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The Secret Tours
Secrets, History, and Campfire Stories

The Secret Tours

The Secret Tours

True Locals who have lived in Joshua Tree for 27+ years each…
…sharing the secrets and lore while protecting the desert landscape…

TOP 10 GUIDE: Best Instagram Photo Spots Inside Joshua Tree National Park

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Let us show you exactly what you "cannot" miss inside the Park...

DISCLAIMER:  We are listing our TOP 10 list in the order in which you would come upon them as if you drove into the Park through the Joshua Tree West Gate Entrance.  We figured you’d appreciate knowing how you will see each location at as you drive through this massive 161.2-mile National Park that has 150 possible stops to make.  

You are our favorite people in the world…adventurers who took the time to drive all the way up to this remote National Park and give it a go.  Make sure you take a look at our COMPLETE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK.  We made that ULTIMATE GUIDE so you can see all 150 locations and create a TOP 10 that your whole adventure crew will love.  

We left the numbers of each location in this TOP 10 GUIDE listed the same way you will find them in our COMPLETE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK so they are easier to find.  For example, you will see our first location is numbered “#11” because it is the eleventh stop as you’re driving through the Park.

If you are reading this while you are planning your trip out to Joshua Tree, make sure you also check out our TOP 10 GUIDE: Best Places to Stay in Joshua Tree California: AirBnBs, hotels, and unique rentals.  We only show you the best of the best!


11. Quail Springs Picnic Area


There are 40+ 360-degree views here for your enjoyment

Time: 00:27
Quail Springs is a small picnic area that is a perfect start to show you what the rest of the picnic areas will be like throughout the Park.  Wonderful trees, grand rock faces, picnic tables, and BBQ grills.  There are only eight tables here so you will have to get here early if you want to lock one down.  This is our night time favorite to star gaze and hear the howling of coyotes in the distance in complete darkness and silence, and it won’t cost you anything at the gate.  That’s a plus!  You can bring $30 worth of nighttime snacks instead!
There is one hike here:
Quail Wash to West Entrance: 17.9 miles with an elevation gain of 1,614 feet


23. Hidden Valley Picnic Area


There are 70+ 360-degree views here for your enjoyment.

Mile Marker: 16.5
Time: 00:47
Hidden Valley is an awesome place to relax, have a picnic, and climb on easy little boulders.  This is definitely a family oriented location.  Way back in 1936, Bill Keys (of Keys Ranch and Keys View) established a gap between the wall to move his cattle herds through. Today, this is the main access point of Hidden Valley.  Don’t skip out on hiking to the nearby rock formations with awesome names like: The Blob, Locomotion Rock, Cyclops Rock, and Turtle Rock. 

There are three hiking trails that start in the Hidden Valley Picnic Area:
Hidden Valley Nature Trail: 1-mile loop with an elevation gain of 114 feet
Candlestein Hiking Trail: 4-mile loop with an elevation gain of 416 feet
Rock Caves Loop:   4.1-mile loop with an elevation gain of 282 feet


36. Barker Dam


There are a LOT of 360-degree views around the Barker Dam area.

TIME: 1:09
Barker Dam is one of the MUST-SEE hikes in the Park.  It is a short and easy hike suitable for most skill levels.  It is rare to see water in the desert and that makes this location one of the fun ones on your adventures.  Ranchers built Barker Dam many decades ago to save up the most valuable resource in the desert: WATER. This dam provides an ecosystem for many different species of animals and plants. The lake is an excellent resource for the living things in the area and it has a positive impact on the life in Joshua Tree National Park.  Make sure you pay attention to the little signs because both the Barker Dam and Wall Street Mill trails start at the same location. 
There is one hike here:
Barker Dam Nature Trail:  1.3 miles with an elevation gain of 62 feet



37. Wall Street Mill



TIME: 1:09
Wall Street Mill is an awesome hike because you get to see a lot of the remnants of days past.  The Wonderland Ranch is in dilapidated condition but has beautiful “pretty in pink” walls;  such a wonderful backdrop for all kinds of photos.  You will see old equipment and vehicles returning to the dust from whence they came here as well.  The Wall Street Mill won’t disappoint.  It is a well-preserved gold mill and is protected under the National Register of Historic Places. There is LOTS to see on this short hike! 
Wall Street Mill Trail: 2.4 miles with an elevation gain of 88 feet


47. Cap Rock (and #46 Beaver Boulder)



TIME: 1:39
Welcome to CAP ROCK, famous more things than you can imagine.  Cap Rock is a beautiful area to relax and take in the majestic views of Joshua Tree National Park.  Expansive views, large rocks, trees for days.  It is fun to look up at the “Cap” that is ominously looming on the top, barely clinging on and eerily ready to fall at any moment.

