Escape Plan: Joshua Tree

By |2018-01-07T17:18:16+00:00January 5th, 2018|The Travel Edit|

Head to this stylish and sun-drenched desert destination for an Insta-worthy adventure.

Joshua Tree. Photo by Jamie Banks.

A two-hour drive from Los Angeles, Joshua Tree and the neighbouring town of Yucca Valley are perfect for a wintertime getaway. Here you can explore hiking trails without having to sacrifice your creature comforts, go vintage shopping and fill up on healthy eats. Weekenders, weirdos, committed explorers and road-trippers alike are drawn to this spot in the Mojave Desert, with its alluring, strange and mysterious energy. Rent a car over a long weekend and be sure to stay up for the picturesque purple sunsets and star-speckled nights.

What To Do

Visit sun-bleached Joshua Tree National Park for a short hike, longer trek or day of rock bouldering. Take in the desert’s sparse beauty, spotted with wondrously warped Joshua trees at hiking stop-off points Hidden Valley, Skull Rock, Keys View Lookout, Barker Dam and Cholla Cactus Garden. If you look closely, you might notice discreet creatures amidst the creosote bushes in the evening, most notably coyotes, hares and bighorn sheep.

For some historical context, explore the wacky and glorious Pioneertown, an abandoned Hollywood western set founded in the 1940s. Alternatively, Palm Springs’ fabulous architecture and pools are only an hour away and make for a dreamy day trip.

Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Jamie Banks.

Where To Shop

Joshua Tree boasts a number of swoon-worthy boutiques, including Blockshop Textiles, a studio with an LA outpost that sells minimalist Indian block print scarves, prints, pillows and linens. Look for the established BKB Ceramics to find earthy, textured and geometric-patterned ceramics, along with an array of cool housewares.

Be sure to peruse the many vintage shops in Yucca Valley, including The End, Promised Land and Black Luck Vintage. As well, The Hoof & the Horn (“one part crystal visionary, one part moon mystic,” according to the website) is definitely worth the stop. It features affordable contemporary and vintage-inspired goods, including this t-shirt by Lost Lust Supply, plus beautiful leather goods and indie pins and patches, curated with a discerning aesthetic.

And don’t miss Coyote Corner, a small gift shop with crystals, Mexican skull art and local crafts amidst your run-of-the-mill keychains and magnets. Pick up a few copies of Desert Oracle, a local ‘zine published by former Gawker journalist Ken Layne, who writes that the desert is “the weirdest show on earth,” among many other solid one-liners that are sure to sum up your stay.

Where To Stay

Airbnb is loaded with options for living the temporarily secluded life. Stay in a 1961 Airstream Safari, located on artist Tao Ruspoli’s Yucca Valley property. Just make sure your vehicle can handle the dirt roads that scramble off the paved highways. Soak up the evening light and incredible views while meeting fellow travellers in the beautiful main house. For more Airbnb options, Fathom Away has a great guide for housing rentals in Joshua Tree.

You can also stay at the rustic Pioneertown Motel, with its clean white walls, wooden-beamed ceilings and beds decked out in Mexican blankets and kilim pillows. Or, if you’re looking for a true desert oasis retreat, the magical 29 Palms Inn is a 15-mile-drive away and includes a swimming pool and Instagram-worthy pink bungalows nestled between cacti and succulents alike.

Views from the 1961 Airstream Airbnb. Photo by Jamie Banks.

Where To Eat

Grab a BLT sandwich and a latte for breakfast or an avocado tartine and freshly squeezed OJ for lunch at Frontier Cafe, a roomy, woodsy cafe that doubles as an artsy event space. Note the tarot cards as table markers, the local art on the walls, and the dried desert plant and skull decor.

For a classic diner meal with an extensive breakfast menu, opt for Crossroads Cafe. Embrace the western kitsch and enjoy the friendly service while sampling mimosa varieties, like the Desert Rose, featuring cranberry juice and champagne.

If you like rubbing shoulders with LA hipsters and also like really good food, head to La Copine for dinner or late lunch. Fan faves include the fried chicken and any of the bottled brews from Costa Mesa’s Barley Forge Brewing Co. Get there early, or be prepared for a lineup.

The Frontier Cafe. Photo by Jamie Banks.

Where To Drink

Pappy & Harriet’s is a staple drinking hole and live music venue in Pioneertown with highly sought after barbecued cuisine. Expect a crowd on weekends — musicians regularly flock to play the small stage at this special spot, with past performers including Paul McCartney and Queens of the Stone Age. Live music not your thing? Get your drink on at a number of dive bars in the middle of town, like local favourite JT Saloon.