3 Days* in JOSHUA TREE
Because sometimes it’s good to hide out in the desert under the stars. It's the place where the soul meet the Creator. And a bunch of sleepless critters!
Day 1* in Joshua Tree
The good people of Joshua Tree Coffee Co are true barista masters. Out here in this barren land, they actually serve a mean cuppa Joe and are equipped to handle any ostentatious requests… Double shot iced organic hemp latte? Coming right up!
Once properly caffeinated, make your way into Joshua Tree National Park for an early hike to take advantage of cooler morning temps. Ryan Mountain is a manageable three-mile bun buster and the sweeping view from the top will make the trek well worth it. Back in your air conditioned car, continue your exploration of the park and the Doctor Seussian landscape… No wonder hallucinogens are so popular amongst campers here .
For a shroomy pie of your own (no, not those kind), find your way to Pie for the People. The ‘David Bowie’ (RIP) comes by the slice and is piled high with mozzarella, jalapenos, roasted pineapple, bacon and plum sauce… you can thank me later.
The hot afternoon is a good time to retreat to your accommodation for some R&R. The mid day heat can be unbearable. One of my desert favorites is the retro, rustic Homesteader cabin.
End the day with a cold beer at the divey Joshua Tree Saloon where the tasty hot wings leave a burning rim around your mouth. Tuesday is open mic night and you wouldn’t believe some of the local talent that hops up on stage.
Day 2* in Joshua Tree
The stark solitude of the desert lures all kinds of people, from run-of-the-mill counter culturists to full-blown conspiracy theorists. Exploring this side of the desert culture is probably one of the quirkiest and most fascinating activities you can engage in out here. Begin your day at “Giant Rock” (directions), the world’s largest freestanding boulder that Native Americans believe to be sitting on sacred ground and a powerful vortex. In the 1950s the UFO conspiracy theorist George van Tassel built an alien landing strip next to Giant Rock, which just recently broke in half. Very mysteriously so…
Energized by the vortex, drive back the way you came for a sound bath at the Integratron. Also built by van Tassel, the website claims the domelike structure is based on “the design of Moses’ Tabernacle, the writings of Nikola Tesla and telepathic directions from extraterrestrials” – Aha! Jason Mraz, Anthony Bourdain and Charlize Theron have visited and you should schedule a session as well. Whether your cells will actually be rejuvenated (as the sight claims), I don’t know. But lying under a wombish wooden dome while being lulled into a meditative state by the ring of giant quart bowls is most definitely worth the 30-minute commitment. Make your appointment ahead of time.
Noah Purifoy was looking for a place that would allow him to fully express himself artistically when he erected his outdoor museum here. His quirky objects and structures are made of repurposed material lending a MAD MAX feel to his work and bringing home a post apocalyptic vibe to this California desert.
From here continue on to yet another bizarre landmark: Pioneer Town. A large live-in movie set from the ‘40s that looks like a backdrop from “Blazing Saddles”, the main attraction here is actually the restaurant/bar/music venue Pappy and Harriet’s. Named one of the country’s Top 10 Hidden Treasures by Billboard Magazine, Pappy’s has attracted many musicians over the years from Rufus Wainwright and The Arctic Monkeys to Band of Horses and Vampire Weekend. Their website declares: “When you’re in a rush, you’re in the wrong place”… and it’s true. The dusty honky-tonk is one of the most charismatic concert venues you’ll ever see. Combine it with zesty bbq and a stiff whiskey drink and you’ll be settling in for the long haul. Check the calendar in advance and make a reservation.
Day 3* in Joshua Tree
Depending on the time of year, Joshua Tree can get uncomfortably hot and floating in a pool can be the most appealing thing ever. If this is the case, make your way to Palm Springs and indulge in some delayed breakfast gratification at ACE Hotel’s diner. The BLAT (BLT with avo) with a friend egg on top is an all-time favorite and will help you belly flop into the hotel pool afterwards.
Its 60s décor and somewhat run down facades scream aging Hollywood Playground and infuse a sense of nostalgia for the days when Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor and Frank Sinatra would frequent this desert oasis.
Squeeze in an early dinner at the Barn Kitchen (11am-6pm) at Sparrow Lodge, a restored 1950s motel resort with admirable attention to detail. The misting system will keep the body temperature down as you enjoy the last few peaceful moments before getting back on the road. While the food is solid, it’s really the ambience that’s worth this last stop before heading towards the Desert Hills Premium Outlet.
If James Perse, Maje, Rag & Bone, Bose or Le Creuset tickle your toe, get ready to drop some dosh. A creamy, cooling, sweet-as-heck date banana shake from Hadley’s will probably convince you to come back to the desert as soon as the vortex beckons.
- Pappy’s and Harriet’s Restaurant
- Crossroads Café and Tavern for a sick corned beef (why the hell not)
- The Natural Sister Café: Organic grub that caters to the vegetarian and cavemen crowd
- Tiny cacti you can dig yourself for $0.59 at The Cactus Mart
- Roasted Coffee beans from Joshua Tree Coffee Co
- For boho desert fashion finds try Hoof and The Horn
- Swim wear
- Hat and sunscreen
- Down and Out Escape to “Slab” in California Desert by NPR
- Naturally U2’s Joshua Tree Album
- Joshua Tree 13’s eclectic and somewhat random album Out of the Sand
- Anthony Bourdain “No Reservations – US DESERT”
- The Foo Fighters SONIC HIGHWAYS episode “Los Angeles” on HBO
- “Wild” (2014) with Reese Witherspoon about Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100 mile trek from the Mojave Desert to Oregon