Desert Hearts Music Festival has a whole host of devoted attendees who come back year after year, and it’s easy to see why. Located on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, near Warner Springs, CA, this quirky boutique event combines the 80 hours of music from the cutting-edge of electronic dance music with a fabulously freeing, creative vibe. The hottest new acts in techno-house travel to Desert Hearts from all over the world, and while there’s only one stage, you’re guaranteed quality and variety. The sound is non-stop, morning, noon, and night!
The festival grounds are relatively remote, but the event is well worth the trip. Desert Hearts sits among the beautiful San Diego County mountains and draws out the best of the desert and forest environments. The event’s motto is House, Techno, and Love, and the community spirit applies to the campground. If you’re not camping, you may miss out on much of what this event has to offer, so prepare to pack up your RV and head off on an adventure to Southern California. Sites are a little crowded, but you’re almost guaranteed to form friendships that last anywhere from a few days to a lifetime.
Music isn’t all that’s on offer at Desert Hearts. The whole festival is basically an open-air art gallery, and it’s difficult to move without noticing colorful, immersive installations from local and international artists. Everyone is encouraged to join in; if you paint, dance, perform, or make art in any way, there’s a space for you to consider. Desert Hearts is a festival of free expression. Guests can have fun deciding whose wacky festival costume is the best. You can also take part in yoga, meditation, and healing workshops. This desert extravaganza is definitely one for the bucket list for music fans over the age of 21.
Desert Hearts has a relatively short ticket sale period; passes generally go on sale in January of the same year. There aren’t any early bird deals, but still, it’s a small festival. Get ‘em while they’re hot!
Tickets for the full weekend usually cost around $220. You won’t find any VIP passes. Desert Hearts prides itself on the equality of attendees, and tries to stay true to its ethos of ‘one stage, one vibe.’
General tickets include tent camping, and while there’s no limit to how many people you can try to fit on your site, spaces are a little cramped. Due to the size of the campground, if you want to stay next to your vehicle, it’ll cost you about $100, if you can get a spot.
RV camping goes for approximately $200. Remember to check the total length of your rig and camping setup since RV camping accommodates lengthier vehicles and car passes do not. If you want to grab the best camping and parking spots, you can grab an Early Access Pass for around $60 and arrive a day earlier.
Email tickets can be exchanged for wristbands at the entrance. Be sure to print off your ticket before arriving; there’s no WiFi or cell service at the festival grounds, so you won’t be able to retrieve it from your email.
The festival grounds are around a 90-minute drive away from San Diego, and just over two hours away from LA. As always with these areas, traffic on the interstate can be hectic, so leave plenty of extra time to get there. The interstate will get you most of the way, but be prepared for some narrow roads as you approach the grounds. If you’re coming from LA, you have the option of taking the scenic route through the forest.
The parking lot at Desert Hearts is very close to both the festival area and campground. Carpooling in any form is encouraged, and cars with three or more riders may receive a better parking rate. Contact the festival organizers about parking fees since these vary based on the year. Festival staff will direct you to the parking lot or RV camping areas.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to get to all the way to the festival by public transportation from LA or San Diego, but luckily, the festival organizers provide private shuttle buses from both cities, with one for early access pass holders and one for those without. Contact the festival organizers for information on prices. You’ll find limited parking at each site. However, bear in mind that the shuttle buses may not be ADA-accessible.
Camping is a huge, huge part of the Desert Hearts experience, and the sense of community and creativity at the campground is one of the best things about the festival. However, keep in mind that the campground is absolutely no-frills. You won’t find RV hookups, and the location in the middle of the desert means that there’s no running water. Fill up those tanks before you go. Decoration of sites is highly encouraged, so use your imagination and have fun expressing your personal style at your campsite. There are also ‘theme camps,’ selling food and merchandise, dotted around the campground.
The stunning scenery makes this area popular with hikers and other outdoorsy types year-round, and you’ll find a good selection of reasonably priced National Forest Service campgrounds nearby. You’ll need to go further afield if you’re looking for a little more luxury, but there are a handful of full service or electricity and water hookup RV parks within a half-hour drive.
Bikes, golf carts, and ATVs are strictly banned at Desert Hearts, so the way to get around the grounds is on foot. Fortunately, the festival grounds are pretty cozy. In terms of accessibility, the area is relatively flat, but the natural land may be trickier for moving wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
When you’re packing clothing, the most important thing is to prepare for extreme temperatures. April brings the best weather to this part of California, with averages of 70 degrees during the day and 30 degrees at night, but it can get far hotter or colder. Bring sunglasses, a broad-brimmed hat, and something to wrap up warm in at night. You’re may want to dance or need to stand in line for a port-a-potty, so wear sturdy, comfortable shoes. Otherwise, the gaudier the costume, the better at Desert Hearts.
Earplugs are essential for light sleepers who may be subject to the constant concert ongoings. Since the campground is so close to the stage area, you might even want to go further and invest in some noise-canceling headphones or ear defenders. Open flames are banned at Desert Hearts, so if you have a camp stove, now’s the time to break it out and enjoy a meal. You’ll also want to bring hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and some sort of shade structure.
You’re going to need to bring tons and tons of water. Seriously. The festival organizers recommended at the very least 1.5 gallons per person per day, possibly more if you’re planning on dancing the night away. Drinking water is available on site, but you will need to be prepared with water for cooking, cleaning dishes, and general use. This is one advantage of having an RV for this event; it’s easier to stock up on H2O if you’re not limited to what you can take in your trunk. It should go without saying that sunscreen is also essential. Though there is a first aid tent, it never hurts to have your own kit for minor cuts and scrapes.
The land area around Desert Hearts remains at risk for fire and organizers request the help of guests in caring for the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation where the event is held. While you can usually get away with bringing a camp stove, fire regulations can change with the weather, so have a backup plan or use the kitchen in your rig. Dried and tinned foods are your best friend since it can be difficult keeping things cool. You’re free to bring outside food and alcohol into the festival itself.
Warner Springs is a pretty remote area. There are a couple of places nearby where you can grab a burger or a steak if you’re planning on making a pit stop on your way there and back, but otherwise, your options are limited. You may have some trouble getting your hands on anything gluten-free or vegan away from the festival grounds. Remember that festival rules require that guests remain on site until the end of the event.
There’s plenty of delicious food on offer both at the festival grounds itself and in the campground. Vendors set up special ‘theme camp’ tents where you can get anything from vegan Vietnamese food to charcuterie and cheese. At the concert area, food vendors run through the night. You can get something more hearty during the day, and pick up a bowl of warming soup when it gets chilly. In previous years, alcohol has not been available for purchase, so you may want to BYOB.
Tribal police help patrol the festival grounds, just one more reason to be conscious and respectful of where you are as a guest of the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. Both the campgrounds and the grounds are looked after by a large team of trained private security officers. If you feel unsafe or need assistance for any reason, make your way to someone with a radio.
The weather at Desert Hearts is often predictable. While rain is certainly possible, it is very, very unlikely. Heat and sun will be your main concern during the day. Make sure to stay hydrated and have sun protection on at all times. Nights can be very, very cold, so wrap up warm in your camper.
Desert Hearts has a medical tent staffed with EMTs, who operate on a harm reduction policy. You’ll find general practitioners not too far away, but you’re over 30 minutes away from the nearest hospital and emergency room. There’s a small pharmacy in Warner Springs.