Welcome to Joshua Tree!

I live and work in Joshua Tree. I teach photography workshops, so I've spent many days and nights exploring the park. I put together a list of my favorite photographic locations in Joshua Tree National Park. Enjoy!

Desert Landscape Photography Tips

Here are some tips to help make your photographs more amazing! 

  • Sunrise and sunsets are best - with some clouds of course!
  • Frame a "Joshua Tree" - when photographing big rock formations include a Joshua Tree
  • Photograph Joshua Trees from all "sides" - even the back side! One side will be the best
  • Take many shots, just a few feet apart - little changes make a difference in the final composition
  • Use a wide angle lens - it helps you capture the most of the landscape scene
  • Try not to shoot at "eye level" - lay on the ground or climb up on a rock - find a unique perspective
  • Compose properly - Include foreground (rocks/shrubs), main subject and background (sky) elements
  • Use a tripod - It forces you to take the time to compose the shot properly - details matter!
  • Get closer to your subject - it forces you to remove unnecessary objects from the frame
  • iPhones take great shots! - I use mine all of the time!

Before you visit, check out our Planning Your Trip Guide. 


Photography courtesy of
Joshua Tree Workshops

"We know the best locations in the park!"

Ready? Let's get Started!

Joshua Tree / Top 10 'Classic' Photo Locations 


1. Intersection Rock

Intersection Rock is a 'classic' location in the park. It's one of my favorite "go to" spots for sunset. 

Finding the Right Spot
Intersection Rock is centrally located in the park. It is easy to locate from Park Blvd. Just turn at the sign for "Intersection Rock" - across from Hidden Valley. 

Park in the parking lot and grab your camera. Walk back on the road towards Park Blvd staying near the road as you walk west. You will get to a point where there is a very tall (20+ ft) Joshua Tree near the road (pictured above). You want to position yourself so that the tree 'complements' the shape of Intersection Rock. 

You can take the picture right there on the road if you have a wide lens. If your lens is not wide enough to frame the entire scene, you can back up and cross the street, keeping the positioning of the tree next to the rock (as above). 

When to Shoot - Sunset, AFTER the Sun goes down / All Seasons.
You want to get the shot JUST AFTER the Sun sets. The setting sun creates an orange glow on the west side of the rocks (see image). If you're lucky, there will be some nice clouds, and some climbers! 

Camera Settings
I prefer a wide angle lens at this location. If there are climbers, you can use a telephoto lens to zoom. 
Preferred Lens: Wide - 24mm or wider / 100-200mm Long Lens for Climbers
Program Mode: Aperture Priority / Canon - "AV"  / Nikon "A" Mode
Exposure Duration: Automatically Determined by Camera
Aperture: F 8-11
ISO: 100
White Balance: {Auto] [AWB] (Auto White Balance)
Format: RAW or JPG
Tripod: Yes


2. Old Woman Rock 

Right next to Intersection Rock is Old Woman Rock. It's another favorite spot for climbers. It's also an amazing rock formation. If you look closely, you can see the "Old Woman's" oval "head" with her arms outstretched - wearing a 50's triangle dress. You can see her in the picture. 

Finding the Right Spot
From the parking lot, walk towards Old Woman Rock. When you get about mid-point at the rock, then walk away from it, towards the road (not the parking lot). As you walk back, you will see some nice rocks and Joshua Trees that you can use to frame the picture (see image). 

When to Shoot - Sunset, AFTER the Sun goes down / All Seasons.
You want to get the shot JUST AFTER the Sun sets. This will create an orange glow on the west side of the rocks.
If you're lucky, there will be some nice clouds, and climbers! 

Camera Settings
I prefer Wide angle lens in this location, but if there are climbers, then zoom in to get shots of them in action.
Preferred Lens: Wide - 24mm or wider
Program Mode: Aperture Priority / Canon - "AV"  / Nikon "A" Mode
Exposure Duration: Automatically Determined by Camera
Aperture: F 8-11
ISO: 100
White Balance: {Auto] [AWB] (Auto White Balance)
Format: RAW or JPG
Tripod: Yes


3. Ancient Trees

They say that a typical Joshua Tree is about 70 years old. In my travels through the park I am always looking for ancient trees - those trees that are 100-200 years old. They are special.

