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The community of Joshua Tree rises out of the Mojave Desert in stark contrast to Palm Springs, the nearby city known for mid-century estates and plentiful swimming pools. Joshua Tree residents have instead embraced a rugged, cheerfully weird vision of the West. Iconoclasts, artists, musicians, and outdoorsy types have all carved out a place for themselves in this arid landscape, where an abbreviated downtown is home to shops selling vintage wares, handicrafts, crystals, and herbs. Many use the town as a base for exploring nearby Joshua Tree National Park, whose nearly 800,000 acres lure hikers, rock-climbers, and stargazers with an magical landscape marked by vast plains, mountains, rock formations, cacti, and the unusual trees for which this place is named.
Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) is the closest major transportation, at about an hour’s drive away. Once you arrive at the airport, get a rental car. It’s the most convenient way to get to Joshua Tree and enjoy everything this rural destination has to offer.
Spring and fall are the most popular times to visit Joshua Tree, when temperatures are mild and hospitable to hiking and other outdoor activities. (Be sure to pack layers for these seasons, as temperatures can drop dramatically when the sun goes down.) In March and April, dazzlingly colored wildflowers bloom in the national park. During the summer, temperatures can soar into the hundreds Fahrenheit; in the winter the days are cool and the nights are freezing, with snow at higher elevations. In May and October the town hosts the Joshua Tree Music Festival, which features up-and-coming artists, many of whom have gone on to major careers.
This park is named for the goofy-looking Joshua tree, which can grow to 40 feet high and sprouts a multitude of wiggly branches topped with unruly crowns of spiky leaves. This sprawling scenic wonderland has lots of activities to offer, including scenic hikes, rock climbing, birdwatching, and horseback riding. Thanks to a dearth of artificial light, it’s also an ideal place for stargazing, and depending on the time of year, you can see the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, and, in August, the Perseid meteor shower.
Have you even visited the desert if you haven’t tapped into an otherworldly energy vortex? The creator of the Integratron, a circa-1954 wooden dome that looks like a grounded spaceship, claimed the design was based in part on telepathic communications from space aliens and centered his portal on a powerful geomagnetic vortex. Regardless of whether you believe in the original intention behind the Integratron, you can’t deny the dome is wildly conducive to beautiful, clear acoustics. Those perfect acoustics draw hundreds of visitors weekly for restorative sound baths performed live on 20 quartz crystal singing bowls.
Located in Joshua Tree’s teensy downtown, the World Famous Crochet Museum is installed inside a slime-green former photo-processing booth. Its walls are jammed floor to ceiling with crochet critters and objects that the museum’s creator has collected over the years, including yarn cakes, poodles, and alligators. Drink in the absurdity, then snag a souvenir from her adjacent studio, where she sells artworks and T-shirts screenprinted with her original designs.