Last Updated on April 24, 2024

Joshua Tree National Park has so many alien sights–it’s a fantastic place for photographers and explorers. There’s a lot of sentimental value for me here, as my partner and I took our elopement photos among the Joshua trees and ancient, majestic boulders. The pictures we took made me realize just how beautiful the park could be in the right conditions. So today, I’ll be showing a guide to Joshua Tree photography spots! 

My elopement pictures in Joshua Tree!

Much of the park’s beauty comes from its location. It’s the middle ground between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. The intense heat and arid climate of Colorado Desert blend with the lush hills of the Mojave. As a result, an aesthetic mix of resilient cacti, blooming wildflowers, and eponymously eclectic trees bloom all around here.

You can purchase an entrance pass to see this park’s eccentric charm for $15 to $30 here.

If you need to see the park’s beauty for yourself, check out my reel!

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Best Joshua Tree Photography Spots

Before you go

Many of Joshua Tree’s highlights come from the otherworldly flora and surreally shaped rocks. You can visit all these places in just one day, and they make for lovely memories. However, keep these things in mind before visiting!

As a desert, Joshua Tree doesn’t have a lot of shade. Most visitors will come sometime in spring when the weather is cool and the wildflowers are blooming. 

March to May is likely the park’s peak in activity–however, if you’re looking for cool weather, you can also come in autumn around October to November. There may be fewer wildflowers, but the scenery is still gorgeous.

Furthermore, you should prepare thoroughly before going into the desert. Keep some water and trail mix in handy for hiking, and some durable clothes and shoes for your journey. You’ll also need some protection from the elements for your camera lens, as there’s a lot of sand and dust in the area. 

Have everything ready? Then let’s start our adventure to some of the best Joshua Tree photography spots!

Best views

Scenic Drive

If you’re entering the park through Joshua Tree’s townscape, Scenic Drive is the first route you’ll likely go through to admire the park. This 78.9-mile road passes through the Desert Conservation Area and Mojave Desert Land Trust before cruising into the Joshua Tree National Park. 

Along the way, the park’s famous Yucca trees (or Joshua trees) will greet you on the road. These are the highlights of the drive! I recommend dropping by the roadside to snap some shots here. 

Stops along the Scenic Drive

My pictures were shot in the middle of the day, but they look spectacular if you can find them during sunset. This is one of the finest Joshua Tree photography spots. 

You’ll find many of the Yucca trees by the northern entrance. As you head further out, you’ll also drive past numerous rock formations and viewing sites. Some trailheads and pullouts also begin along this road, but it’s specially paved for people who prefer scenic road trips through the desert. 

Skull Rock

Looking out your window through the Scenic Drive, you’ll soon face the terrifically eerie Skull Rock. This massive granite boulder has three holes near its “face” that resemble the mouth and eyes of a giant skull.

It’s a surreal structure to pass by on the road, and it looks even more impressive up close. Scientists say that the holes in this rock’s face were formed from small pools of rainwater chipping away at the rough granite. If you want to see this geological wonder yourself, you’ll need to walk 50 feet from the parking lot across the road.

You can get quite close to the rock face and stand at the ‘nose’ to get a cool shot here. It also looks very imposing and epic at a distance.

A woman standing in front of Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park.
Skull Rock

Once you reach Skull Rock, you’ll also find the 0.7-mile Discovery trail. It’s an easy path that gives you a good look at the beautiful canyons and rocks in the area. If you want to take more photographs of the desert, this is one of the most convenient trails to get them. 

Most people take this trail along with the longer Skull Rock Nature Trail, but it’s a great loop on its own. I’d recommend just taking the Discovery Trail if you don’t have much time for both!  

Penguin Rock and Juniper Tree

Have you ever seen a penguin in a desert? They probably don’t exist, but this penguin-shaped rock in the park comes close.

You might not be able to find these two landmarks on Google Maps–don’t worry! This is because they’re actually in the Jumbo Rocks Campground, which is very close to Skull Rock. 

Penguin Rock and Juniper Tree in Joshua Tree National Park
Penguin Rock and Juniper Tree

These two landmarks are near campsite 18 for those staying in the campgrounds. If you’re not staying in the camp, you can park out the road and hike for half a mile to them.

Penguin Rock is usually paired with Juniper Tree for the perspective effect it has. When you snap a picture from afar, it looks like the ‘penguin’ is searching for the shade of the Juniper Tree.

Arch Rock

If you take a turn from Park Boulevard to Pinto Basin Road, you’ll eventually come across Arch Rock. This 30-foot rock formation has a fascinating bent structure, and it makes for a great frame in photos.

Woman standing in front of the Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park.
Arch Rock

If you climb up the rocks, you can get a crown-like effect when positioning yourself by the arch. You can also stand directly under the arch, or try to climb it. Do be careful and try not to damage the area, though. 

The area also has a popular hiking trail from the nearby parking lot. It’s an easy 1.2-mile loop that also has educational guides talking about the geology of the area. Still, you don’t need to be a geologist to appreciate the views!

Since we’re focused on finding the best Joshua Tree photography spots, we won’t talk in too much detail about the hiking trails along here. If you’re interested in other hiking spots in California, check out Sequoia National Park!

