Photograph the Cholla Cactus Gardens at Sunrise or Sunset

San Diego Cholla Cactus Garden Loop

Added by Ryan Dewane

Cholla Cactus Garden is home to thousands of cactus with some wildflowers during the right season. This is a great sport for sunrise and sunset as the cactus begin to glow in the light. 

The Cholla Cactus Garden is something everyone can appreciate and enjoy. The trail is in total about a 0.25 loop, but you are certainly free to wander around more. Plan on spending at least 30 minutes to an hour enjoying the scenery.

If you are a photographer, you will be enthralled by the lighting conditions. The garden is located off of Pinto Basin Roa in Joshua Tree. The parking lot is 20 miles north of the Cottonwood Visitor Center and almost impossible to miss as it is surrounded by the thousands of cactus that make the spot so famous.

During the early morning or sunset, the needles on the cactus begin to look like they glow and it creates quite a scene. It is usually not too crowded so it is a great spot to just relax at after a long day of hiking or rock climbing. Jumbo Rocks and White Tank campgrounds are both near by if you are staying in the park overnight.

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Warmer clothes as the sun sets
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Spring, Autumn, Winter

Trail Type:



0.25 Miles



Easy Parking
Picnic Area

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How to Get There

7 months ago

Cholla Cactus garden

A must see if you are at J Tree. It is awesome!

7 months ago

8 months ago

Sunrise/set but beware!!!

These "jumping teddy bears" are no joke. My girlfriend got one stuck in her ankle and if it weren't for a few rocks lying around, I'm not sure how we would have gotten the cactus out of her! (nearly a year later and she still has little "scars") Don't let this steer you away, though. Other than the dark skies, shooting these Cholla at sunrise was what I was MOST excited about at Joshua Tree. The color of the sky mixed with the Cholla glow is a photographer's paradise!!

8 months ago

9 months ago

Be careful!

The jumping cholla will get you if you're not extremely careful. It's very easy to pick up a broken-off section of the plant along the trail, so be very diligent about where you step.

9 months ago

Gorgeous Spot!

After spending a few days in Joshua Tree, we saved this spot for sunrise on the last day. Let me just say that we saved the best for last. As he said, the light coming off the cacti glows in the morning and it is absolutely spectacular! Definitely make sure to visit on your trip to Joshua Tree.

11 months ago

Added by Ryan Dewane

Dedicated adventurer who is always looking to get away from the crowds.

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