Posted on March 29 2017
Joshua Tree Road Trip Guide
When it comes to the vast expanse of the Mojave desert, there’s a city for every traveler. Beyond the rows of wind turbines churning out energy and hospitable waves of welcome into the dust and dunes of the desert rests lavish palm covered resorts and intimate cottage retreats. Looking for a swim and spa situation, try Palm Springs. Want more of a locals vibe with farm to table eats, top notch airbnb’s, and prehistoric terrain? Then Joshua Tree is your town. We took a road trip down the 101 and embraced a life as desert dwellers (at least for a few days...but we wish we'd stayed longer). Check out our favorite road stops to break up the drive and must see spots in the cozy desert town that helped us recharge, reconnect, and relax.
We hit the highway after bay area rush hour and took the scenic route to the Madonna Inn—a great overnight stay to break up the drive. This was a vacation after all! The historic hotel is known for its eclectic, unique themed rooms. With rock showers in the “Caveman” suite and a plush spiral staircase, pink carpet and floral wallpaper in the “Love Nest”— you’ll want to research room options and snag your favorite ahead of time. The kitschiest suites tend to book early. We grabbed an old school bite at the resort's opulent steak house then took in a full moon swim in the heated pool overlooking San Luis Obispo. Give yourself time to walk around the grounds, greet the cows, and snap some portraits before hitting the road the next morning.
Even with a reasonable start, we hit bad L.A. traffic, so if you're going the road trip route to the desert, we advise waking and hitting the road on the early-side to get the most out of your trip (earlier than 11 A.M. when we left because apparently Los Angeles rush hour is now an all day affair). If you're driving into the desert during daylight, take a pit stop at Hadley’s for there famous date shakes. I was sad to see that their old giant green wooden shake had been upgraded to a modern storefront, but the shakes are top notch all the same. Next door sits the swankiest outlet mall I’ve ever seen. If you’ve ever wanted to splurge on Valentino or Gucci, this would be the place to do it. Next, drive down the freeway to the next exit and meet the lifesize Cabazon dino statues. This is a great spot to let kids or pups run around and stretch their limbs or grab a fun family photo-op inside a T-Rex mouth.
(similar dress here)
After the fun and fresh air of dinos and shakes, we drove into Joshua Tree. We stayed at JT Villager’s airbnb for a taste of local living, and privacy. No joke, we would move into this remodeled cottage in a heartbeat. WIth a coffee shop in walking distance and vitamix in the kitchen, we were ready to explore.
I knew the one place I had to visit in town (besides the National Park) was The End—a vintage sanctuary! After trying on folk art treasures and decades old designer duds, we snapped some pictures in front of Elena Stonaker’s instagram infamous murals on the End’s brick exterior. We worked up a mean appetite and stopped into Frontier Cafe for some tasty grub (they even had vegan and gluten free options!) to refuel before adventuring to the National Park.
(similar dress here)
If you’re ever near the Mojave, take a day or two (or four) to explore the curves of boulder stacked mini mountains and the never ending sea of Joshua Trees in the National Park. We kicked off our shoes and climbed like curious children for hours. Bring a camera and some snacks to keep you hydrated and happy. This landscape is ancient and not to be missed. Extra points if you stick around to watch the sunset AND moonrise (the moon is GIANT creeping up the desert horizon).
Before we hit the dusty trail home, we grabbed brunch at a new local restaurant— La Copine. This all- woman run restaurant stole the show this trip! They jazzed up comfort food classics with some high desert class and spice. Cardamom rice pudding with blood oranges, raspberry coulis, and pepitas? Yes, please! Every bite was blissful. Every plate a smashing, culinary success. Your stomach and taste buds will leave elated and ready for the road trip home.
While we didn't quite make it to everything on our to do list (check out Salvation Mountain and the Salton Sea), we did manage to snag a free roaming tumbleweed to take home as organic home decor that I don't have to worry about killing from lack of sunlight or water. Escaping to Joshua Tree was just the trip we needed, and a place we will definitely re-visit soon.