A Long Weekend in Joshua Tree
I was so sad to hear about the recent damage to Joshua Tree National Park that occurred during the government shutdown. My family and I had the unique experience of being in JT over the holidays and during the government shutdown, which meant no entrance fees, no park rangers, but also no bathrooms and some wild visitors! Shortly after our visit, they threatened to close down the park and did shut down a few of the campgrounds due to unsanitary conditions and damage to the park. Now that the park is open again and recovering from the recent damage, I wanted to provide an insider’s guide to help you plan your ultimate long weekend in Joshua Tree, including suggestions of fun places to visit nearby!
A visit to Joshua Tree and the surrounding areas is a must for anyone living in or visiting LA! Getting there is pretty easy, but you’ll want a car to get around. You can fly into LA (2.5 hrs drive), Palm Springs (50 min drive), or I managed to find a cheap flight out of nearby Ontario, CA (2 hrs drive).
Where To Stay
Camping in JT is a unique and wonderful experience, but I do prefer staying in nearby AirBnBs or hotels, especially during the colder months.
I’ve found plenty of AirBnB options from 1 bedroom desert bungalows to 10 person party houses. Many come with hot tubs or pools and are located near roads that lead to the park entrance. The main areas to look for lodging are in Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms. Nearby Pioneertown is also a fun option, especially if you’re planning a night or two at Pappy & Harriet’s (more on that later!).
Here are some of my favorite finds:
What To Do
A Joshua Tree must!
First and foremost, you must visit Joshua Tree for the hiking and climbing. Some of my favorite times have just been pulling over on the side of the road and climbing random piles of rock that look fun. I push myself to go as far as I can safely, knowing I also have to come back down. For more leisurely walking trails, I recommend trying: Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail, Arch Rock, Hidden Valley, Skull Rock, Hall of Horrors, Cholla Cactus Garden, Split Rock Lake Loop, Barker Dam Trail, and Ryan Mountain (for a more challenging hike).
DESERT ART & CULTURE
Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Scultpure Garden
On our most recent trip to Joshua Tree, my family and I got super into the desert art culture scene and made a point to visit several cool spots including:
Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Sculpture Park - an open air desert museum with art created from found items
Salvation Mountain - a giant painted mountainside created by a local artist
Slab City - an alternative living community
Salton Sea - an accidental man-made lake turned desert oasis resort gone wrong
Bombay Beach Ruins - a ghost town with more desert art and cool photo ops
OTHER FUN FINDS
Pappy & Harriet’s for music and food!
Integretron - book your sound bath EARLY as spots fill up!!
Sky's the Limit Observatory and Nature Center - go on Saturday Night at 10 p.m. to view the stars
Take an easy day trip for food, fun, and shopping in Palm Springs as well as a visit to Robolights which will be moving to a new home this year.
Your visit to Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, and Slab City will take the whole day as well. You can drive through Joshua Tree park and stop at some fun places in the morning. Hit up the best lunch spot in America in Indio for your mid-day meal.
Where to Eat
In Joshua Tree & Pioneertown
Natural Sisters Cafe - get the black bean burger and the carrot cake, thank me later!
Visit the Joshua Tree Certified Farmers Market on Saturday’s - get the boba and the ruggelah
Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown - awesome BBQ and music, it’s a must, ask anyone!