Joshua Tree Itinerary - Highlights For A Weekend In 29 Palms
From Joshua Tree National Park’s unusual rock formations, gorgeous landscapes and variety of plants and wildlife to the eclectic shopping, fantastic and funky art displays, delicious food, and fun events in the 29 Palms area, you will certainly have plenty to do on your trip. In fact, you may have a problem fitting it all in.
Here is a great itinerary to use as a guide when planning your weekend or use it as a starting point for a longer trip to Joshua Tree National Park and 29 Palms. Be sure and read the "must-see in Joshua Tree" list at the very end of the article.
Day One: Explore Joshua Tree National Park.
The park is big enough to lose yourself in wonder and small enough to see the highlights in a day. This isn’t just a brush-filled desert landscape, you will find layers of beauty in the trees, cacti, succulents, gorgeous sweeping rock formations and awesome wildlife.
Start With A Hike
A great introductory hike in the park is Hidden Valley Loop Trail. It is a one-mile trail that takes you through some of the park’s rockier landscape, with tall boulders surrounding you. This hike makes for some great photographic opportunities, especially during dawn or dusk. It’s a great hike for families. You'll see plenty of Joshua Trees on this short hike.
For a more challenging hike, Ryan Mountain Trail is a 3-mile, uphill trek. This trail takes you up (via carved stone steps) 5,500 feet to the second-highest point in the park. Suffice it to say the views are incredible, so take a nice camera if you have one.
Check out my overview of several most popular hikes for all ages and abilities in Joshua Tree and choose one or two for a morning of adventure.
Take time on your hikes to enjoy the large rock formations, plants, trees, and abundant wildlife. If you go for early morning or evening hikes you are sure to see some of the many animals, insects and amphibians that make the park home!
Pro Tip: Pack a picnic lunch so you don’t have to waste time driving out of the park.
Go For A Drive
If you aren't up for hiking, you can see much of the park in a 2-3 hour drive (including taking time to stop for views, photos and short walks.)
One great drive is the Driving Geology Tour, an 18-mile drive lasting about two hours with several stops overlooking some of the park’s most interesting landscapes. (note, this is a dirt road path and much of it requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle, be sure and watch out for signs regarding road conditions.)
Pro Tip: Be sure to fill up your tank at the beginning of the day, as there is no gas service in Joshua Tree National Park.
Visit Pioneer Town For Dinner And Music
After the day spent hiking and sight-seeing in the park, you may be ready for a great evening meal and some entertainment.
You can’t miss Pappy & Harriets, a restaurant and music venue located in Pioneer Town, just a short drive from the Indian Cove entrance in 29 Palms. The food here is delicious – think steaks, burgers, and tex-mex favorites. Pappy & Harriets has music almost every night so it is highly encouraged to call in advance and get a reservation for both dinner and the show. Get the Pappy & Harriets music schedule and learn more about this favorite spot for locals and tourists.
If you arrive early enough, check out Pioneer Town, which used to be an old “Cowboy” movie set built in the 1940’s and is now an eclectic mix of shops and old west memorabilia.
Day 2: Get Up Early & Stay Up Late
Since you only have 2 days to explore, be prepared for a long day of adventuring. Take a cooler with lots of snacks and water.
Stargaze In Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park has been named a "Dark Sky Park" and is one of the best spots in the United States for stargazing.
Start your morning early - really, really early - and prepare to be enthralled by the early morning sky with epic constellation viewing and shooting stars. As the sun rises over the rocks and trees, be sure to have your camera ready for one of the most amazing sunrises you will ever see.
Read more of our tips for planning a stargazing trip to Joshua Tree including tips for the best spots for star viewing.
Pro Tip: Plan your trip during the moon phases if you are really eager to see the stars.
Take a long hike
Since you're up early and the weather may be a bit cooler, today is the day for a long hike full of amazing views, wildlife and history. A great 2-3 hour hike for all three is the Lost Horse Mine Trail which takes you by an old mine and mill. This is a moderately challenging hike, so take lots of snacks and water with you and read through the safety tips before starting out. On the hike you’ll want to keep an eye out for wildlife including jackrabbits, lizards and red-tailed hawk. You'll see the remnants of one of the oldest and most profitable mines.
Explore The Funky Town Of 29 Palms
Although there are many more hiking adventures to be had inside the park, if your goal is the entire area, you will want to spend some time checking out a few of the other cool spots around 29 Palms.
One of the highlights is the Oasis of Murals. Stop by the Visitors Center in town to get a map of these beautiful paintings on the sides of buildings throughout town featuring desert landscapes, animals and flora and fauna of the area.
Another interesting stop is Integration, a sound frequency cupola structure built in 1959 by ufologist George van Tassel, “the fusion of art, science and magic.”. Once thought to tap into magnetic fields and electromagnetic frequencies, today it is enjoyed by those who appreciate harmonic sound frequencies. Be sure and learn more about their hours and make a reservation, they are open by appointment only.
Depending on your interests there is much to do in the 29 Palms area, from shopping at Pioneer Crossing, an antique lover’s dreamland, or visiting some of the many eclectic art galleries and public art displays to taking a history tour of the area, you’ll never run out of fun things to do.
If music is your thing, plan your trip during one of the many yearly music and art festivals.
What You MUST See In Joshua Tree National Park
There are a number of things everyone will ask you about when you start talking about your trip to Joshua Tree. Be sure and check out at least a few of these.
1. Skull Rock - This is an iconic rock in Joshua Tree that you need your own photo of, you can see it from the roadway, but be sure and get out and explore!
2. The Barker Dam Trail - Not only will you see huge boulders (HUGE), but this 1.5-mile trail will also take you on the best path to see lots of wildlife, from Big Horn Sheep to Jackrabbits, and Woodpeckers.
3. Hike To Arch Rock - Another icon of Joshua Tree, climb all around the rock and check out the incredible views from here.
4. Walk Through The Cholla Cactus Garden - These cute and fuzzy "Teddy Bear" Cholla Cacti are everywhere along the path of this .25 mile trail. Be careful though, they can definitely sting if the cactus needles get on you. (Not great for small kids)
5. Watch The Sun Set At Keys View - Key's View is Joshua Tree’s highest viewpoint where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, the San Andreas Fault, and even Mexico. Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before sunset and prepare to be amazed and inspired.
Relax In A Beautiful Vacation Rental In 29 Palms
With such a fast-moving itinerary, you’ll definitely be ready for your downtime in the evenings. Having a nice bed, your own kitchen for meal prep and a beautiful back yard with a pool and hot tub to relax in is a perfect way to enjoy the park and the area around 29 Palms.
Be sure and check out our Dan's Dig's Vacation Rental In 29 Palms for a desert retreat, located only 1-mile from the park’s Indian Cove Entrance on 2 acres.