In California, approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes by car from Los Angeles, Joshua Tree offers a surreal desert escape. It’s a unique getaway where art, western culture, and magic vibes merge, creating an experience that feels like stepping into another dimension. In this post you will discover 5 coolest things to do in Joshua Tree.
To reach the Joshua Tree area, there is only one option: renting a car. It takes approximately 2 hours 45 minutes from Los Angeles and 4 hours from Las Vegas.
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Explore Joshua Tree National Park
Welcome to Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert. Designated as a national park in 1994, it spans over 3,200 square kilometers of wild, rocky terrain. This park is home to the world’s largest concentration of Joshua trees, a type of Yucca that can grow up to 10 meters tall. These trees are named for their shape, resembling the biblical figure Joshua pointing towards the Promised Land. They gained global fame from the album cover of U2’s “The Joshua Tree” in 1987.
For hikers, the Hidden Valley trail in the northwest part of the park is a must. It’s a 1.5-kilometer trail through striking rock formations, popular among climbers. Another less-known trail is the Cholla Cactus Garden Trail, filled with Cholla cacti, known as “Teddy Bear Cholla” due to their teddy bear-like shape. It takes about twenty minutes to explore.
Additionally, Skull Rock, a rock formation shaped like a skull due to erosion, is a notable sight. It can be easily viewed by car near the east side of the Jumbo Rocks Campground.
- Practical info: there are three entrances (north, west and south) to access the park. Arrival is preferably by car and it takes around 1h30 to 2h to cross the park from North to South. Entrance fee: $30 per vehicle. The park is open 24 hours a day, ideal for stargazing. A few camping areas exist, by reservation only via recreation.gov. General information at: nps.gov.
Just about twenty minutes by car from Joshua Tree National Park, the village of Pioneertown offers a unique Wild West experience. Established in 1946 by Hollywood investors, including cowboy actor and singer Roy Rogers, it was originally built as a movie set for Western films. This set included saloons, stables, a post office, a jail, and even amenities like ice cream parlors, motels, and bowling alleys. Over fifty Western B-movies and TV serials were shot here in the 1940s and 1950s.
Despite facing bankruptcy in the mid-1950s and suffering from several fires, Pioneertown has retained most of its original charm. Visitors can stroll along “Mane Street” to explore. The town is filled with cowboy boots, Stetson hats, denim, and ceramics shops that capture the essence of Western culture. A key attraction is Pappy and Harriet’s, a renowned honky-tonk known for its barbecue cuisine and country music, which adds to the authentic Wild West atmosphere of Pioneertown.
Pioneertown is located 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north of Hwy 62 from Yucca Valley (San Bernadino County) and approximately 20 miles (32 km) ) north of Palm Springs.
In the mid-1950s, inspired by telepathic encounters with extraterrestrials, Californian George Van Tassel constructed a unique building in Landers, just about twenty minutes from the Joshua Tree desert. This structure features a dome 12 meters high and 17 meters in diameter, designed as an “electrostatic generator for time travel.”
Today, this space is used for group meditation sessions and “sound baths.” These sound baths involve gongs and other instruments that create vibrations inducing deep relaxation. The structure’s exceptional acoustics, combined with the duration of the immersion sessions (around 2 and a half hours), are said to transport even the most skeptical minds into a profoundly different state of relaxation and awareness.
Please note: closed in summer, the place can be visited and experienced by appointment only. 2477 Belfield Boulevard, Landers. Such. :+ 1 760 364 3126. Integratron.com.
Located a mile from Joshua Tree National Park, Furstwurld is marked by a “Peace” totem pole at its entrance. This unique venue is the creation of artist Bobby Furst, dedicated to art, music, and cinema. It attracts musicians, performers, and artists from around the world.
As you follow a path lined with colorful mobiles reminiscent of Alexander Calder’s work, you’ll come across Airstream caravans and rustic hangars. These spaces display Bobby’s creations, made from recycled industrial objects. The eclectic mix includes bull horns, skeletons, vintage furniture, stuffed foxes, esoteric sculptures, and Buddha statues, contributing to the feel of an unconventional bazaar.
Furstwurld also features a cinema lounge that screens documentaries and hosts singers and musicians throughout the year, offering a unique cultural experience in the desert.
Furstwurld, 8528 Desert Shadows Road, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, United States. Free entry.
Stay in an unique Pioneertown Motel
Once a popular stopover for Hollywood actors in the 1940s, this cozy motel offers charming wooden cabins adorned with Navajo decorations. The on-site Red Dog bar, capturing the spirit of a classic saloon, serves a selection of whiskeys and tacos to both guests and the public. The cost for a night’s stay starts at around €170.
Pioneertown Motel, 5240 Curtis Rd, Pioneertown, CA 92268, United States. Such. : +1 760 365 7001.