There’s no better place than Joshua Tree National Park for beautiful scenery, spectacular vistas, and amazing geological features like ancient rock formations, colorful cliffs, and sprawling desert plains.
This park is incredible in terms of its diversity with plenty of things to do for everyone. It’s the perfect stop on a trip through the American southwest. There are so many things to do when you’re outdoors. From rock climbing to hiking, from camping to astrophotography, there’s something for everyone!
My favorite thing to do is wake up before sunrise and sit quietly in the dark for a while, taking in the view. Whether it’s spring, summer or fall, the perfect time to escape the crowds is at sunrise.
I’ve picked the top five places to watch the sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll also get advice on the best hike to take, where to stay, and what to pack. Don’t miss this one-day itinerary that takes you to the best Joshua Tree spots.
Joshua Tree At-A-Glance
Whether you’ve got family or a partner who’s willing to join you, there are so many wonderful activities for you to enjoy during your vacation in Joshua Tree, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, shopping, camping and much more.
But these milder temperatures bring plenty of crowds — make sure to book your trip in advance. If you’re looking to stay in the park, your only option is to camp. I recommend checking out the campsites at Jumbo Rocks Campground.
A few miles away from the park, you’ll find many Airbnbs and hotels near the park. The closest airport is LAX, about 2.5 hours away. You can use Skyscanner to browse flights and find the cheapest fare.
The easiest way to get around Joshua Tree is by your own car. The best way to enjoy our region is to stay in our many beautiful towns. Our region is best enjoyed by staying in our many beautiful towns.
Use Rentcar.com to search for deals on rental cars or rent an RV or campervan with Outdoorsy. Don’t forget to buy your National Parks Pass ahead of time. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and gets you into all 400+ national parks sites, including Joshua Tree.
Cholla Cactus Garden Sunrise: Best All-Around Sunrise in Joshua Tree
Joshua tree is an essential part of every desert trip. Sunrise Park is the perfect place for catching the sunrise. This garden is filled with unique, fuzzy Cholla cactuses. The Cholla cactus is a spiky cactus native to the Southwestern United States.
They grow in the southern part of Joshua Tree, where the park enters the Colorado Desert. Cacti thrive in an even hotter, drier environment. Joshua Tree is the home to the Cholla Cactus Garden trail. It is a quarter-mile walk through a field of Cholla. If you want to get the best views of Joshua Tree National Park, come in the early morning hours.
Keys View: Best Joshua Tree National Park Sunrise Viewpoint
My favorite place in Joshua Tree is Keys View, which is also my favorite place for sunrise. It’s so good for sunset, too. Sunrise is better because the crowds aren’t as bad and it’s easier to find a parking spot.
Drive up the mountain in the dark and wake up early to watch the sunrise. Sunrise in the eastern U.S. is a time of great beauty, especially around the Coachella Valley. A sunrise is the ideal time for taking photographs because it provides natural light for good contrast. After sunrise, go back down the mountain to see the Joshua trees in the Golden Hour light.
Barker Dam: Most Underrated Joshua Tree Sunrise Spot
Barker Dam is a rare sight of water in the desert. This is a beautiful place to watch the sunrise. It’s a historic site with a cattle tank. You have to hike two miles to get to Barker Dam. The trail to Barker Dam is easy, but it is only good for the late fall through spring seasons.
You should go to this yoga class early, well before the sunrise. The best part of Barker Dam is capturing the first light of the morning reflected in the water. This image is best taken with a tripod, so you’ll want to make sure you bring one.
It’s common for Barker Dam to be dried up due to drought, so check with the park rangers before heading out in the morning to see if there’s water in the dam. It’s worth going to this spot at sunrise, even if the water is frozen.
Ryan Mountain: Best Joshua Tree Sunrise Hike
Ryan Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. There’s a challenging trail up the mountain that leads to the peak. From the top, you get an excellent view of Joshua Tree National Park and the Coachella Valley.
There’s no better time than when the sun comes up to hike this trail. It’s not just the views at sunrise, but it’s also the perfect temperature for a morning hike! You’d better wait until after lunch to do any hiking. It gets too hot in the afternoon.
The best time to visit the park is in the early morning to enjoy the first light over the park. Don’t forget to pack a headlamp.
