The Complete Visitor’s Guide to Joshua Tree (UPDATED for 2024)

Welcome To Joshua Tree - Finding the murals is a great thing to do in Joshua Tree when visiting

Joshua Tree, California is a unique desert town that holds a special place in our hearts. The region draws over 2 million visitors a year and after a trip, it is easy to see why. From the quirky trees to the funky desert style, Joshua Tree is an exciting destination to visit.

Joshua Tree, California

Most visitors head to the high desert for Joshua Tree National Park and if that’s you, don’t forget to check out our Hiking Guide to Joshua Tree NP after this post!

We lived right outside of Joshua Tree for over two years and can’t wait until we get to visit again! Outside of the national park, there is a ton to see, eat, and explore! Keep reading to find out all there is to do in Joshua Tree, California. At the end of this post, there’s a google map with all our recommendations included!

In this guide, we share:
    Pictured: Joshua Tree while hiking in JTNP

    Tips for Visiting Joshua Tree from a “Semi-Local”

    Since we lived and worked in the community for a couple of years, we got to know the area and the people very well. Hence the name “Semi-Local” because other locals would be totally upset if we called ourselves real locals, haha. However, the desert became our home and we definitely miss all that it has to offer.

    Here are some tips for visiting Joshua Tree:

    Best Time to Visit

    October – April are the best months to visit the area because of the cooler temperatures. The summer brings intense heat, large storms, and flash floods. To spend time outside, it’s best to visit in the cooler months. However, this also means more visitors so, if possible, visit during the week to escape the weekend crowds!

    Entering the Park

    If you aren’t up early or entering in the evening, the Joshua Tree entrance may have a wait! Skip the wait and head to the 29 Palms Entrance. This entrance rarely ever has a wait and will take you through another part of the park.

    What’s Worth Seeing in Joshua Tree

    When it comes to what to see in the park, some sights can be crowded but sometimes they are still worth the stop. We wrote about the popular sites that are still worth the stop in this post!

    There Are More Trees Outside the Park!

    If you’re looking for a landscape of endless Joshua Trees, you can actually find this somewhere else. Even though the massive wildfire in 2020, the Mojave Preserve holds thousands of Joshua Trees (it’s not the actual park!). From Joshua Tree head about 2-2.5 hours towards Vegas to find them!

    Don’t Stay in the town of Joshua Tree

    Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree are the busiest during the high season. Drive further down Highway 62 to the town of 29 Palms for a less busy scene and park entrance. It’s a small town but you may find cheaper accommodation and one of our favorite hikes is here too! There are also plenty of yummy places to eat in 29, scroll down to read about them.

    Where to Get the Necessities

    Grocery Shopping:

    • Yucca Valley: Walmart, Vons, and Stater Bros are all great options with a wide variety and inclusive food products. There is also a Grocery Outlet in Yucca Valley.
    • Joshua Tree: The Farmer’s Market on Saturdays or head to one of the neighboring towns.
    • 29 Palms: Stater Bros is the only grocery store in town.

    Toiletries, Medicine, Etc:

    • Yucca Valley: Walmart or Walgreens are your main options (as well as the grocery stores listed above)
    • Joshua Tree: Dollar General
    • 29 Palms: Dollar General, Rite Aid, Stater Bros

    $7 Sunflower Bouquets + More

    Although as a visitor this might not matter to you, it’s one of Sam’s favorite things in Joshua Tree. At the farmer’s market, there is a flower vendor selling bouquets of sunflowers, eucalyptus, and more for $7. Get yourself some fresh flowers or at least stop by to admire them!

    Want more of your Joshua Tree Questions answered? We have a whole FAQ Section in our hiking guide to Joshua Tree National Park. Click here to check it out!

    Visit Joshua Tree for amazing sunsets, hikes, and nature

    10 Things to Do Around Joshua Tree (Besides the National Park):

    Obviously, a visit to the high desert is not complete without wandering and hiking around the national park. However, what many visitors miss is the exciting experiences right outside the park entrance.

    1. Visit the Farmers’ Market

    Saturday mornings are made for the market

    The Joshua Tree Farmers’ Market was one of our happy places while living here. Vendors with fresh veggies, vegan cheeses, fresh-cut flowers, jewelry, and more. The farmer’s market was always worth the trip. Even if you’re not in the need of veggies, walk through the small market and check out local products.

    Farmers’ Market in 29 Palms

    Joshua Tree isn’t the only town with a farmer’s market. 29 Palms is right “next door” and offers their own farmer’s market with fresh produce and local crafts nearby the newer Joshua Tree National Park visitor center. If you stop by, do not miss out on the bubble tea from 29 o’clock. It’s delicious!

