Hands down, Joshua Tree is one of the most eclectic destinations in all of California. Who knows, maybe even the United States. Home to countless cacti, towering rock formations, and twisted, spiky trees straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, you’ll know you’re in for an epic adventure as soon as you arrive. But don’t think this area is solely adored for its lunar-like landscape and outdoor activities. From antiquing and thrifting to delicious food and live music, there’s a reason why so many people are flocking to this southern part of the state.
So if you’re looking to trade in the fast and frenzy for a slower, simpler pace of living — even if it is just for a few days — we’re breaking down everything you need to know before escaping to this pocket of the desert. Let’s get started!
Where to Stay
Budget Friendly Stays (less than $100/night)
If you’re seeking to reconnect with nature with a unique experience, pitch a tent and sleep under the stars the old-fashioned way by camping. Joshua Tree National Park is home to several campgrounds, and at $20/night, you simply can’t find a better deal. But make sure to plan ahead, as these campsites fill up rather quickly.
At just $69/night, this quaint newly-renovated cabin is an ideal option for even the tightest of budgets. Housed on five acres of quiet desert land, it offers a peaceful environment, perfect for rest and relaxation. Located just a short ride away from the national park, this sweet home is truly a hidden treasure.
Mid-range Stays (less than $200/night)
Nestled right off the main street of town, the location for this charming one-room cabin couldn’t be better. While it’s close to a handful of restaurants and cafes, this oasis is well positioned off a dirt path so it feels very secluded. Enjoy dramatic sunrises on the covered patio, while taking in a sky full of twinkling stars at night.
For a delightful stay, check out this secluded geodesic dome home conveniently located within a few miles from the town’s center. Rested on multiple acres, it’s another perfect place for those seeking serenity. Inside, you will find a modern-bohemian decor filled with natural wood and stone elements to re-energize your mind and soul.
You’ve probably seen this lovely house on Instagram, as Sara and Rich Combs have made living in the desert look like a dream. With a huge front porch to sip you morning coffee, along with a hot tub in back to soak in after a long day of exploring, chances are you won’t want to leave this desert escape. This home is perfect if you’re traveling with a group of friends, as it sleep up to six people.
Looking to Splurge Stays ($300 – $400/night)
This is another property owned by Sara and Rich Combs, and it is dreamy, to say the least. Designed with a slow and leisurely pace in mind, this remote two-bed-one-bath home is the ultimate getaway for those looking to rest and reset.
Where to Eat
Serving fresh, organic coffee roasted in only small batches, this cafe is the perfect way to kickstart your morning. Sip your cup of joe on the attached patio deck as you get caffeinated and plan for a thrilling day ahead.
The best part about this homey diner is that it serves breakfast ALL day long. Offering favorites such as hearty egg dishes and scrumptious blueberry pancakes, this is the place to go if you’re craving scrumptious comfort food.
Now if you’re looking for a healthier spot to grab a bite to eat, head over to The Natural Sisters Cafe. This eatery whips up delicious, wholesome food. From smoothies and juices to vegetarian sandwiches, wraps, and burgers, no matter what you order, it’s guaranteed to be nutritious and packed with flavor.
For an extra filling meal, check out Crossroads Cafe. Known for its friendly service and incredible menu, this restaurant is conveniently located right off the town’s main street, and is a great spot for breakfast or lunch.
Sometimes after a long day of exploring, you just don’t feel like cooking, much less going out. Don’t worry, the hand-tossed pizzas from Pie for the People will save the day. With tasty toppings and speedy deliveries, this pizza joint is a true Joshua Tree staple.
For a rather special dining experience, head over to Pappy + Harriet’s. Located in the outskirts of Joshua Tree in the Old-West movie set known as Pioneertown, this adored restaurant offers classic American fare, plus live music. With it’s rustic vibes and mouth-watering barbecue, it’s no surprise why even the locals choose this honky-tonk to dance the night away.
Shop, Thrift & Antique
Cacti, succulents, desert plants, oh my! If you’re looking to take home a little piece of the desert, go to this cactus emporium. You can even “dig your own” succulents for as little as $.59!
If you’re looking to add a few bohemian pieces to your wardrobe, Jen’s Pirate Booty is a must. Filled with fringy dresses, boho tunics, and stylish accessories, you’ll want to save some room in your suitcase for this store.
There’s no better place to uncover some funky finds than at this retro clothing shop. From wacky and weird to unique and eccentric, fun times are guaranteed when scouring Funky and Darn Near New. Plus, this store has an awesome selection of vintage cowboy boots at a fraction of the cost you’d find in nearby cities.
Located just ten minutes from the town’s center, Pioneer Crossing is an antique lover’s dreamland. Housing collectibles from over 22 vendors, this store offers a wide range of treasured keepsakes, vintage jewelry, and fine paintings.
If you’re in the mood to dig up something eclectic, handmade, and cool, don’t miss out on all the hidden gems at Trailer Trash and Trailer Court Shops. This outdoor center is full of trailers-turned-boutiques, oozing with unique and whimsy finds. With an open-air-market vibe, it’s pretty much Joshua Tree’s version of a shopping mall, and a must-see when in the area.
So much outdoor adventure awaits within the heart of Joshua Tree National Park. Whether you’re itching to hike, bike, or simply drive around, you’ll uncover layer upon layer of sweeping beauty. And with two distinct desert ecosystems, get ready to spot a fascinating variety of plants and animals who call this area home.
If you’re seeking to hike, an intriguing introduction to the vast wildlife can be found via the Hidden Valley Loop Trail. This one-mile loop shows off the area’s rocky landscape, as it is surrounded with tall boulders. Perfect for those traveling with little ones, as well as inexperienced hikers.
Another great hiking option is the Ryan Mountain Trail. While this hike is a bit longer with a total of three miles, the views are certainly worth the trek. Once you reach the top at an elevation of about 5,500 feet, you’ll be surrounded with spectacular panoramic views. Serving as the second-highest point in Joshua Tree, this trail offers one of the most iconic overlooks in the entire park.
Once you feast your eyes on the geologic formation in Joshua Tree, you’ll know this area was made for rock climbing. With over 4,500 climbing routes ranging across all expertise levels, it won’t take long before your blood is pumping with excitement. If you’re interested in a warm-up or training session, check out Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School. These well-qualified guides will have you ready to start climbing in no time, all at an affordable price.
To discover as much natural beauty as possible, hop in your car and hit the road. One breathtaking, scenic drive in the national park is via The Pinto Basin. It is throughout this paved road where you will be able to gaze upon so much natural beauty — including the iconic Joshua Trees themselves — all at your own leisurely pace. Be sure to allot time to check out unique detours such as the fascinating Cholla Cactus Garden and Ocotillo Patch.
With its clear, expansive skies, Joshua Tree is one of the best places for stargazing in the country. Away from all the city lights and atmospheric pollutants, this area’s night sky is practically a glittering dome, with shooting stars streaking across every few minutes. And what better way to reminisce your recent desert adventures than by cozying up around a fire, taking in the magical constellations up above?