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13 Fun Things to do in Joshua Tree, California

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While Joshua Tree, California, is often synonymous with Joshua Tree National Park, the town of Joshua Tree itself also offers visitors plenty to fill an itinerary with. If you’re wondering about things to do in Joshua Tree, both inside and outside of the park, then look no further!

Located about 2 hours outside of Los Angeles, Joshua Tree and the neighboring towns of Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms offer a totally unique experience that you can only find in Southern California.

Against the backdrop of the expansive Mojave Desert dotted with iconic Joshua tree plants, you’re sure to have an unforgettable time.

Read on for some of my favorite things to do and see in Joshua Tree!

Stay in an Airstream

flowers on the end of an airstream

Airstreams are probably one of the most iconic American road trip vehicles. With the distinct polished aluminum exterior and soft rounded edges, Airstreams look like sleek silver bullets.

If you’re looking for unique accommodation while you’re in Joshua Tree, I would highly recommend finding an Airstream to stay in! 

You can often find Airstreams for rent on Airbnb, or if you’re willing to spend a little extra, you can book a stay at AutoCamp Joshua Tree, a luxury Airstream campground located in the town of Joshua Tree.

For folks who are used to staying in hotels or motels, the experience of waking up in a vehicle attachment fitted with all the amenities of a hotel is really cool!

Catch a movie at Smith’s Ranch Drive-In Theater

Located east of Joshua Tree in Twentynine Palms, Smith’s Ranch Drive-In Theater is one of the best things to do near Joshua Tree in the evenings. For just $10 per person, you can catch the latest blockbusters under the stars! 

Open from Thursdays through Sundays, Smith’s Ranch provides folks of every age with some good old-fashioned fun. They have a concession stand where you can purchase snacks and drinks, and the best part is that tickets cover two movies, so get ready to cozy up in your car!

Just don’t forget to bring cash since they only accept cash at the ticket booth!

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Visit Joshua Tree Coffee Company

If you’re looking for a pick-me-up in the morning, make sure to swing by Joshua Tree Coffee Company for some of the best brews in town.

Located right on the main road that runs through the town, Joshua Tree Coffee Company is a small-batch roastery that serves incredible specialty coffee. They serve the best nitro cold brew I’ve ever tasted!

If you find yourself in love with their coffee like I was, you’re in luck because Joshua Tree Coffee Company also sells their beans (and not to mention really cute mugs and tote bags) in-store and online.

Take a bag home with you and enjoy a memory of Joshua Tree every time you brew a cup of joe!

Check out the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum

One of the more eccentric things to do in Joshua Tree is visiting the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum.

Created by Alabama-born artist Noah Purifoy during the last 15 years of his life in Joshua Tree, the outdoor museum is full of peculiar, offbeat sculptures constructed entirely from junk materials.

Wandering through the museum, you feel as if you’re a visitor in a foreign but strangely familiar world that has little rhyme or reason.

Look out for the two columns of stacked toilets, which somehow manage to look very sculptural, and the makeshift San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Definitely be sure to grab a brochure upon entering the museum, and do leave a donation, as the entrance to view these works of art is free!

Go stargazing

stars in the night sky

In my opinion, one of the best things to do in Joshua Tree is to take advantage of the darkness and marvel at the night sky. Because there is little light pollution, you can really do this from anywhere, so long as you’re a little ways away from the major roads. 

What I love about stargazing in Joshua Tree is the fact that because the landscape can be very flat, you don’t even need to look up to see the stars—you can see them at the horizon!

If you choose to go into the park, make sure to wear warm clothing, bring something comfy to sit or lie down on and use red lights only to ensure that your eyes stay adjusted to the darkness.

I saw the Milky Way galaxy for the first time at Joshua Tree, as well as my first shooting stars! 

Hike Hidden Valley Nature Trail

hiking trail through a desert

Of the many trails you can explore in Joshua Tree National Park, my favorite has always been the Hidden Valley Nature Trail. The trail itself is a short and sweet 1-mile loop and is more of a walk than a hike, making it suitable for people of all ages.

Hidden Valley Nature Trail is tucked inside an enclosure of boulders, and the scenery of massive, sandy-yellow rocks, Joshua trees, and desert shrubs makes for a really magical walk.

