Things to do in Joshua Tree: Airbnbs, Pioneertown and more
Hello, fellow Escapists. Spring is a very popular time to visit Joshua Tree National Park, providing an idyllic window of balmy weather sandwiched between the harsher desert seasons.
The National Park Service put it bluntly“Every weekend in the spring is…extremely crowded.”
Popularity – and the resulting congestion – is also an issue beyond the park. My colleague Christopher Reynolds recently wrote an article on the “full-fledged boom” of travelers looking for one-of-a-kind vacation rentals (Anyone for a $3,460-a-night “invisible house” stay?), vintage clothing shopping, time in nature, and, of course, all that desert vibes.
In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find a few ways to get off the beaten path a little while visiting Joshua Tree. Instead of heading to Skull Rock, Arch Rock, or another ultra-instagram-friendly destination in the park, consider booking a wildlife class with the Desert Institute. And plan time to explore all of old Pioneertown, not just the iconic Pappy & Harriet’s.
What are your favorite things to do in Joshua Tree? Let me knowand I may share them in a special edition of Escapes with reader recommendations coming soon.
Get inspired to escape.
Explore California, the West and beyond with the weekly Escapes newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Learn something new – like how to photograph the night sky
At first glance, the area around Joshua Tree National Park may seem barren, aside from its wacky trees and a few dry shrubbery here and there. But once you scratch the surface, you’ll find that the park is full of life, especially in the spring.
The desert institute offers a variety of field courses in the area designed to show visitors a side of Joshua Tree that lies right under their noses.
During a two-day field course Scheduled for April 30 and May 1, park visitors can learn to identify Mojave Desert birds. (Fun fact: over 240 bird species have been recorded in the park.) College of the Desert professor Kurt Leuschner will explain how birds survive and thrive in Joshua Tree National Park, highlighting rare species such as as the prairie falcon and the pinyon jay.
More interested in drawing, painting and photography than in fauna and flora? The Desert Institute is offering a variety of art classes in the park this spring. View the full field course schedule here.
Discover the largest collection of hair dryers in the world
Not particularly fond of hiking on the trails? In Joshua Tree, that’s not a problem.
From Pioneertown to a crochet museum, the desert is full of man-made curiosities. Another original establishment that merits further exploration is the Salon and museum of the beauty bubbleoff California 62 at Joshua Tree.
Part salon, part boutique, part hair and beauty museum, the Beauty Bubble has earned a place in my colleague Lisa Boone’s roundup of the 27 coolest boutiques to bookmark for your next trip to Joshua Tree.
The brainchild of longtime stylist Jeff Hafler, the Beauty Bubble houses more than 3,000 pieces of hair and beauty memorabilia, curated by Hafler, who began collecting as a beauty school student in 1991. A stone corner of the museum is “probably the largest in the world. hair dryer collection”, dating back to 1908.
In addition to the museum, visitors can browse the crystals, accessories and other memorabilia available for sale. Need a haircut or color in town? Hafler and his team can do that too. Appointments must be made in advance.
If you can’t make it to the Beauty Bubble in person, it’s worth checking out. his website anyway. Don’t miss her theme song, which I’ve been humming since I heard it. (“Get down to the Beauty Bubble, gotta go fast / If you got beauty issues, come to the Beauty Bubble.”)
Those hoping to further immerse themselves in the irresistible pep of the Beauty Bubble might consider attending a projection of “Inside the beauty bubble“, a recent documentary on Hafler and its creation.
Explore Pioneertown beyond Pappy & Harriet
Without a doubt, At Pappy and Harriet’s is the best-known institution in Pioneertown“a small community that feels like it’s been lifted straight out of a Western,” writes Times food columnist Jenn Harris.
You’ve probably heard of her tri-tip and selection of whiskey. Or its status as a concert hall which has attracted big names such as Lizzo, Lorde, Paul McCartney and Robert Plant. As Harris writes, “Pappy & Harriet’s is the place to eat if you’re visiting Joshua Tree (about 10 miles away) or the surrounding Yucca Valley.”
I recommend you visit Pappy & Harriet the next time you are in the desert, provided you can sit down. (For many, the wait is “part of the experience,” says Harris.) But just steps from the beloved restaurant are other Pioneertown treasures worth exploring.
Last time I was in Joshua Tree I had fun browsing through books and records at the soundstage, which functions as a bookstore when not rented out for weddings or private parties. Stores like Pioneertown General Store and MazAmar Art Pottery are great for picking up clothes, art, and other keepsakes.
The third Tuesday of each month, Pioneertown drive-in cinema screens “vintage” films (the next screening will be “Back to the Future II” on April 19). According to the event flyer, “cowboy comfort food” will be served.
Spend the night in style at AutoCamp or a budget alternative
“Are you camping if you have a thermostat, a walk-in shower and linens suitable for a four-star hotel? Reynolds asked in a recent story. “That question may arise as you roam the grounds of AutoCamp Joshua Tree, a luxury ‘camp’ with 47 Airstream trailers.”
Staying in a caravan in the middle of the desert may seem like an inexpensive adventure, but AutoCampaccommodation starts at $229 for a one-night weekday stay in April.
Do you like this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times
Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.
“If you have a few bucks and are drawn to the idea of a desert setting with streamlined logistics, creature comforts, and family-friendly features, this might be your spot,” Reynolds writes.
AutoCamp isn’t the only Airstream game in town. Airbnb is full of listings you might consider:
📰 What I read
- The US park system seems to have a problem with a shortage of campsites, but it’s actually a reservation problem. Megan Michelson explains how coveted campsites will get lost in Outside.
- Planning a trip to Utah? “Bypass overcrowded Zion to Grand Staircase-Escalante“, advises Jen Rose Smith in the Washington Post.
- The next time you pass through San Francisco International Airport, keep an eye out for a 28-pound Flemish giant rabbit. Silas Valentino reports on the newest member of the airport’s “Brigade Wag” in SFGate.
- In the mid-1890s, Annie Londonderry accepted the challenge of cycling around the world in 15 months, despite having learned to ride a bicycle days before she left. Tom Ward details his record run in Obscure Atlas.
- Do you ever worry about leaving your stove on at home while traveling? Stacey Leasca Deals a simple but brilliant solution in Travel + Leisure.
🎸 Road Song
Song: “Pink Pony Clubby Chappell Roan
Favorite sentence: “I have bad dreams about leaving Tennessee. Oh, Santa Monica, I swear she calls me.
Where to play: Pioneertown Road