But this location has a much deeper and darker claim to fame.  Enter Gram Parsons and a promise made between friends…

Gram Parsons was a famous rockabilly star of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Not far into the 1970’s because of his death on September 19, 1973.  That made him a young 26-years-old.   Gram was the front man for The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, two bands that had some notoriety but weren’t at the top of the charts like The Rolling Stones or The Eagles.  BUT, he was close friends with them and definitely had an influence on their music.  A quick web search will show a bunch of pictures of Gram in Joshua Tree with Keith Richards of the Rollings Stones on a regular basis.  So what makes Gram so famous and connected to Joshua Tree?  For that you need to first visit ROOM #8 of The Joshua Tree Inn.

Gram would visit the desert often for inspiration.  He loved the area and would visit the Joshua Tree National Park often.  He preferred to stay in The Joshua Tree Inn and that is where the story begins.  

Gram, Phil Kaufman, and a few of his friends were at Clarence White’s funeral and made a pact concerning their own deaths.  The funeral had a big impact on their lives at the time, and little did they know they would have to follow through with their wishes a few months later.  The plan was to take the body of the deceased friend to Joshua Tree National Park, have a drink with the lifeless friend, and then cremate the body in the desert.

September 19, 1973.  That is the infamous day.  Gram and his friends (WE NEED TO FIND HIS FRIEND’S NAMES) checked into ROOM #8 of The Joshua Tree Inn and partied on alcohol, barbiturates, cocaine, and morphine.  Gram overdosed and passed away in Room #8.  There is a guitar statue outside the room today to honor the Rockabilly Rocker. We take you to the Inn on our Village Walking Tour.  It is definitely one of the unique places you should visit during your Joshua Tree Adventures and will definitely be on our TOP 5 PLACES TO STAY blog.

Phil Kaufman was called and he drove out to JT.  Gram’s body had already been taken to the morgue which made keeping his pact somewhat of a challenge…more of a challenge than you’re going to believe.  

Gram’s body was going to be transported back to Louisiana, and that was one of the things Gram definitely did not want.  Gram didn’t like his step-father and didn’t want a “funeral” back home.  Phil contacted the mortuary and found out that Gram’s body was going to be transported to LAX so it could be flown to New Orleans.  Phil called his friend Michael Martin, borrowed an old 1953 Cadillac Hearse they used to camp in, and made the trip to LAX to intercept the body.  The hearse was badly damaged, had broken windows, and had no license plates.  It would be obvious to most people that they weren’t legit morgue employees, but these little details are what make this story awesome. They wore their tour clothes…Rockabilly attire of cowboy boots, jeans, and cowboy hats.  Again, most people would know they weren’t legit! 

Phil and Michael, who were probably extremely drunk and high at this point, drove to LAX and found the area where Gram’s coffin was delivered.  Miraculously they convince the airport employees that the family changed their minds on the funeral and that they were there to take Gram’s body in their dilapidated hearse.  The employees agreed and allowed them to forge the paperwork.  Can you even imagine this happening?  Put yourself in ANY of their shoes.  HAHA!  This is insane.  Out of the blue, a police car pulled up and blocked the hangar doors.  Imagine a drunk/high pair of Rockers stealing a body, and a cop shows up!  End of story right?  No.  Phil asks the cop to move his car and he immediately moves it.  They even talk for a while about life and the cop is cordial, so cordial that the cop helps them load the body into the trashy hearse.  As they tried to drive out of the hangar, one of two stories happens.  One story says they hit the wall, another story says they hit the cop car.  We go with the Cop Car Story.  Either way, as the story goes, the cop laughs it off and still lets them drive off.   Phil and Michael stopped at a gas station at the Cabazon Dinosaurs and filled a 5-gallon gas can with gas to perform the “desert cremation.”  

