U2's Fallen Joshua Tree is the location where Anton Corbijn took some of the album photographs for U2's 1987 album "The Joshua Tree" and has now become an important destination for U2 fans around the world to come and visit. GPS coordinates for the location of U2's Fallen Joshua Tree are 36.330824, -117.745298. The parking area is located near mile marker 33 on Highway 190 a short distance west of the Death Valley entrance. (Some of the mile marker signs may be missing so use your trip odometer.) As of 2018, there was a steep shoulder to park on which was safely off the highway on the south side of the road. Use caution when slowing down and parking in this area, and be careful of oncoming traffic. The Joshua Tree is located 1/4 mile south of the parking area.
"The Joshua Tree" Vinyl LP front cover (Zabriskie Point):
"The Joshua Tree" back cover (Lower Centennial Flat):
In 2017, U2's album "The Joshua Tree" marked its 30-year anniversary of being released with the release of a new Super Deluxe edition and a concert tour during which the entire album was performed live at each performance. Sadly, I did not get a chance to attend a concert date on that tour. However, U2 was one of my main musical influences and bands that I listened to growing up. When "The Joshua Tree" was released on March 9, 1987, it was one of the first few albums that I ever bought and owned. I was only 12 years old at the time. Then when "Achtung Baby" was released in 1991 and "Zooropa" in 1993, those two albums solidified U2 as being one of my favorite bands. In fact, "Zooropa" remains my favorite U2 album even to this day. I finally got to see U2 in concert when I attended their PopMart Tour at the Oakland Coliseum on the back-to-back nights of June 18 and 19, 1997. (As a side note, the music group Oasis opened for them at those concerts. Oasis later released a song called "Who Feels Love?" in the year 2000 which had a music video filmed in Death Valley.) But getting back to "The Joshua Tree", the album became a theme for my Death Valley adventures, as I would regularly play it shortly upon crossing the Death Valley boundary and entering the park. It just fits the mood and landscape perfectly. On March 17, 2018, I decided to mark the 10-year anniversary of my first visit to U2's Fallen Joshua Tree by returning to the location I had first visited on March 23, 2008. The purpose behind returning was to see what changes had taken place as the location had become more well-known and a decade had gone by. This would also provide me with the chance to publish an updated report on the area. And, indeed, I found many changes. I will discuss those in my updated conclusion down below. What follows next is my original report discussing how I came to visit U2's Fallen Joshua tree in the first place. *Note: All included band photographs are copyright U2 and Anton Corbijn.* (updated introduction May 2018)
U2's Fallen Joshua Tree is the location where Anton Corbijn took some of the photographs of U2 which appear throughout "The Joshua Tree" album cover art and outtakes. Central to those photo sessions was one lone Joshua Tree in the Mojave desert, which came to be known as U2's Tree. In the pictures, the band is standing around the tree in several different poses. Many have searched for the tree, while only a few have found it. I even wondered about its location when visiting Joshua Tree National Park earlier in the decade of the 2000's. Little did I know back then that the tree of legend was actually in the backyard of Death Valley, a place which I travel to between two to five times per year.
At one time, a visit to U2's Joshua Tree no doubt was a very special experience, especially when visiting or finding it for the first time. But the tree died of natural causes in late 2000, and what is now left continues to decay a little bit year by year. In addition, it seems that fans take away pieces of the tree as souvenirs. Even so, for those of us who grew up listening to U2's album "The Joshua Tree", it is necessary to visit the fallen tree to reflect back on all that you can't leave behind. And now that the living tree is no more, there are other tributes around the dead tree which have been left by U2 fans, which makes a stop worthwhile even for the casual fan. These include registers where you can leave a message letting everybody know how much U2's music has meant to you.
After searching the internet prior to my trip in March of 2008, I came across three suggested places for the location of U2's Fallen Joshua Tree. All three were within about 15 miles of desert along a lonely stretch of highway. Using that as a basis for my search area, I studied satellite imagery and had a breakthrough. It seemed that I had been able to match up the mountain ranges seen within the album artwork photography with the real world locations. When we arrived in the area during our Death Valley trip, it only took us minutes to find the location of the tree, which was actually visible from the main road if you know where to look. We walked out there and signed in to the official visitor's log in the U2ube, and took some photographs of the fallen tree and fan tributes which surrounded it. By far, the best tribute is the concrete plaque lying on the desert ground which asks: "Have you found what you're looking for?". Indeed, we had, high on the desert plain where the streets have no name. And with that, all of those years in which I had played "The Joshua Tree" while driving through Death Valley had come full circle. Out of respect for U2 fans, I originally did not reveal the location of U2's Fallen Joshua Tree.
Returning to U2's Fallen Joshua Tree ten years later was a little bit of a surreal experience. In the intervening decade, U2 had released three new albums: "No Line on the Horizon", "Songs of Innocence", and "Songs of Experience". At the same time, I had lived a dream beneath a desert sky in Death Valley, where I had explored many areas that the rivers run but soon run dry. I had climbed the highest mountains. I had run through the fields of vast desert spaces, hiking obscure canyons that had never before been documented. This exploration had resulted in discoveries that allowed me to feel sunlight on my face, being that they were important and had made a real difference within Death Valley National Park. My time before finding success in Death Valley had been like a dust cloud that disappeared without a trace.
Earlier in the day, I had hiked Lee Wash Main Side Canyon. During that hike, several military jets had buzzed overhead, startling me from the quiet solitude of hiking in the desert all alone. Bullet the blue sky once again. As I hiked back toward my vehicle in the howling wind, I made the decision to return to U2's Tree. After completing my hike, I got in my vehicle and drove west for about ten miles. Upon arrival, it was a bit startling to walk up to the fallen tree and see how much it had decayed. Of course, the tree is simply a memento of a lost time. The fallen tree is now the gathering place where people travel to from all over the world to show their appreciation for U2's music. I was happy to see that the plaque still remained in place. But the U2ube was gone. During my visit in 2008, there really wasn't much else to find at the location. But now in 2018, tributes to the band were everywhere. There were guitars, cymbals, homemade gifts, lyrics sheets, metal boxes, and multiple sign-in registers. The location had obviously become much more well known. Being that the location had widely leaked, I went ahead and added directions and GPS coordinates to this updated report. If you appreciate U2's music as much as I do, I hope you get a chance to visit U2's Fallen Joshua Tree. Being there in person truly reminds you that The Joshua Tree is faraway, so close. It is faraway because 1987 was a long time ago and the tree has now fallen down. But it is so close, because the tree is still there and fans have kept this place alive by sharing their memories. It's almost as if U2's fans are telling the band I'm hanging on. You're all that's left to hold on to. And when I go there, I go there with you. It's all I can do. And that's only fitting. Because for those of us who grew up listening to "The Joshua Tree", it is like you're stuck in a moment and you can't get out of it. And we don't ever want to. As I began walking back to my vehicle during the most recent visit, snow started to fall. I turned back to take one final glimpse of U2's Tree with snowflakes all around in the air. This had truly been a sort of homecoming. And you know it's time to go, through the sleet and driving snow. (updated conclusion May 2018)
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT