California

Weekend Itinerary for Joshua Tree California

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

Head to a land rich in outdoor recreation, mid-century modernism and mindful relaxing. The desert and springs around Joshua Tree make a quick weekend destination. Find tours, soaks and hikes along with pleasant weather fall to spring. Hotels.com wanted me to share what to do in Joshua Tree.  

Where to Stay near Joshua Tree 

Joshua Tree National Park is surrounded by towns and cities on three sides. With several communities to choose, find lodging at every star level. Consider a luxury stay at a golf resort or a property featuring mineral water pools. Additionally mid-range hotel brands offer convenient locations and the Joshua Tree area even offer budget options, like hostels. 

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

Several communities offers 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 Joshua Tree 

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. 

The Deserts of Southern California

The U.S. features four deserts, each distinctive with different plants and animals. At the Joshua Tree National Park, 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 offers an oasis with pinyon and juniper.

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

Friday

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 passes start at $50 for four hours, visit between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

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 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 website for the latest on shows (all ages venue).

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

Read More 

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The Mojave Preserve Guide
Joshua Tree
Drive through the Joshua Tree deserts. Credit: Visit Palm Springs

Saturday 

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

Hot Air Ballon Flight 

See the sun peek over the mountains in the unforgettable experience of a hot-air ballon ride. Offered from September to May, the sunrise flight begins at 6:30 a.m., including breakfast. 

Located at 74901 Highway 111 in Indian Wells. Prices start at $195 per person. 

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. 

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. Education Center is temporarily closed. The canyon trails are only open to hikers, no bikes and no dogs.

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 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. If 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 of 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. 

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 at the following areas.

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

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

Barker Dam—Find 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.

Tour Keys Ranch

Homesteading in the Mojave desert required fortitude, perseverance and enguiniety. 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 offered from September to May and last 1.5 hours. Reservations required and adult tours (12 and over) are $10 per person and $5 for kids (5 to 11). 

Note: Tours are not available for 2020.

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

Hiking in Joshua Tree

Easy 

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

Moderate 

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. 

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 the 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. 

Joshua Tree National Park occasionally hosts night sky viewing ranger programs. And look for its annual star party with 20 telescopes (cancelled for 2020). 

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 at a vehicle with 4WD and high-clearance. 

Geology Tour Road—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—13.4-mile route thats 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. 

Discover Joshua Tree National Park with kids.
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 available

Note: None of the Joshua Tree National Park sites offer RV hook-ups. 

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 daily at 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

Read More

Guide to Joshua Tree National Park
National Park Passes
Junior Ranger Guide
Palm Springs Air Museum
For aviation enthusiasts, a trip to the Palm Springs Air Museum is a must. Credit: Visit Palm Springs

Sunday 

Head to nearby Palm Spring area to explore. 

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. 

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 $18.50, youth (13 to 17) and adults 65+ are $16.50. 

The Living Desert

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. General admission (12+) is $24.95 and kids (3 to 12) are $14.95. Reserve a timed entry ticket online before your arrival. 

Sherman's Deli
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. 

Located at 401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. Open from 7 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. 

Read More

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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 road trippers 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.  

Note on 2020 Travel

Traveling in 2020 remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind as you explore. If you’re comfortable traveling, please travel responsibly and within regulations since travel is at your own risk. 

  • Wear a face mask, it’s required indoors as well as outdoors in the area. 
  • Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands on a regular basis.
  • Check official websites and a destination’s Facebook page before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures and status of local businesses.
  • Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute.
  • Check to see if your attractions required online reservations before your trip. 
  • Check the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway’s page for up-to-date information on reopening dates. 
  • The Palm Springs Museum of Art is slated to open late Fall 2020. 
Disclosure

This is a sponsored post.

Head to a land rich in outdoor recreation, mid-century modernism and mindful relaxing. The desert and springs around Joshua Tree offer a quick weekend destination. Find tours, soaks and hikes along with pleasant weather fall to spring. Find a weekend itinerary with suggestion on activities, dining and lodging for Joshua Tree and Palm Springs. #JoshuaTree #NPS #NationalParks #California What to do in Joshua Tree California | Outdoor spaces near Joshua Tree | Weekend itinerary for Joshua Tree
Credit: Visit Palm Springs

2 Comments

    • Catherine Parker Reply

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

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