WHERE | Joshua Tree National Park, Southern California
WHY | Lose yourself, find yourself, inspire your creativity, clear your mind, move your body, stir your soul. Stunning views, clean air, wide open spaces, peaceful days, starry nights. Hike, bike, climb, run, or just sit and marvel at the beauty that surrounds you. Bring your camera and your sense of adventure. Any easy jaunt from (and to) Los Angeles, San Diego, or Palm Springs and a blissful retreat from the hustle and bustle of it all.
WHEN | Fall + Spring are ideal, early morning or just before sunset when the light dances with the colors of the desert and the shadows are long. Winter is beautiful but cold and often windy as JT sits at 3,000. Summers can be brutal. Check the weather and come prepared. Cell service disappears a little ways past the main gate. Bring plenty of water no matter when you visit.
SLEEP | Not a camper? Skip the chain hotels and check out the unique lodging options in and around Twentynine Palms. Many of the local hotels around the park reflect the Wild West desert vibe (think rustic, creative, retro with an endearing side of quirky kitch) and The Joshua Tree Inn, Spin and Margie's Desert Hideaway, and the Harmony Motel (where U2 supposedly wrote most of their Joshua Tree album) are all classics that do it right. For desert chic, eco-friendly digs, grab a bottle of vino and retreat to the lux Sacred Sands B&B with its thick earthen straw-bale walls or the quiet Mojave Sands, which comes complete with your own private patio and a collection of vinyl to spin for your listening pleasure. And don't forget about the well-reputed Air BnB's that have sprung up as of recent. (Cactus Mountain and The Joshua Tree House are both high on my wishlist for future visits.)
EAT + DRINK | Although Twentynine Palms is still a small frontier-like town, it boasts plenty of good options for fueling up before or after your day in the park. Crossroads Cafe is a breakfast-lover's dream but they also roll out some seriously good fish tacos and they almost always have a solid Coachella Valley Brewing option on tap. Lovers of hearty western fare will find their bliss at JT's or Larry & Milt's (neither have websites nor do they need them as their reputation for deliciousness had gotten around long before the www). The Joshua Tree Coffee Company will satisfy even the most die hard coffee-lover (trust me). Get your pizza fix at Pie for the People (good for kids) or go fresh + healthy at Natural Sisters.