Less than an hour from Palm Springs you will find one of the most iconic national parks in the world: Joshua Tree. Spanning 800,000 acres, the Mojave and Colorado desert come together to create a landscape right out of a Dr. Seuss book. If you are looking for the perfect day trip, we’ve broken down the best hikes, eats, and things to do in and around Joshua Tree National Park.
BEFORE YOU GO
Starting from Downtown Palm Springs, you’ll begin your day on N Indian Canyon. Directions will take you to I-10 but we suggest the more scenic route through Desert Hot Springs. You’ll be gaining 2,000 ft in elevation, so make sure to bring a jacket because things can get breezy!
WHERE TO EAT: BREAKFAST
No road trip is complete without first stopping for coffee and snacks. As you pass through the towns of Morongo Valley and Yucca Valley, here are a few of our favorite spots to stop!
Yucca Valley Outpost: An organic cafe with unique creations. We suggest the chocolate sunbutter smoothie or if you’re really feeling adventurous…order the sea moss!
The Natural Sisters Cafe: Try their breakfast sandwich and you’ll know why this place is so packed.
Country Kitchen: Biscuits N’ Gravy, anyone? If you’re feeling like a hearty meal…this is the spot for you!.
Roadrunner Grab-n-Go: A great place for premade yogurt bowls and sandwiches!
Joshua Tree Coffee Company: The best coffee in the desert.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Before heading into the park make sure to stop at the Joshua Tree Visitors Center (6554 Park Boulevard, Joshua Tree, CA 92252) to grab your map! There are three park entrances to Joshua Tree. We suggest the West Entrance located five miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Park Boulevard at Joshua Tree Village. The entrance fee is $25 per vehicle, and valid for the next 6 days.
If you only have a few hours to explore, you can still soak in the most iconic landscapes in Joshua Tree. We’ve broken down the best short hikes & stops below. (Note: these stops are a 30-minute drive from one another, so plan wisely!)
Barker Dam: 1.1-mile loop. A popular destination, you’ll view a water tank built by early cattle ranchers. Be prepared to park FAR from the parking lot.
Skull Rock: 1.7 miles loop. Take an easy hike and explore granite boulder piles, desert washes, and of course Skull Rock.
Keys View: .25 miles. If you want breathtaking views, this is your spot. You’ll be overlooking the San Andreas Fault, Mount San Jacinto, Mount San Gorgonio, and the Salton Sea. It is WINDY so leave your hat in the car.
Cholla Cactus Garden: .25 mile Loop. View thousands of densely concentrated cholla cactus right off the road! (Note: This is an hour drive from the west entrance of the park)
Other spots to consider if you have more time/multiple days: Arch Rock Trail (1.4 miles), Mastodon Peak (3 miles), Fortynine Palms Oasis (3 miles), & Ryan Mountain (3 miles)
EXPLORE THE TOWN OF JOSHUA TREE
No trip to Joshua Tree National Park is complete without a stop in the town of Joshua Tree! Hipster eateries, vintage shops, UFOs, and the American West can all be found in this eclectic town. Get lost in the local shops on the main strip, or head to our favorite stores in the high desert!
Coyote Corner: Everything from souvenirs to vintage clothes.
The Station: Say hello to Big Josh while picking out your Joshua Tree t-shirt.
The World Famous Crochet Museum: An old California photo stand has been turned into a shrine for crochet.
Don’t forget to check out the best Vintage Shopping & boutiques in California!
WHERE TO EAT DINNER: PAPPY & HARRIETS
Or take our suggestion and head 20 minutes outside of Joshua Tree to Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown! Originally a movie set for Western films, you’ll find BBQ, Live Music, Gun Fight Reenactments, Saloons & more. Typically, a 1-2 hour wait, you can quench your thirst at The Red Dog Saloon while soaking in the scenery.
With outdoor wonders, eclectic art, and cheaper real estate than the surrounding areas of Southern California, it’s no wonder people are flocking to Joshua Tree to live out their desert dreams or create the perfect Airbnb for worldly visitors. You can still find affordable prices in this destination town, and we know all the spots. Head to https://www.bradschmett.com/ to learn more about high desert living!
(Pioneertown photo credit: two travelling hippies)