Updated: Dec 27th, 2020
Earlier this month, numerous California counties (including San Francisco and Los Angeles county) entered a second shutdown. This means things like outdoor dining and hair salons are closed yet again (wah!) As much as I just want to escape to Taiwan right now and pretend everything is okay, I’ve decided to explore all the places near me first. And then maybe I’ll visit Taiwan once I’ve exhausted all my options. Luckily, there are still things we can do in California: like enjoying the great outdoors. If you’re in California, Joshua Tree is one of the best places for a quick girls weekend getaway or a getaway with your entire family. It’s also one of the easiest places to social distance.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Joshua Tree is in the Spring or Fall. My girlfriends and I went in March, and it felt like a comfortable 60 degrees during our hikes. The weather can be pretty drastic in the desert, so be sure you layer up.
How to Get There
If you’re visiting from LA, the drive from downtown LA to Joshua Tree is just over 2 hours. If you’re flying in from elsewhere, Palm Springs Airport (PSP) is the closest, but when I checked prices, it was also the most expensive to fly into from San Francisco (SFO). You can also fly into Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) or Los Angeles Airport (LAX). I recommend flying into Burbank airport if that’s an option for you as it’s less crowded and easier to get out of. LAX can be crazy busy (although maybe not during COVID times).
Where to Stay
It takes about 2-3 hours to get from East LA to Joshua Tree National Park, and it could take another 2 hours to drive from one side of the national park to the other. So where do you stay to make sure you aren’t spending most of your trip in a car? I recommend Twentynine Palms or Joshua Tree. Campgrounds and hotels are closed at the moment, so your best bet is to stay at an Airbnb. I found this nifty guide on what’s open and what’s closed in LA county. Just put in “Los Angeles” to get the rules for LA county. I traveled with 5 other girls and we stayed at a super chic Airbnb in Twentynine Palms and it was perfect. There are so many cute Airbnbs in Joshua Tree that it really is the perfect place for a girls weekend getaway.
Things to Do
Take Insta-Friendly Pics at Cholla Cactus Garden
If you’re looking for an instagrammable spot in Joshua Tree, this is it. 4-feet tall cacti fill up the vast area that is Cholla Cactus Garden, and it’s an easy stroll so perfect for pictures. Be careful as you walk through the garden though, as thorny bits from the plant are all over the walkways. If you accidentally step on one it will be a nightmare to detach the thorns from your shoe!
Admire the Sunset at Keys View
Keys View is THE place to watch the sunset. It overlooks Coachella Valley, through which the San Andreas Fault stretches. The view is unreal. My girlfriends and I stayed there for about an hour just to take pictures lol. And we did get some good ones. Make sure you give yourself enough time to drive there as it takes 20 minutes just to drive from Park Boulevard down Keys View Road. You don’t want to miss the sunset and the photo op.
Wanderer Tip: Bring a jacket as it can be pretty could up on the mountain!
Hike Arch Rock
If you thought Joshua Tree was just a park filled with a bunch of rocks, you are partially correct. Most hikes you go on will have a rocky terrain, and it almost has that Jurassic Park vibe to it. I recommend visiting Arch Rock as it not only gives you a very classic feel for Joshua Tree National Park’s rocky terrain, it is also where one of the most famous rocks – Arch Rock – is. You can get to Arch Rock either from Twin Tanks Trailhead or by staying at White Tank Campground. We got there through Twin Tanks Trailhead and it was a nice and easy 1.3-mile stroll (with some easy rock climbing).
Hike Cottonwood Spring
Another quick and easy hike, Cottonwood Spring is just 1 miles and offers a slightly different view of the national park. It’s filled with cottonwood trees and makes for a desert oasis (with shade!) This is also a great option for day hikes in case you ever decide to come just for a day.
What to Eat
Pappy & Harriet’s
If you’ve ever dreamed of experiencing the Netflix hit tv show West World, Pappy & Harriet’s brings you pretty close to that wild west life. The American (and what I consider Tex-Mex) restaurant is located at the Northwest entrance of the park in Pioneertown. When you get there, you’ll notice a large and bustling restaurant. You’ll have arrived at Pappy & Harriet’s. I ordered the quesadillas and was very happy with my choice. It’s a super satisfying meal after a morning of hikes.
The Natural Sister’s Cafe
The Natural Sister’s Cafe has healthy food that’s actually tasty! It reminds me of cafes in LA. Come while you’re doing a girls weekend getaway (I can’t imagine my boyfriend being stoked about a place like this). My girlfriends and I all ordered the Black Bean Burger, and we all gave it a five out of five. Since we ordered the same thing, I can’t tell you much else about the rest of the menu, but I’m sure they’re equally delicious. The juices were also really good.
If you’re looking for a fancier place to sit down and eat, look no further than La Copine. Their Crispy Blackened Chicken was amazing, and I also liked their ceviche dish. They seem to change up their menu from time to time, so check their website or yelp page for the latest.
Joshua Tree is a magical place with delicious food, lots of nature, and well-decorated accommodations. It’s the perfect place for a girls weekend getaway near LA but can easily be turned into a romantic getaway for couples or a casual outdoor weekend for families. While it’s still open, take advantage of all that it has to offer, including all the cute insta-friendly spots, get some good hiking in, and stay socially distant.