Arch Rock: Best Joshua Tree Sunrise Photography
Arch Rock is a unique rock formation along the park’s main road, Park Boulevard. Lava is a popular photography spot. People gather on Arch Rock for photo opportunities at any time of day but it’s especially impressive when they do so at sunrise or sunset.
By heading there early or late in the day, you’ll beat the crowds and have a chance to capture your own special memories. Arch Rock is a popular place for night sky photography! If you want to visit every national park in the United States, you have to get my free national park guidebook. It breaks down everything you need to know to visit every national park in the US.
Other Spots to Explore in Joshua Tree
After you’ve taken in the beauty of the sunrise, check out some of these other Joshua Tree adventures:
- See Skull Rock
- Hike the Hidden Valley Trail
- Hike the Ryan Mountain Trail (if you didn’t hike it for sunrise)
- See the Joshua Trees along Park Boulevard
Tips for Catching Sunrise in Joshua Tree
Get the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass and you can visit all the national parks at once for only $80 per year. The entrance fee to Joshua Tree National Park is $30. You get the idea. I’m sure you can use the same approach with your own content.
Visit more than one national park in the next year and save! Get your free America the Beautiful Pass here. The best light is during blue hour, around an hour before the set sun-rise time.
Bring a good camera and bring it with you at all times. Don’t forget the extra batteries and memory cards for your camera. There are no restaurants in the park, so even if you left the park right after sunrise, you’re still a little more than an hour from breakfast. Curb your hunger with a premade breakfast or snack. My go-to for early mornings are peanut butter banana CLIF bars!
Set multiple alarms. If you’re like me, waking up early is a struggle. I’ve tried many things to make sure I get enough sleep, but what really works for me is setting my alarm to wake up at different times throughout the night.
Drive carefully through the park. Animals that live in Joshua Tree are usually more active at night. If you’re driving to your favorite sunrise spot, keep an eye out for animals like coyotes and owls along the roadside. Are you visiting multiple national parks in the next year? You can visit all the national parks for free with the America the Beautiful National Park Pass.
What to Pack for a Sunrise Hike in Joshua Tree
Be sure to pack a few essentials to stay warm and safe on your next hike! A headlamp Before the sun comes up, you’ll be wandering around in the dark. Make sure you stay safe on the trail by packing the right headlamp.
My favorite headlamp is the Black Diamond Storm 400. It’s by far the best headlamp I’ve ever used. Cold Nights in Joshua Tree Before the sun comes up, the temperatures rise. Dress in layers to stay warm before sunrise.
I prefer a fleece pullover, like the Patagonia Better Sweater, and a lightweight beanie hat. It’s important to have the right hiking gear for any type of hike, and especially during the winter.
This includes a first aid kit, fire starter, emergency shelter, and more. To find out what other outdoor gear I love and use, you can see my list here.
Where to Stay Near Joshua Tree National Park
The best locations to stay near these sunrise spots are the in-park campgrounds at Joshua Tree National Park. It’s always best to get in a site at some of the park’s reservable campsites.
These are the campgrounds in Joshua Tree that accept reservations: Jumbo Rocks – The best campground in Joshua Tree! The – Closest to Cholla Cottonwood – Indian Cove Black Rock – Indian Cove
Camping may not be your thing, so consider staying at an Airbnb near nearby towns like Yucca Valley or Twentynine Palms.
My favorite place to stay when I visit the park is a beautiful mid-century modern Airbnb. I enjoy staying in the park, so a short walk from my place makes my stay super convenient.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sunrise in Joshua Tree
What is the best time of day to visit Joshua Tree?
The best time of day to visit Joshua Tree National Park is in the early morning, when the sun is just beginning to rise. If you’re not here for the view of the sunset, you’ll get better views of the sunrise by arriving before 7am.
Can you enter Joshua Tree at night?
The national park in Joshua Tree opens all night because it’s open 24 hours a day. Night entry is the exception. You have to pay an entrance fee if you enter a park or zoo after dark.
Final Thoughts on the Best Joshua Tree Sunrise Spots
If you’re looking for the best sunrise spot in Joshua Tree, I’ve got you covered. You’ll find the best sunrise spots at these locations:
- Cholla Cactus Garden
- Keys View
- Barker Dam
- Ryan Mountain
- Arch Rock