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  • Sunset at Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms, CA

Things are heating up in 29 Palms, southern California’s hidden gem in the heart of the Mojave Desert! Now is the perfect time to experience a one-of-a-kind desert experience with the family. Here are a few reasons you should pack up the van and venture to 29 Palms this summer:

Rise and Shine: Sunrise hikes

Take a walk on the wild side of life by exploring the Mojave Desert’s great outdoors. 29 Palms is the official gateway community to Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave Trails National Monument, and Mojave National Preserve. There is so much to explore whether you are spending a few days or a few weeks.

National Park Week - sPark Connections - Cap RockCap Rock Nature Trail is one of our favorite short nature walks with our families when we visit Joshua Tree National Park. Located at the corner of Park Blvd and Keys View Road, Cap Rock is the perfect trail to stretch your legs and learn about the desert flora and fauna. This short loop is less than half a mile and gives hikers views of boulder piles, Joshua trees, and other desert plants. Stop at each marker to learn a little more about what interesting plants and critters you can find in the park. Plan ahead and get an early start so that your hike is done by 10 A.M. and be sure to review the park’s summer safety tips.

We recommend heading out to Cadiz Dunes Wilderness in the Mojave Trails National Monument for our adventurous early risers. Located just 40 miles east of downtown 29 Palms between Highway 62 and the historic Route 66, the road to these pristine dunes takes you through some of the gorgeous locales the Mojave Trails National Monument has to offer. Ever-changing in contour and pattern and spanning nearly 20,000 acres, these majestic and remote dunes are shaped by the north winds blowing sand off the Cadiz dry lake.

Take a trip to Mojave National Preserve and enjoy the stunning Kelso Dunes. With temperatures reaching above 100°, trek out to the dunes later in the evening or early in the morning. The spectacular majestic sand piles of Kelso Dunes are the Preserve’s most popular hiking destination for a good reason. When hikers reach the summit, they are rewarded with a surreal backdrop of sand that seems to extend forever. Although this is the most popular trail at the Mojave National Preserve, potential hikers can still expect solitude.

Explore Your Artistic Side

29 Palms is known for its Oasis of Murals and thriving artistic community. Visitors can find over 60 murals, public art displays, and half a dozen art galleries across the City of 29 Palms. There is much to explore when tapping into your artistic side while visiting 29 Palms.

Gretchen Grunt 29 Palms Creative Center and Gallery Pottery Wheel ClassLet your kids discover their unique explosive creativity in a vast array of mediums, from simply drawing on paper to technical construction in clay, when you sign them up for an art class at the 29 Palms Creative Center! Owner, artist, and educator Gretchen Grunt believes creating a joyful and stress-free studio environment is key to nurturing the process of creativity. Book your private art class or party and get creative this summer!

The Oasis of Murals began in 1994 with the painting of the first mural honoring Bill and Frances Keys, pioneer homesteaders who settled at the Desert Queen Ranch in what is now Joshua Tree National Park. Since then, 25 more murals and one sculpture have been added to the Action Council for 29 Palms‘ impressive mural collection. Along with these murals, you can find beautiful public art displays from world-renowned artists like Simi Dabah, Ricardo Breceda, Chuck Caplinger, and more.

The 29 Palms Art Gallery is the oldest arts organization in the Morongo Basin. Founded by a group of prominent desert artists in the 1950s, the gallery is located in a historic adobe at the Oasis of Mara. They offer a variety of art classes to people of all ages throughout the year, including courses in pottery, painting, collage, and more.

Fun in the Sun (and the Shade)

There is so much fun to be had during the summer in 29 Palms! Whether you are outside basking in the desert sun or inside beating the heat, we have the perfect ways for you and your family to enjoy your time in the Mojave Desert.

The Old Schoolhouse Museum is the place to be for all you history buffs. Founded in 1982, the Twentynine Palms Historical Society has preserved the rich history of 29 Palms for 40 years. In 1992, the society moved the city’s original 1927 one-room schoolhouse to a parcel of land on National park Drive near the Oasis of Mara and remodeled the building to become the Old Schoolhouse Museum. Today, the historical society continues to preserve and interpret the historical heritage of the 29 Palms area through a variety of museum displays, special collections, an extensive library, historical gatherings, educational lectures, and more. We highly recommend visiting the museum while you are in the city and learning more about how 29 Palms has grown and evolved over the years.

