Joshua Tree: A long weekend in the desert

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!

Notes:

  • 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 Homestead: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
The Joshua Tree Homestead: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
The Joshua Tree Homestead: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

The Sunburst House
Airbnb | @thesunbursthouse
Just off the main drag in the town, this 2-bedroom house is recently refurbished and absolutely stunning.

The Sunburst House: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
The Sunburst House: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

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.

The Joshua Tree House: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
The Joshua Tree House: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
The Joshua Tree House: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

There is one hotel, a 30 minute drive from the entrance to Joshua Tree, in Pioneertown:

Pioneertown Motel
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.

The Pioneertown Motel: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
The Pioneertown Motel: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
@nickyt31

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.

La Copine: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

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.

Frontier Cafe: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
@psitsemily

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.

Joshua Tree Coffee Company: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
@petruccimarketing

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.

Cholla Cactus Garden: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
Cholla Cactus Garden: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

Hidden Valley
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.

Hidden Valley Nature Trail: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
Hidden Valley Nature Trail: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
Hidden Valley Nature Trail: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

Hall of Horrors
Location | 1km loop
Cool rocks, wildflowers and some particularly impressive Joshua Trees – what’s not to like? There are some climbing routes near here too.

Barker Dam
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.

Barker Dam Trail: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

Arch Rock
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!

Arch Rock: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
Arch Rock: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

Split Rock Loop
Location | 3.1km loop
A slightly more substantial hike, with some very cool rocks (including one huge rock that appears to be split in half).

Split Rock Trail: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

Skull Rock
Location | 2.7km loop
Skull Rock itself is located right beside the road, so it’s easy to spot. But you can hike from there, into to Jumbo Rocks area.

Skull Rock Trail: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

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…!

World Famous Crochet Museum: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted
World Famous Crochet Museum: A long weekend of hiking & eating in the desert - recommendations from HYHOI.com: Have You Heard Of It? | A curation of design-led hotspots around the world, tried and tasted

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.

You can also find all of my recommendations on Instagram, under this hashtag: #HYHOIinJoshuaTree