I spent many hours last year in and around Joshua Tree National Park, visited many places between the towns of Yucca and Twentynine Palms. There are still a few things on my bucket list, so I’d better stop writing and go and explore!
First though, I want to start a “living” bucket list for Joshua Tree National Park. It’s a living thing, so expect additions over time.
Joshua Tree National Park – my favorite hikes
If you only have a day, start at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, hike Hidden Valley, Barker Dam and Wall Street Mill. Then drive to Keys View, Skull Rock, and out via the Oasis Visitor Center.
Hike: Hidden Valley
I think I have taken every single one of my friends on this 1-mile loop trail. It’s a beautiful loop trail that shows off the diversity of the park. I have never been able to finish this loop in less than an hour. Bring your camera.
Hike: Barker Dam Loop Trail
This is the only place where I have seen water so far in the park. After rainfall there usually is water in the lake behind the dam. The trail is around 1.1 miles and pretty flat. You can see petroglyphs on this hike. This hike usually also takes 45 minutes to an hour. It’s all about the photos.
Hike: Wall Street Mill Out-and-Back Trail
A beautiful flat hike to the Wall Street Mill. Opportunities to see wildflowers and some men-made left behinds (abandoned cars, gold ore mill). I recently discovered this trail and love it. It’s 2 miles out and back and the trail starts from the Barker Dam parking area. It’s a great way to extend your hike after the Barker Dam loop trail.
Hike: Mastodon Peak Loop Trail near Cottonwood Springs
This hike is on the south entrance side of Joshua Tree National Park. It’s a 3-mile loop trail that takes you up to the Mastodon Peak (with a short optional rock scramble at the top – well worth it). Takes about 1.5-2 hours.
Hike: Lost Horse Mine Out-and-Back Trail
This one is still on my to-do list. it’s a 4-mile hike to the most successful (at its time) gold mines. The hike starts from Keys View Road. Expect this hike to take 2-3 hours.
Hike: Ryan Mountain Out-and-Back Trail
Also, still on my to-do list. This is a challenging 3-mile hike with about 1,000 feet elevation gain. Allegedly, the most popular hike in the park. This hike starts in the parking area between Sheep Pass and Ryan Campground. Takes about 2-2.5 hours.
Hike: Panorama Loop Trail
This is a 6.6-mile hike with 300 feet elevation gain and starts from Black Rock. Scenic views, dense Joshua tree forest, and pinyon-juniper woodland. I haven’t done this hike yet. It’s supposed to take 3.5-4.5 hours.
Hike: Lost Palm Oasis Out-and-Back Trail
I have done part of this trail. It’s a 7.5-mile hike on the south side of the park near Cottonwood Springs. The full hike is supposed to take 5-6 hours.
Places not to be missed in Joshua Tree National Park
Keys View overlooks Coachella Valley. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Salton Sea. In the winter, you’ll see snow-topped mountains. It’s one of the most popular places in Joshua Tree National Park.
Just as its name suggests, skull rock looks like s skull. It’s a popular stop for most visitors. You can park right on the main access road to see it. There is a 1.7-mile hike that I yet have to find.
Cholla Cactus Garden
Worth a stop though it’s a little out of the way if you are not driving to the south entrance. Most perfect time to take photos is right before sunset. Watch out for bees who are abundant here in the hot summer months.
Juniper Tree at Jumbo Rock Campground
One of the most photographed trees in Joshua Tree National Park, and it’s not a joshua tree. If you are a photographer, come by right before sunset.
Arch Rock (and a short hike)
There are several ways to get to Arch Rock – all require a bit of scrambling once you get to Arch Rock. You can park at White Tank Campground and then it’s a short trail to the rock. Or you can extend your hike by parking at the Twin Tanks parking area and follow the hiking trail to Arch Rock. I want to say it’s about a mile or 1.5 miles at most (out and back).
Things to do and see between Yucca and Twentynine Palms
Pioneertown is an old movie town built in the 1940s in the hopes to attract movie stars to move out there. It didn’t end up becoming another Hollywood, though hundreds of Western and early TV shows were filmed here.
Hike Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
11055 East Dr, Morongo Valley, CA 92256
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is part of the Sand to Snow National Monument with a diverse ecosystem due to its location between the higher Mojave Desert and lower elevation Colorado Desert. There is plenty of hiking opportunity from short boardwalk trails to the 11-mile round trip through the Big Morongo Canyon.
Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum
Location: 63030 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree, California 92252
The Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art showcases art created by charred debris. It’s well worth a visit. The museum is open all day and is free to visit. Occasionally, docent-led tours are available.
Simi Dabah Sculpture Garden
The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery
Location: 77575 Highway 62, Twentynine Palms, California 92277
The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery is still on my to-do list. Another great place to see local art.
The Integratron has been on my bucket list for about a year now and I should make it a firm plan to visit this year. The Integratron offers sound baths that are meant to rejuvenate , relax, and allow time for introspection.
Coffee and Food between Yucca and Twentynine Palms
Frontier Cafe, Yucca
Location: 55844 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley, CA 92284
Frontier Cafe is often my first stop on the way to Joshua Tree National Park for coffee and breakfast. Open mic nights on Fridays. Local bands on some other days. Good coffee throughout the day.
Mojave Moon Cafe, Twentynine Palms
Location: 73511 29 Palms Hwy, 29 Palms. CA
I discovered the Mojave Moon Cafe last year and it was coffee love at first sight. It’s an eclectic cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and early dinners. Adjacent to the cafe is a small store that sells local art and gifts.
Joshua Tree Coffee Company
Location: 61738 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
For coffee just go straight to the source: Joshua Tree Coffee Company. The coffee served in most cafes in and around Joshua Tree (and partly in Palm Springs) comes from here.
The Natural Sister’s Cafe
Location: 61695 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
The Natural Sister’s Cafe is a small organic, plant based cafe that sources locally. It’s always busy.
Location: 61715 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Crossroads Cafe is a quirky diner that takes a modern spin on classic comfort food. Also has vegan options.
Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace
Location: 53688 Pioneertown Road · Pioneertown, CA 92268
I can’t lie about this place. It is one of my favorite dinner stops after a long day in Joshua Tree National Park. The wait, however, can be looooong. The BBQ is excellent (I lived in Texas for a few years, so I know a thing or two about BBQ). Live music most nights. Do not miss. The wait is worth it.
Places to stay in between Yucca and Twentynine Palms
The 29 Palms Inn – 73950 Inn Ave, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 – stay in an authentic 1930’s Adobe Bungalow with a fireplace and sun patio, a 1920’s Wood Frame Cabin with walk out decks and private backyards…
9 Palms Inn – 73193 Twentynine Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 – this hotel was a landmark hotel back in the 1940s under a differnt name…
The Joshua Tree Inn – 61259 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252 – if you like haunted places, pick room 8…
Pioneertown Motel – 5240 Curtis Rd, Pioneertown, CA 92268 – If you want to feel like a movie star…
Sacred Sands – 63155 Quail Springs Rd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252 – if you want modern architecture…
Hicksville Trailer Palace & Artists’ Retreat – 6394 Sunset Rd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252 – if you are a hipster instagramer…
Dome in the Desert – another Instagram worthy stay…
The Rising Sun Tipi at Lazy Sky – that is just cool…
Joshua Tree Acres – if you want to stay in an Airstream…