    2. Check Out the Murals

    Wall art is everywhere

    You can find incredible murals all over this funky town and 29 Palms. Whether you’re looking for the best insta-worthy shots or just want to see them, the wall art in Joshua Tree and 29 Palms is exciting. Here are some of our favorites:

    3. Watch the Stars

    Incredible views, day and night

    To see the night sky around Joshua Tree National Park is worth a visit in itself. When the sky gets dark it is filled with SO MANY stars. We were lucky enough to live in the area when the NEOWISE Comet was visible and headed to the park, like many others, to get the darkest sky.

    If you’re wanting to learn about the stars, head to Sky’s The Limit Observatory. This observatory is right by the 29 Palms Entrance to Joshua Tree National Park and offers educational experiences on occasional Saturday nights.

    4. Shop the Funky Desert Flare

    The Joshua Tree desert has a history for its quirky style and this is easy to see when visiting the local shops and unique art exhibits in town. Although some prices might not be “budget-friendly”, it’s always fun to check out what they have in store. Wander around some of these eccentric desert shops while visiting Joshua Tree, California.

    In Joshua Tree, don’t miss:

    • The Station – You won’t miss this one, driving through town. With a huge cowboy greeting you outside, this shop has so many unique souvenirs inside. Vintage style shirts, magnets, plants, and snacks, there’s plenty of knick knacks to check out here.
    • Zannedelions – Selling local art, crafts, and clothing with a boho vibe. What we love most about this place is the beautiful glass pieces.
    • Hey There Projects – We love this shop for unique gift items, funny bird cards, and random objects you never knew you needed.
    • Coyote Corner – This is a great souvenir shop for the Joshua Tree area. Although it’s small, it’s packed with little gifts you’ll want to take home with you.
    • Also if you’re lucky to be visiting on the second Saturday of the month, there are even more vendors out in the evening in downtown Joshua Tree.

    Shops to see in Yucca Valley:

    • Route 62 Arts and Antiques – As soon as you drive by, you’ll be interested to stop. It’s easy to spend an hour walking around this store, looking at all the different items it holds. Even if you don’t plan to purchase antiques, this is a great stop for some interesting finds!
    • Mojave Flea Trading Post – Focusing on items from local makers and crafters, the Mojave Flea Trading Post is a gorgeous store with a variety of unique items.
    • The End, Funky Desert Vintage, and Desert Omen – Funky desert and vintage fashion located near Frontier Cafe in Yucca Valley. Stop to marvel at the boho chic clothing and maybe grab a piece for yourself!

    Head down to 29 Palms for:

    • Desert General – This is a grouping of shops including a book and gift store, magazine and wine store, and even a yoga studio. We love the incredible book collection offered here as well as the JT souvenirs.
    • Hi-Desert Daydream – Perfect stop for high desert fashion, gifts, and small home decor items. Very unique items in a charming atmosphere.
    • Donahue – An inclusive, chic, and fashionable clothing store right in 29 Palms!
    • The Lobby By Desert Beacon – Local goods including Joshua Tree Coffee, Joshua Tree Candle Company, and more!

    Worth a stop in Morongo:

    • Cactus Mart: A bit further from the park, but still worth the stop, is the cutest plant store around. Here you can pick and plant your own baby cacti or succulents,

    5. Marvel at Unique Art

    Just like the funky shops, there are also some unique art installations in this desert region. Probably the most unique is the Art Queen right in downtown Joshua Tree. With its interesting abstract metal sculptures and the World Famous Crochet Museum, it’s hard to put into words. A visit to Joshua Tree is almost not complete without a stop here!

    Drive past downtown 29 palms for an interesting outdoor gallery. Use Google Maps and head to the Glass Outhouse Outdoor Gallery for an amazing outdoor art experience.

    You can find interesting art installations all over the area. Driving down Highway 29, you may be able to spot some more like the Metal Dinosaurs between JT and 29 or installations by Simi Dabah.

    6. Watch Live Music

    Many of the restaurants and shops in the area have live music on different days of the week. Some of these include Joshua Tree Saloon, Sun Valley Shops, Pappy and Harriets, and Giant Rock Meeting Room. Facebook Events is a great place to find out where the music will be during your visit OR ask around in Downtown JT!

    7. Gamble at the Casino

    Tortoise Rock Casino in 29 Palms is a small casino with some card games, slots. It has a restaurant and bar. We aren’t big on gambling but if you are interested it might be worth checking out during your visit!

