Joshua Tree National Park has been high on my list since… well since it started popping up all over Instagram, which coincided with my obsession with America’s National Parks – so our February trip was the culmination of a lot of daydreaming, researching and planning.
And – thankfully – it proved to be just as wonderful as I’d hoped.
Given how much research I did, it seemed only right that I share my itinerary and recommendations, to help you recreate / get the most out of your trip!
- A long weekend is just perfect for a Joshua Tree trip.
- You will need a car (but don’t worry, all the roads are good, so it doesn’t need to be a 4×4 or anything).
- Fly to Los Angeles (LAX) – and then get out of there as fast as possible! The good stuff is most definitely outside of LA… However, if you hang around long enough for a brunch, ensure it’s at Ostrich Farm – this place was insanely good!
- The drive from LA to Joshua Tree takes you close by Palm Springs, which can be a good stop-over to break up the drive, for sleeping, shopping or eating.
WHERE TO STAY IN JOSHUA TREE
There aren’t (m)any hotels, but JT is brimming with beautiful, affordable Airnbnbs. Most of them are mid-century modern bungalows, and many have outdoor bathtubs or hot tubs. There are also a handful of Airstream caravans, if that’s more your thing!
Here are my top 3 Airbnb findings in the town of Joshua Tree:
The Joshua Tree Homestead
Airbnb | @thejoshuatreehomestead
This is where we stayed, and it was perfect. It’s a one bedroom bungalow. The bed is so comfortable, the kitchen is well-equipped with everything you could need, there’s a carefully manicured cactus garden, cosy living room (with fireplace), and the owner Nicole is a gem! We loved it, and would definitely stay here again.
The Joshua Tree House
Airbnb | @thejoshuatreehouse
The upmarket option, The Joshua Tree House has a couple of homes that sleep 4 or 6. The interior decoration is gorgeous and so perfectly curated – and they have a pool overlooking the desert.
There is one hotel, a 30 minute drive from the entrance to Joshua Tree, in Pioneertown:
Website | @pioneertownmotel
Originally built in 1946 as a crashpad for movie stars of old Westerns, Pioneertown Motel is now a trendy spot in the desert, with plenty of cactuses, rustic decor and good coffee. Rooms from $195.
Right next-door is Pappy & Harriet’s, a restaurant and music venue – check it out and book ahead.
BEST RESTAURANTS IN & AROUND JOSHUA TREE
La Copine, Yucca Valley
Website | @lacopinekitchen
La Copine is awesome, if a little elusive – they’re open Thursday to Sunday, from 2pm till 7pm (super weird opening hours), but it’s worth the effort to get there, I promise. We went for a late lunch, having spent the morning hiking and exploring the national park. From aubergine parmigiana to fried chicken, it’s all great – and the flourless chocolate espresso cake for pud was also amazing.
Crossroads Cafe, Joshua Tree
Website | Instagram
This is basically a trendy greasy spoon that serves up huge breakfast portions, perfect for fuelling for a day of hiking. Located on the main drag in JT, it’s very casual and buzzy, and gets busy at breakfast, so don’t leave it too late. Open daily from 7am to 9pm.
Frontier Cafe, Yucca Valley
Website | @cafefrontier
This is a great spot when you’re arriving to, or departing from, Joshua Tree – it’s on the road in from LA. Hearty salads, tartines and coffee – plus there’s a cool boutique http://www.hoofandthehorn.com/ right next door, and they do open mic nights.
Joshua Tree Coffee Company, Joshua Tree
Website | @joshuatreecoffeecompany
A tiny little setup, widely regarded as the best coffee shop in the area. There’s some outdoor seating, but that’s it – the roaster takes up most of the indoor space, but at least you can be sure that this coffee is fresh as can be! Take a bag of beans home as a souvenir.
BEST HIKES IN JOSHUA TREE
Many of the hikes in JT are short and very accessible. There are car parks and WCs, and the hikes tend to be pretty flat and short – which I loved, as it meant to could do lots of short hikes in one day, and get to see lots of different rock formations and landscapes. We visited in February, which is low-season, and were lucky to do some hikes without seeing a single person!
Cholla Cactus Garden
Location | 0.3 km loop
You absolutely cannot visit Joshua Tree National Park without going here! It’s amazing and so unique. “Teddy Bear cacti” as far as the eye can see. Cool at sunrise and sunset, as the cactus spines seem to glow in the golden hour light.
Location | 1.6 km loop
We did this loop at sunset, and it was cool to see the rocks change colour (although you don’t get a great view of the horizon as you’re in a valley, as the name suggests!) – it honestly felt like we were on the set of Jurassic Park.
Location | 1.9km loop
A cool loop that takes you past the dam (manmade by cowboys of the past, to provide water to their cattle and horses) and across some vast Joshua Tree plains. If there’s been rain and there’s water in the dam, you get some cool reflections.
Location | 0.8km out & back
The arch is actually not that prominent, plus parking is a bit tricky (you can’t park in the White Tank Campground, despite it being the closest spot – instead you need to park over at Twin Tanks). BUT, if you get lucky and there aren’t too many people around, you can have fun clambering onto the rock formations, and get some cool photos!
One additional thing to do in JT: Visit the World-Famous Crochet Museum!
It’s absolutely tiny, but free to enter, and kind of impressive / mad…!
And that’s your lot! We absolutely loved JT, and will definitely be returning – to tick off more of those hikes, and see it in a different season.