Arch Rock Trail

Heart Rock

Heart Rock

Behind Arch Rock is one of the cutest rocks in the park: Heart Rock! It’s an adorable boulder shaped exactly like a heart. It’s just such a uniquely romantic structure to find in the desert–it reminds me why I took my elopement photos here.

You can combine the Arch Rock trail and head towards Heart Rock in a 1.2-mile round trip. It’s an easy path to hike as long as the weather isn’t hot. So many other incredible rock formations also rest along the path, and it’s a lovely way to enjoy them all at once. 

Try heading out to Heart Rock just before sunset or sunrise. The rock looks even more dramatic with sunlight shining behind it, and it’d make some great pictures. It’s a wonderful place no matter the time of day though!  

Cholla Cactus Garden

Next, follow the Pinto Basin Road and you’ll find the Cholla Cactus Garden, the most colorful part of the park. There are a lot of deserts in California, but not many with such quirky cacti! 

Most of the flora here are from the teddybear cholla cacti. However, countless other wildflowers and desert bushes grow all over this field. The most vibrant flowers sprout around spring and summer, and you can find a handy guide for them on the National Park Service website.

Cholla Cactus Garden pathway

If you’re thinking of taking a walk, you won’t need to worry about stepping on the plant life. The garden has this rustic wooden pathway that curls around the cacti. It only takes around 4 minutes to walk about the garden, and it’s worth it every step of the way. 

To best use this Joshua Tree photography spot, I’d recommend bringing a nice summer dress with vibrant hues. There’s a nice contrast in shapes and colors when putting your composition together here!

Cholla Cactus Garden

Most photogenic places to stay

When I talk about hotels or places to stay in guides, it’s usually to find comfortable accommodations. Joshua Tree National Park is unique in that even the accommodations make great photoshoot locations! Not only is the desert backdrop breathtaking, but the buildings here are also eclectic and fascinating. 

This guide to Joshua Tree’s photography spots may not focus too much on accommodations, but we can appreciate the creative displays here. If you’re here to take some beautiful shots, I highly recommend trying out these places!

Area 55 Futuro House

There’s no other place in California where you can say you’ve slept in a spaceship. The Area 55 Futuro House is an out-of-this-world glamping facility at the center of Joshua Tree. This round, flying-saucer-like house was rebuilt from an old Futuro Pod and it has a cool, retro sci-fi interior.

My favorite shots of this house were at night. The stars are much brighter in the desert, and it does feel like you’re taking a shot of an alien landing from space!

Area 55 Futuro House

Those familiar with camping know that most campers have to wash and bathe outside their tents. The same thing applies here, though the facilities are more luxurious. Showers outside aren’t covered, but the bathrooms are. You’ll also cook outside.

What this facility has that most camping sites won’t is a gaming area, solar-powered electricity, a propane heater, and a conditioner inside. Around 4 people can stay here with comfy air mattresses, so don’t be afraid to bring your friends or family along!

High West House

This is a relatively new luxury home in Pioneertown that you can book on AirBnB. It’s surrounded by so many gorgeous boulders and desert views, with plenty of entertainment and fireside facilities.

Interior-wise, the house has an old-timey, rustic feeling to it, coupled with some modern art and furniture. It’s close to a lot of the rocks we talked about earlier, so you can set off immediately after resting to hike into the desert.

High West House

It also has a calming hot tub, a cowboy tub, hammocks, heating and conditioning, and a fire pit. The fire pit is especially cozy and I loved hanging by the torchlight, chatting away with a friend. Whether you’re here to take pictures of the nearby desert or enjoy the facilities, it’s a great place to stay!

The house has 3 beds and can fit around 6 people a night. You can book your trip here!


Woman lying in a bed inside an Autocamp cabin.
Inside of Autocamp

Autocamp is one of the coolest outdoor facilities in California, and it has an incredible view of Joshua Tree. The accommodations are built outside in these sleek metal pods with chill interiors. There’s a lot more comfort in these pods, and the area also has a swimming pool, playground, and picnic area. The best part of the experience is being able to enjoy the desert sunset by a roaring fire pit, just outside your cabin. It’s a lovely spot to lie back after a long day of exploring. You can book your cabin here!

  • Castle House Estate: A glamping accommodation like the Area 55 Futuro House, this estate has a special medieval theme. The buildings are shaped like modern castles, and there are a lot of fun outdoor facilities to enjoy the desert with.

  • The Bungalows by Homestead Modern: A luxurious retreat with a 1950s-themed interior. It follows Joshua Tree’s tradition of being both modern and nostalgic–a great accommodation for travelers seeking comfort.

  • Mojave Sands: An affordable rental home with 5 rooms and a lot of natural flora. It’s close to Park Boulevard Road, where most will drive to go to the park. 

Joshua Tree is an amazing place, and I’m so glad I made my fondest wedding memories here. It’ll always hold a special place in my heart–my journey as a photographer and content creator has had many surprising turns, but it’s always places like this that remind me why I love taking pictures. I hope this guide to Joshua Tree photography spots helps you make as many great memories as I have.

If you love California’s national parks as much as I do, I’ve written about a lot of other parks for you. Check out the most scenic photo spots in Yosemite National Park and the best hiking trails in Sequoia National Park!

Do you love exploring in California? I created an interactive map just for you! Check out my California Travel Map with over 500 pins of the best spots and hidden gems for California Travel!