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36 Hours in Joshua Tree

August 27, 2020 No Comments

“It’s 100 degrees in LA this week- let’s go to the desert,” said no one ever. Okay, so when we booked this pandemic trip, we had no real idea of what the temp would be, but regardless we love the desert and therefore it really didn’t matter. What mattered was that we need to get outside of the walls of our own house, even if that meant leaving the dog and the swimming pool behind for a couple of nights.

This is not going to be a post about all the things you can fit into 36 hours. This was a deliberately slow, nature-focused getaway and was just as enjoyable as an agenda packed adventure.

2:00pm Wednesday (or the more reasonable day of the week you decide to venture out)

Once you’re past the outlets and the windmills and turn north, (bye-bye Palm Springs), as you travel down the 62 highway, take Pioneertown Rd. and right through the most gorgeous rock formations to Pioneertown. Built in the 40’s by Hollywood most famous cowboys, it was a real working movie set with actual businesses inside of the 1880’s facades. These days, Pioneertown still has the shops and is also home to a motel, a stunt show, and mostly famously, Pappy and Harriet’s, a music venue straight out of From Dusk Til Dawn. But you’ll find no vampires here, just an elite list of music’s absolute best. Pioneertown is basically open 24 hours a day (to stroll the town and take pictures), but most of the shops and restaurants are closed a few days a week right now. It really made for some stunning pictures with the unpredictable desert weather.


Settle into your Airbnb and watch the colors of the desert change all around you. You’re not really going to be able to find any accommodations on the side of the mountain ridge that faces Joshua Tree National Park, so we went with a house that is perched high, overlooking the city of Joshua Tree. Minimalist, a little boho, and sprawling, Night Moves, as it is known was the perfect landing pad for our family of three. It has three bedrooms and can sleep eight, so we enjoyed having space to spread out and each do our thing, but come together for little adventures or mealtime. Not sure if I loved the vast view or the light from all of the windows more, but it probably rivals our previous best Airbnb rental of all time.


Get that turn table at a nice volume and cook a homemade meal in your borrowed kitchen. We opted for some jazz, Beastie Boys, and Madame Gandhi (my new favorite). Our first dinner time brought a thunder storm and hail, while the second night, we enjoyed paella in the warmth of the setting sun.

Eat, drink, and get into that hot tub!

9:00am Thursday (we weren’t too eager to roll out of bed early)

Head out to Joshua Tree National Park, which is a quick 10 minute drive from Night Moves. You’ll have to pay $30 (good for a week) to enter the park, but you can drive nice paved roads and see all of the sites, with plenty of small parking lots. Even if you don’t intend on hiking or rock climbing, you can have an enjoyable drive and see the most stunning desert landscape California has to offer. Definitely take a moment to stop at the Hall of Horrors and Skull Rock. I promise- it’s more “Whoa” than scary movie. This trek solidified the notion that I would have definitely become a geologist if I wasn’t a forensic psychologist.


If you didn’t each lunch in the park at a picnic table, you’ll want to stop at Natural Sisters Cafe on the way back to the house. We opted for beet juice, avocado quinoa burgers, and a carrot cake as heavy as a boulder from the National Park. Healthy, tasty options in the middle of nowhere are hard to come by, so this was an oasis. I have from a good source that Crossroads Cafe has the best breakfast in town. We’re still a bit cautious about eating out too much right now, so we didn’t stop in.

11:00 am Friday

One last breakfast on the porch while watching the quails wake up. Some last minute laziness before “check out” slowly brings us back to reality. As I gear up to jump back on that freeway, I start thinking about the Windmill Farms that line the freeway on the way out of town. Usually this is the last wave good-bye after a Palm Springs trip, but you will pass them as you get out of Joshua Tree also. There are plenty of places to pull off and see them, including visiting the actual Windmill Farms for a close up experience of their incredible stature.

It’s a cool way to say goodbye to a very cool place.

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About Me

Dr. Shiloh

Travel has always been a part of my life and I have found the key to making it a part of my professional experience. Expect recaps of great destinations, advice on incorporating travel into your work & tips on making travel with a family easier. Cheerio!


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