Joshua Tree

[trip style = active & adventure + weekend getaway]

It's hard to explain Joshua Tree to someone who's never been; it's a magical desert landscape that must be experienced because words can't describe this strange and surreal corner of the world.

"Somewhere in America, about two and half hours inland from the Los Angeles sprawl is another America, a stranger one. There's a long tradition of people coming out here to get away or to simply get weird. And once you're past Palm Springs and into the high desert, people start to vibrate at a different pitch than they do elsewhere." [No Reservations: US Desert]

Joshua Tree is a dusty and desolate community about an hour from Palm Springs, where new age spiritualists, artists, musicians, hippies, hikers and even Marines (thanks to its proximity to the world's largest Marine base) coexist. 

Neighboring Joshua Tree National Park houses the Mojave and Colorado Deserts and is known for its eponymous trees, ancient rock formations and pop culture prominence. You may remember the episode of Entourage in which the gang took a trip to the park for another type of "trip" on a search for clarity. And I have to mention U2's iconic album, The Joshua Tree, which was inspired by American desert landscapes, physical as well as metaphorical and spiritual, though not Joshua Tree itself. Bono chose the title on a trip to the Mojave to shoot album photos. The band came across a single Joshua tree about 200 miles from the park and the tree inspired the title and the album packaging.

Legend has it that Joshua trees were named by Mormon travelers in the mid-19th century who believed the trees looked like Joshua lifting his hands in prayer. These Dr. Seussical trees can live, incredibly, for hundreds of years. 

 Driving through Joshua Tree National Park

Driving through Joshua Tree National Park

Visiting Joshua Tree

After three visits to the 800,000-acre park, I've barely scratched the surface and have kept primarily to the paths well traveled. While it's an excellent day trip from Palm Springs, to really experience the park, you need to camp or stay nearby.

If you only have a day, enter from the Joshua Tree gate and explore Jumbo Rocks, Arch Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden and Keys View. The high desert is known for its extreme weather, so remember to pack accordingly {good shoes, a hat, an extra layer, lots of water}. A one-day vehicle pass costs $15.

 The Shadow Mountain Band at Pappy & Harriet's

The Shadow Mountain Band at Pappy & Harriet's

Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace

Drive five miles off Twentynine Palms Highway, down a winding, lonely road, and you'll feel like you've traveled back in time to the Wild West. Built in the late 1940s by Hollywood stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, Pioneertown is an 1870s western town that served as both a film set and a small community with a motel, a bowling alley and a cantina. While the film crews have long departed, the cantina remains and houses an epic roadside bar that promises "live music, great barbecue and good times." 

I loved this desert watering hole so much that I visited twice on a trip to Palm Springs earlier this month. The perfect place to cap off a day at Joshua Tree, listen to live music, order a bourbon and eat a rack of ribs with fellow hikers, LA hipsters, bikers, baby boomers and desert dwellers. If you want to sit and eat, reservations are recommended on weekends {there was a two-hour table wait on the Saturday night we visited}. Pappy & Harriet's is a come-as-you-are bar that might be my new favorite place.

 Roadside rock formations

Roadside rock formations

 Cholla Cactus Garden

Cholla Cactus Garden

 A cholla cactus and Skull Rock

A cholla cactus and Skull Rock

 Jumbo Rocks and sunset at Keys View

Jumbo Rocks and sunset at Keys View

 Sunset at Keys View

Sunset at Keys View

This post is written by Trip Styler's Assistant Wayfarer/Editor Heather.

[photos by @heatherlovesit & @graceyvr]