Monsoon Season Is Here

Moonsoon Season Is Here

Desert Monsoon by T.M. Schultze, taken during monsoon season in Joshua Tree National Park
Desert Monsoon by T.M. Schultze

While we recommend all of our readers pick up The Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree National Park, we also want to provide occasional free content for everyone to enjoy.

The Summer season is the least-visited time of year in Joshua Tree National Park.  With high temperatures well over 100 degrees, the park is not quite as hospitable for visits and adventure as the cooler months.

The Summer months are also well-known in the Desert Southwest for the monsoon season, where warm, moist air forms huge storm clouds many afternoons bring spectacular scenes and lights.

Cover Image by Jeremy Long
Cover Image by Jeremy Long

You can check weather reports with NOAA, The Weather Channel, or Accuweather in the morning to determine if the monsoon weather pattern will exist that afternoon.  Monsoon season is well-recognized with meterologists and they know hot to reliably predict them.

Another key website is Strikestar, which tracks lightnings strikes over hourly and 24 hour patterns.  This link will give you the desert Southwest region.

Areas of the park that face Southeast will give you the best chance to make good images, because the normal monsoonal flow comes North up from the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of California during the season.  However, if you watch the weather report, you can find other great locations throughout the park.


Being safe in the Summer months is very important.  People tend to be careless or assume they’re safe when they’re not prepared.  Never venture out in the Summer months unless you have everything in order.  Here are some important considerations:

  • Dress for the heat.  Wear light, light-colored clothing.  Use plenty of sunscreen, even if you are just venturing out for 15 minutes.  Never take a little sunlight for granted.
  • Bring twice as much water as you think you will need.  Camelbacks are perfect to take with you.  Have a couple Nalgenes packed away as extra water storage.  Finally, keep emergency water storage in your vehicle.  Never, ever, head out if you do not have plenty of water.  Not even a short hike.
  • Watch the weather report very carefully.  Flash floods are serious business.  They happen without warning.  They can occur even if there is no rain within miles of you.  Water and debris from the flash floods kill people.
  • Lightning is not to be taken for granted.  People are attracted to making photographs with lightning strikes.  Keep in mind that most of those images feature lightning tens of miles away.  If you feel the hair on your arms, head, etc. starting to stand on end, that is static electricity.  You are too close and need to leave immediately.  If you think lightning may be approaching, you are already too close.  Drive away.  An image is not worth the risk.
  • Always have an exit plan.  Even people who prepare the most experience the unexpected.  Never venture anywhere without an exit plan.  Know what you are going to do if any situation arises, like extreme heat, flash floods, lightning, or other dangerous conditions.

If you are prepared, stay safe, and have a proper plan, you can have fun despite the heat.  Monsoon season is a real opportunity to experience Joshua Tree National Park when most people don’t dare to visit.  We hope you enjoy the park, and stay safe.

For more tips on making images in the park, we encourage you to purchase the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree National Park.

T.M. Schultze

Jeremy Long

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