Looking for the best Joshua Tree National Park sunrise hikes and viewpoints? I’ve got you covered! This Joshua Tree sunrise guide will point out all of the best sunrise locations, popular spots, and can’t miss places. Here we will also cover the best Joshua Tree sunrise hikes in the park. If you are visiting Joshua Tree, you simply cannot miss these!
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Have more time to experience the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave Desert? Consider booking these tours!
⫸ Take a Self-Guided audio tour. For a deeper understanding of this desert park, listen to the dramatic tales of the McHaney Gang, gold thieves, and other infamous men and women who used to live here.
⫸ Take a San Andreas Fault tour. This open-air Jeep tour guides you across the desert landscape, where the famous active earthquake zone – the San Andreas fault – is located. This tour is also available from Palm Springs, FYI.
The Best Places for a Joshua Tree Sunrise
If you’re new around here, you may not know – I am obsessed with Joshua Tree National Park. I make it a point to visit this park multiple times per year, and I never regret it.
Joshua Tree is stunning. The wild, rugged landscape, dotted with spiky dancing yuccas and round boulders never seems to disappoint. It’s an amazing spot for reconnecting with nature and enjoying the desert solitude.
Whether you have just one day in Joshua Tree or a whole week, I can just about guarantee that you will leave in a more peaceful mindset than when you entered.
Spanning both the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert, the landscapes in Joshua Tree National Park are surprisingly varied across the 1235 square miles of park land. And, that variation is exactly what creates so many incredible places for a Joshua Tree sunrise.
How to Prepare for a Joshua Tree Sunrise
First and foremost, you’re going to need to arrive early, while it’s still dark out. This requires a bit of research, since sunrise times change throughout the year. Be sure to check the daily sunrise times in the park on the exact date that you plan to visit.
Choose accommodations near the park.
Next, you’ll have to decide where to sleep the night before. It’s best to stay in a location that makes it easy to road trip into the park.
Typically, I book accommodations in 29 Palms or the small town of Joshua Tree when visiting the park. However, when I’m planning to visit Palm Springs, too, then sometimes I stay over that way.
Here are my top hotel recommendations after countless visits to Joshua Tree over the years.
Joshua Tree Hotels
These hotels will be your best bet. All are reasonably close to the park entrance, making them all a perfect home base:
Palm Springs Hotels
Downtown Palm Springs is roughly 55 minutes from the park entrance, but this retro desert town is quite a treat. Some of the most beautiful and relaxing resorts are:
Alternately, you can think about camping inside of the Joshua Tree boundaries the night before your morning trek. There are a number of reserve-in-advance campsites as well as first-come-first-serve sites. The idea is to position yourself so that you are already as close as possible upon waking.
After you’ve got those details sorted, it’s time to decide which magical sunrise spot you’d like to experience! Side note, each of these spots are also incredible for Joshua Tree sunsets, too.
You May Also Like: 10 Tips for Visiting Joshua Tree National Park
The Best Joshua Tree Sunrise Hikes & Locations
Sunrise is the perfect time to enjoy some solitude and escape the crowds. In summer, early morning offers bearable temperatures. In peak season, it offers a welcome escape from the crowds.
Full disclosure – a sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park can be incredible from just about any angle. The landscape is stunning in this Southern California desert park, so you almost can’t “get it wrong”.
You May Also Like: A Los Angeles to Joshua Tree National Park Road Trip
But after all of my years visiting here, I have a few secret spots up my sleeves for those mornings when I want to experience something extra-special. And now, I’m sharing them with you.
This map pinpoints each of the best places for sunrise at Joshua Tree. Refer to the red sunbursts for the exact spots. Or, check the locations via the links for each one below.
1. Arch Rock: The Quintessential Joshua Tree Sunrise Spot
Arch Rock is an iconic spot in Joshua Tree, and for good reason. It’s a cool place for photography, an easy hike (even in desert temps), and an all-around interesting rock formation to explore. Capture the sun rising under the arch for an awesome memory.
Arch Rock Trail is an easy 1.2 mile out & back trail, suitable for most hikers. It is rated as easy, though if you want to get up close and personal with Arch Rock, some basic bouldering will need to occur.
I highly recommend this easy trek, even if you aren’t typically a hiker! Come prepared for desert hiking by packing appropriate shoes and clothing and gear, though!
Distance: 1. 2 miles
Type: Out & Back
Time: ~30 mins
2. Barker Dam & Barker Dam Trail: Best Sunrise Spot After Rain
Barker Dam is one of the closest trails to the park’s West Entrance, and because of that, it’s typically driven right past to get to “the good stuff”. That’s a mistake! Don’t miss this one.
For the longest time, I myself had no idea that this body of water existed within Joshua Tree. Once I finally discovered it, Barker Dam became one of my favorite Joshua Tree sunrise and Joshua Tree sunset spots in the park.
The dam was created by cattle ranchers back before Joshua Tree was a national park. And now, I couldn’t be happier that it exists.