Gram, Phil, and Michael made it to Cap Rock in Joshua Tree National Park and unloaded the casket.  If you take a look at the picture above, you will see that they carried the casket behind Cap Rock to Beaver Boulder.  We couldn’t imagine carrying a casket 10 feet with only two people carrying it!  They opened the casket, had a personal moment with Gram, and filled the gasket with the 5-gallons of gasoline.  They lit the gasoline on fire and fled the area.  Campers saw the fire and called the Park Rangers and a Western Airlines body bag was found partially burned in the casket.  Witnesses also described a hearse speeding away that was running other cars off the road.  (Can you imagine how drunk and high they were through all of this?)

The drive home wasn’t any less dramatic.  The Hearse broke down.  After they made repairs to it, they continued on toward Los Angeles, only to be involved in a traffic accident.  They rear-ended a car on the highway.  The policeman that arrived saw they were drunk and placed them in handcuffs.  As the cop checked on the other people in the crash, they slipped their cuffs and fled the scene.  The Hearse had no plates and the cop didn’t get their IDs so they were in the clear once again.

Police Investigator Joe E. Hamilton was assigned to the case and said he was close to figuring out the details of this whole escapade so Phil and Michael turned themselves in.      

The court date was, ironically, on Parsons’ 27th birthday, November 5, 1973.  Back in 1973, there was no law on the books for stealing a body, so they both received 30-day suspended jail sentences, $708 fine for damages to the coffin, and a $300 fine each for the crime.  Keith Richards reportedly told Phil, “I heard that you took care of our pal”.  Phil and Michael held the “Kaufman’s Koffin Kaper Koncert” to raise money to pay the fines.  Doctor Demento was the disc jockey and they had special bottles of beer made with labels that read, “Gram Pilsner: A Stiff Drink For What Ales You.”  

Gram’s famous white rhinestone studded Nudie suit is in the country music hall of fame in Nashville Tennessee. If you want to stay in  ROOM #8 of The Joshua Tree Inn, you will have to call ahead and specifically ask for the room by name.  Let them know we sent you!

There is one hike here:

Cap Rock and Gram Parsons Trail: 0.7 miles with an elevation gain of 39 feet 


58. Keys View


There are 25+ 360-degree views here.  Take your time and look around.  

Mileage: 40.9
Time: 01:54
Keys View is the mini Grand Canyon of the desert.  You will be able to see two of Southern California’s biggest summits: Mount San Jacinto (elevation 10,834 feet/3,302 meters) and Mount Gorgonio (elevation 11,502 feet/3,506 meters). You can also easily see the lower desert form here stretching from Palm Springs to the 
Coachella Fest   Off in the distance is the famed Salton Sea (saltier than the Pacific Ocean) and Salvation Mountain.  Binoculars will let your eyes gaze upon Mount Signal way to the south across the border in Mexico. Yes, you can see into Mexico from Keys View!

There are two hikes available here:
Key View Loop To Inspiration Peak Trail: 1.2 miles with an elevation change of 501 feet
Keys View Nature Trail: 0.2 miles with an elevation change of 19 feet

We have transcribed the two plaques below:
Coachella Valley
The Coachella Valley stretches 50 miles before you, an extension of the same Colorado Desert found within the boundary of Joshua Tree National Park.  The difference between the Colorado Desert here and the Colorado Desert there is largely human influence.  Entrepreneurs at the turn of the 20th century began diverting water from the Colorado River to irrigate the fertile alluvial soils of the Imperial (south of Salton Sea) and Coachella Valleys to grow dates and citrus fruits.  Today a system of canals supplies water to farms, golf courses, cities, and residential communities – monuments to the life-giving power of water.

What’s wrong with this picture?
The answer is haze.  Haze comes from such sources as water vapor, dust, and air pollution.  Air pollution can come from locations many miles away.  Southern California industrial plants, power plants, wood stoves, and automobiles belch soot, dust, and smoke into the atmosphere.  Prevailing winds direct the air east and funnel it through Banning Pass, where it is dispersed throughout the Coachella Valley.  Some pollutants that form haze are linked to serious health problems and environmental damage.  Occasionally air pollutions exceeds national health standards here in the park.  On very hazy days it is difficult to find Palm Springs, 20 miles (32 km) away, nestled at the foot of Mount San Jacinto.  The haze hangs around the longest when winds are calm, humidity if high, and temperatures are hot.

