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Blogs California Joshua Tree National Park

52 Things to Do in the Hi-Desert

I was raised in La Quinta, California and didn’t even know where the little town of Morongo Valley was. Now, 3 years in, I’m officially a “Morogan” and have actually loved calling the swanky Hi-Desert home. The Hi-Desert is an informal designation applied to areas of the Mojave Desert in Southern California, which includes cities like Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms found along Highway 62.  Besides hiking, camping and off-roading, there isn’t a whole lot to do, which is a big part of why I love it out here. It’s open air, beautiful desert landscapes and a place where you can actually see the stars at night. Since moving here 3 years ago I have found a few fun hidden gems and we now have a few regular spots we frequent so I’ve decided to compile a list of all there is to see and do in the Hi-Desert region. Happy reading!

  1. Big Morongo Valley Preserve – Located in Morongo Valley, the preserve is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and serves as an essential habitat for both resident and migrating bird species, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
  2. Coyote Cone – This is a fairly new ice cream and coffee shop in Morongo Valley. They serve rite-aid ice cream and make date shakes as well as serve coffee they brew themselves called, Desert Dog.
  3. Cactus Mart – A well-known nursery and garden center located in Morongo Valley.
  4. Dillion’s Burgers & Beer – Dillion’s is a local restaurant and bar in the desert with two locations, one in Desert Hot Springs and one in Morongo Valley. It’s definitely a dive bar with an interesting atmosphere but I actually really like their food and recommend trying their jalapeño poppers.
  5. Coyote Ride Stable – Located in Morongo Valley, this ranch offers guided horseback riding tours.
  6. Crazy Horse Ranch – This is another location in Morongo Valley that offers horseback riding tours.
  7. Cottonwood Canyon Ranch – This is yet another ranch in Morongo Valley offering horseback riding tours and lessons. Seeing a theme here?
  8. Sand to Snow Monument Bar & Grill – Another dive bar in Morongo Valley with a pool table and cheap drinks. I don’t care for their food all that much but it’s the only place offering any sort of nightlife if you’re looking to go out for a couple of drinks and a round or two of pool.
  9. Morongo Valley Cafe – A little diner offering breakfast and lunch in Morongo Valley. I actually really like the food here as well.
  10. Spaghetti Western – A new restaurant serving dinner in Morongo Valley with open mic night every Sunday. It’s a bit pricy for what they offer in my opinion but hey, it’s nice to actually have one restaurant in town that serves steak and potatoes.
  11. Yucca Bowl – This is the local bowling alley in Yucca Valley that we’ve been to far too many times for my liking.
  12. Frontier Café – A cozy cafe known for its breakfast items, sandwiches, and coffee drinks in Yucca Valley.
  13. Mojave Flea Trading Post – Explore an assortment of antiques, collectibles, and unique treasures from various eras at this flea market in Yucca Valley.
  14. Pappy + Harriets – A legendary desert roadhouse with live music, delicious barbecue, and a rustic, outdoor concert venue.
  15. Pioneertown – A western-style movie set turned tourist attraction. You can enjoy mock gunfights, explore the shops, and even catch a meal at the famous Pappy & Harriet’s.
  16. Pioneertown Motel – This iconic motel captures the essence of the Old West while providing modern amenities. It’s located in Pioneertown and offers comfortable rooms with a vintage vibe.
  17. Warren Peak Trail – Hike to the top of Warren Peak for panoramic views of the Hi-Desert region. This is an out & back hike in Yucca Valley that is 5.6 miles total with 1,105 feet elevation gain.
  18. Pie for the People – Enjoy a variety of creative and classic pizzas with fresh ingredients in a relaxed atmosphere.
  19. Cactus Wren Book Exchange – For bookworms and literary explorers, the Cactus Wren Book Exchange is a little used bookstore in Yucca Valley! Browse through shelves filled with carefully curated titles spanning various genres.
  20. Hoof & The Horn – A boutique shop offering a curated selection of clothing, accessories, home goods, and gifts with a bohemian and desert-inspired vibe.
  21. BKB Ceramics – This studio and gallery features handcrafted ceramics by local artist Brianna Berbenuik. Explore beautifully crafted pottery pieces that reflect the spirit of the desert.
  22. La Palapa Mexican Cuisine – This family-owned Mexican restaurant serves authentic dishes and great drinks. This is always our go to spot. Enjoy a warm and welcoming atmosphere while indulging in traditional flavors.
  23. Hi-Desert Nature Museum – Learn about the unique natural and cultural history of the Hi-Desert region at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum. The museum offers exhibits, workshops, and educational programs for all ages.
  24. Hi-View Nature Trail -This is a 1 & 1/2 mile loop trail in Yucca Valley. It is rated moderate and has a 325 elevation gain.
  25. Crossroads Café – A local favorite in Joshua Tree, Crossroads Café offers a diverse menu featuring breakfast, lunch, and dinner options made with locally sourced ingredients. The menu includes comfort foods, sandwiches, salads, and vegetarian choices.
