Joshua Tree, California is the perfect mix of vibes – beautiful hi-desert, small town and a strong focus on the natural environment. In this corner of California, you’ll find desert life, geologic formations, and, of course, the iconic Joshua Tree. Located about 2 hours from Los Angeles, 2.5 hours from San Diego, and about 3 hours from Las Vegas, it’s the perfect weekend getaway location for many.

Hiking

Joshua Tree National Park encompasses about 1,200 sq. miles and has a pretty fascinating geographical landscape. Our recommendation is to devote at least two full days to exploring the park to achieve a better appreciation for the area. Interested in spending the night in the park? See our article, 3 Best Campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park, for some ideas on how to spend the night under the stars, as well as, what hikes are nearby our favorite family campgrounds. Note: We plan on putting together a more comprehensive hiking guide as our hiking list is massive for the park, however, in the interim if you don’t see something that fits your preferences using the article above; the national park has put together a great hiking list as well!

Also, can we ask a favor? In 2021, the new 12-mile Long Canyon Trail is opening and we would love to know your thoughts if you hike it! Drop us a comment below or feel free to email us, hope we have the opportunity to visit again one day and give it a go ourselves!

Eats

Joshua Tree Coffee Company

Looking for an excellent cup of coffee while in the area? Although there is a Starbucks in Yucca Valley we are going to tell you to stay in Joshua Tree and visit this coffee shop! We promise, you’ll thank us for the suggestion. What sets it apart? Well most folks will tell you the “revolutionary” Loring roaster that they use. However, we would say the people working there.

Whenever we can; we shop + support local business. But honestly, JT Coffee makes this easy because their product is just really that good. If you’re living in the area or just swinging through we suggest stopping by as the prices are reasonable and the product is quality. Buy a bag from the shop itself or sign up and have it shipped to your door. If you order online and have it shipped to your door, you’ll be asked to customize your order and pick – coffee type, whole bean/grind, size bag, and frequency of delivery. Our favorite is the medium blend, “Breakfast Bliss.” Oh, and if you’re local it’s 10% off on drinks and 5% off on beans!

Aside from the beans, however, this shop really impressed us with their customer service when we first visited to pick up beans. In short, we went into the store and bought beans and Britt placed the beans on the counter to snap the pics for our write-up. Well, after chatting for a couple moments and with the kids shenanigans, we forgot the beans we had purchased and left the store (**face palm**). We realized the tragic mistake the next day when we went to brew the morning’s joe and (gasp!) were still outta beans. Dom called the shop and they didn’t even ask for the receipt from the previous day. Just told him to swing on by and pick up a new bag – mistakes happen. Bottom line: Their product is ah-maz-ing and high quality, but even apart from that the easy going nature and awesome customer service speaks volumes.

Joshua Tree Coffee Company:

  • Hours: Sunday – Saturday, 0800 – 1700

Pie for the People

Honestly we aren’t sure if this location is still there or not, but hands down it was the best pizza we had while living in the area. It closed for awhile during the midst of the COVID lockdown, but looking at their website and Facebook page it seems as if they are finally back up and running (possibly in a new location?). The joint has an extensive menu for both meat and veggie lovers alike. Although we will warn you that the pies are very large! One pie would have for sure fed our whole clan! Note: If you’re a military member, there is a discount.

Pie for the People:

Activities

Joshua Tree National Park

It’s dry, it’s high, and it’s all kinds of quirky. A special place home to a variety of animals and plants; where two different environments collide creating one of the most unique places we have ever visited, welcome to Joshua Tree National Park.

We are on a quest to visit every single national park in the U.S. (yes, all 63!), and I have no doubt that one day we will. Each one is special, but having the chance to live for a year with Joshua Tree National Park in our backyard was absolutely incredible. It’s impossible to give Joshua Tree National Park the justice it deserves in only a few paragraphs, so please trust us…go here, take a deep breath, watch the sunset over the mountains, and look up at the spectacular night sky.

There are several visitor centers for the national park. Cottonwood Visitor Center is located near the park’s south entrance and is closest to Desert Hot Springs. The Main Joshua Tree Visitor Center is the one pictured above and is located off Highway 62 in Joshua Tree. Although we never visited, there is also the Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms and Black Rock Nature Center in the Black Rock camping area in Yucca Valley.

Guest passes can be purchased at any of the following locations: North Entrance Station (near the city of Twentynine Palms), West Entrance Station (near the town of Joshua Tree), Joshua Tree’s Main Visitor Center, Oasis Visitor Center, and Cottonwood Visitor Center. Additionally, park passes can be purchased at no additional cost online at recreation.gov. The latter option will also (most likely) expedite the process of getting into the park. Just don’t forget to print or save your pass, so you can display it at the park entrance when you arrive.