    8. Go Back in Time in Pioneertown

    Located 20 minutes away from Joshua Tree is a small town ready to take you back to the Wild West. Pioneertown is a small historical town with old-west themed events on the main street. If you head up that way, look out for Big Horned Sheep and stop for yummy tacos at Red Dog Saloon!

    9. Head to an Oasis

    Just a 30-minute drive from Joshua Tree is the cool(ish) oasis of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. This off-the-beaten-path destination has something for all abilities. Enjoy a nice stroll along the boardwalk or hike a longer trail into the canyon. Read our guide to visiting Big Morongo Canyon Preserve here!

    The preserve is also amazing for birdwatching AND an even bigger bonus, it’s completely free to visit (but you can donate if you would like!).

    Pictured: Landscape of grassy field, with trees on the left and a mountain in the background

    10. Extend Your Trip to Palm Springs or Big Bear

    Palm Springs

    Depending on the direction you came from, you may have passed Palm Springs on your way to Joshua Tree. Ride a bike through Old Las Palmas and visit VillageFest Street Market on Thursday nights. There’s a ton to do in Palm Springs, check out this guide for the best hikes in Palm Springs

    Big Bear

    A bit further than Palm Springs, you can escape the desert heat and enjoy the mountain weather. Big Bear was one of our favorite places to visit while living in the area. Walk along the lake in summer or skiing in the winter, it’s an exciting place year-round.

    Grateful Heart Animal Sanctuary

    If you get a chance to visit, Grateful Heart Animal Sanctuary in Big Bear is a wonderful livestock animal sanctuary that hosts tours and seasonal events for the family.

    We volunteered there while living in the area and it holds a special place in our hearts. When you go, say hi to Ethel and Jelly Bean for us!

    Where to Eat In + Around Joshua Tree (Vegan Options Included!)

    Since this desert region became our home, we had PLENTY of time to try local restaurants. Our diet is mostly vegan and lucky for us there are plenty of vegan options around Joshua Tree National Park but we have recommendations for everyone.

    Where to Eat in Yucca Valley:

    If you’re staying in or willing to drive to Yucca Valley, here are some delicious options in YV (oddly, the majority are pizza places, but hey they’re good!)

    • Frontier Cafe: Eclectic cafe with coffee, sandwiches, and salads. The food is fresh and delicious, bringing many visitors during busy season! Vegan Options Included
    • Two Guys Pies: Great food and quality atmosphere with fun themed names for their pizzas including “Bon Chovies” and “Avenged SevenToppings”.
    • Giant Rock Meeting Room: Pizza and a great selection of beer! They also have live music outside some nights for a chill atmosphere after a day exploring the desert! Vegan Options included
    • Yucca Valley Outpost: A hidden gem at the edge of Yucca Valley. This organic and vegan cafe is full of delicious snacks and meals! Stop by after a day hiking in the park!

    Where to Eat in Joshua Tree:

    In the small town of Joshua Tree, these are our favorite places to eat:

    • Joshua Tree Saloon: With a Wild West vibe, this bar and restaurant is great for a good meal or some drinks with friends. They are open 365 days a year and serve all ages. They also have live music some days of the week. Check the schedule out here. Vegan Options included
    Places to Eat in JT - Boo's Organic Oven
    • Natural Sisters Cafe: A popular place for lunch in downtown JT but worth it. Everything inside is vegetarian with most options being vegan as well. We LOVE the tofu salad sandwich!
    • Crossroads Cafe: We’ve only eaten breakfast here but really enjoyed our meal! This popular place in JT can get crowded during busy season so it’s best to go early (check hours) if you don’t want to wait long! Vegan Options included

    Where to Eat in 29 Palms:

    We recommend staying in 29 Palms since this entrance is much less busy than the other entrance. And while you’re in town, don’t miss these restaurants for a meal:

    Mural in 29 Palms
    • 29 Palms Inn: A unique dining experience with a charming atmosphere. We always enjoyed our meals and cocktails here! They have their own garden and change their menu seasonally. Vegan Options included
    • Bamboo Garden: The Orange Tofu and Kung Pao Tofu are SO good. We may have eaten here way too many times while living in town.Vegan Options included
    • Thai Cafe: Another great takeout option is the Thai Cafe in downtown 29 Palms. The Pad Thai and Yellow Curry are our favorites. Just like Bamboo Garden, we became regulars at this restaurant. Vegan Options included
    To eat in 29 Palms
    • Kitchen in the Desert: Located in downtown 29 Palms, this restaurant offers tapas style plates and cocktails in the the cutest setting. Vegan Options included
    • Campbell Hill Bakery: You might see a line out the door, that’s just because this popular place is pretty small. It’s worth the wait! Stop by for freshly baked bread, sandwiches, cookies, and more
    • 29 O’Clock: Variety of bubble teas found at the 29 Palms Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. They are delicious and colorful!
    • Cactus Trail Cafe: Perfect stop for breakfast or brunch in downtown 29 Palms.
    • Grnd Sqrl: Chill pub with delicious burgers and craft beer options

    Where to Stay When Visiting Joshua Tree:

    There are 3 main towns in the area of Joshua Tree National Park: Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and 29 Palms. All of the towns are pretty small and connected by the main road of Highway 62. We recommend staying in 29 Palms for a less busy experience and entrance to the park.