TRIVIA:  How many of these plaques have a twin somewhere else in the Park?  You would assume they would all be different but they chose to duplicate (5) of the plaques and, of course, only we would notice and mention it.  HAHA!  So which ones are they?  It would be so mean to make you figure it out on your own so here you go:

Barren or Bountiful appears in location # 8 + #142
Tree of Life appears in #50 + #99
What’s Wrong With This Picture appears in #57 + #58
We Have Contact is the only plaque that is TRIPLED and appears in #60 + #62 + #105
Colorado Desert appears in #132 and #134 


61. Ryan's Ranch Trailhead



Mileage: 48.1
Time: 02:12
Welcome to the Golden Brick Ranch House.  Brothers Tom and Jepp Ryan homesteaded this plot of land in the late 1800s because they owned the 10,000-ounce Lost Horse Mine nearby with Johnny Lang.  The price of gold back in 1900 was $20.67/ounce.  Have you ever wondered the conversion rate from today versus in the year 1900?  $1 back then equals $30.79 today, so with a little bit of dazzle dazzle and simple algebra, you’d learn the Ryan brothers had the equivalent of $6,364,293 in today’s dollars…rich by any means!

But they could have been slightly richer had they NOT used the tailings from the mine in their house bricks.  Yes, the adobe house they lived in was built with bricks they made on site.  They used all available materials back then so they figured they may as well use the tailings…which were later found to be rich in gold as well.  I guess they didn’t care to break the walls down and squeeze those last drops of gold out since they had $6,000,000 already.  HAHA!  As you wander the area, you might find eight gravesites, Native American Art, and old mine equipment.  There is one hike here:
Ryan Ranch Trail:  1.5 miles with an elevation change of 134 feet


72. Not "JUST" a Parking Area



TIME: 2:28
You will see the normal parking area along the road with no signs or plaques…BUT…this is THE location of THE 45′-tall Joshua Tree.  This is one of the tallest trees in the Park.  Remember back at location #2 inside the Joshua Tree Visitor Center when we told you you can tell the age of a tree just by looking at it?  Well, this 45′-tall Joshua Tree is 360-years-old.  This is definitely one to stop and take US-IES with.  Now…to the deeper secret.  The next EXHIBIT AHEAD talks about trees that are 500-years-old somewhere in the Park.  That means the 500-year-old tree is 62.5-feet tall!  That’s 20-feet taller than the one you are looking at now!



78. Squaw Tank Trail (Corner #1)



MILEAGE:  58.8
TIME: 2:52
Squaw Tank Trail is an awesome place to hike and boulder because NOBODY ever dares to come out here.  In all honesty, you can make it this far in almost any car on the road so make it an option for yourself.  You cannot go beyond this point unless you have a 4×4.  The rock formations are classic and the dam is a fun oddity to add to your JTNP knowledge banks.  The super unique secret we talked about is a secret brick in the dam that has a poem etched into it.  The brick is SUPER hard to find even though you think you’ll see it all on your own.  Click on our pano image above…its in there.  We teach you exactly where it is in our COMPLETE ULTIMATE GUIDE: Every single stop inside the Joshua Tree National Park   

Little William Age 7
He died and went to heaven
We can’t always tell
But Little Willie might have went to hell

It almost sounds like this is one of our clues on our TOURS at one of our secret locations in Joshua Tree…but it isn’t.  If anyone out there has a good story behind this poem, let us know!


84. Jumbo Rocks Campground



TIME: 3:32
Jumbo Rocks Campground is going to blow your mind.  It is an absolutely glorious place to lay your head down at night.  Take a look around using Google 360-degree views.  We have one for you above, but there are a lot more for you to explore.  The 360-degree views have become our best friend.  They really let you virtually stand there and look around, enjoying the surroundings and it lets you decide what looks like it just can’t be skipped on your trip into Joshua Tree.  You will love our VIRTUAL TOURS as well.   We take you to locations around the Joshua Tree area and make it a little more fun with clues, puzzles, riddles, and ciphers along with secrets and eccentric history.

