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Joshua Tree National Park

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Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is well-loved by people in Southern California and it’s famous for its stars. Mr. Misadventures and I spent a long weekend in Palm Springs in 2011 and visited the park but didn’t spend a ton of time checking out every nook and cranny.

Joshua Tree had seemed to elude my hubby, we had thought to visit when we were staying at Borrego Springs but it was just too far a drive. We were glad when we were planning our return trip West and North to get to Portland that we could schedule two weeks in the park.

We captured sunrises, sunsets and one evening of star photography. The weather wasn’t exactly cooperative during our time at Joshua Tree, but we made the best of it. There was also a ton of people there over the holiday but we were alone for sunrises, just the way we like it!

We did two of those sunrises at Barker Dam. It’s a hiking trail, and as you can probably guess by the name, it leads to a man-made dam built by a rancher named Barker. In the winter water collects and the reflection of the rocks in the water is pretty.

The first sunrise we did it was windy and stormy so the hubby didn’t like his photos. But when we finished the hike I loved the drama the weather provided as a backdrop to the Joshua trees.

Joshua tree and stormy sky at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua tree and stormy sky at Joshua Tree National Park.

We returned a few days later and were rewarded with this.

joshua tree national park barker dam at sunrise

Barker Dam at sunrise. Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

A few nights later we did sunset again. A seven-minute sunset(!) in the Jumbo Rocks campground to get this guy. A bowling ball nuzzled into other rocks which we took from the amphitheater.

joshua tree national park jumbo rocks bowling ball

Bowling Ball at Jumbo Rocks. Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

The previous afternoon we’d come to photograph a juniper/rock combo that Mr. Misadventures had spotted in another photographer’s blog post. He was enamored and would not rest until he found this tree! We went searching for it in the pouring rain but could not find it. Turns out the GPS coordinates were incorrect.

After more research, he got new coordinates and off we went. There is no cell service in the park so we used offline maps and a GPS app to locate it. Once you know where it is, it’s super easy, but finding it without help sucks!

So if you ever want to take a similar photo, go to the Jumbo Rocks Campgrounds and find sites 19 and 20. When you get there, look up and there you are! Duh!

Finding the arch nature trail at the back of White Tank Campgrounds, however, is easy. We visited a couple of days and walked the short trail. We also wandered off-trail into the canyons and had fun climbing around the canyons and rocks. When we finally circled back round to the arch trail the only way to access it was getting through this crack. It was tight but we made it!

Near Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park

Near Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

Our last morning we headed further south into the park to do sunrise at the Cholla Cactus Garden. If you enter the Cottonwood Springs park entrance from the I-10 freeway it’s the first “main attraction” you’ll see, but there isn’t much else except the entrances to off-road 4×4 trails. However, the gardens are worth the trip out there. If you are a photographer or have a photographer in your life just be very careful as everywhere you step or turn there is a cactus to run into or step on!

joshua tree national park cholla cactus garden

Sunrise at the Cholla Cactus Garden. Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

We returned to the arch for our last night in the park to do star photography. It was pretty fun to climb onto the shelf across from the arch and make camp. I had my handy-dandy REI chair, hot miso and the stars to entertain me while the hubby clicked away.

joshua tree national park arch rock

Star shoot at Arch Rock. Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

There are plenty of trails and climbs, campgrounds and picnic areas to keep you well entertained for any length of stay. And with its close proximity to San Diego, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs, I’m not surprised that Joshua Tree National Park is so popular. I feel blessed to have been able to explore so much.

How about you? Have you visited Joshua Tree National Park? What was your favorite part? If not, have I inspired you to think about it?

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Joel Sprague

Monday 14th of January 2019

Great photos! This is one of my favorite national parks (to the point I'd love to move there, though I've yet to convince my family that we should move to the desert). We still point out joshua trees anywhere we see them, whether it's on the highway to Death Valley, or the picture in the Amazon Fire Stick screen saver.

Andi Fisher

Tuesday 15th of January 2019

@Joel, we love this park also and are lucky to live about 4 hours away. We've also got a part of Highway 93 here in Arizona called Joshua Tree Parkway that is an hour away which we drive through from time to time. I recently read that because of climate changes taking place that impact a moth that these trees have a symbiotic relationship with that the Joshua Trees are even more endangered at this point. Best to appreciate them now and often!

Calvin F.

Monday 29th of May 2017

Never been here before :P looks awesome

Harvey (H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke)

Monday 13th of March 2017

Those rock formations are so interesting-looking (like, how did that bowling ball get in there?) and the cacti in that one shot look almost like extraterrestrial plants. And the night sky is stunningly beautiful. It seems that at Joshua Tree you could spend days seeing new and amazing views.

Andi Fisher

Thursday 16th of March 2017

@Harvey, oh for sure! There is a ton we didn't get too! With better weather we could have got to much more.


Tuesday 24th of January 2017

I've never been to a desert before and seen cactus up close. The pics are stunning, this is another side of life I haven't been exposed to. I need to make a trip out there and check it out in person.

Andi Fisher

Wednesday 1st of February 2017

@Cassie, cactus are pretty interesting plants. Lots of different varieties to check out. And they flower in the spring!


Thursday 19th of January 2017

I have not been, but the part of me that was a geology minor in college is freaking out that I haven't!!

Andi Fisher

Thursday 19th of January 2017

@Katie, your inner geologist would freak out in Utah! Valley of Fire in Vegas too (post on the next week).