    Unique AirBnbs in the Joshua Tree Area

    The stores and art exhibits aren’t the only things decked out in Desert Fashion. Many of the Airbnbs found in the region have their own flare too. Airbnb is not the most budget-friendly option in the desert, expect to spend at least $120 on average a night (although some are cheaper).

    Airbnbs in the area have a wide range of types of accommodation, from regular homes to more unique stays like those listed below:

    • Retro 90’s Home: Bring on the nostalgia at this rental, perfect for a family or group of 4 friends
    • Vintage PINK RV: The cutest renovated vintage van around, great for a couple or close group of 3
    • Rustic Antique Barn: This 1940s renovated barn is rustic and chic, a must stay in Morongo Valley between JT and Palm Springs.
    • Area 55 Futuro: A real “out of this world” accommodation and experience for 4
    Hiking in Joshua Tree - things to do

    Camping In and Around Joshua Tree

    Camping Inside the Park:

    Joshua Tree National Park has 9 campgrounds with most sites only available by reservation. The 3 campgrounds are first-come, first-served are Hidden Valley, White Tank, and Belle Campgrounds but fill up fast! To reserve a campsite click here! It’s highly recommended to book a reserved site in advance!

    If you can’t find a campsite in the park, do not violate the park rules and sleep on the side of the park road. This is not allowed in Joshua Tree National Park! Instead, check out the other options below:

    Camping Outside the Park:

    To camp outside of the park, you have 2 options. You can either choose to camp in a private campground in YV, JT, or 29. Or, you can camp on BLM Land.

    Private campgrounds outside of the national park that is recommended include Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground, Twentynine Palms RV Resort, and Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA.

    However, our favorite way to camp is dispersed camping on Bureau of Land Management sites. Around Joshua Tree National Park, there are plenty of wilderness areas for dispersed camping (tent or boondocking allowed) including Sheephole Valley Wilderness. If you drive from the park towards Amboy Crater you also find a lot of open BLM land for camping!

    Interested in learning more about dispersed camping and how to find FREE campsites? Click here!

    Motels in the Joshua Tree Region

    Along with some not-so-budget-friendly hotels, there are cheap motels in the area too. When we first arrived in the desert we stuck with a basic motel in town. Since we normally travel on a budget, sticking to one of these places is great if camping isn’t your thing:

    • Motel 6 in 29 Palms: Basic motel that was clean enough, close to downtown 29 Palms.
    • America’s Best Value Inn: We stayed here when our AC went out in the summer and it was a clean and comfortable stay in 29 Palms. Super close to our favorite hike in JT!

    Things to Keep in Mind While Visiting Joshua Tree, California

    The community around Joshua Tree National Park is full of wonderful people, living their everyday lives in this otherworldly place. Do your part and be respectful to the community AND to the environment.

    It’s important to keep these things in mind while visiting:

    1. This is a community where people live year round. Make to sure follow the rules and laws of the area and be kind to the people you encounter at the park, the restaurants, and the shops!
    2. Not all the locals appreciate the tourism. Outside of the businesses it supports, some locals don’t care for the crowds that swarm to the desert. Just understand that the “Go Back to LA” bumper stickers aren’t how the entire community feels. You are welcome here!
    3. The tourism business can be good and bad. As visitors flock to JT, so does the noise and pollution. Make sure to be respectful of your neighbors (if staying in an AirBnB) and take care of your trash properly!
    4. Don’t risk it for the Instagram shot. In downtown JT and in the park, people can sometimes make not-so-great decisions trying to get the best photo. Be smart, watch your surroundings, and look both ways before crossing the road.
    5. Be safe and make smart choices. The desert environment can be a dangerous place, so make sure to wear proper clothing while exploring the outdoors, drink lots of water, and fuel your body properly!

    We hope you have a fabulous time visiting Joshua Tree, California. Need anything else for your trip? Feel free to contact us for more recommendations!

    Need some more information on visiting the national park? Don’t miss out on our guide to exploring Joshua Tree National Park and the must-do hikes here!

    things to do in Joshua Tree