Instead of scurrying off to a tropical destination, many find the peace and tranquility of the desert more enticing. An other worldly landscape void of crowds and consumerism might just be the ideal place to rejuvenate. Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California lies 140 miles east of Los Angeles and has been growing in popularity among visitors of all ages.
Joshua Tree National Park
Spanning approximately 790,636 acres, the park was named for the unique Yucca brevifolia or Joshua trees found throughout the location. The unusual landscape spans from the highlands of California’s Mojave Desert to the lowlands of the Colorado Desert. Other vegetation found here includes pinion pines, California junipers, mixed scrub bushes and a combination of Cholla and Yucca cactus.
The western region of the park features a variety of granite rock formations and boulder piles that appeal to climbing enthusiasts. Conversely, the Coachella Valley found in the southeastern area of the park bears flat, sandy grasslands and dense cactus groupings that resemble a manmade garden. Scattered here and there are oases complete with arrays of California fan palms.
The park has north, south and west entrances that all have interesting and informative visitor’s centers. Paved roads meander through the park and lead guests to campgrounds, picnic spots, trail heads and viewpoints. Along the way, visitors are invited to stop and explore the interpretive exhibits, which provide insight into the ecology, history and wildlife of the area.
By night, the vast barren space and lack of urban light pollution make the perfect stargazing location year round. During the winter months, the southern sky displays the Orion constellation, which features the brilliant Sirius star. Gemini and Taurus are also highly visible at this time. Springtime brings the bright Arcturus star into view in the eastern sky along with the constellation Leo. Some prefer visiting during the summer for the chance to gaze upon the Milky Way and Sagittarius. The desert is also a grand destination for witnessing the spectacular Perseid meteor shower that occurs each August. In the fall, the Great Square of Pegasus rises in the northeast and the Andromeda Galaxy is also visible. During the last weekend in October, the park hosts the annual Night Sky Festival. The three-day event brings novice and professional astronomers together for nature and orrery walks, discussions with guest speakers and other festivities.
If planning on hiking various trails, choose spring or fall visits when daytime temperatures average 85 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, the temperatures average a comfortable 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Springtime is also a great season to witness the vegetation in full bloom from March through April. Cactus blossoms remain well into June. Winter days hover around 60 degrees and commonly dip below freezing when the sun sets. Summers are not surprisingly hot and dry with temperatures often above the 100-degree range.
The Mojave Sands hotel stands conveniently close to the national park while offering cozy and quirky accommodations. Relax away from the bustling city while enjoying the amenities that include private room patios, secluded outdoor showers, retro vinyl-record players and a scenic communal courtyard.
The Hicksville Trailer Palace is another unique location, which features 11 trailer accommodations that each have their own theme. Choose a stay in a trailer that commemorates the 70s or enjoy the upscale surroundings of the FiFi. Relax in the solar-heated saltwater pool or gaze at the stars in the rooftop hot tub. Additional site activities include archery, a BB gun range, miniature golf and table tennis.
The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites in Twentynine Palms might appeal to the less adventurous. The location has 84 rooms or suites, an outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, fitness center and a business center that remains open 24/7. Guests are welcome to stay for a complimentary cold or hot breakfast buffet in the morning. Venture across the street for lunch or dinner at either the Del Taco or Pizza Hut.
Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is a combination restaurant, nightclub and saloon. Renowned for its BBQ, meals are prepared according to order on an outdoor mesquite grill. The venue also regularly hosts concerts featuring bands and performers from across the globe.
The Restaurant at 29 Palms Inn offers upscale poolside dining and live entertainment every night of the week. The menu features a variety of traditional favorites ranging from salads and pasta dishes to seafood and steak. The venue prides itself on preparing meals using its own organic garden produce and locally harvested foods. Guests also have the opportunity to place orders for next-day picnic lunches that are ready as early as 07:15 in the morning.
If in the market for handmade western décor items, stop at Brian Bosworth’s Bkb Ceramics at 61706 CA-62. The studio houses a wide selection of dishware, planters and other functional handcrafted items. Browse through the array for yourself or as a gift for a loved one.
The Hoof & The Horn located on 55840 Twentynine Palms Highway has an eclectic blend of new and vintage items for anyone who enjoys bohemian or Western-inspired styles. Cowboy boots, fringed handbags, moccasins and printed tunics are some of the treasures you will find.
Once a drive-in theater, the Sky Village Outdoor Marketplace now serves as home to vast weekend swap meets reminiscent of big city flea markets. Visitors have the chance to find anything imaginable from prized crystal or living cactus to western attire and old vinyl records.
The area boasts a number of interesting destinations that will make a trip to Joshua Tree National Park complete. Art lovers should consider visiting Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum. The 10-acre space found on Blair Lane displays many different unusual large pieces created using nontraditional mediums that include metal, wood, bowling balls and old tires. Each handcrafted project is also created around a specific theme.
During the 1950s, UFOlogist George Van Tassel constructed the massive dome building according to specifications he claimed originated from extraterrestrial beings. Spanning an impressive 38-feet tall with a 55-foot diameter, the building stands on a magnetic vortex on which Tassel hoped to achieve time travel. Today, the venue serves as a New Age-type spa that offers guests the chance to relax and unwind while listening to the unique sounds of crystal bowls.
Turn back the hands of time by visiting the Smith’s Ranch Drive-In. For a minimal entrance fee of approximately five dollars, guests enjoy the night air while watching the latest double features. A local radio station provides the audio on a simulcast FM station. The warm, arid climate of the desert enables the venue to host shows 10 months out of the year. Kick back on the hood of your vehicle with a box of popcorn, your favorite candy and a soda while taking in the movie.
Whether a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture or desiring to achieve a higher level of consciousness, the Institute of Mental Physics is a worthwhile stop. The institute sits on more than 420 acres in the Mojave Desert and contains the largest collection of buildings designed by the famous architect. Also referred to as the Joshua Tree Retreat, the site welcomes quick visits or overnight stays. Guests are encouraged to explore the facility, walk the medicine wheel, stroll along the 15 holy stone paths and experience the vortices. +