canvas by local painter Ana DiGiallonardo is “an abstract representation of the sun setting against the rocky horizon,” Niehenke says. Meanwhile, an 8-foot hanging leather tapestry fabricated by AVO founder Brit Kleinman, who grew up in Los Angeles and is now based in New York, will add a textural feel to the fireplace.
“What really sold me was that AutoCamp and Narrative Design Studio wanted local artists and businesses to be a part of this project,” DiGallonardo says. “That was something that I really appreciated.
“Simplicity was the driving force of the piece and the ultimate feel was for something warm and inviting,” DiGallonardo continues. “I hope guests feel the warmth of the piece and that it reminds them of the setting sun over desert mountains.”
You can see those surrounding peaks in the distance as you wander the property, which is dotted with golden barrel cactus as well as ocotillos that will delight with fiery red blossoms in the spring. The AutoCamp team says it utilized low-water plants as well as lighting compliant with the nearby national park’s designation as a Dark Sky Park to “reduce the property’s environmental impact.” As part of its Dollar-a-Night program, the brand will donate $1 for every stay to nearby nonprofit land conservancy Mojave Desert Land Trust.
“As part of that agreement, MDLT aims to support ways for AutoCamp to offset their impact and promote sustainable and ethical business practices,” says Jessica Dacey, the land trust’s director of communications. “MDLT will be working with AutoCamp on ways to educate guests about Leave No Trace principles.”
Respect for the desert is of the utmost importance to myriad desert locals, who have grappled with development and a meteoric rise in tourism, particularly amid the recent protection for the area’s beloved Joshua trees.
“There is a pressing need to educate the increasing number of visitors to Joshua Tree National Park and the gateway communities about recreating responsibly in the desert,” Dacey continues. “MDLT supports dialogue and recognizes the need to engage with business owners to encourage them to educate visitors.”
Curious travelers should take time to read up on those Leave No Trace principles, and support local businesses while you’re in town. Just minutes from AutoCamp, you’ll find delicious brews at Joshua Tree Coffee Co. and warm blankets at Joshua Tree Blanket Co. (The cozy blankets are also part of our all-new Sunset subscription box.) Or, head down the highway to explore the many new bodegas and shops like Mojave Flea Trading Post in Yucca Valley, where you’ll find work from a range of artists including local makers All Roads, whose brass hat stands and handwoven pillows you’ll see inside the AutoCamp clubhouse.
“I think a lot of people will be out and about during the day exploring Joshua Tree,” Niehenke says, before coming back to the campground to enjoy a drink or stargazing at night.
“The inspiration of the mural comes from artifacts,” Fragua says. “Instead of being lost under the sands of time, I deem it necessary as an artist to magnify and echo what my ancestors have developed as a culture, to the present moment and into the future. I want to take back the cultural property that was stolen from us by colonizers, and perpetuate these things not as objects but as ideas, for all to learn from.
“I hope everyone gets a sense of whose land they are visiting,” Fragua continues, “and to respect the land and beauty that has been stewarded by tribes since time immemorial.”
After time spent at the bar, guests can head over to a stargazing structure created by artists Tom Gottelier and Bobby Petersen of Designers on Holiday.
Should you need anything during your stay, or simply want to lounge indoors, the clubhouse will be open 24-7. Bay Area designer Alexis Moran created custom indoor plywood lounge chairs with “wide armrests to set a drink” and “comfortable leather cushions for relaxing around the fireplace,” Niehenke says. Stools and tables by Joshua Tree designer Dan John Anderson complete the look.
Niehenke found design inspiration for the clubhouse during a visit to the nearby Oasis of Mara, a palm oasis first planted by local Serrano inhabitants, according to the National Park Service. “That was the watering source way back when,” Niehenke says. In fact, its lush abundance is the first image you’ll see behind the front desk, captured in a triptych series by Oregon photographer Kirk Jonasson. If you’re looking for a touchless experience, however, you aren’t required to check in there.
The AutoCamp team is currently preparing videos for guests to watch pre- and post-check-in, which will teach you how to use various amenities in your Airstream and beyond. Cars aren’t allowed on AutoCamp properties, so you’ll be asked to park in an adjacent lot, and staff can provide contactless check-in plus concierge services by text.
The Joshua Tree property is the first of three new AutoCamp locations opening in the next year, with a site in New York’s Catskills region set to open next spring in addition to another near Zion National Park.
You can book your AutoCamp Joshua Tree stay here.
Get the Look
Spruce up your home with pieces from some of the makers featured at AutoCamp Joshua Tree.