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Let's shoot the Milky Way core from Cholla Cactus Garden inside of Joshua Tree National Park. Cholla Cactus Garden has a decent-sized parking lot and a lot of room to spread out and find your composition to include cacti and mountains in the distance.
(Photo above is my panorama from Cholla Cactus Garden on June 19, 2020)
While we are planning to stay past midnight and into the early morning, feel free to stay as long as you like.
We are limiting the size of the meetup to 10 people to keep the group size small. Even though we usually carpool for our meetups, everyone will have to drive their cars at this time for safety.
There is no cell signal once you enter far enough inside Joshua Tree National Park. I highly recommend using Google Maps and its Offline Maps feature. You can set an area to download the map to your phone (requires available storage space on your phone), so you are not relying on a cell signal for navigation and searching for locations.
The ground at Cholla Cactus Garden is mostly sand and some rocks. Be aware that there is a variety of wildlife inside Joshua Tree National Park. We usually don't see too many in areas where there are groups of people, but keep in mind that there are insects, mice/rats, lizards, rabbit/hare, etc. It is recommended to wear trail shoes/hiking boots.
We will first meet up at Denny's parking lot in Yucca Valley outside Joshua Tree at 6:30 PM. This is an easy-to-find location and large parking lot. We will wait until 7:00 PM for anyone that may be running a little late before heading out. Pick up something to eat before coming to the parking lot to fill up on food and drinks before heading into the park to stay full throughout the night.
56895 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley, CA[masked]https://goo.gl/maps/Rt2RzJfKvjG62VwA8
It is approximately an hour's drive from Denny's Yucca Valley to Cholla Cactus Garden. From Denny's parking lot, we head east on Twentynine Palms Highway for about 22 miles/30 minutes, then make a right turn on Utah Trail to head towards the Joshua Tree North Entrance. The North Entrance is less busy/crowded than the popular West Entrance.
Joshua Tree National Park North Entrance
After entering the park, we will drive about 5 miles/12 minutes before turning left on Pinto Basin Road. After about 10 miles/14 minutes, Cholla Cactus Garden will be on the right side. The cactus garden is a short walk from the parking lot. Feel free to explore around the garden for compositions. Note that there are no restrooms at this location.
Cholla Cactus Garden
As of 5/3/2021
Temp: High 88°F/Low 57°F (Actual temperatures at specific locations can vary. Make sure you bring enough clothing to keep warm while out shooting. Note that it can get windy on occasion.)
Clouds: TBD (I usually check Thursday/Friday to get an idea of the forecast for cloud cover, then again Saturday morning for a more accurate prediction to make the final decision.)
Golden Hour: 7:03 PM
Sunset: 7:38 PM
Blue Hour: 7:55 PM
Night Time: 9:15 PM
Milky Way Core Visible: 10:16 PM
Moonset: 11:26 PM
Milky Way Core Ends: 4:04 AM
Items to Bring:
The following are some suggestions of things to bring. This is not a complete list, and not all are mandatory.
Lenses - Wide angle lenses are preferred (14mm to 24mm). Fast prime lenses (f/2.8 or wider/faster) are better suited for low-light photography.
Extra Camera Batteries
Extra Memory Cards
Remote Shutter Release
Headlamp with red light
Trail Shoes/Hiking Boots