There are a total of (500) campsites across the (9) campgrounds in the Joshua Tree National Park:
The first five campgrounds require reservations September through May at Recreation.Gov.  Black Rock Campground also has (20) equestrian campsites that can only be reserved if you have a horse physically with you.
1. Black Rock: 99 sites.  $20/night. Has Water. 4000′ elevation.
2. Cottonwood: 62 sites.  $20/night. Has Water. 3000′ elevation.
3. Indian Cove: 101 sites.  $20/night. No Water. 3200′ elevation.
4. Jumbo Rocks: 124 sites.  $15/night. No Water. 4400′ elevation.
5. Sheep Pass: 6 sites.  $40-50/night. No Water. 4500′ elevation.
The last four campgrounds are first-come first-serve…with the exception of Ryan Campground which has (4) equestrian campsites that can be reserved only if you have a horse physically with you.  
6. Belle: 18 sites.  $15/night. No Water. 3800′ elevation.
7. Hidden Valley: 44 sites.  $15/night. No Water. 4200′ elevation.
8. Ryan: 31 sites.  $15/night. No Water. 4300′ elevation.
9. White Tank: 15 sites.  $15/night. No Water. 3800′ elevation.

For a little bit of Secret Park trivia, there are actually (524) campsites because for some reason, the NPS doesn’t include equestrian campsites in their totals (500+24=524).


85. Skull Rock


There are a MILLION 360-degree views here.  (Okay, maybe 100)

TIME: 3:36
Skull Rock!  You made it!  Not many people make it this far because that means they are driving ALL the way through the Park.  Like we told you back at the beginning of this tour, people literally drive in to the first picnic area and turn around and drive back out.

Skull Rock is exactly that…a skull “rock.”  It is a spectacular backdrop for your pictures.  DO NOT leave here without grabbing a bunch of your own images of you, family, fiends, and probably a lot of strangers.  HAHA!  Try to be out here at Golden Hour to get the best lighting and colorful skies.  Don’t miss out on the lesser known secret second “FACE ROCK” which is located across the street from Skull Rock.  Click that link for the GPS coordinates and map.  You can also try to find “ELEPHANT ROCK” located directly behind Skull Rock.  You have the choice of two different hikes here at Skull Rock.
Skull Rock Discovery Trail: nice and short at .7 miles and an elevation gain of 68 feet.
Skull Rock Nature Trail: a little bit longer at 1.7 miles and an elevation gain of 160 feet.



89. Live Oak Picnic Area (South)



TIME: 3:45
 Live Oak is an equally beautiful place to picnic and boulder just like #67 at Split Rock.  It is also worth seeing what should be a world famous Oak Tree.  After a little bit of research we found that the Oak Tree you see standing before you is a hybrid mix of two types of Oak Trees.  Oak Tree species #1 is a Muller’s Oak, aka Quercus Cornelius-Mullen, which is somewhat of a local variety of the tree although they are generally more like bushes than this huge strong Oak Tree here.  Oak Tree species #2 is a Valley Oak, aka Quercus Lobata, and the nearest of these trees is 100 miles away toward the Pacific Ocean.  So how did this unique Oak Tree makes it way all the way to the heart of Joshua Tree?  You tell us!  We just suggest you take pictures with it while it is still standing and share this mystery with your friends and family to add to the intrigue of the Park.  You have one hiking option here:
Live Oak Tank and Ivanpah Tank: 1.5 miles with 131 feet of elevation change


98. BullsEye Rock (Secret)


Mileage: 78.0
Time: 3:54
Bullseye Rock is an awesome semi-secret stop in the Park, similar to all of the other cool and off-the-beaten-path rock formations.  As you continue down Pinto Basin Road, watch your odometer and track around one-half of a mile.  Start to look for a really long section along the left side of the road that looks like an area where people park their cars.  When we say long, the disturbed dirt area is 487 feet long.  At the very end of that long section, you will see a short little parking area on your right too.  Park anywhere in that area.  You can take pictures of Bullseye Rock from here, but we think you’ll take the short 1/2 mile out-and-back hike out to get better angles!  Bullseye is a huge triangle rock with a 8’-circular hole drilled through the tip. A short boulder up the back side will get you access to the Bullseye.  As you can see on the satellite image, Bullseye is along the California Riding and Hiking Trail.  We made this one of our stops on our NATIONAL PARK TOUR.
GPS: 34.011390, -116.014254 


103. Arch Rock



Mileage: 81.3
Time: 4:07
Arch Rock Coordinates:  33°59’10.2″N 116°00’56.0″W
Hike to Arch Rock and Heart Rock from campsite #15 and its a short 728 foot roundtrip.  That’s much shorter than taking the 1.2-mile roundtrip way back at the Twin Tanks parking lot.