Take a trip down to the Bowladium Family Fun Center in your spare time and bowl a game or 2 with the family. This summer, kids ages 2 to 15 bowl free every day! Registering for the Kids Bowl Free program allows your family to have fun all summer long at one of 29 Palms’ favorite family-friendly spots. Learn more about the program by calling the Bowladium at (760) 367-9502.

Water Play Days Station 44 Fire TruckLooking for a great way to cool down and beat the heat this summer? The Twentynine Palms Parks & Recreation Department hosts Water Play Days every Wednesday evening through the end of July. These free, family-friendly events alternate between Luckie Park and Knott’s Sky Park weekly. From water slides to water balloons, families have loved this fun way of hanging out and getting outside during the summer. Plus, you may see our very own Station 44 firefights make a surprise appearance to help make this summer a memorable one! Check out our event calendar to see where they will be when you visit.

Meet Us Under the Stars

Nothing compares to a gorgeous desert night sky in the summer. With a number of astronomical events and fun family movie nights, there is something for everyone to enjoy during the cool desert evenings.

Along with the Water Play Days, the Twentynine Palms Parks and Recreation Department hosts their annual Movies in the Park Thursday nights at Luckie Park. From modern movie hits like Luca and Soul to throwbacks like Space Jam and Little Giants, grab some lawn chairs and blankets and enjoy a relaxing movie night after a day of exploring the city. Head to our event calendar to see what’s playing when you’re here.

Aquarid Meteor ShowerLook up to the night sky this summer with 2 of our favorite meteor showers. The Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower will be making an appearance July 28-29. The shower gets its name from the constellation Aquarius, which it appears to emanate from. A truly dark sky offers the best chance of seeing the Delta Aquarids, as they tend not to be as bright as some other meteor showers. Luckily, Joshua Tree National Park is an International Dark Sky Park that allows for the shower’s perfect viewing. With a high rate of meteors per hour, the Perseids Meteor Shower is one of the most talked-about showers of the year. However, these meteors will compete this year with the Full Sturgeon Moon. The best time to view the Perseids this year will be a few hours before dawn when the Moon is closer to setting. Set your alarm for an early morning to catch a glimpse of one of the year’s best meteor showers!

Joshua Tree National Park proudly opens new Visitor & Cultural Center in Freedom Plaza in downtown Twentynine Palms California

 

On May 7, 2022, Joshua Tree National Park proudly opened their new Visitor & Cultural Center in downtown 29 Palms, in the newly completed Freedom Plaza. Made possible through partnership with the City of Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree National Park’s traditionally associated Native American communities, Joshua Tree National Park Association (JTNPA), and the Bureau of Land Management, the new Joshua Tree Visitor & Cultural Center is a must-see destination for park visitors.

In addition to the beautiful bookstore and information center, this new Visitor & Cultural Center features an incredible museum space which will feature rotating exhibits celebrating the culture, history, and stories of the Native American communities. The new facility is located at 6533 Freedom Way, in the center of Twentynine Palms’ newly completed Freedom Plaza, and is open 7 days a week from 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM.

The opening exhibition, Home Maintenance: Keys Ranch, tells the story of the park’s role in the preservation of cultural resources. This temporary exhibit was developed by Joshua Tree Art Innovation Lab (JTLab) and weaves the stories of people on the landscape in the present and the recent past. The next set of exhibits, scheduled to be installed in the fall of 2022, are being developed in partnership with the traditionally associated Native American communities. This more permanent exhibition will share the rich heritage of the many peoples who have stewarded this land for millennia. JTNP acknowledges these original stewards, and this exhibit will pay respect to the people, past, present and emerging who have been in this area for generations.

The Oasis Visitor Center (OVC) in Twentynine Palms closed its doors at 5:00 PM Monday, May 2, 2022 after 60 years of operation. The new facility, Joshua Tree Cultural Center replaces OVC in welcoming visitors and providing park information. Other park visitor facilities are Joshua Tree Visitor Center, Cottonwood Visitor Center, and Blackrock Nature Center and Art Gallery. These are open to welcome the public daily.

