We went to Joshua Tree National Park during the Federal Government Shutdown in December 2018. While conditions were less than desirable, we still had a fantastic trip to Joshua Tree National Park! I did my research ahead of time, and since we had only 2 days, I wanted to pack in as much as possible into our visit. With that in mind, here are my top 9 must-see locations at Joshua Tree National Park!
#1 Must-see Location at Joshua Tree National Park – Barker Dam
Barker Dam completely exceeded my expectations. Who would’ve thought that a desert would have water in December? Yet, not only did we find water, we found a lot of it! The hike to Barker Dam was easy, beautiful, and ended with some amazing views! If you have the time, Barker Dam is definitely my top must-see location at Joshua Tree National Park!
#2 Must-see Location at Joshua Tree National Park – Hidden Valley
The Hidden Valley Nature Trail is a bouldering playground. I loved the diverse walkways and scenic vistas. Because of this hike, some of my kids coined Joshua Tree as their new “favorite National Park.” Hidden Valley provided a nice change of scenery while allowing us to really get out and connect with Joshua Tree National Park.
#3 Must-see Location at Joshua Tree National Park – Cap Rock
Cap Rock is a quick stop, but well worth it. It is located just off of Keys View Road and can be seen from the parking lot. You will need a wide angle lens to photograph Cap Rock it as it is HUGE! This is a perfect stop on your way to Keys View for the sunset. Honestly, I took this shot from my car window as I didn’t want to miss the sunset. Still, I’m glad we stopped.
#4 Must-see Location at Joshua Tree National Park – Keys View
If you can make it to Keys View for sunset, it is worth it. Keys View offers a stunning valley vista and provides an amazing sunset location. That said, it will be crowded. When we went, it was FREEZING!!! The wind was so strong I thought my camera, tripod, and myself would fly off of a cliff ledge. Thankfully Dave ran down to get me an extra coat and gloves. That said, the view and memory still lingers in my soul today and I am glad I went.
#5 Must-see Location at Joshua Tree National Park – Skull Rock
Skull Rock is also located right off of a main road and is easy to access. On Park Blvd, Skull Rock is seriously right next to the parking pull outs. If you can manage it, I’ve seen spectacular shots of the Milky Way over Skull Rock. Sadly, we had a thick cloud cover and so I had to settle for an early morning photograph of Skull Rock. As long as you are in the area, you will also want to check out the Jumbo Rocks Campground where you will be able to see Elephant Rock and Penguin Rock as well as do some exploring.
#6 Must-see Location at Joshua Tree National Park – Split Rock
Just a small jog off of Park Blvd, Split Rock surprised me. When I saw photos, I thought it was a fairly small boulder. Not so. Split Rock is a gigantic rock that has been completely split. It was really fantastic hiking up and around split rock and worth the detour. Bring your wide angle lens and take time to visit Split Rock if you can. It is visible from the parking area and easy to access.
#7 Must-see Location at Joshua Tree National Park – Cholla Cactus Garden
If you are able to stay at a campground in Joshua Tree National Park or at Twentynine Palms (we stayed at a hotel there), then venturing out for the sunrise at the Cholla Cactus Garden is well worth your time. The light illuminates the tiny cactus plants and lights the landscape on fire. It is a beautiful thing to witness. Be careful to not get too close to the cactus plants. These are deceptively innocent and will stick to your clothes and skin quicker than you can blink if you get too close. That said, it is worth a visit!
#8 Must-see Location at Joshua Tree National Park – Arch Rock
Located in the White Tank Campground, Arch Rock exceeded my expectations. This is bouldering at its best (even for those who don’t go bouldering). I was able to climb up and through Arch Rock with all of my camera equipment and felt like I was transported onto an alien planet. A wide angle lens is best here as you will be up close and personal with Arch Rock. If you explore a little bit and get lucky, you may even be able to spot heart rock! (Learn how to find Arch Rock here!)
#9 Must-see Location at Joshua Tree National Park – Joshua Trees
While not a single location, the highlight of Joshua Tree National Park is, of course, the amazing Joshua Trees! These beauties are located all throughout the park. There are plenty of pullouts along Park Blvd and Pinto Basin Rd. I took the above photograph on my way to the Cholla Cactus Garden on Pinto Basin Rd at sunrise. To me, this iconifies what Joshua Tree National Park is all about!
Well, there you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my 9 must-see locations at Joshua Tree National Park and that you get to visit this amazing park for yourself! If not, at least you can see it through my photos! Thanks for reading and sharing my adventures with me! Happy travels!
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