Camping in Joshua Tree, California

Joshua Tree Elopement Photographer

“What a place to see the sunset….”


When I started the travel section of my blog, I started it a bit backwards. I posted my Mojave Desert experience on here first because it seemed most relevant to my site. After all, that’s where we came up with this whole great idea of living tiny. But the time we spent in Joshua Tree National Park prior to our time in the Mojave also greatly affected us.

Like most of our travels, we found ourselves in California to photograph a wedding. The wedding took place in Long Beach and it was soo much fun! It was our first time seeing a mariachi band play at a wedding. We spent a couple days hanging out on Laguna Beach, but then traded the city life for desert. We were lucky enough to also be able to photograph a gorgeous elopement during our time in Joshua Tree- but also spent our time out there hiking and exploring.


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Most things we did were right near our campground at Hidden Valley. Fortunately, we had our pick of campsites while we were there. I guess no one else likes camping in the desert in July. Go figure. We picked out a beautiful spot right next to a giant pile of boulders away from everyone else. After setting up our tent, we discovered our site also had its own little cave and a trail that went out into the Joshua Trees. We actually did most of our photo shoot right here at our campsite believe it or not. It was such a great little spot!

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During our time in Hidden Valley, we hiked up Ryan Mountain and took a little drive to see the Cholla Cactus Garden. The day we hiked up Ryan Mountain, we woke up for the sunrise (gasp! Yes- I actually did it!) and photographed the beautiful Joshua Tree silhouettes against the pink skies. We got an early start on the Ryan Mountain hike on purpose to beat the midday heat. The hike is only 3 miles round trip, but it climbs over 1,000 ft and that desert July heat will get to you after a while. We felt pretty good hiking in the cooler morning hours though. Atop the mountain, a bighorn sheep crossed our path. And there were excellent views of the valley below.

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As awesome as Ryan Mountain was, I have to say my absolute favorite place we visited in Joshua Tree was the Cholla Cactus Garden. Its a little off the beaten path, deep into the park, but 100% worth it. We timed our visit with the sunset and we were not disappointed. The area has a very flat 0.25 mile walking path through these funky little cacti that cover the ground. Watching the sun set behind the mountains here was breathtaking. I didn’t want to stop photographing, and we stayed until it was mostly dark before heading back to our campsite. One of my best memories of the trip.


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If you haven’t been to Joshua Tree, you should. Its worth all the hype. It might seem crazy to have gone in the middle of the summer, but Josh and I never felt as hot as we expected. The forecast read 95-105 the entire time, but the dry air and desert winds kept us feeling pretty good. And of course we drank a lot of water (bring your own in- I don’t recall any water fountains and there are definitely no showers out there). If you choose to visit in the summer as well, just beware that the insects of the park get very thirsty. We were surrounded by flies looking to drink our sweat anytime we left our tent, and we saw signs informing that bees will do the same. Gross as it sounds, this was nothing in comparison to how awesome the park is. We absolutely loved it!

Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave me a note in the comments section below :)
Shelley + Josh Hartman – Joshua Tree Wedding + Elopement Photographers

Follow our adventures on Instagram @hartmanoutdoorphotography



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