Finding the Right Spot
Heading East from Intersection Rock, travel about 3/4 mile. You will find a 'paved' turn-out on the right hand side of the road. Park here and then walk WEST towards the rocks until you find this tree. You can frame the size between the rocks and the tree as you get closer. Find a good spot. 

When to Shoot - Sunset or Sunrise / All Seasons
You can shoot this any time of day or night. In the morning the tree is lighter. In the evening the tree is back lit.

Camera Settings
Preferred Lens: Any lens
Program Mode: Aperture Priority / Canon - "AV"  / Nikon "A" Mode
Aperture: F 8-11
ISO: 100
Format: RAW or JPG
Exposure Duration: Automatically Determined by Camera
White Balance: {Auto] [AWB] (Auto White Balance)
Tripod: Yes


Photography courtesy of
Joshua Tree Workshops

"We know the best locations in the park!"

KEYS VIEW - COURTESY TRAILTOPEAK.COM - THANKS DREW, JULIA AND ISLA!

KEYS VIEW - COURTESY TRAILTOPEAK.COM - THANKS DREW, JULIA AND ISLA!

4. Keys View 

Keys View offers an amazing view of Coachella Valley (Palms Springs & Indio). The elevation is over 5000 ft, so this is one of the first places to get snow each season. There are a few turn-outs on the way up the road - it is worth stopping and hiking around - the vegetation is much different up there. 

Finding the Right Spot
Drive to the end of Keys View road and Park. Find an isolated spot on the rocks.

When to Shoot - Sunset, Sunset / All Seasons.
This spot is good at sunrise or sunset - or where there is snow! Cloudy days are nice as well.

Camera Settings
I prefer Wide angle lens in this location, but any lens will work. 
Preferred Lens: Wide - 24mm or wider
Program Mode: Aperture Priority / Canon - "AV"  / Nikon "A" Mode
Aperture: F 8-11
ISO: 100
Format: RAW or JPG
Exposure Duration: Automatically Determined by Camera
White Balance: {Auto] [AWB] (Auto White Balance)
Tripod: Yes


5. Cap Rock

Right at the corner of Keys View Road and Park Blvd is Cap Rock. You'll know it when you see it - There is a rock up there that defies gravity. There are some picnic tables here for lunch. 

This is a nice area because there are some self-guided walks around the rocks. The pictured shot was taken on the path - looking back at Cap Rock (at about 6am in the morning, just as the sun peaked up over Ryan Mountain - and illuminated Cap Rock.). This is one of my favorite places. 

Finding the Right Spot
From the parking lot, walk on the self guided walk. When you get to a large boulder, look back and you will see this scene. In spring, there are blooms on the Joshua Tree. 

When to Shoot - Sunrise, just as the Sun rises / All Seasons
You want to get the shot JUST AFTER the Sun rises. This will create a glow on the east side of the rock. (see image). If you're lucky, there will be some nice clouds. 

Camera Settings
I prefer Wide angle lens in this location, but if there are climbers, then zoom in to get shots of them in action.
Preferred Lens: Wide - 24mm or wider
Program Mode: Aperture Priority / Canon - "AV"  / Nikon "A" Mode
Aperture: F 8-11
ISO: 100
Format: RAW or JPG
Exposure Duration: Automatically Determined by Camera
White Balance: {Auto] [AWB] (Auto White Balance)
Tripod: Yes


6. Arch Rock

Arch Rock is another classic "must see" photographic location in the park. It's in the White Tank Campground

Arch Rock is a special place. There are a ton of little trails behind it that weave in and out of rock piles. It's hard to get lost there because all of the trails seem to wind back to the camping / parking area. There are only a few parking spots (besides the campsites), but that's what makes it special. 

Finding the Right Spot
Drive into White Tank Campground. Proceed on the dirt road and you will find a spot (near a large dumpster) that says "No Parking". If you read it closer it says "10pm-7am". Park here and you are next to the trailhead to the Arch. The short trail (1/4 mile) leads you right to the Arch. You will need to do a little bouldering to get to the spot across from the Arch. Be careful with yourself - and you camera equipment.  Try different spots across from the Arch. 

When to Shoot - Sunrise or late afternoon / All Seasons
The best times to shoot are - Sunrise (as the sun peeks through the Arch). Late Afternoon is nice when the sun lights the entire Arch (Pictured). At Sunset, the Arch is in the shade, but if there are clouds it can be a good shot. 

