En Route to Joshua Tree & Barker Dam

Looking to plan a weekend in Joshua Tree? Check out this overview of our 2-day itinerary.

Here is the first of six posts detailing our weekend in Joshua Tree National Park. The area is rich with photographic opportunity — I took 1,800 photos over two days… and kept 800. From there I’ve culled it down to around 250 to share here over the next week.

Kelley and I depart Los Angeles at 7am on Saturday morning. We stop at our favorite local coffee joint Priscilla’s for drinks — blueberry vanilla iced coffee! — and then hit the road.



We drive to Hadley Fruit Orchard (near Palm Springs) for a bathroom break and to check out their date milkshakes. It’s too early for a full one, but the woman behind the counter lets us sample the regular date milkshake and banana date milkshake. OMG — they are so good. I wish I had room for a full one. Kelley gets a peanut butter-stuffed date for a snack later. They have samples of other items like dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, popcorn, marshmallows, etc. It all looks good. Worth noting: Hadley Fruit Orchard is located at the same exit as the Palm Springs outlet mall.



From there, we continue on another 45 minutes to the Joshua Tree Visitor’s Center. It’s a scenic drive along the mountains; the most noteworthy feature (which you’ll recognize if you’ve been to Palm Springs) is the wind farms used to generate power. Very cool to see this in action.




We arrive at the main Visitor’s Center just outside the park and stop in to pick up a map. Kelley poses with this Joshua Tree — speaking of which, it’s pretty remarkable that as soon as you enter the park, these trees suddenly sprout up everywhere. They’re so unique-looking.


I love National Park ranger programs! When I was a kid, my parents would take us out west to visit different parks each summer, and we loved the campfire and stargazing programs.


Here’s one other piece of info from the Joshua Tree Visitor’s Center — rangers host a coffee meet-up at Hidden Valley campground on weekend mornings at 8am (bring your mug!) as an info session for rock climbers. Joshua Tree is a mecca for climbers in southern California; they rocks here are pretty epic.


Thanks to Kelley for being the best Joshua Tree travel buddy!




Once inside the park, we are pretty eager to pull over and start photographing the trees. I know we’ll be seeing them all weekend, but I have to get a few quick photos right out of the gate.


En route to our first hike of the morning at Barker Dam, we stop briefly at Intersection Rock area for photos. The sky is so blue! The trees are so green! And there are rock climbers rappelling from impressive heights on these boulders. Very neat to watch.



Also: this is the area where we will return later tonight for sunset.



We hop back in the car and drive a few minutes down the road to Barker Dam. This is an easy hike — 1.8 miles and relatively flat, with scenic views.






At the end of the trail is a basin — and if it’s rained recently, that basin will fill with water and offer a lovely reflection of the surrounding rocks.



Such beauty. We’re lucky to see it full of water! When Kelley’s husband visited here a few months ago, this area was bone dry.



After taking photos from that viewpoint, we follow the path along part of the lake to where the actual dam is.



Here is the dam. Note the rock climbers scaling the wall above the water:


And then we return to the parking lot the same way we came.


Onwards to the next hike! More tomorrow!

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