You’re gearing up for a trip to the desert—the trip of a lifetime; several days spent around less humans and more Joshua Trees. Get ready for one of the most exotic locations on Earth, with over 794,000 acres of surreal landscape and over 750 plant species. Look no further—because the secret spots in Joshua Tree are all right below.
Spot #1: A Town Worth Seeing
Tucked along the highway near Joshua Tree, CA, rests a town only imagined in Western films—Pioneertown. I was shocked to see this location appear out of thin air on our road trip. This community is home to over 400 locals who take pride in the culture this town has to offer: Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, Red Dog Saloon, and if you’re looking for overnight lodging, the Pioneertown Motel is a steal.
Ironically enough, this town was founded by a group of Hollywood investors and actors who wanted to have an 1880s-style set for their western films. Pioneertown was the perfect place—a town where horses had the right of way—built with frontier stables, jailhouses, ice cream parlors, and more. To this day, you can still see a classic gunfight on Mane Street—sure to take you back in time.
Spot #2: Western Vintage
After your detour in Pioneertown, swing by a few of the local vintage hot spots hidden in Yucca Valley before driving into Twentynine Palms. If you’ve ever fantasized about rocking the edgiest western-style and/or home goods that would turn heads, you’ll want to add these pitstops to your journey. I know I did, and this is one of the things that keeps me coming back.
Desert Omen (Personal favorite!)
Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum
Sun Alley Shops
Funky Desert Vintage
Route 62 Arts & Antiques
Bonus: If you stop by the End, you can’t miss out on Frontier Cafe next door. They’ve got a great selection of mid-day sandwiches and coffees—along with another boutique—if you haven’t already spent your savings at these other shops.
Spot #3: Favorite Foods
Depending on where you’re staying in Joshua Tree, your food experience can look different each day. If you’re camping or staying in an Airstream, there’s no doubt you’ll cook some awesome cuisine under the stars. But if you’re crashing at an Airbnb or a boutique motel, you’ll have some options in the area to satisfy your food cravings.
For a more upscale food option with a view, hit the restaurant at the Two Brunch Palms.
Spot #4: Lodging Gems
There’s no shortage of places to call home while you are vacationing out in the desert. Whether you are looking for a more primitive way of life or a more glamorous setting—you really can’t go wrong. I’ve visited Joshua Tree multiple times in multiple locations: campsite, Airbnb, you name it. To give you an idea, here are some of those secret spots in Joshua Tree…
Hidden Valley Campground
This notorious campground is located inside Joshua Tree National Park about 14 miles from the town of Joshua Tree. It’s become popular in recent years (another reason the locals won’t tell you!), and the reason being this campsite is located in the center of a massive scene of giant rocks—ideal for climbing and bouldering the day away. We wanted to camp here, but due to the campsite’s popularity, we tried Cottonwood!
Bonus: There’s a local coffee shop at Hidden Valley Campground—courtesy of the National Park Service—called Climber Coffee. If you’re keen on crashing at Hidden Valley, be sure to arrive early since this campsite is first come, first serve.
Unique Airbnb Options
Many think of hotels as being prime rentals for a desert escape, but that rumor isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. With increasing hotel prices, especially during big events, Airbnbs can provide a more cost-friendly option. Not to mention, you can stay in some of the dreamiest, mid-century modern, bohemian, art deco-meets-southwest homes for an experience of a lifetime.
Hicksville Trailer Palace
The one, the only place where you can find a hidden village of Airstream trailers ready for a long weekend. Choose from over 10 different trailers each with a unique theme like New Orleans, punk rock tiki, 19th-century gypsy wagon, and 70s glam, to name a few. Here’s a list of those trailers for your next trip:
Spot #5: Hidden Nature
What would a trip to Joshua Tree be without basking in the national park’s natural beauty? From sunrise to sunset and from October to May, this park is an absolute dream. To enter the park, it’s $30 for a 7-day vehicle permit, $25 for motorcycles, and $15 for a person on foot or by bike. And for a great taste of nature, try these hikes:
Cholla Cactus Garden 🌵 (MUST-SEE!) 🌵
Desert Queen Mine Hike (Personal favorite at sunset!)
Boy Scout Trail
Black Rock Canyon Panorama Loop
Barker Dam (For history lovers!)
Split Rock Trail with Face Rock Spur
Pro tip: To enter the park faster, the northwest entrance is your best bet. Another tip: some of these hikes are overlooking Joshua Tree National Park vs. hiking inside of it.
The Prickly End
You’ve read this article and conquered the knowledge to venture to these secret spots in Joshua Tree. One reason I can’t stop coming back is the magic this landscape does for the soul—it’s rejuvenating and awe-inspiring to say the least. Picture the Mohave Desert with all of the colors of the cacti and sunset in one take. Don’t just imagine it—go see it for yourself.