  26. Natural Sisters Café – Known for its healthy and vegetarian-friendly menu, offering salads, wraps, and smoothies. I love this place personally!
  27. Joshua Tree Farmers Market – If you’re visiting on a Saturday, check out the farmers market for fresh produce, artisanal goods, and a taste of the local community.
  28. Joshua Tree Coffee Company – If you’re looking for a cozy spot to enjoy a cup of coffee, this café is the place to be. They roast their own beans and make great, traditional coffee drinks and a very strong cold brew. This place is another one of my favorites…obviously.
  29. Joshua Tree Saloon – A classic desert watering hole serving pub-style food, burgers, and hosting live music events.
  30. Coyote Corner – A gift shop that captures the essence of the desert with a range of southwestern-inspired goods, including jewelry, clothing, home decor, and more.
  31. Joshua Tree Dry Lake Bed – The Joshua Tree Dry Lake Bed is a large, flat expanse of dry lake bed located in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. It’s free dispersed camping where many venture out to go off-roading.
  32. Joshua Tree National Park – This is the main attraction. Hike among the iconic Joshua trees, marvel at stunning rock formations, and take in breathtaking desert vistas.
  33. Joshua Tree Music Festival – If your visit coincides with this annual event, immerse yourself in the sounds of diverse musicians, from indie to world music. Enjoy live performances against the backdrop of the desert landscape.
  34. Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum – Wander through a unique sculpture garden featuring art installations made from recycled materials.
  35. World Famous Crochet Museum – Discover the quirky Crochet Museum in Joshua Tree, featuring crochet art installations. You’ve probably seen pictures of the little green shop in Instagram photos.
  36. Giant Rock – This is the largest freestanding boulder in North America. It’s located in Joshua Tree and many locals consider the area to be sacred. Today, people like to go here for off-roading, bon fires and camping.
  37. Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center – Explore the night sky at this observatory in Twentynine Palms that offers stargazing events, educational programs, and telescope viewing.
  38. Twentynine Palms Historical Society – Discover the town’s history through exhibits, artifacts, and memorabilia. Learn about the Native American heritage, early settlers, and the marine base’s impact on the community.
  39. City of 29 Palms Visitor Center – Get information about the area’s attractions, trails, and activities at the Twentynine Palms Visitor Center. It’s a great starting point for your desert adventure.
  40. 29 Palms Creative Center and Gallery – Immerse yourself in the local art scene at this creative hub. Participate in workshops, view exhibitions, and engage with artists from the community.
  41. Smith’s Ranch Drive-In Theater – Experience a slice of nostalgia by catching a movie at this classic drive-in theater. Enjoy a film under the stars from the comfort of your car.
  42. 29 Palms Inn – This historic inn provides a charming atmosphere and is a great spot for dining. Enjoy a meal with a view of the oasis, or explore the property’s gardens and art installations.
  43. Rock Climbing – Joshua Tree is a world-renowned rock climbing destination, offering challenges for climbers of all skill levels.
  44. Stargazing: The clear desert skies make Joshua Tree an excellent spot for stargazing. Consider bringing a telescope or joining a local astronomy event.
  45. Off-roading – Off-roading is also a huge activity for locals in the hi-desert and even those visiting. There’s miles and miles off trails to explore with stunning views.
  46. Camping – Camping is another huge activity to enjoy. Aside from Joshua Tree National Park, there’s also a handful of other dispersed camping areas people enjoy.
  47. Vacation Rentals – The VRBO’s and AirBNB’s available to rent are a huge reason why people flock to the Hi-Desert. These placess to stay offer a unique, quiet and remote desert retreat.
  48. Photography – Film fanatics also tend to flock to the Hi-Desert to capture the breathtaking scenery and snag incredible shots of the stars and the infamous Joshua Trees scattered about.
  49. Scenic Drives – Take a scenic drive through the surrounding desert landscapes to experience the vastness and beauty of the Mojave Desert.
  50. Biking – Enjoy mountain biking on designated trails that offer a mix of challenges and stunning desert views.
  51. Horseback Riding – Experience the desert from a different perspective by going horseback riding on guided trail rides.
  52. Sunrise and Sunset Viewing – Wake up early to witness the stunning sunrise over the desert horizon, or capture the vibrant colors of the sunset in the evening. Hi-Desert sunrises and sunsets are some of the best I’ve seen.

So, how many things on this list can you successfully cross off? As always, travel on my friends.

Blogs Joshua Tree National Park

Must-Stops in Joshua Tree National Park

Looking to take a drive through Joshua Tree National Park? Here are my must-stop locations that don’t involve much hiking. The park has three different entrances so be sure to do your research on where each of these stops are located so that you can map out the best route.

