The Best Weekend Itinerary for Palm Springs California

Palm Springs
Find snow-capped mountains in the Joshua Tree area from fall to spring. Credit: Visit Palm Springs

A few hours east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs features desert scenery, a national park, along with mid-century modernism With the serene desert and lots of bubbling springs near Joshua Tree, it’s a quick weekend destination in Southern California, especially in winter when the area enjoys warm and mild temperatures.  From tours to hot spring soaks to national park hikes, here’s my weekend itinerary for Palm Springs, California.

Weekend Itinerary for Palm Springs California

  • The Spring Resort and Spa
  • Noah Purifoy Museum of Assemblage Art
  • World Famous Crochet Museum
  • Desert Christ Park
  • Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneer Palace
  • Palm Springs Aerial Tram
  • Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Joshua Tree Saloon
  • Palm Spring Air Museum
  • The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
  • Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

The Palm Springs Desert

With four deserts in the U.S., each is distinctive with different plants and animals. While in Palm Springs, head to Joshua Tree National Park. Then drive the length of the park to traverse from one desert to the next. 

The Colorado Desert is the western part of the Sonoran desert where ocotillo cactus and cholla cactus flourish. The adjoining Mojave desert is home to the Joshua Trees, the spiky Seussian-looking yucca plants. Additionally, the San Bernardino Mountains offer an oasis with pinyon and juniper.

Noah Purifoy
Stroll among the found object sculptures of Noah Purifoy. Credit: Pixabay


The Spring Resort and Spa

Start your getaway with a soak. This part of the desert actually features hot water springs, rich in minerals. The healing waters were first enjoyed by the Agua Caliente people. 

Later hot springs resorts popped up, each offering spa treatments alongside pools of mineral water. Some resorts offer day-use passes for adults (sorry no one under 18). 

Located at 12699 Reposa Way, Desert Hot Springs. Day spa treatments are available and include 2 hours at the pools.

Noah Purifoy Museum of Assemblage Art 

Explore ten acres of outdoor sculpture made with found objects by Noah Purifoy. Originally from Alabama, Purifoy worked on public art in Southern California before moving his work to the Mojave desert. 

Located at 63030 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree. Open from sunrise to sunset. Free to enter.

World Famous Crochet Museum 

Stop by a converted photo booth, for a quick and quirky road trip stop. Before digital media, people would drop off film cartilages at photo booths for off-site processing. A few days later, your printed photos would arrive in a paper envelope. 

The World Famous Crochet Museum repurposed such a tiny building and filled it with crocheted animals. It’s a fun stop and you can look through the windows if the display is closed. 

Located at 61855 Highway 62, Joshua Tree. Open from sunrise to sunset. Free to look through the display window. 

Desert Christ Park 

Explore the Christian sculptures made by Antone Martin in reinforced concrete. Starting in the 1940s, Martin created 40 sculptures depicting the life of Christ, including a 3-ton statue similar to Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer. 

Located at 56200 Sunnyslope Dr., Yucca Valley. Open daily 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free to enter. 

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneer Palace

Since 1982, desert explorers have gathered for food and entertainment at Pappy and Harriet’s. Part restaurant, part music venue, find it in the desert outside of Joshua Tree. 

Enjoy a full menu at a shaded outdoor table with misters. Check the website for the latest on shows (all ages venue).

Located at 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown. Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday to Sunday and 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday. 

National Parks a Road Trip from LA
Joshua Tree
Drive through the Joshua Tree deserts. Credit: Visit Palm Springs


Start with an unbelievable view. Then learn about the rich biodiversity of the desert.

Palm Springs Aerial Tram

Located high about the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs, find a mountaintop oasis with cool breezes and a pine forest. To reach this oasis, climb aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a desert escape, including wintertime snow. With a gentle 10-minute ride ascend 6,000 feet to explore the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.

Located at 1 Tram Way. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Adult admission is $30.95 and kids (3 to 10) are $18.95

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve 

Explore one of the largest cottonwood forests in California. Find lush vegetation even in the Mojave desert, and it’s a major bird flyway. This is one of the best things to do on your Weekend itinerary for Palm Springs, California.

Located in the Sand to Snow National Monument, the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve offers several hiking trails. Start with the assessable .65-mile boardwalk Marsh Trail and continue on to several different trails, six in total. 

Located at 11055 East Dr., Morongo Valley. Open from sunrise to sunset. Free. The canyon trails are only open to hikers, no bikes and no dogs.

Death Valley National Park Guide 
Discover Joshua Tree National Park with kids.
Joshua Tree National Park offers two desert ecosystems to explore. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Joshua Tree National Park 

At the convergence of two deserts, the Colorado and the Mojave, learn about the characteristics of each. As you travel north, the elevation climbs and the terrain changes. 

The Joshua Trees live in the northern portion of the park along with the boulders. Cactus rule the southern part.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Joshua Tree a national monument in 1936. Then the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 upgraded it to a national park. Of course, the 1987 U2 album made the park a bucket list destination for a generation.

