A short weekend in Joshua Tree National Park & Palm Springs off the beaten track

A friend asked me recently to give her some tips on what to see and do between Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs during a short weekend. She is the kind of friend who looks for the things to do that are just a little off the beaten track. She has never been, so I wanted to make sure she gets a good impression of my favorite desert.

Where to stay

Check out Pioneer Motel in Pioneertown. Pioneertown was founded in 1946 as an Old West movie set with 1880s facades of stores, salons, jails, and a motel. Over 50 movies and television shows were filmed here in the 1940s and ‘50s.

Don’t forget to have dinner at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown.

If you only have 3-4 hours for Joshua Tree National Park

Enter from the Joshua Tree entrance (Joshua Tree Visitor Center) and take the main route through the park exciting through the 29 Palms entrance (Oasis Visitor Center). Don’t miss:
Hidden Valley – 1 mile hiking loop. Discover a rock-enclosed valley that was once rumored to have been used by cattle rustlers.
Barker Dam – 1.1 hiking mile: Loop. Explore cultural history and view a water tank built by early cattle ranchers. Watch for bighorn sheep.
Key Views – Overlook. Breathtaking views of the San Andreas Fault, Mount San Jacinto, Mount San Gorgonio, and the Salton Sea.
Skull Rock – Just check out this rock. You’ll see it from the road. Great photo op.Off the beaten track on/off highway 62 between Yucca and 29 Palms

Joshua Tree National Park

Off the beaten track on/off highway 62 between Yucca and 29 Palms

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum

Location: 63030 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree, California 92252

Noah Purifoy was a local artist who created sculptures from things he just found. The museum is like a huge (junk) yard with all his sculptures. Definitely off the beaten path and worthwhile a stop!

It’s open from dawn til dusk or so and FREE.

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum

The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery

Location: 77575 Highway 62, Twentynine Palms, California 92277

I haven’t been there yet, but it’s high on my list for my next trip to the desert.


Frontier Cafe, Yucca

Location: 55844 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley, CA 92284

Open Mic nights on Fridays. Local bands on some other days. Good coffee throughout the day. One of my regular stops when I am going to Joshua Tree National Park.
You’ll pass it as you turn into Pioneertown Rd from Hwy 62 to go to Pioneertown.


The Natural Sister’s Cafe

Location: 61695 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

Organic, plant based, locally sourced. Small cafe, always busy.


Off the beaten track in Palm Springs

Palm Springs Walking Tour

I highly recommend any of the walking tours organized by the Palm Springs Historical Society. Great way to walk the neighborhoods and learn more about Palm Spring’s glamorous’ past.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s house in Palm Springs


Location: 1077 E Granvia Valmonte, Palm Springs, California 92262

Even though the Christmas lights are gone, it’s worthwhile stopping for a few minutes and walking around the outside to see the installation.


Moorten Botanical Garden

Location: 1701 S Palm Canyon Dr — Palm Springs, CA — 92264

Small botanical garden with desert plants. If you haven’t seen enough desert plants yet, worthwhile a visit. If you’ve taken any of the 1-mile hikes in Joshua Tree, you can pass on this. Entrance fee: $5.

Moorten Botanical Gardens in Palm Springs

Andreas Canyon/Indian Canyon

Location: 38520 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264

Andreas Canyon: 1-mile loop trail around oasis. This is a great trail to see more of the desert landscape. Entrance fee: $9 per person.

Hike: Palm Springs – Andreas Canyon

Ernest Coffee

Location: 1101 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Now my favorite coffee place, Try the Mexican Mocha.


Palm Greens Cafe

Location: 611 S Palm Canyon Dr # 6, Palm Springs, CA 92264

Vegan. Organic. Vegetarian. Gluten Free. Wild Caught. Great green juices.


Share your recommendations for a short weekend in Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs below in the comments!


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  1. I know a lot of photographers that shoot here on a regular basis. I’ve always wanted to go there. One day I hope to have the opportunity. It looks like such a fun place.

  2. It’s been a while since I have been out to Palm Springs. I really do love it though. The dessert has such a unique beauty. I should take my daughter out there soon.

    1. Absolutely. There is so much to do: hiking, taking the aerial tram to Mt San Jacinto, old movie towns, national and state parks, just lounging by the pool, lots of art. There is something for everyone.

  3. Joshua Tree National Park seems like a nice place. I would really love this visit this soon.

  4. I really need to get out more! The Botanical Gardens and the view of the fault are some of my tops for things to visit before my kids are too old to want to hang out with me!