104. Heart Rock


There is no 360-degree view here (hint-hint).

Mileage: 81.3
Time: 4:07
Heart Rock Coordinates: 33°59’17.6″N 116°00’47.8″W
Heart Rock is a must see rock formation in the park and is NOT well known.  Most people already start to feel a bit lost and disconnected just hiking out to Arch Rock…so continuing out further isn’t even an option for most.  Use our map and the GPS coordinates to get there safely.  Our pictures above are from the front and back so you can have some backdrop options.    


113. The Cholla Gardens


There are a million 360-degree views here for you. (okay, maybe 70)
MILEAGE:  88.5
TIME: 4:20
Welcome to the fabled Cholla Gardens, home of the Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus (Cylindropuntia Bigelovii) and deliverer of most pokes per square inch in the Park.  HAHA!  Aren’t you glad you decided to drive this far into the Park?  This is one of the MUST-SEE locations just like Keys View and Skull Rock.

Take your time and enjoy this world marvel.  There is so much to see and do here.  Taking a slow stroll down the boardwalk and taking in nature’s glory is the bare minimum.  These Teddy Bear Cholla get their name from the outside appearance of the spines and how they look like Teddy Bear fur.  These Cholla have a second name, “Jumping Cholla.”  They earned that name because the hooked and barbed tips of these spines will grab onto anything and everything that dares to get near.  Now they won’t literally “jump” onto you, but it won’t take much for you to leave the Gardens with more than just a memory.  Take as many pictures as possible but remember to BE CAREFUL!  BE AWARE!  TREAD SLOWLY AND SOFTLY.  You do NOT want a cholla ball to find its way into your skin.  When we say barbed, yes, we mean like a fish hook.  And guess how they spread their seed?  Spine wrapped branches and balls drop off to grow new Cholla, which means your shoes will become the perfect victim to their pokes.  Please keep your eyes wide open and don’t lean in too close.  The reason the bottoms appear darker is that is where old branches/balls have fallen off.  The new growth is the brighter white/yellow color you see on the top, making these and awesome ombre color that is spectacular in pictures, and in you shoes.  HAHA!

There are two hikes here:
Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail:  .2 miles with an elevation change of 6 feet
Golden Bee Mine Trail: 4.2 miles with an elevation change of 807 feet

We have transcribed the plaque below:
Cholla Cactus Garden
If the plant bears any helpful or even innocent part in the scheme of things on this planet, I should be glad to hear it. -J. Smeaton Chase 1919.  We humans often find value in other living things only when we see a profit for ourselves.  We fail to recognize the value of a thing to itself or other living things.  The cholla (chow-ya) cactus is one of these outcasts.  If we could ask the desert wood rat or the cactus wren how they value the cholla, undoubtedly they would have an eye-opening perspective to share.  Walk the 1/4-mile loop trail through the cactus garden with the self-guiding nature trail brochure as your guide.  See if the cholla cactus “bears any helpful…part in the scheme of things on this planet.”


You made it through our TOP 10 locations to take pictures inside the Joshua Tree National Park.  If you counted, we actually gave you 16.  We are terrible on limiting ourselves when it comes to the Park.  We really hope you go use our COMPLETE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK and check out all 150 locations!  Then you can see if your TOP 16 list matches up with ours.  There is SO MUCH TO SEE!  

Enjoy this video we found on YouTube.  A fan of The Doors made a video for “LA Woman” and used clips from all kinds of movies in the 1960’s and 1970’s…but most importantly he used video from Jim Morrison driving into Joshua Tree and the Joshua Tree National Park.  Enjoy…when you see Jim getting gas (and lighting his cigarette at the pump), that gas station is 100′ from the Visitor Center in Joshua Tree, the current location of Nomad Ventures on the southwest corner of 29 Palms Highway and Park Boulevard.

