A Guide to Joshua Tree National Park

Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park|©Juliet Bennett Rylah
Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park|©Juliet Bennett Rylah

Joshua Tree National Park, located in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, is one of California‘s most beautiful assets. Coming in at nearly 800,000 acres of gorgeous desert wilderness, the park regularly attracts hikers and campers. Yet the park isn’t the area’s only draw. Numerous restaurants, bars, art installations and oddities can be found in the nearby towns, including a popular music venue and a dome that promises healing sound baths.

Where to stay

Campbell House

Completed in 1929 by homesteaders Elizabeth and Bill Campbell, this Philadelphia-style stone manor and adjacent cabins make up the quaint Campbell House bed and breakfast. The secluded area is the perfect romantic getaway, while the rustic setting allows for detaching from city life and unwinding. There are two suites in the main house, and nine in the cabins and cottages on the property. Breakfast is cooked in the main house’s kitchen and served fresh each morning, and guests can always find coffee, tea and cookies in the parlor. A pool and whirlpool are located on-site.

Campbell House | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

Joshua Tree Inn

This small motel regularly receives guests requesting Room 8 in tribute to county musician Gram Parsons, who died in that very room in 1973. Amenities include a large pool, a courtyard with a koi pond, and a gift shop. Rooms sport rustic decor, but modern amenities including fridges, microwaves and TVs.


There are several campgrounds located within Joshua Tree National Park at various price points, depending on the provided amenities. Typically, campsites that do not offer water are $15/night, while sites that do are $20/night. Most sites are first-come, first-serve, and are least busy from June to September. (Note: that’s also when it’s particularly hot.) Dispersed camping, which is free, is available in select areas north and south of the park. These sites are not established, so contain no restrooms or other amenities. Campers should plan to take all of their trash with them, and must first acquire a campfire permit online or from the Bureau of Land Management offices.

There are also several private campsites available near the park. Many can be found on Hipcamp, which is a site similar to Airbnb but for camping. For instance, Desert Mountain Majesty offers sites for $50/night, with amenities including an outdoor shower, flush toilets, charcoal grills, art, picnic tables and a kitchen.

Where to eat

Pappy & Harriet’s

Pappy & Harriet’s is a music venue and restaurant located in Pioneertown. Pioneertown itself was built by Hollywood in the 1940s for the purpose of shooting movies. Pappy’s was established in 1982, and serves a fine selection of burgers, BBQ and salads. It’s worth stopping by just for a bite of their creamy mac & cheese, but the music programming is also a huge draw. Check the calendar to see if there’s a band you like on the docket, or stop by for their open mic night. It’s known to attract top-notch talent and the occasional celebrity. Pioneertown also has a motel, for those who might like to stay awhile.

Joshua Tree Saloon

Joshua Tree Saloon has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to road-weary visitors since the 1980s. They serve a mix of American bar food, including several types of burgers and sandwiches, and Mexican fare. They also have a full bar for ordering cold pints or a mid-morning Bloody Mary.

Joshua Tree Saloon | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

Natural Sisters Cafe

For those who’d rather eat healthy, there’s the Natural Sisters Cafe. Vegetarian and vegan food are available here, including a quinoa burger that’ll fill you up without slowing you down. The organic smoothies are great for those who need a little sustenance before a hike.

29 Palms Inn

The 29 Palms Inn is a solid hotel, but it also has a great restaurant and bar. They serve lunch, dinner daily and brunch on Sundays, both inside and on their poolside patio. Menu options include pasta, pizza, seafood and steaks, with produce grown via the inn’s own Faultline Farm. Craft cocktails, beer and wine are available at the bar. It’s also worth taking a walk around the serene property while you’re there. You might even see a bunny.

29 Palms Inn | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

Things to do

Joshua Tree National Park

No trip to this area is complete without paying a visit into the park itself. Established as a national park in 1994, this vast 790,636-park gets its name from the native Joshua Tree. As the National Park Service notes, there are two ecosystems at play here: the Colorado Desert, which is located 3,000-feet below sea level and populated with creosote bushes; and the higher Mojave Desert, which is where the Joshua Trees are found. Popular activities include hiking, camping, photography, bird watching, star gazing and rock climbing. Must-sees include Hidden Valley, an easy one mile loop trail that offers stunning views of massive boulders, and Keys View. At over 5,000-feet above sea level, this is one of the best views in the park.

Joshua Tree National Park's Hidden Valley trail | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum

Artist Noah Purifoy left Los Angeles for Joshua Tree in 1989 to stay with artist Debbie Brewer. He was 72-years-old at the time, but that didn’t slow him down when it came to creating art. He scoured the desert in a blue pickup truck, scavenging found materials to create sprawling pieces of assemblage art. Though Purifoy has passed away, his art lives on at this free, 10-acre art museum. Guests can take self-guided tours from sunrise to sunset using brochures available at the welcome kiosk, or may make an advance reservation for a docent-led tour on Saturdays and Sundays.

Noah Purifory Outdoor Desert Museum | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah


The Integatron is a domed building constructed by George Van Tassel in 1959. Van Tassel studied UFOs and believed that extraterrestrials taught him a frequency that could rejuvenate human cell tissue. This process required him to build the Integatron. Van Tassel died in 1978, and the Integatron is currently owned by sisters Joanne, Nancy and Patty Karl. Many believe that the building has healing properties, and come from across the world to experience a sound bath in the dome’s acoustically divine upper floor. Guests lay down on soft mats around the space while a practitioner plays soothing sounds using quartz bowls. Interested parties are advised to book their sound bath far in advance, as the Integatron is typically in high demand.

The Integatron | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

International Banana Museum

The International Banana Museum refers to itself as the most “apeeling” destination in the word, boasting over 20,000 banana-themed items in its collection. Toys, soaps, perfumes, dolls, hats, shirts, and a banana-shaped record player are only but a brief glimpse as to the depths of this treasure trove dedicated to a single fruit. Various banana desserts, including milkshakes, are also available.

International Banana Museum | ©Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Art Queen

Artists Shari Elf and Randy Polumbo’s Art Queen is an odd, but worthwhile destination. Just steps away from Joshua Tree Saloon, the gallery consists of several small structures on a plot of land. Among them is the World Famous Crochet Museum, which is a huge collection of crocheted objects crammed into an old Photo-Mat booth. There’s also Polumbo’s “Intergalactic Space Station, Angel Queen,” which takes the form of an otherworldly play structure that guests can climb inside for desert views.

The Crochet Museum at Art Queen | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

Sky’s the Limit

Sky’s the Limit Observatory and Nature Center allows guests to enjoy stargazing on Saturday nights, except for the event of a full moon or bad weather. Its secluded location near Joshua Tree National Park allows uninhibited views of the night sky. The viewings are free, and generally last from sundown to midnight.

Sky's the Limit | ©Hannah Schwalbe, National Park Service/Flickr

Oasis of Murals

Thanks to Action 29 Palms, there are now over 25 murals in the city of Twentynine Palms that detail the history and natural beauty of the desert community. They are free to see, and guests can go on a walking tour of the murals at their leisure. This project has led to Twentynine Palms taking on the moniker “Oasis of Murals.”

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