The Perfect Weekend Itinerary for Joshua Tree

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Having spent over a decade visiting my parents who live in the desert, I have become quite familiar with the area and have made a point to explore different hiking trails, art exhibits, and restaurants each time I visit. I have grown to appreciate the rugged yet beautiful nature of the high desert, and have crafted a comprehensive itinerary that I believe would be perfect for first-time visitors to Joshua Tree. This itinerary includes a mix of relaxation, hiking, great food, and sightseeing, all of which provide a great introduction to the desert vibe. If you're looking to tailor your experience, I also recommend checking out the "Joshua Tree & Beyond" section for more ideas. I hope you find these suggestions helpful and enjoyable!

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Friday Itinerary

Stay at a Short Term Rental Property.

There aren’t a lot of hotels in the desert, it’s much better to check into one of the many fabulous short term rentals in the desert. There are several gems that are beautiful and remote, where you can sip morning coffee with a view, hang out by a camp fire under the stars, and sleep comfortably.

Mountain Shadow Cabin - This is a quaint little cabin my parents and I own on 5 acres of land, great for a weekend getaway for two. We recently wrapped the entire house in a desert-inspired mural!

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Alternatively you can check out some options on


Book a sound Bath at the Integratron

Visit the Integratron, a quirky and cute destination near Joshua Tree National Park in Landers, California. It's said to be situated on a powerful vortex of energy. Experience a rejuvenating sound bath (meditation) and hang out on the site at Hammock Village. Book in advance, it fills up!


Dine at La Copine

Grab a late lunch or early dinner La Copine, a trendy dining experience with a hip atmosphere and delicious eats.

Note: La Copine has odd hours, check their schedule in advance so you don’t arrive to closed doors.

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Stop by the Wine & Rock shop

This quaint little shop has a really unique selection of wine and other knick knacks. Stop here to grab some for the evening.

Star Gaze from your campsite or Airbnb

Relax under the stars around a camp fire and make s’mores for desert.


Make a hearty breakfast at your Accommodations or Grab food near the west entrance at country kitchen

Make sure you get some food in your belly before venturing into the park. If you really want to explore Joshua Tree National Park, I recommend spending the majority of the day there. Pack a picnic for lunch and bring plenty of water and snacks.

Note: Joshua Tree doesn’t have any gift shops, restaurants or gas stations inside the park, so once inside you’re on your own.

Enter the park at the West Entrance and drive through the park taking in all the unique stacked boulders and Joshua Trees as you ride.

Walk the Cap Rock Loop Trail

Cap Rock Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is an easy 0.7 mile loop walk with a lot of Joshua Trees and beautiful stacked boulder formations of all shapes and sizes. It’s a great introduction to the unique boulders. Read more

Hike Ryan Mountain

Head into Joshua Tree National Park and hike Ryan Mountain. It’s a 3 mile hike with 1000 ft of elevation gain and has amazing panoramic views of the park from the top. This is my favorite hike in Joshua Tree National Park. Read more

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Check Out Skull Rock

Skull rock is a quick stop on the way to the Cholla Cactus Gardens. Stop here for a quick photo op, or if you have time and energy walk the 1.7 mile loop trail. It’s an easy trail. Read more

Walk the Arch Rock Nature Trail

Arch Rock is arguably one of the best sights in Joshua Tree National Park. You can park at Twin Tanks Parking Area and then take a short leisurely stroll down a well-marked trail passing spiky Joshua Trees until you get to the grand Arch Rock. At 30 feet wide, this is a really beautiful sight to see. Read More

View The Cholla Cactus Gardens At Sunset

The Cholla Cactus Garden is a spectacular sight to see. There are nearly 10 acres of landscape dominated by the teddybear cholla. These furry cactus are anything but cuddly, so don’t get too close! It’s best to see this sight at sunrise or sunset so you can see how these fuzzy plants light up in the glow! Read more

Dine At Twentynine Palms Kitchen In The Desert

Leave the park from the east entrance so you can go to Kitchen in the Desert for dinner. Kitchen in the Desert is a new restaurant that opened up by Joshua Tree National Park’s east entrance in the city of Twentynine Palms. They serve New American and Caribbean cuisine on their expansive patio. What I love about this place is it stays true to the vibe of the desert with it’s mining equipment scattered throughout, rusted tin roof and murals.

Tip: Make a reservation, it fills up!

Listen to live music at Pappy & Harriets, Joshua Tree Saloon, Giant Rock Meeting Room, or The Tiny Pony Tavern

For the truly energetic, if you still have energy to go out on the town check out one of these places for live music on weekends. I’d choose whatever is closest to your accommodations since the entire high desert is pretty spread out.


Explore Pioneertown & then grab some BBQ at Pappy & Harriet’s

Wander around Pioneertown’s old western set, then head to Pappy & Harriets for a BBQ lunch. Read more

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If you have the time or opportunity, Pappy & Harrietts is a great music venue as well. Check their schedule to see if you need tickets.

Book Your Trip

These are some of my favorite sites for finding the best prices, places to stay, book tours, and more:

Book Your Accommodations

Use for the best hotel deals and easy change or cancellation

Find A Tour

Search Get Your Guide to book a variety of tours and activities

Book Your Flight

Browse Expedia for deals on flights, hotels, rental cars and more

Shop Comfortable Hiking & Athleisure

Shop Vuori for long-lasting comfortable hiking and workout apparel for men and women (my fave!)

Shop Travel Gear

Shop Herschel for nice luggage and other travel goods and accessories that are made to last

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