I fell in love with Joshua Tree after my now husband and I took a chance at camping over Valentine’s Day weekend 2015. We ended up in a lovely spot at Jumbo Rocks campground completely enamored with the magic of the desert. Joshua Tree and the desert have held a special place in our hearts ever since!
That first adventure has continued to bring us back, and we have experienced everything from camping, glamping and hotel stays. If camping or glamping aren’t for you- have no fear! I have the perfect desert accommodation complete with modern kitsch, desert vibe, and Hollywood history. It’s the Pioneertown Motel!
WHERE TO STAY IN JOSHUA TREE
Staying at Pioneertown
Technically, Pioneertown Motel is just outside of Joshua Tree, but a majority of folks staying there are setting out to see the park. Take a 15 minute drive east and you’ll arrive at the West Entrance of the park.
Pioneertown was originally built in the 1940s to depict the 1880s American West in film and television productions. Many film and TV westerns have been shot in Pioneertown and its still used for productions to this day. Staying at the motel puts you in walking distance to the main drag of wild west storefronts! Some of them are actual merchants selling everything from vintage clothing to unique pieces by local artists. The rest are facades, equally as fun to peruse and explore. Be sure to stop and read the signs for tidbits of history and a few good laughs.
It’s all in the details
Pioneertown Motel is truly a one of a kind place. The spirit of the desert is felt in everything on the property, down to details like the soap in the bathroom and camp chairs provided for stargazing.
Don’t let “Motel” in the name fool you- the rooms are so lovely. Think artisan crafted wood, worked leather and handwoven textiles. There are no TV’s but the wifi is strong.
Scattered across the property are communal areas offering the opportunity to kick back, relax and stargaze. I’d highly recommend trying to find a spot at the fire pit, right near the office. The hosts will start a fire for you and show you how to keep it going to enjoy the night.
Or, cuddle up in one of the hammocks sitting right in front of your room. There’s nothing like laying back and taking in the myriad of stars above you. The light pollution in Pioneertown is almost non-existent and I would argue you can see just as many stars if you were out in the park.
Alternatively, you can grab a complimentary cup of coffee from the Canteen, the motel’s lounge, and rock your hammock in the solitude of desert morning.
Another favorable reason to stay in Pioneertown when visiting Joshua Tree is the food. Again, staying at the Motel brings you a few steps away from two of the best restaurants in the area.
- Pappy and Harriets Pioneertown Palace – No trip to Joshua Tree is complete without trying to get lunch or dinner at Pappy and Harriets. Once a biker bar, it now thrives as a family friendly BBQ joint with live music. Artists from Paul McCartney to Lizzo have performed on Pappy and Harriets tiny stage! Note I say “try” to eat there. It’s notorious for long waits most days and they currently aren’t taking reservations, though pre-Covid they did well in advance. I’d encourage grabbing a drink, hanging out on the patio and taking in the expansive desert views while you wait!
- Red Dog Saloon- This is the newest dining addition to Pioneertown. It’s all tacos and cocktails. Everything was delicious but I recommend the brisket or the mushroom asada. They offer a large patio that implies a communal setting, so be prepared to make a friend or two!
- Download a stargazing app to your phone so you can identify and watch the constellations move throughout the night.
- Keep an eye on Pappy and Harriets for reservations to reopen.
- The best and busiest times to visit are spring and fall. Visiting in the summer will bring less crowds but the heat during the day can become quite unbearable. Visiting in the winter will yield much milder temperatures but the sun goes down early and the nights are chilly.
- Explore Mane Street first thing in the morning to indulge in a deserted wild west town feel and take pictures without the crowds and bright sun that come midday.