Joshua Tree National Park is one of the coolest national parks in California. Nearly 3 million visitors flock to the park each year. The park is full of beauty it has tons of stunning trails, unique rock formations, funky trees, and more. So if you’re interested in Joshua Tree photography, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the best Joshua Tree photo spots.
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Best Joshua Tree Photo Spots
Joshua Tree National Park is HUGE! There is a lot to cover so there are two separate lists below for the best photos spots in Joshua Tree and most Instagrammable spots in Joshua Tree and the surrounding cities. If you’re spending a weekend or a few days exploring Joshua Tree and are surroundings be sure to check out my detailed Joshua Tree guide.
Best Photos Spots Joshua Tree National Park
Cholla Cactus Garden
If you’re at Joshua Tree National Park at sunset then Cholla Cactus Garden is a must. This is my favorite spot in the park for photography and it’s perfect almost any time of the day. Sunrise, golden hour, and sunset will be the best times to photograph. The sun gives the cactus needles and beautiful glow, however, it is also beautiful during mid-day. If you want to do a mini Joshua Tree photoshoot definitely add this to your list.
Another Joshua Tree Instagram favorite is Skull Rock. It’s a super quick walk from the main road. You’ll see it as you pull up to the area. This cool rock formation is popular, especially during the day so get there early if you’re visiting during the weekend.
Arch Rock is “the rock” of Joshua Tree. It’s loaded here the White Tank campground and is a 1.2-mile out and back hike. If you’re hiking during the middle of the day in the heat do take enough water as there isn’t any shade until you arrive at Arch Rock.
Just a short hike from Arch Rock is Heart Rock. You’ll want to punch in the below coordinates to your GPS as you’ll be hiking on an unmarked trail. This giant heart-shaped rock makes for a cute photo. The mid-day sun can be harsh for photography in this location but not horrible. It’s best to go in the early morning on a little before sunset to get the glowing sun rays right behind you.
With a Joshua Tree
Don’t forget to have a quick Joshua Tree photoshoot with the trees itself! The iconic “Joshua Trees” or Yucca brevifolia is a symbol of the park. These trees channel Dr. Suess with their quirky look and made for the perfect photo prop. They are EVERYWHERE! You can easily find these trees inside and outside the park.
If you’re looking to do Joshua Tree sunset photography there’s no better spot than Keys View. It’s just a short walk up from the parking lot where you’ll be at just over 5,000 feet above sea level. You’ll have a perfect view of the sunset over the mountains. When the sky is clear you can see Palm Springs, the Salton Sea, and even the San Andreas fault line in the distance.
Barker Dam is a unique part of the park because it has water, a rarity in the high desert. It’s a short 1.1-mile hike which takes about an hour. If it isn’t too hot out this is a great hike to add to your Joshua Tree photoshoot list!
Under the Stars
Joshua Tree is a dark sky park making it’s the perfect place for stargazing. Because of its location and elevation, Joshua Tree doesn’t get much light pollution. The night skies are truly stunning and stargazing and astrophotography. Even if you’re not a pro you can still easily find the Milky Way at Joshua Tree in late April to late July. Be sure to check the moonlight time and try to avoid it especially if it’s a full moon.
You’ll want to scout out a place before dark so you know exactly where to go once it’s dark. I personally love stargazing at Skull Rock but there are many great spots. Take a blanket to lay on or a chair. You’ll also want a red light when stargazing. It takes 20-30 minutes for the human eye to adjust to low light so using a red light to see does help. Avoid bright white lights, lanterns, or cell phone lights as much as possible. And take layers as it can get cool at night even in the summer months.
Best Photos Spots in Joshua Tree and Surrounding Cities
Pioneertown is an unincorporated town with a population of 420. It was started up in 1946 by actor, Dick Curtis. There are cute shops, fun bars and restaurants, and more. They all have Western facades that will have you feeling like you’re in an old Western movie set. It’s perfect for photos! And if you visit before 10 am even on a weekend you’ll likely have the place almost to yourself. Although it’s not in town this is one of these best Joshua Tree photo spots outside the park.
Joshua Tree Saloon
Joshua Tree Saloon is a great place for a quick snack, a burger, and some cocktails. The saloon has an old Western feel that’s similar to Pioneertown. If you don’t make it out to Pioneertown be sure to do a quick stop at Joshua Tree Saloon. The saloon is located only a 10-minute drive from the West Entrance of the park.
Glass Outhouse Art Gallery
The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery is an outdoor sculpture museum and an indoor art gallery located in 29 Palms. Come stroll the grounds and view some unique Joshua Tree art! There are huge sculptures that make for exciting photos! Be careful and stay on the pathways and respect the art.
Carla’s Route 62 Diner
Carla’s Route 62 Diner is an American diner serving up breakfast and lunch in Yucca Valley. It’s located on the main highway, Route 62, and has a cool vintage vibe. Drop by for a tasty breakfast and snap some pics!
Joshua Tree Mural at Natural Sisters
There’s a colorful mural that says “Welcome to Joshua Tree, your trip starts here” and it’s located at Natural Sisters Cafe. It’s one of the coolest Joshua Tree photo spots. Before driving into the park stop by for locally sourced food and drinks and take a pic at the signature mural.
How to Get to Joshua Tree
The closest airport is Palm Springs which is only about a 40-minute drive, followed by Ontario Airport which is about an hour and a half away. Los Angeles (LAX) and San Diego airports are about three hours away.
Rent a Car to Explore Joshua Tree
The best way to get around Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding cities is my car. There are no shuttle services to the park. A high-clearance vehicle is not needed for any of the locations on this list. Some Airbnbs in Joshua Tree and the surrounding desert cities might have dirt roads but most vehicles shouldn’t have a problem. Be sure to read the details when booking if this is a concern.
Whether you’re road-tripping from somewhere else in Southern California or further check the Roadtrippers app to find fun stops along your route.
Joshua Tree Photography Tips
For your Joshua Tree photography needs check out the app, PhotoPills. I use this as a guide for planning my photos. It’s perfect for Joshua tree sunset photography and knowing where the sun will face at any time of the day. And if you’re interested in capturing the Milky Way at Joshua Tree, PhotoPills can help as well.
Things to Know When Visiting Joshua Tree National Park
There is little to no cellular service in the park so it’s important to have a map with you. You can download a Joshua Tree National Park map, pick up a free one at a Visitor Center or entrance, or buy a detailed map that shows hiking trails and more.
Joshua Tree National Park Entrance & Fees
There are three entrances for Joshua Tree:
West Entrance in Joshua Tree, near the Joshua Tree Visitor Center
North Entrance in Twentynine Palms near the Oasis Visitor Center
South Entrance near the Cottonwood Visitor Center
Entrance to the park is $30 for a non-commercial vehicle and is good for seven days. If you’re planning to visit three or more national parks in a year, then opt for the National Parks annual pass which is $80.
I hope this guide to the best Joshua Tree photo spots helps you! Check out my full Joshua Tree guide for details information on the park, things to do, where to stay (info on the best Airbnbs, camping, and more), the best Joshua Tree restaurants, and more!
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