5 Tips for Taking Photos at Joshua Tree National Park

November 29, 2020millionmilermom

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Joshua Tree National Park is a truly spectacular place. Located at the intersection of the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert in California, the unique landscape is the perfect backdrop for any photographer…amateur or professional. Read more for tips on snagging that perfect photo at Joshua Tree National Park.

1. Know about the varied landscapes in the park.

In the southern part of the park, you’ll find the Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail. But, watch out, as they have tiny, painful spines.

If you are seeking a gorgeous desert scape for your photos, the entire park will provide a wealth of opportunities. But, if you want one of the iconic Joshua Trees in your photos, be sure to focus your itinerary on the northern part of the park. We entered through the West Entrance off of Highway 62 and were immediately greeted by the trees. However, it was midday and the light was quite intense. As we made our way through the park with the intent to leave from the Cottonwood exit, we realized that as we drove, the Joshua Trees were rapidly disappearing. Instead of a sea of trees, the landscape became more barren with a lot more cacti instead of trees.

2. There will be crowds at Joshua Tree National Park…

Joshua Tree National Park is a popular park that gets almost 3 million visitors per year. That will mean that popular spots like Skull Rock and easier hikes like Barker Dam will be crowded and harder to photograph. Our midday entrance left us with lengthy delays to snag a parking lot in the main lots for each spot with the alternatives being overflow lots or finding something along the main road. With three kids in tow, this was one of our biggest challenges as a seemingly easy 1 mile hike suddenly became a lot longer! As a result, getting photos at these spots was challenging, however, you can explore in the nearby vicinity and get an equally amazing picture.

3. Consider the lighting.

The perfect backdrop for any photo shoot!

If photography is going to be one of your main draws to the park, consider the intense desert lighting and either, make it work for you, or consider planning your photo sessions for sunrise or sunset. Early mornings are not my thing so we opted to take full advantage of golden hour and soaked up every minute of the perfect lighting.

Look-up the sunset time prior to your trip and plan to scout out your spot about an hour or so beforehand to allow ample time for shooting.

If sunrise and sunset are your thing, consider camping in the park at one of the 500 campsites available.

4. Off the beaten path.

To find our perfect photo spot, we drove around for quite a while. First, we went too far south where the Joshua Trees became quite sparse and then, as we headed north, there was either no parking or alongside a busy road which I knew would distract the kids. Then, we spotted an unpaved access road (Geology Tour Road, off of Pinto Basin Road) and it was just what we needed. Quiet, beautiful setting and still gave us easy access to our car.

Please note, Geology Tour Road is an unmonitored dirt road so please consider this before using it.

5. When in doubt, outsource!

If you want the perfect photo but want to ensure an expert gets all the angles and lighting right, consider hiring a local photographer with experience shooting in the area. Some ideas:

  1. Flytographer – I have used them multiple times in various countries with great results. They heavily screen their photographers to have the best available in each city. Luckily, you have a few options in the Palm Springs area, many of who will shoot in and around Joshua Tree National Park. Use the link above for $25 off your first shoot.
  2. AirBnB Experiences – starting at just $85/person (up to 7 people), have a similar experience as above but at a lower price point if it is just you traveling.

Have you visited Joshua Tree National Park? If so, share your tips for getting the perfect photo in the comments. Need more National Parks in your life? Check out my recent post on Yosemite National Park.


Comments (7)

  • Kathryn

    December 1, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    Was really hoping to get here on our last road trip but didn’t make it. Hopefully next time, it’s such a neat looking place!

    1. millionmilermom

      December 2, 2020 at 11:16 am

      It is an amazing park – hope you get to visit soon!

  • Carmen Castricum

    December 1, 2020 at 11:26 pm

    Awesome article! I always really love taking shots in these kinds of sceneries and these tips are really helpful 🙂

    1. millionmilermom

      December 2, 2020 at 11:16 am

      Awesome!! I love taking pics and have loved learning tips for the perfect shot in recent years.

  • Palm Springs & Joshua Tree National Park with Kids – Million Miler Mom

    December 20, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    […] to get some pictures while at Joshua Tree? Check out my photo tips here or consider hiring a Flytographer to capture some amazing […]

  • Marielle

    January 11, 2021 at 8:34 am

    Great article! We’ve been dreaming of a campervan trip through Southern California with Joshua Tree National Park as one of our dream destinations. As avid photographers, your tips are truly helpful on what we can expect going there. Thanks!

    1. millionmilermom

      January 11, 2021 at 8:53 am

      This is the perfect place for a campervan tour! Joshua Tree has amazing camp sites! Hope you get to visit soon!

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