The (6) "Permit-Only" Photo Locations

When we say “permit-only”, we don’t mean you can’t go to these locations or take your own personal photos there.  The “permit-only” locations are for the commercial photographers who are doing professional shoots for commercials (TV/Magazine/Movie).  The “permit-only” locations are set aside in the park as areas they can close and allow the commercial photographers complete unobstructed use of these areas and keep the public out while they have the area reserved for their commercial shoot.  They even say permits are needed for wedding/engagement photos.  We explain the costs associated with the permits and show you the (6) locations you will be able to use for your commercial work.  We know for a fact that they also grant permits to use stretches of Park Boulevard for car and tire commercials.  Most of the locations below were already in our TOP 10 above.  The Permits Page shows these (6) locations inside the Joshua Tree National Park that are available for photo shoots:

1.  Hidden Valley Picnic Area (Not available February-May)
2.  Quail Springs (Not available February – May)
3.  Cap Rock
4.  Rattlesnake Picnic Area
5.  Live Oak
6.  Split Rock

Hidden Valley Picnic Area

Quail Springs

Cap Rock

Rattlesnake Picnic Area


Rattlesnake Canyon Picnic Area is NOT accessed through the normal Park Entrances.  You will need to drive outside the Park and head in at the Indian Cove Campground Entrance in 29 Palms.  Indian Cove Road dead ends at the Rattlesnake Canyon Picnic Area so it’s going to take you a little bit of driving and planning to get up to this permit-only location.  

Live Oak

Split Rock

Costs: The Dollar Value of a Day of Photography in the Coveted Park

The information below is only current and accurate as of 04JUL2020.  Click HERE to see the up-to-date fee schedule and any other important info about shooting commercial photography in the Park.  This was all copied directly out of the US National Park Service web site concerning permits.

Application/Administration Fee: $315.00, non-refundable. This is paid online with a credit card. Once your permit has been received and reviewed we will send instructions on how to make your payment.

Location Fee: There is a location fee and that is determined by the total number of cast and crew you will have on location. Below is a table that lists the location fees.

# of Cast/Crew

Video/Motion Picture Location Fees

Still Photography Location Fees










50 or more



Monitoring Fee: $50/hour, non-negotiable. There is a monitoring fee for the Park Ranger that is required to be on location for every shoot that is permitted in the park.

Liability Insurance: You will be required to provide a copy of your liability insurance in the amount of $1,000,000.00 and the certificate holder on the policy must read THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA/JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK. (From what we saw in a quick web search, it looks like it costs around $1000/year for $1,000,000 of liability insurance.)

Deposit: A deposit is required and ranges from $500.00 – $20,000.00. This will depend on the scope of the project and the locations you will be using. Each project is different so this fee is not a set price.

Once your permit is received it will take 10-15 business days to process.

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More to explore and adore:

Joshua Tree

Enjoy our virtual tours right now from the comfort of home.  
Become a Joshua Tree expert BEFORE you visit!

Virtual Tours

  • (38) LOCATIONS
  • 260 VIRTUAL MILES (yes, 260)

This is “THE” tour that you just can’t miss. Visitors never even consider what else Joshua Tree has to offer… and we bring it. No. We really bring it! This includes ALL of the wildest history and the most unique secret locations!  You will visit our favorite (38) locations outside of the National Park. You have nothing to lose.  Get the Goonies vibes flowing!

  • (38) LOCATIONS

This is the absolute MUST-SEE.  Everyone visits the Joshua Tree National Park but few ever have a real plan or even know what there is to see and do once they drive in.  Well, we got you!  This is THE ONE!  You will visit our favorite (38) locations out of (150) possible locations.    You have nothing to lose. 

  • (21) LOCATIONS

Believe it or not, people generally drive right through the Village and go straight into the National Park without ever seeing the secret locations or learning any of the eccentric history that the only the Village can offer.  You will visit our favorite (21) locations in the Village. You have nothing to lose and all the secret and history to gain.

How Do I Book A Virtual Tour?

"VIRTUAL TOURS" are enjoyed right here on your computer whenever and wherever you like:

Step 1...

Click on the “ADD TO CART” button (above) of the Virtual Tour that you would like to experience.  Click on the “VIEW CART” or the little Shopping Cart icon in the top right corner of your screen. 

Step 2...

Purchase the tour using our secure checkout right here on our website using PAYPAL or STRIPE. 

Step 3...

The web page for your selected Virtual Tour will unlock and be open for you to view as much and for as long as you like.  You will see the link to your Tour in the checkout screen as well as the email that you will instantly receive after purchase.

Our Virtual Tours are best viewed on a desktop...
but of course you can enjoy the tour on a tablet and your phone.

Learn More

Take a trip back to the home page.

Learn about all of our tours and the details about each option we have created for you.


Let us answer all of your questions.

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