 

About Freedom Plaza

Formerly known as Project Phoenix, the Freedom Plaza site is dynamic downtown revitalization project along Highway 62 in the heart of 29 Palms that will serve to meet the community’s recreational, professional, and educational needs.

The multi-faceted complex features an 11,000 square foot Community Center with a gymnasium/multipurpose room and culinary arts kitchen, a 4,100 square foot Joshua Tree National Park Cultural and Visitor Center, a 10,000 square foot entry plaza and a three-block long Paseo.

The Community Center will serve as a flexible athletics facility and recreational hub for the community’s youth and adults and can also be used for special events and conferences. Through the City’s new partnership with Copper Mountain College and the Morongo Unified School District, the culinary arts kitchen in this new Community Center will be used as a teaching space for the next generation of aspiring chefs.

A beautiful outdoor event stage graces the corner of Freedom Way and the Paseo parking lot between the Community Center and Joshua Tree Visitor and Cultural Center. Freedom Way’s newly designed protected walkway also transforms into an event space that can be reserved for special events such as festivals, farmers markets, art shows, car shows and musical events.

A decade in the making, the City of Twentynine Palms proudly unveiled and officially opened Freedom Plaza on March 12!

Did you know there are over 400 national parks across the country? Each year, the National Park Foundation and the National Park Service invite everyone to celebrate these incredible wonders during National Park Week. This year’s theme is sPark Connections. Spend National Park Week in 29 Palms, CA, when you visit Joshua Tree National Park.

The celebration begins Saturday, April 16, with sPark Discovery. National Park Week kicks off with a fee-free day to encourage everyone to find something new by visiting a national park. It can be one that may be close to home, a park you haven’t considered visiting, or one you never realized is a national park! Beat the long wait time to venture into Joshua Tree National Park when using the North Entrance. Located just a few minutes from the Oasis Visitor Center in 29 Palms, the North Entrance to the park is the best place to begin your Joshua Tree National Park adventure. What’s something new about Joshua Tree National Park you may discover?

Sunday, April 17, challenges us to sPark Creativity. National parks have inspired artistic expression and creativity for generations—artists worldwide flock to Joshua Tree National Park to capture its beauty. The annual Joshua Tree National Park Art Exposition is just one of the ways we see how the park sparks creativity in artists. The Art Expo takes place every November and features artwork depicting or inspired by Joshua Tree National Park created by more than 50 artists from California and across the United States. What masterpiece can you make?

National Park Week - Artist Painting in Cholla Cactus Garden

(NPS photo by Carmen Aurrecoechea)

sPark Collaboration on Monday, April 18, and get involved! We get along with a bit of help from our friends. Public support is a critical component in the management of National Park Service lands. No other federal agency relies as heavily on the stewardship and generosity of its visitors. Several local and national organizations partner with Joshua Tree National Park every year, including Joshua Tree National Park Association, Mojave Desert Land Trust, Friends of Joshua Tree, 29 Palms Art Gallery, and more. Find out how you can get involved with Joshua Tree National Park here.

The National Park Service incorporates the latest technology to support conservation and preservation efforts while consistently working to improve the visitor experience. On Tuesday, April 19, speak with a local park ranger about how they sPark Innovation in Joshua Tree National Park. One of our favorite ways the National Park Service incorporates technology is by being able to purchase your park pass online! Recreation.gov is the perfect way to get your park pass before heading into Joshua Tree National Park. Get yours today here!

On Wednesday, April 20, it’s Workforce Wednesday! Learn about the National Park Foundation’s work and the employment opportunities available in the National Park Service as they sPark Opportunities. About 100 full-time equivalent positions make up the park staff in fields including administration, education and interpretation, law enforcement, maintenance, resource management and science, and visitor services. Every role is vital for the park to fulfill its mission of preserving natural and cultural resources for future generations. Learn more about employment opportunities with Joshua Tree National Park here.

Continuing the celebration, Thursday, April 21, is all about how you can sPark Preservation. The National Park Service is a leader and partner in preserving historical, cultural, natural, and recreational resources nationally—and even internationally! Be sure to visit the Oasis Visitor Center in 29 Palms to learn more about Joshua Tree National Park’s work in preserving the land and history of one of the country’s most ventured national parks.

