It doesn’t matter how many times you go to Joshua Tree, it is always gorgeous. Al hadn’t been into the actual park before and we are getting into the whole camping weekend thing being cheap get aways, so when Al had a weekend off hockey, I made the decision that we were going down. It does, however, seem that people tend to plan a bit more in advance for Joshua Tree, so that’s my first recommendation!
By the time we’d decided we were going all the pre-reserve spots were gone [find these at nps.gov] but we decided to gamble anyway on the 1st come 1st served spots. We were not successful. It took us over 4 hours to drive down on a Friday afternoon thanks to a stack of accidents. By the time we got there the only thing left on the park was a beautiful sunset.
Luckily a short drive away is the Joshua Tree Lake campground. We pulled in after dark and set ourselves up in a grump. I think that it’s important to point out the grumpiness was about not being in the park, not the campsite itself. There were still a multitude of stars to see and this place had toilets, water AND showers! Plus the staff were really nice & helpful. Besides, there’s nothing a good dinner, several bottle of wine and roasted marshmallows can’t fix! Word of warning, don’t drink so much you get a hangover. Waking up in a tent in the desert does not help (according to Al).
The next day we headed back in to the park. Point of note: it’s $30 to go into the park or you get an annual pass for $80. I got an annual on my last trip with @anshulraja so saved $90 this trip going into the park every day.
It was hike time. I’m a massive fan of the app All Trails- make sure you check out the hikes before hand though as there’s not a lot of reception once you’re in the park.
We opted for the Maze Loop which is just under 5 miles. It’s nice and easy to find and nothing tricky about it. Kind of like a nice walk…. in the desert.
After that we were in need of food. Plus we didn’t want to get caught in the heat of the day. @ktpearse had recommended Pappy & Harriets so we tootled over there to give it a try. This place is super cute! And super busy on the weekend, but you won’t wait long because it’s a pretty big space. I opted for a grilled chicken sandwich that was pretty good and Al of course went for the ribs. The food isn’t going to blow you away, it’s pretty standard US pub food that does the job. Cooked well, pretty tasty and always filling. In the evening they have bands which if you really want to go, get a ticket. They do sell out. Plus you never know who will play- a couple of years ago Paul McCartney played there! Def worth checking it out.
From there, you are going to want to wander around the little old fashioned town. It’s like being on a movie set. We didn’t explore the real town, but this was a good start. Besides, it was time for a sunset walk in the park.
For the sunset, Skull Rock area is a great place to be. You’ll see people scrambling up the rocks for good spots to watch the show. We opted, instead for a short 2 mile Skull Rock loop, I’m really glad we did. The changing colours was phenomenal and often there was no one else around (well, except for the big part when you walk through the campsite).
Before heading off for our last day we made 1 important stop on the way into the park: the Jelly Donut. I just can’t resist a converted petrol station! The donuts were ok, the kind that leave a real sugar/fat feel to your teeth. Great selection though. And definitely gets novelty points.
With our goodies in hand (way more than we needed) we drove back into Joshua Tree and over to the Cholla cactus garden. I do love a good cactus!
I hadn’t been past the cactus garden before so we decided to head out that way, despite it adding about 30/45 mins to the journey. I’m glad we did it though. You can see really clearly the difference in landscape of the 2 deserts. And I got to see another funny tree thing!
And of course, we were hungry again. But that was the perfect reason to stop at Wilma & Frieda for a late brunch. I had my eye on this place a year ago when Jax was over for a visit but it was the opposite direction of where we were going so we decided against it (in good news, they’ve opened in Palm Spring too now so that won’t happen again). There was about a 25 min wait for a table on a Sunday at 11 and I’m guessing that’s pretty standard. It’s worth the wait. We decide to order 2 of the signature dishes and share, though I’m now confident anything you order will be good.
Grilled meatloaf with poached eggs, biscuit & fruit. I’m not sure if I’ve had meatloaf before but it was way better than I was expecting from watching Rosanne all those years ago! Very light, not dry at all and a hint of sweet. It went great with the poached eggs. Plus I could convince myself it was healthy because I was protein loading 😂
BJ’s short rib & mozzarella scramble with potato tots & biscuit. Wow! So much short rib! And so tasty. This is a great dish. The biscuits were lovely too. Light and fluffy, how they should be.
The cakes looked good. Especially the carrot cake and the sour cream & blueberry loaf BUT I made us be good because we had already had donut. I would love to regret that decision.
Stuffed full of food, it was time to head back to LA. Thankfully a 2.5 hr drive this time….. plus a little stop at the outlets 😉