If you do opt to purchase you’re park pass ahead of time online we do suggest popping into one of the Visitor Centers anyway if you have little ones to request the Junior Ranger Activity Booklet (free!), so your kiddos can have something fun to do at the park. Additionally, the rangers are super helpful and can give you some extra advice if you’re still deciding on a hiking game plan.

If short on time, we recommend spending the majority of your time in the northern section of the park as it encompasses more of the park’s attractions. However, with that being said, don’t leave the park without at least driving down to the South entrance as well. You’ll notice a pretty drastic change in the geology as you head down into Desert Hot Springs.

Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center:

  • Hours:
    • Main Visitor’s Center: Daily, 0730 – 1700
    • Oasis Visitor’s Center: Daily, 0830 – 1700
    • Cottonwood Vistor’s Center: Daily, 0830 – 1600
    • Black Rock Nature Center: Saturday – Thursday, 0800 – 1600; Friday, 0800 – 2000. Closed during the summer months (June 1 – September 6).

World Famous Crochet Museum

Once you have visited Joshua Tree, California; you’ll just get it. When we first discovered the self-proclaimed “World Famous” Crochet Museum I had a little chuckle…for reals? Yup, 100% for reals. That’s just JT. It’s funky, it’s quirky, and well, that’s why we love it so. When you first pull into the dirt lot next to the old photo processing booth covered in bright lime green paint we think you’ll smile. As you open the door and walk inside you’ll see the collection of crochet gems that Shari Elf, the museum’s founder, has been collecting for years. It’s awesome.

World Famous Crochet Museum:

  • Hours: 24/7
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free

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Joshua Tree Sunburst Recreational Park

If you’re in the area and your kiddos need a place to cool off, visit the community water park for 30 minutes. Our kids loved to adventure here after hikes or school and just play. This is a super low key “Water Park,” in that there is literally a button you push to get the water flowing. That said, however, it is a godsend in the summer when daily high temperatures can easily crest 115 degrees F for weeks at a time.

Sunburst Recreational Park:

  • Hours: Thursday – Monday during the summer (Memorial Day – Labor Day), 0900 – 1900
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free

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Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art

Originally an Alabama native, Purifoy, the museum’s creator, spent the majority of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree. He was an active member of the California Arts Council and worked with programs that helped bring art into some of California’s state prisons. Although he died in 2004, his work lives on in the form of ten acres of art installations and sculpture made entirely of discarded items.

Sign in at the kiosk, take one of the provided brochures, and off you go on a self-guided tour.  It is part art museum, part “junk” collection, and part walking trail that perfectly demonstrates the kind of quirkiness that the desert attracts. It also exemplifies the “one man’s trash is another mans treasure” mentality that we also saw in Slab City.

The Foundation states on their website that “well-behaved dogs are welcome to visit with you as long as they are leashed, constantly monitored and picked up after.” When we visited we were the only family there, and it was a great way for the kids to run around and get energy out. Just be a little careful as things are not really fenced off and they could easily disturb the art or hurt themselves on one of the piles of random stuff set aside everywhere.

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum:

  • Hours: 24/7
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free

Shopping

The Station

THE home of “Big Josh!” The idea behind the Station seems to be a gas station stuck in time, waiting for you to pull up to fill the tank before heading into the desert. The owners like this visual so much, in fact, that they close off the entire front area and rope it off so cars other than the classic Ford Bronco and VW Camper van can’t stay there. Instead, “normal” cars park out back and enter from the side entrance.

Once inside, however, it really is a pretty cool spot to explore random trinkets from another time and to perhaps pick up a few souvenirs to remember how amazing desert life can be. It’s a very cool spot to explore and hang out for a bit on your way into or out of the Park. “Big Josh” (dressed for Halloween below) is the very iconic 20 foot tall cowboy who has watched over Joshua Tree since 1965. Formerly known as “The Mecca Cowboy,” he was originally built as an advertisement for the Richfield Gas Station.

The Station:

  • Hours: Friday – Monday, 1000 – 1800
  • Parking: Free

Coyote Corner Joshua Tree National Park Store

While it’s not an “official” visitor center to the park, it might as well be. Coyote Corner is right across from the main park visitor center and has an awesome collection of park souvenirs, clothing, and local arts, ceramics, and jewelry. Pretty sweet socks, eh? During non-COVID times they also have showers for those roughing it in the park, although as of March 2021 those were still closed due to COVID.

Coyote Corner:

  • Hours: Friday – Monday, 1000 – 1800
  • Parking: Free
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