Catching those golden and red hues reflecting off of the water makes for an awesome photo, and the trail itself is alive with wildflowers and greenery in the spring. If you visit in the heart of summer, though, the dam could be dried up. Best to visit this spot fresh after a rain.
Distance: 1.3 miles
Time: ~30 mins
3. Cholla Cactus Garden: My Personal Favorite Joshua Tree Sunrise Spot
I have spent many a sunset at the Cholla Cactus Garden, but only recently have enjoyed a sunrise here. I honestly recommend both experiences, because whichever you choose, you win.
The Cholla Cactus Garden is a very short loop trail fairly far south into the park, within the Colorado Desert portion of Joshua Tree. In this area, you won’t really see many Joshua Trees, but due to the lower elevation, you’ll see tons of cacti!
Keep in mind that it will take a solid hour to drive to this spot, so take that into account when you plan your sunrise timing.
The Cholla Cactus Garden is a super cool sunrise spot in Joshua Tree because the emerging light seems to highlight every single spike on the cacti, making them glow in a beautiful never-ending sea of thorns.
Distance: 0.25 miles
Difficulty: Very easy
Time: However long your photos take!
4. Ryan Mountain: The Most Strenuous Joshua Tree Sunrise Spot
A “true” hike, Ryan Mountain offers a unique viewpoint if you’re willing to put in the effort! It is steep and uphill from the get-go, and only continues gradually upward for over 3 miles.
To actually catch the sunrise here, you’ll need to begin hiking in complete darkness. A high-quality headlamp as well as sturdy footwear is absolutely required. Dress in layers because the chilly morning will typically give way to very warm mid-mornings and downright hot afternoons.
As the day wears on, this spot will get more crowded, so sunrise is a great time to enjoy Ryan Mountain completely solo.
Distance: 3.2 miles
Type: Out & Back
Time: ~1.5 hours
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5. Split Rock: The Most Unique Sunrise Location
This easy 2-mile loop has a lot of interesting rock formations along the way to and from Split Rock. So while Split Rock is cool, there are actually plenty of other views you might like better for the sunrise.
This trail has varied terrain, wandering through dirt and over rocks, so again, a headlamp and solid shoes are a must. What I love about this trail is the solitude. I’m sure it gets more crowded as the day goes on, but the quiet valley bathed in pink sunrise light is so peaceful.
If you position yourself just right, you can snap a photo of the sun rising right out of the rock fissure. Note that Skull Rock can also be viewed from this trail.
Distance: 2 miles
Time: ~45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your scrambling skills.
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6. Keys View: The Most Unexpected Joshua Tree Sunrise Spot
As one of the best overall viewpoints of Joshua Tree State Park, it should be no surprise that this is also an excellent spot for a sunrise. Views of the Coachella Valley’s rugged mountains in the pink and gold morning light are incredible.
However, most people flock to this spot for sunset rather than sunrise. What that means for you is you will likely have Keys View all to yourself.
This is a place I can easily sit from full darkness to full sun and just watch the colorful changes against the mountain peaks in the distance.
And, this Joshua Tree sunrise spot requires zero hiking skills. Visitors can access Keys View by car (parking is on site nearby), so if hiking in the dark is not your thing, this is a great option.
Looking for more of the best Southern California hikes? My e-book covers hikes within Joshua Tree National Park and beyond! Click the image below for more details.
Additional Joshua Tree Sunrise Tips
➳ Have I mentioned a headlamp?! Of course I did! But in case you missed it, I will mention it again!
➳ Have good, sturdy shoes and definitely dress in layers!
➳ Bring a hydration backpack to keep your hands free in the dark. I can’t live without mine.
Check out my Desert Wear and Hiking Essentials post for specific items that I personally recommend.
➳ Arrive early! In my experience, ~30 minutes to 1 hour early is a reasonable amount of time. This will account for the many things that can go wrong or take longer than planned: getting lost, setting up tripods, choosing your angle, hiking to the location.
➳ To determine exactly when you should arrive, check the Joshua Tree sunrise time for the day.
➳ Bring more water than you think you need. That’s why a Camelbak is great. I also highly recommend packing snacks or a light breakfast.
➳ Consider camping inside the park if possible. It cute out the commute time as you are already stationed inside of the park.
*For additional information on JTNP entrance fees and what to see once the sun in high in the sky, check out this post!*
More Joshua Tree National Park Resources:
- One Day in Joshua Tree National Park
- The Best Joshua Tree Sunrise Hikes and Locations
- The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
- A Joshua Tree Photography Guide
- All About the Joshua Tree: A Mojave Desert Staple
- Five Drawbacks of Joshua Tree – and How to Beat Them
- 10 Tips for Visiting Joshua Tree National Park
- A Los Angeles to Joshua Tree National Park Road Trip
- National Parks Near Los Angeles
- Desert Wear and Hiking Essentials for the American Southwest
- Ten Desert Hiking Safety Tips
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