What to do in Joshua Tree National Park 

Stop by One of the Visitor Centers

Oasis Visitor Center is near the northern entrance. It offers an interpretive area and a desert walking path. Located at 74485 National Park Dr., Twentynine Palms. Open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Joshua Tree Visitor Center is near the western entrance. It offers an interpretive area and cafe. Located at 6554 Park Blvd., Joshua Tree. Open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Cottonwood Visitor Center is inside the park, just north of the southern entrance. Open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Black Rock Nature Center is a seasonal facility near the Black Rock Campground. Open from October to May from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Discover Joshua Tree National Park with kids.
The Oasis Visitor Center near Twentynine Palms offers an interpretive area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Drive through the Park

Driving from the western entrance to the northern entrance is the shorter route. The route from the northern entrance to the southern entrance offers a survey of both desert ecosystems in Joshua Tree. 

Find interpretive signs in the following areas. This is one of the best things to do on your Weekend itinerary for Palm Springs, California.

Keys View—See Coachella Valley below from the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains. 

Skull Rock—See the hollowed-out granite formation located near Jumbo Rocks campground. 

Barker Dam—Find a 1.1-mile trail with standing water in Joshua Tree along with a boulder outcropping. 

Ocotillo Patch—A large display of the leggy cactus along with interpretive signs at a scenic pullout. 

Cholla Cactus Garden—A .25-mile walk through a 10-acre area to see cactus that looks soft enough to cuddle. Looks are deceiving, the cactus have sharp needles. 

Cottonwood Springs—This area offered water for gold prospectors back in the California Gold Rush.

The Mojave Preserve Guide

Tour Keys Ranch

Homesteading in the Mojave desert required fortitude, perseverance, and ingenuity. The Keys family—Bill, Frances and their five children lived in the area for 60 years as cattle ranchers. 

The tour walks through their ranch house, on-site school house, store and workshop. Also, see their restored orchard along with a host of old cars and machinery. 

Tours are offered from September to May and last 1.5 hours. Reservations are required, and adult tours (12 and over) are $10 per person and $5 for kids (5 to 11). 

Discover Joshua Tree National Park with kids. Weekend Itinerary for Palm Springs California
The Cholla Cactus might look cuddly, yet beware spiny thorns attract kids and pets alike. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Hiking in Joshua Tree


Bajada Trail—an accessible .25-mile loop, near Cottonwood Visitor Center 

Keys View Trail—an accessible .25-mile trail to the overlook

Cap Rock—an accessible .4-mile loop


Split Rock Loop—a 2.5-mile loop

Wall Street Mill—a 2-mile hike to a historic gold mining site. 

Wildflowers start blooming in February though see the most colorful displays from March to April. Each year is different and dependent on rainfall and temperatures. 

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Kids in Joshua Tree 

The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about Joshua Tree National Park. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet. 

The Joshua Tree Junior Ranger badge requires attending a ranger program. Visit an exhibit in the visitor center and have a ranger sign off on the booklet, if ranger programs aren’t offered during your visit.

Joshua Tree National Park also offers National Junior Ranger badges, like the Junior Paleontologist, Junior Night Explorer, and Wilderness Explorer. 

Night Sky Viewing in Joshua Tree

Away from the city lights, Joshua Tree National Park is an International Dark Skies Park. With the unaided eye, see the Milky Way above. Or bring a telescope for a more in-depth viewing. 

Get more information at the Joshua Tree National Park events page. 

Climbing in Joshua Tree

Home to world-class climbing, Joshua Tree National Park features 8,000 climbing routes, thousands of bouldering opportunities and hundreds of natural gaps to navigate. 

For more information, consider attending a Climber Coffee, held on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. starting in mid-October to the end of April. For those new to climbing, private guides can help. Find one that’s permitted to work in the park. 

Backcountry Driving 

Joshua Tree National Park offers some unpaved roads to explore, even if you don’t own a vehicle with 4WD and high clearance. 

Geology Tour Road—An 18-mile route with interpretive stops along the way. The first few miles are open to most vehicles. After that, it’s 4WD only. 

Queen Valley Roads—A 13.4-mile route that is open to most vehicles most of the year.

Horses in Joshua Tree

If you own horses, Joshua Tree  offers 253 miles of equestrian trails. Also, find campsites just for horses. 

Biking in Joshua Tree

Cycling in the park is allowed on vehicle roads only, paved and unpaved. Joshua Tree doesn’t offer mountain trails. 