Camera Settings
You will need a Wide angle lens in this location. 
Preferred Lens: Wide - 24mm or wider
Program Mode: Aperture Priority / Canon - "AV"  / Nikon "A" Mode
Aperture: F 8-11
ISO: 100
Format: RAW or JPG
Exposure Duration: Automatically Determined by Camera
White Balance: {Auto] [AWB] (Auto White Balance)
Tripod: Yes


skull rock.jpg

7. Skull Rock

Skull Rock is right by the road - You can't miss it - there is a sign - and about 10-20 cars on weekends! 

Finding the Right Spot
It's just east of the Jumbo Rock Campground entrance - There is a sign on the road. Walk in at the trail head. It's right by the road.  

When to Shoot - Sunrise / All Seasons
Early morning is nice when the sin rises and creates dramatic shadows on the face. 

Camera Settings
I prefer Wide angle lens in this location.
Preferred Lens: Wide - 24mm or wider
Program Mode: Aperture Priority / Canon - "AV"  / Nikon "A" Mode
Aperture: F 8-11
ISO: 100
Format: RAW or JPG
Exposure Duration: Automatically Determined by Camera
White Balance: {Auto] [AWB] (Auto White Balance)
Tripod: Yes


8. Cholla Cactus Garden

If you are coming in from Hwy 10, you will pass this spot on your way into the park. It's a huge field of Cholla Cactus. This is great for shots at sunrise and sunset - and during the flowering season in spring. 

Finding the Right Spot
In the morning, park in the parking lot and walk into the garden. Find a spot, looking East towards the sun that has lots of cactus. In the morning, the cactus will GLOW. You''ll see what I mean!

When to Shoot - Sunrise, just as the sun rises / Spring when there are flowers. You want to get the shot just as the sun rises. This will create an orange glow on the cactus. (see image). If you're lucky, there will be some nice clouds.

Camera Settings
Preferred Lens: Any lens will do here. 
Program Mode: Aperture Priority / Canon - "AV"  / Nikon "A" Mode
Aperture: F 8-11
ISO: 100
Format: RAW or JPG
Exposure Duration: Automatically Determined by Camera
White Balance: {Auto] [AWB] (Auto White Balance)
Tripod: Yes


9. Sunsets 

First of all, no matter where you are in the park - make sure you hang out as the sun goes down. Joshua Tree is very fortunate in that it frequently has amazing sunsets. . 

For Photographers: Make sure to stay about 1 hour after the sunset. This is the time when the colors come out in the sky and you get those amazingly deep blues.

Finding the Right Spot
In the Intersection Rock area, there are many Joshua Trees that make great sunset pictures. As the sun is setting, walk around (looking West) and try taking pictures of different trees. 

When to Shoot - Sunset, AFTER the Sun goes down / All Seasons
You want to get the shot JUST AFTER the Sun sets - that is when the clouds turn colors - Orange, Red and Pink! 

Camera Settings
Preferred Lens: Any lens will do
Program Mode: Aperture Priority / Canon - "AV"  / Nikon "A" Mode
Aperture: F 8-11
ISO: 100
Format: RAW or JPG
Exposure Duration: Automatically Determined by Camera
White Balance: {Auto] [AWB] (Auto White Balance)
Tripod: Yes


10. Milky Way over Arch Rock (White Tank)

The nights are very dark in the park. In the summer the Milky Way is at it's best and brightest. 

Finding the Right Spot
You can shoot the Milky Way from anywhere in the park, but the further East you go, the darker the skies get. Arch Rock is a popular spot for taking Milky Way shots. 

When to Shoot - Midnight! / Spring, Summer, Fall
For tips on planning your trip - see our: Guide to the Night Sky

Camera Settings
Wide angle lens capture more the the night sky,  The Wider the better!
Preferred Lens: Wide - 24mm or wider - Preferably 14mm
Program Mode: Manual Mode
Aperture: F2.8
ISO: 3200
Exposure Duration: 30 seconds
Format: RAW
White Balance: 3200 Kelvin
Tripod: Yes!!!


Photography courtesy of
Joshua Tree Workshops

"We know the best locations in the park!"

Leave the park nicer than you found it!