Remote travel destinations like national parks and private lodging options (hi, van life) have looked sexier than ever in the past couple of years as wanderlusters sought safe ways to travel in light of Covid-19.
Your very own RV parked in a wild setting? Please, and thank you.
AutoCamp may already be a household name among Bay Area adventurers who’ve bunked at the Santa Barbara–based company’s Airstreams at outposts in Guerneville (since 2016) and Yosemite National Park, which opened in 2019. Now the brand is offering its unique glamping experience in Joshua Tree, giving us all a fresh reason to brake for the desert.
If you’ve never been to an AutoCamp or dipped your toes into Airstream life, you can expect a blurring of the line between camping and a limited-service hotel.
All AutoCamp locations have a central clubhouse, an architectural focal point where you can check in, grab snacks and drinks, and kick back in the communal lounge. At the Joshua Tree camp, located about a 10-minute walk from the eastern edge of town, the structure was architected from raw and natural materials by HKS to resemble the semi-cylindrical, weather-resistant Quonset huts that were pre-fabricated for the US military during World War II. San Francisco–based Narrative Design Studio kitted out the interior with mid-century modern-style furniture, hand-woven textiles, and pieces crafted by local artisans.
The 25-acre property is dotted with 47 Airstreams (plus some luxury suites and tents) each with a comfy queen bed; a kitchenette stocked with basic dishes, cookware and utensils (you’ll appreciate the cast iron pan for grilling); closets; and a bathroom with a shower, sink, and toilet. Nice little extras include bathrobes, some essential toiletries, complimentary water bottles for filling at the onsite water station, and heat and air. There are also, of course, outdoor picnic tables and fire pits; wood can be purchased at the clubhouse. If you’re planning to get chef-y, you’d be wise to pack your own spices and oils.
As day turns to night, the campground comes alive in a new way and the sunset against the low mountain horizon is not to be missed. Grab a glass of vino from your personal stash or from AutoCamp’s general store, break out that s’mores kit, and cozy up by the fire for the show. Depending on when you visit, you might catch a local live band on the clubhouse patio, and you may even make some new friends.
Speaking of the community aspect, new activities are in the works for the future including movie nights, yoga classes, sound healing, and fireside chats. The heated swimming pool will open in March, and there’s even a specially blacked-out stargazing station.
When to visit is up to you, though we recommend going while it’s still cool—and before word gets out. Winter and early spring are the best times for hiking at Joshua Tree. If you do brave the summer months, at least know that your Airstream will be climate-controlled.
When you’re ready to explore, you’ll find plenty of hikes and natural landmarks. Or, borrow one of AutoCamp’s bikes to explore the quirky shops, bars, and arts scene of the town of Joshua Tree.
Eat + Drink Around Joshua Tree
(Courtesy of Joshua Tree Saloon)
Joshua Tree Salon is a local hot spot with a huge outdoor patio and a menu of American fare—think burgers, crispy fish tacos, and nachos—along with live music on the weekends. // Crossroads Cafe is a favorite for diner-style breakfasts or a late lunch. // Grab all the wine and spirits you’ll need at Joshua Tree Bottle Shop. // More of a beer lover? Try some local craft brew off the beaten path at Joshua Tree Brewery. // The Dec Fine Food is a great spot to grab pre-made sandwiches and salads before heading into the park. // Campbell Hill Bakery is a must-visit—their breakfast sandwiches often sell out by 9am. // Foodies would do well to add Kitchen in the Desert to their itinerary. Located in 29 Palms, the restaurant/bar serves dinner and weekend brunch with a Caribbean twist. // La Copine in Yucca Valley is worth the short drive for elegant dishes such as Lyonnaise salad and PEI mussels in Pernod butter. While you’re in the area, stop for groceries—Yucca Valley has more market options than Joshua Tree.
Things to do at Joshua Tree
Split Rock, at Joshua Tree National Park.
If you’re here to hike and explore the desert, Joshua Tree National Park has countless trails and craggy outcroppings for bouldering. If you only have the weekend, focus on the highlights including Split Rock, Ryan Mountain, and Hidden Valley.
Weird art and craft junkies will find much to amuse in Joshua Tree. the World Famous Crochet Museum is a one-of-a-kind oddity. Or, if trash is your treasure, visit the free Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum to peruse sculptures made from repurposed junk. // Thedomed integratron in Landers (about 20 minutes from the park) has been a hippie destination since the 1950s. Today the National Register of Historic Places landmark offers 60-minute sound baths by reservation. // Pioneertown is a quirky, one-street Wild West film town with some fun memorabilia to check out. Stop for drinks and tacos at Red Dog Saloon, or get your meat fix at the always-packed Pappy + Harriet’s.
Where to Shop in Joshua Tree
(Courtesy of Mercado Mojave)
While we wouldn’t call Joshua Tree a shopping destination exactly, thrifters and bin-sifters can score some finds if you know where to look.
Mojave Flea Treading Post in Yucca Valley stocks clothing and home goods from a number of different designers including SF-based Hampui Hats. // acme 5 is a boho-modern shop brimming with enviable treasures such as Moroccan silk pillows, African mudcloth textiles, Mexican blankets, and locally made pottery. Make sure to peep the back patio for outdoor sculptures. // Scour for colorful vintage at the end. // Sky Village Marketplace is a weekend-only swap meet. // Need a quick tee or sundress? You’ll find brands like Free People and Lucky Jeans at Roaming Travelers. // Mercado Mojave brings together local artisans and makers for a Saturday-only pop-up (10am to 4pm) in Pioneertown; a Yucca Valley market in the works for 2022.