Desert Diaries- LA to Joshua Tree

Ever since my first visit to Joshua Tree, it’s always been one of my favourite places to travel to. When Steve and I originally visited back in 2015, I remember entering the park and almost wondering what all the fuss was about? There were these weird looking trees combined with a super sparse landscape and you would think there was nothing much to see when you drove through. But when the sun set across the sparse landscape, it became a magical place filled with warmth and colour; where the long shadows of the Joshua Trees danced on the desert floor.

When the opportunity to visit came up on our last trip, we jumped at the chance! With only 48 hours until we had to be back in LA, we started embarked upon a whistle stop tour!

I thought I’d take you through some of the places we to visited which would definitely make the most out of a short trip to the desert!

Stop 1- TACOS

A suggestion from Jax as we were heading out of LA. Mariscos Jalisco is owned by Raul Ortega and has been in the same place making the best shrimp tacos for 15 years. If you’re in the area be sure to stop by and get the tacos, you won’t be disappointed! Check out Jax’s vlog (where the photo above is taken from) for a little interview with Raul and our initial reactions too!


I’d been seeing a lot of photos of the motel on Instagram recently, so when we were thinking of somewhere to stay, this place immediately came to mind. It was originally used as the motel for actors working on the Western Movies which were shot in Pioneer Town itself. Steve and I stayed in John Wayne’s former room and the decor is just what you would expect from a stylish desert motel. We arrived in the dark and were greeted by an outdoor yard party in full swing! They were having a little get together for the locals with complimentary food and beer and invited us to join! Such a cool way to begin our evening stay! The next morning I got up to catch the sunrise accompanied by the local complimentary coffee they serve from 6am, it was an amazing way to start the day!

Stop 3- Pappy & Harriet’s Palace Pioneer Town

We explored Pioneer Town the next morning, the old sets have been converted into cool independent craft shops and makes for some photographic backdrop gold! It was lunchtime by the time we’d finished fulfilling our western dreams so we decided to look for somewhere good to eat near by. Jax had a quick search and quickly realised we were by one of the best restaurants around! Pappy & Harriet’s is one of those places that’s been around for years, much like the motel it has a long history and is well known music venue in the area. The walls are decorated with memorabilia over the years and even if you pop in just to drink an Arnold Palmer (which was the size of my head I might add) it would be worth it! If you’re in the mood for breakfast/brunch, you should also check out La Copine.

Stop 4- Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum

A place of wonder and filled with large scale sculptures made out of anything and everything. Noah Purifoy was an artist and an activist and during his life created this outdoor desert museum filled with large scale sculptures made out of anything and everything he could find. It was such an interesting place to explore and somewhere you should definitely visit if you’re in the area.

Stop 5- Joshua Tree National Park

We arrived in the park just in time for sunset, and though it was a cloudy day, it was still beautiful to see the colours of the sun slowly disappear across the landscape. We drove about five minutes into the park, pulling into the car park just past the first large boulders on the right. After some precarious boulder climbing from Aria, we settled on top of one of the boulders to take it all in. Every time I visit this place I love how the colours of the landscape change so dramatically at this time of day. (Just a note that you have to pay to gain entry into the park and if you have time, I would definitely recommend the cactus field too! It’s about a 30 minute drive from the entrance).

Stop 6- Sparrows Lodge Palm Springs

After dropping Rachelle back to her place, the four of us headed towards Palm Springs to spend the night. We normally only visit Palm Springs for Coachella, so it was nice to see it when it was a little quieter! We booked Sparrows Lodge on the drive over as there was a last minute deal which meant they’re available rooms were dramatically reduced in price. We arrived to welcome sangrias and I couldn’t get over the stone shower and little outdoor area that came with each of the rooms. The hotel itself is in the style of a ranch with the rooms surrounding the pool and a barn type bar in the middle. In the evenings they also provide free smore kits, so if you do stay, definitely take advantage of that!

Stop 7- Bill’s Pizza

The evening came around pretty quickly and by the time we’d settled into our room there were only a few quick options left for dinner. We were recommended Bill’s Pizza and head straight there. A traditional American pizza place with pizzas that have to be shared as they’re that big! We sat outside, had good conversation and great simple food too.

Stop 8- Doug Aitken’s Mirage House

Photo by Lance Gerber

The following morning we picked up coffees from Ernest Coffee and headed a little out of town to Doug Aitken’s Mirage House. An art installation that was built the previous April as part of the Coachella Arts festival. However to our disappointment we arrived to a guard saying it was now closed to the public and only people with written permission from Doug himself were allowed admittance. After an hour of trying to contact the correct people we sadly gave up. I’m hoping this might be open when we head back in April for Coachella and even though we didn’t get to visit, I wanted to include it just in case anyone else had the idea of visiting it too, definitely try to email the artist before you get there if you desperately want to visit.

Stop 9 – Cabazon Dinosaur & Cabazon In-‘n’-Out Burger

After saying our goodbyes to Jax and Aria we started our journey back to LA. As tradition, every time we head back from Palm Springs to LA we stop at the giant dinosaurs, which are just off the freeway. Definitely one of the most random things we’ve found on the side of the motorway but a great photo opportunity! It’s also right next to In-‘n’-Out so if you haven’t visited one of these yet on your trip, it’s a good place to do it. I’d recommend either the grilled cheese or the double-double depending on what you’re feeling on the day!

Stop 10 – Cabazon Outlets

The outlets are a two minute drive from the dinosaurs and a fun place to find some awesome bargains. They’ve got a variety of different brands there from super luxury like Saint Laurent and Gucci to sportswear brands like Nike. There’s definitely something here for everyone.

After the outlets, we travelled back to LA, sometimes there’s a benefit to having limited time in places as you try and fit in as much as possible. It was such an awesome couple of days; it’s always fun to travel with new people as you end up doing things you wouldn’t necessarily do on your own or in a couple.

Hope this helps if you’re headed out to Joshua Tree/ Palm Springs area and I would love to know if you visited any of the places mentioned too! All the spots are also included on my map below too!