National Park Week - Historic Preservation at Keys Ranch

(NPS photo by Kelsey Graczyk)

Earth Day is Friday, April 22, so it is time to sPark Action! Taking place annually on April 22, Earth Day is the day to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First held on April 22, 1970, it now includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org, including 1 billion people in more than 193 countries. Today is the day for all of us to look at the health of the environment and how we impact its wellbeing and vice versa. Take some time to get outside, enjoy nature, and reflect on how you can better the environment for generations to come.

The National Park Service preserves and protects unique places with fascinating stories and amazing landscapes. Is there any place in Joshua Tree National Park you have always been curious about? Why is it called Hidden Valley? How does the rock stay on Cap Rock? Why can you only find Joshua trees in the Mojave Desert? On Saturday, April 23, sPark Curiosity, speak with a park ranger at the Oasis Visitor Center and find out all there is to know about Joshua Tree National Park.

Rounding out the festivities on Sunday, April 24, sPark Memories and enjoy all Joshua Tree National Park offers. Generations of visitors have created lasting memories in national parks. Today, spend time with family, friends, and loved ones, making memories and more in Joshua Tree National Park. Visit the Cholla Cactus Garden and enjoy basking in the desert sunrise. Trek to the top of Ryan Mountain and take in the gorgeous Mojave Desert views. Drive up to Keys View and look out over the Coachella Valley in the evening. Spend a night under the stars away from the hustle and bustle of life.

There is so much to see and do when visiting Joshua Tree National Park. Mark your calendars for April 16-24, 2022, and make Joshua Tree National Park your destination to sPark Connections this National Park Week.

Take a long weekend getaway to Twentynine Palms! The fall season is the perfect time to explore and discover the wonders of the Mojave Desert. With the weather cooling off and the city coming to life with events, there has never been a better time to visit and enjoy all Twentynine Palms has to offer.

Outdoor Adventure

Take a walk in nature and explore Joshua Tree National Park. With over 2.4 million visitors in 2020, Joshua Tree National Park was named the 10th Most Visited National Park in the U.S. by the National Park Service. Encompassing nearly 800,000 acres of protected land, visitors can explore both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts while taking part in several activities. From hiking to rock climbing to just enjoying the beautiful desert scenery, this is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With the long weekend, it will be busy in the National Park, so here are a few tips and tricks to make sure you are ready for your trip:

Indian Cove Picnic Area

Use the Twentynine Palms entrance. Wait times at the West Entrance in Joshua Tree can reach upwards of 1 hour. If you are traveling eastbound on the highway, keep driving 15 more minutes and enter the park through the North entrance in Twentynine Palms. Not only is the wait time much shorter at the North entrance, but you can also visit the Oasis Visitor Center on National Park Drive before heading up to the park.

Purchase your pass online. It is now easier than ever to buy your park pass. Not only can you purchase your entrance pass online, but you can also reserve your camping site. Go online to recreation.gov and get your pass in advance.

Download the NPS app. With no cell service in the park, it can be difficult to navigate where you’re going with your phone. Luckily, the NPS app allows you to download park info to make sure you can find your way around the park while offline. With interactive maps, tours of park places, and more, download the NPS app and make the most of your visit.

Plan Like a Park Ranger. The staff at JTNP have put together an incredible article to help you travel like an expert when you visit the park. To help you plan your trip even more, here are the Top 10 Tips for Visiting Joshua Tree National Park.

 

Arts, Culture, & History

This long weekend is the perfect time to dive into the rich arts, culture, and history that make Twentynine Palms the cultural oasis it is today. The Joshua Tree Music Festival kicks off the weekend beginning Thursday, October 7th with their first festival since October 2019. With the pandemic having shut down their festivals for two years, JTMF is ready to get the community back to the “Heart of the Matter” with artists from all over the world performing for one weekend only.

October 9th and 10th mark the first weekend for the Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours. Now in its 20th year, the Art Tours take place all over the Morongo Basin. This self-guided tour will take visitors on a journey to each of the artists’ studios to see where the magic happens. With 18 artists in Twentynine Palms opening their doors, tour-goers will get a glimpse into the worlds of renowned artists such as Perry Hoffman, Anna Stump, Elisabeth Pollnow, Anne Lear, and many more.

