Filming, Photography, and Sound Recording

When filming, photography, and sound recording activities occur in national parks, they must be consistent with the protection of park resources and avoid conflict with public use and enjoyment of the park.

Who Needs a Permit?

A special use permit is required for any individual, business, or organization (including nonprofit groups and educational institutions) filming for a market audience or receiving compensation associated with footage or recordings made in the park. Some examples include:


  • Commercial advertisements, feature films, entertainment broadcasts, documentaries, promotional or educational films (including non-profit and student projects)
  • Filming for stock footage (regardless of equipment or crew size)
  • Time-lapse photography if the final sequence will be used in a motion picture format for commercial purposes
  • Use of large or unusual equipment, even for non-commercial purposes if activities warrant oversight by park staff

Still Photography

  • Still photography using models, props, sets, lighting, or other specialized equipment
  • Use of large or unusual equipment, even for non-commercial purposes if activities warrant oversight by park staff

Still Photography Workshops & Tours

  • A Commercial Use Authorization may be required for photography workshops

Sound Recording

  • It takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed
  • It uses equipment that requires mechanical transport
  • It uses equipment that requires an external power source other than a battery pack
  • The agency would incur additional administrative costs to provide management and oversight of the permitted activity to:
    • Avoid unacceptable impacts and impairment to resources or values
    • Minimize health or safety risks to the visiting public


The following cases do not require a commercial film permit:

  • Visitors filming or taking pictures intended for their personal use and enjoyment. Special requests or use of large or unusual equipment may require permitting even if it is for personal use. Novice filmmakers should inquire with Film Office for more information (email listed below); the National Park Service does not issue retroactive permits.
  • Credentialed news organizations documenting an event that cannot be covered at any other time or location.


You may be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.


Commercial filming: digital or film recording of a visual image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience, such as for a documentary, television or feature film, advertisement, or similar project. Under P.L. 106-206, all commercial filming requires a permit and is subject to a location fee and cost recovery charges.

Model: a person or object that serves as the subject for commercial filming or still photography for the purposes of promoting sales or use of a product or service. Models include but are not limited to, individuals, animals, or inanimate objects such as vehicles, boats articles of clothing, and food and beverage products.

Sets and props: items constructed or placed on agency lands to facilitate commercial filming or still photography including, but not limited to, backdrops, generators, microphones, stages, lighting banks, camera tracks, vehicles specifically designed to accommodate camera or recording equipment, rope and pulley systems, and rigging for climbers and structures. Sets and props also include trained animals and inanimate objects, such as camping equipment, campfires, wagons, and so forth, when used to stage a specific scene. The use of a camera on a tripod, without the use of any other equipment, is not considered a prop.


Application/Administration Fee: $315.00, non-refundable. This is paid online with a credit card. Once the permit has been received and reviewed, we will send instructions on how to make your payment.

Location Fee: The location fee is determined by the total number of people you will have on location. Below is a list of the location fees.

Motion Pictures/Videos
1 - 2 people, camera and tripod only: $0/day
1 - 10 people: $150/day
11 - 30 people: $250/day
31 - 49 people: $500/day
Over 50 people: $750/day

Still Photography/Audio Recording
1 - 10 people: $50/day
11 - 30 people: $150/day
Over 30 people: $250/day

Cost Recovery: A monitoring fee may be required. The number of Park Rangers and amount per Park Ranger will be determined once an application in reviewed.

Liability Insurance: You may be required to provide a copy of your liability insurance in the amount of $1,000,000.00 and the certificate holder on the policy must read THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA/JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK.

Approved Locations

Indian Cove Amphitheater; No more than 100 people total and only 1 vehicle. You must shuttle your guest in and out of this location.
Hidden Valley Picnic Area; No more than 35 people total and up to 8 vehicles.
Turkey Flats; No more than 35 people total and up to 8 vehicles.
Cap Rock; No more than 25 people total and up to 8 vehicles.
Rattlesnake Picnic Area; No more than 20 people and 8 vehicles.
Quail Springs Picnic Area; No more than 15 people and 8 vehicles.
Split Rock; No more than 15 people and 5 vehicles.
Porcupine Wash; No more than 12 people and 4 vehicles.
Queen Valley Mine Intersection; No more than 10 people and 5 vehicles.
Lost Horse Parking Lot; No more than 10 people and 5 vehicles.
Live Oak Picnic Area; No more than 5 people and 3 vehicles.


How to Apply for a Permit

To apply, complete this special use permit application and email it to Once your permit application is received, it may take 10-30 business days to process.


Permit Office

The permit office is open Monday through Friday, 7:00 am to 3:30 pm (PST). We are closed on federal holidays. Permits may still be granted in advance for a Saturday or Sunday. Permits are not issued on federal holidays and NPS free entrance days.

Contact us

Phone: (760) 367-5518

74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
*We are located in office building 100 near the flag pole.

Last updated: December 20, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597


760 367-5500

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