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Discover Joshua Tree National Park with kids. Weekend Itinerary for Palm Springs California
See the famous Joshua trees on the north side of the park. Photo Credit: National Park Service

Camping in Joshua Tree

Belle Campground
    • Open September to May only
    • 18 sites 
    • First-come, first-served
    • Pit toilet and no running water
Black Rock Campground 
    • Year-round
    • 99 sites, maximum RV length: 35 feet
    • Reservations recommended
    • Flush toilets, running water and dump station
    • Horse campsites available
Cottonwood Spring Campground
    • Year-round
    • 62 sites, maximum RV length: 35 feet
    • Reservations recommended
    • Flush toilets, running water and dump station
Hidden Valley Campground
    • Year-round
    • 44 sites, maximum RV length: 25 feet
    • First-come, first-served
    • Pit toilets and no running water 
Indian Cove Campground
    • Year-round
    • 101 sites, maximum RV length: 35 feet
    • Reservations recommended 
    • Pit toilets and no running water
Jumbo Rocks Campground
    • Year-round
    • 124 sites, maximum RV length: 35 feet
    • Reservations recommended
    • Pit toilets and no running water
Ryan Campground
    • Year-round
    • 31 sites, maximum RV length: 35 feet
    • Reservations recommended
    • Pit toilets and no running water
    • Horse and Bicycle campsites are available

Note: None of the Joshua Tree National Park sites offer RV hookups. 

How to Get to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is located 52 miles from Palm Springs, the closest city with commercial flights. It’s open 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a 7-day pass for $30. 

Note: No cell service in the park. 

Joshua Tree Saloon

Enjoy dinner on a patio that looks like an old Western movie set. Originally opening in 1983, its menu offers all the classics like burgers, salads and tacos. In their line-up for live music on weekends. 

Located at 61835 Twentynine Palms Hwy, Joshua Tree. Open Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.;  Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to midnight.

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Palm Springs Air Museum Weekend Itinerary for Palm Springs California
For aviation enthusiasts, a trip to the Palm Springs Air Museum is a must. Credit: Visit Palm Springs


Palm Spring Air Museum 

Explore four air-conditioned hangars with 59 wartime aircraft, including the largest collection of flyable WWII planes. This museum is staffed by veteran aviators. This is one of the best things to do on your Weekend itinerary for Palm Springs, California.

Make it an experience of a lifetime and book a flight on a vintage warplane, starting at $195 per flight.

Located at 745 N. Gene Autry Trail. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission (18+) is $23, students (13 to 17) are $21 and kids 12 and younger are free.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Learn about the eco-diversity of the world’s deserts, including the Mojave. This facility is a zoo along with a botanical garden.

Located at 47900 Portola Ave. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 1 to May 31 and 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. during the summer. Adult admission (18+) is $39.95 and kids (3 to 17) are $29.95. Reserve a timed entry ticket online before your arrival. 

Sherman's Deli Weekend Itinerary for Palm Springs California
Sandwiches packed with meat are on the menu at Sherman’s Deli. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

Enjoy an authentic New York City-style deli with patio service. Sandwiches are six inches tall with thinly sliced deli meats. Egg salad is better than Bubbie’s. Desserts should not be missed, even if you take it to-go. This is a must for your Weekend Itinerary for Palm Springs California.

Located at 401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. Open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Kosher. 

PS ModCom Mid-Century Tour

Take a self-guided tour of the mid-century modern treasures via its app. It will guide you to 80+ landmarks. Also, learn about 12 of the leading architects of the movement. 

Available in your app store for under $5. 

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Where to Stay near Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is surrounded by towns and cities on three sides. With several communities to choose from, find lodging at every star level. Consider a luxury stay at a golf resort or a property featuring mineral water pools.

Inbound from the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, most visitors drive along Interstate 10 east to the Palm Springs area. State Route 62 runs north of the park and is a scenic byway.

Several communities offer easy access to the northern and western entrances of Joshua Tree National Park. Also, find two visitor centers along Twentynine Palms Highway (CA SR 62).

Yucca Valley—Find lodging and dining along CA SR 62 in the first of three communities.

Joshua Tree—The smallest of the communities north of Joshua Tree National Park offers some quirky options.

Twentynine Palms—The largest community is just outside of the northern entrance.

Weather in Palm Springs

Fall—The weather is sunny most days with highs close to 100F+ (39C) and lows in the 70sF (22C) in September. By November, highs average around 80F (28C), and lows are 50F (10C).

Winter—The rainy season, though the rain total for each month averages about one inch. Find highs in the 70sF (20s C) with lows in the 30sF (2C).

Spring—The temperatures heat up quickly in the spring and mirror the fall temperatures in reverse.

Summer—Dangerous temperatures for outdoor recreation in the heat of the day; high temperatures reach 110F (45C) all summer long. Lows are upper 70s F (25C). Carry water and don’t leave pets or kids in vehicles.

How to Get There

Palm Springs is west of the national park and offers a host of visitor services along with the largest airport. The Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) offers year-round and seasonal service to U.S. cities along with Canada. 

Most roadtrippers use Interstate 10 from either Los Angeles or Phoenix. Palm Springs is about 260 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona. It’s about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.  

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.


    • Catherine Parker

      It’s a sunrise flight so Mimosas might be fun 🥂. Definitely on my bucket list.