Arch Rock

You can reach this iconic site by embarking on a moderate half-mile hike. The trail offers picturesque views of hundreds of Joshua Trees, diverse flora and large rock formations leading to the awe-inspiring rock formation characterized by a natural arch.

Heart Rock

Located in the same area as Arch Rock, Heart Rock can be found with just a half mile walk from where you park your car. The trail will lead you do a sign with one direction pointing towards Arch Rock and the opposite direction pointing towards Heart Rock.

Cholla Cactus Garden

Cholla Cactus Garden is located in the park’s Pinto Basin and showcases a dense congregation of cholla cacti. You can explore the garden via a short quarter-mile walk.

Keys View

At an elevation of 5,185 feet, Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park offers a breathtaking panoramic vista of the surrounding Coachella Valley. Accessible by a short drive from the park’s entrance, this iconic viewpoint provides visitors with a spectacular overlook of the desert landscape, including the Salton Sea, San Andreas Fault, and the distant peaks of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio.

Skull Rock

Skull Rock is a unique rock formation that resembles a skull. The rock’s distinctive shape was carved by wind and erosion.

Jumbo Rocks

Jumbo Rocks is an area with massive granite boulders. The towering rock formations create a playground for climbers, while hikers can venture through the maze-like formations, and campers can witness stunning sunsets and star-filled night skies.

Barker Dam

Barker Dam is a historical and scenic site that offers a glimpse into the region’s past. This small reservoir was constructed by early cattle ranchers and homesteaders in the late 19th century. Today, visitors can embark on a short hike to reach the dam and explore its surroundings.

Wall Street Mill

Wall Street Mill is also a fascinating historical site.. Accessible via a moderately easy hike, this well-preserved mill stands as a testament to the region’s gold mining era in the early 20th century.

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley is a picturesque and secluded area within Joshua Tree National Park. Tucked away from the main road, Hidden Valley is accessible via a short walk from the parking area. This enclosed area is surrounded by towering rock formations, creating a natural amphitheater. Hidden Valley is also a popular spot for rock climbing and bouldering

I hope this blog provided some insight on quick stops for an afternoon exploring Joshua Tree National Park. As always, travel on my friends.

Blogs Joshua Tree National Park

Day Trip to Joshua Tree Itinerary

Last weekend my parents and I spent the day in Joshua Tree and here’s what we did.

We met at Joshua Tree Coffee Company at 10 a.m. because every trip to Joshua Tree National Park must begin with a cold brew from JTree Coffee Co. It was packed there that morning (maybe due to Coachella Fest) and my cold brew took quite a while to make. I didn’t have much of a breakfast that morning and noticed a pop-up shop next to the coffee shop serving fresh quiches and wow, best decision. I wish I knew the name of the little place next door but I will say, if they’re always there, go. Run!

My cold brew was fantastic too, of course.

We then drove into the park via the West Entrance, which is about 10 miles east from the city of Yucca Valley. We were there on a Saturday and thought it was going to take a while to get in but the wait was quick. I also bought a new National Park Pass, which I renew every year. If you’re a frequent hiker/traveler, I would highly recommend getting the pass! It’s $80 and most day passes into parks are $30-$40. We live close to Joshua Tree National Park and usually plan a trip to at least one other park each year, making the pass so worth it. It also gets you access to a lot of other state parks and landmarks!

Once inside the Park we headed toward Ryan Mountain, which is located in the central part of the park. We actually had never hiked this trail before and it was tougher and steeper than we thought it was going to be. Ryan Mountain is definitely one of the most rewarding hikes within Joshua Tree National Park though, offering stunning views of the desert landscape from its summit. The trail, which is 3 miles round trip, is clearly marked and easy to follow. It has a total elevation gain of 1,050 feet and the elevation at the top is 5,457 feet. Although the ascent is steep in parts, hikers of all levels can complete the journey. Once at the top, you can take in the awe-inspiring panoramic views of the surrounding desert. We were shocked at how green the landscape looked due to the amount of rain we had this spring. We could also clearly see three snowcapped mountains in the distance: San Jacinto, Big Bear and what we think was San Gorgonio.

After hiking Ryan Mountain, we planned to stop and see two more landmarks within the park (Arch Rock & Heart Rock), which I thought I remembered being in locations where you just park your car, get out and see them…but, I was a bit off unfortunately. We were quite tired from our hike and it was a very sunny day and Arch Rock/Heart Rock ended up being another 1.4 miles out & back. It was an easy route that took another 30 minutes to complete. It sure was pretty though! My parents had never been to Arch Rock and we all hadn’t seen the Heart Rock before.

We ended the afternoon with a celebratory, post hike beer on the patio at Joshua Tree Saloon. We were surprised with beautiful weather and fun live music and delicious iced cold beer.

What a great day! Thanks for reading along.

As always, travel on my friends.