This trail is one of the most popular trails in the park, so unless you don’t mind sharing the trail, make sure to get here early!

Shop at the Joshua Tree Farmers’ Market

If you’re staying in Joshua Tree over the weekend, definitely swing by the Joshua Tree Farmers’ Market on a Saturday morning.

Located in a parking lot right off Twentynine Palms Highway, this farmers’ market features a sweet collection of vendors selling everything from produce to baked goods to handmade ceramics.

I loved visiting this farmers’ market and supporting the local merchants.

I still use the mug that I purchased there several years ago! Of all the things to do in Joshua Tree, I always suggest visiting the farmers’ market because it’s one of the few ways that you can get to know the locals.

Grab a meal or drink at the Joshua Tree Saloon

The Joshua Tree Saloon is one of the most eclectic restaurants I’ve ever been in, and it also happens to serve delicious food. With both indoor and outdoor seating areas decorated in a wild-west style, this saloon is a great option for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks.

On certain days of the week, there will be live music at the Joshua Tree Saloon, but if you don’t catch the live music, you can always select a few songs from the jukebox in the back!

Go camping in the park

tent light up at night

This one is a no-brainer: camping in Joshua Tree National Park is an amazing experience, and it’s one of the best ways to really appreciate the beauty of the park at all hours of the day. 

There are several campsites that allow reservations and a handful of others that are first-come, first-served. My favorite campsites are Indian Cove and Black Rock Campgrounds, and reservations can be made up to six months in advance at both sites.

Hunt for furniture, antiques, and vintage clothing

If you fancy some window shopping, Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley have plenty of great vintage clothing stores, antique shops, and furniture shops to pop into.

Some of my favorite stores to browse are The End, a vintage clothing shop with a great selection of clothing as well as home goods, and Acme 5 Lifestyle, a higher-end furniture shop with pieces that bring the feeling of the California desert to your home. 

I always find it satisfying to bring back functional souvenirs from my travels, rather than magnets or bumper stickers, because then I’m reminded of my travel memories every time I use the object. 

Hike to Skull Rock

large rock with a hiking trail in front

On the list of can’t-miss things to do in Joshua Tree National Park is visiting Skull Rock, one of Joshua Tree National Park’s iconic landmarks.

It’s conveniently located right off the main east-west road through the park, so you won’t need to hike to get there. The large hollows carved into the rock by natural erosion look just like two large eye sockets and a nasal cavity!

After striking a pose in the nasal cavity of Skull Rock, I definitely recommend exploring the area around the landmark. Channel your inner child and scramble on top of some boulders to take in the beautiful landscape!

Dine at Crossroads Cafe

Crossroads Cafe in Joshua Tree is a cozy little diner that is open from 7 am to 9 pm every single day. What I loved about this cafe is the fact that they offer great vegetarian and vegan alternatives, like soyrizo and Impossible burgers!

The last time I was in Joshua Tree, I popped into Crossroads Cafe for a hearty breakfast before heading off to the park. I highly recommend the tuna melt and the buttermilk pancakes!

Find an oasis in the park

palms trees in a desert field

Finally, I’ll leave you with one of the most special activities I’ve done in the park itself: hiking to one of the several desert oases!

Probably the most well-known oasis is Fortynine Palms Oasis.

Located in the northern portion of the park, the trail to the oasis is open during the fall, winter, and spring because the summer is so ridiculously hot, making it the best time to go to Joshua Tree anytime outside of the summer season.

The hike to Fortynine Palms oasis is about 3 miles roundtrip, and as you near the oasis, the sudden appearance of lush palm trees out of the dry desert landscape is breathtaking!

The oasis is situated around a spring tucked into the valley and is a wonderful place to have a picnic and relax in the shade of the palm trees. You definitely won’t regret the trek!

Joshua Tree holds a special place in my heart for all the great memories I’ve made there while camping, hiking, and exploring the town.

I really love that there isn’t an overwhelming amount of options in terms of things to do in Joshua Tree—it makes planning a trip there really straightforward! I hope that these activities inspire you to visit Joshua Tree!

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