For all the history buffs out there, the Old Schoolhouse Museum is the place to be. With a mission to collect, preserve, and display information, artifacts, and memorabilia, the Twentynine Palms Historical Society has been educating visitors for almost 30 years. This weekend, join artist Barbara Gothard as she discusses her Art+Humanities project, “Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward,” as the 2nd Friday Lecture Series continues on Friday, October 8th.

If you are curious about the nature of the area, the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park will be hosting a special class this weekend as part of their Fall Field Class schedule. Learn all about the Insects and Arthropods of the Morongo Basin with Kurt Leuschner as he explores the lives of the largest group of animals in the world. Participants will learn to identify and distinguish insects from other arthropods and then practice their skills in the field. Field observations will include desert, dune, and riparian habitats, as well as a special night session with black lights at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

 

Shop & Dine

Fuel up for the weekend ahead with some great eats at one of our local, family-owned restaurants! For breakfast, Campbell Hill Bakery is every pastry lover’s dream for the best croissants, coffee cake, and scones in town. Take your taste buds on an adventure at Cactus Trails Café and try their Cactus Omelette with their Prickly Pear Lemonade. For a big, hearty breakfast, head on over to John’s Place and order John’s Farm Breakfast Special loaded with eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy.

When you’re ready for lunch, head on over to FANS Sports Bar and Grill for some great all-American burgers, wings, hot dogs, and more. Mexican Street Tacos is home to the famous David Tran Plate and their always delicious street tacos. If you like spicy food, check out Thai Café and all of their delicious curries including their Roasted Duck and Siam Gulf curries.

Spend your evening dining at one of our great eating establishments. Have some good old-fashioned barbecue with Rib Co.‘s grilled jalapenos and Triple Threat ribs. Stop by Edchadas and get your hands on their Amigo Burrito and pair it with one of their famous margaritas. Twentynine Palms’ newest gastropub GRND SQRL has great new food for visitors and locals to enjoy like their Shanghai Wings, SQRL Burger, and, our personal favorite, the Jalla Sandwich. End your evening with the last cold beer on Highway 62 at the newest neighborhood bar on the corner of National Park Drive and the Highway, Out There Bar.

Spend the weekend shopping around town and shop small at our local retail stores! If you’re downtown, stop by White Label VinylHi-Desert DaydreamDonahlue Clothing Co.The Lobby by Desert Beacon, and more along the highway. When you’re out and about on Adobe Road, stop in and check out Copy Center Plus, and further down in the Historic Plaza you’ll find Perfectly Unique. These are only a handful of the many locally-owned stores you can find in Twentynine Palms, so be sure to stop in and say hi to us at the 29 Palms Visitor Center to find out what other gems we have hiding in our city.

 

Stargazing & Astronomy

This long weekend will make for the perfect opportunity to get out into nature in the late evening to enjoy a spectacular display of astronomical events. The Draconid meteor shower will peak on October 8th. Unlike most meteor showers, the Draconids are short-lived. You will want to look towards the constellation Draco the Dragon to watch the shower. Luckily, the thin waxing crescent moon will make for good visibility this year.

Get out the telescope because stargazers will have a great view of the Andromeda Galaxy and the Great Square of Pegasus throughout the fall season. Being the closest large spiral galaxy to our Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant thing we can see with the unaided eye. This weekend, you will be able to view the galaxy in the eastern sky at nightfall before it makes its trek to the western sky by dawn. Part of the constellation Pegasus, the Great Square of Pegasus can also be seen ascending into the eastern sky in the early evenings this season. Made of four stars of nearly equal brightness, the Great Square is a landmark of the Northern Hemisphere’s autumn sky.

Plan your night under the stars with our guide to stargazing in Twentynine Palms.

We hope to see you in Twentynine Palms enjoying all our city has to offer! From exploring Joshua Tree National Park to gazing up at the desert night sky, there is something for everyone to enjoy this holiday weekend. Be sure to stop by the 29 Palms Visitor Center for any information you may need during your visit.

 

 

Stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park Photo by Jack Fusco

 

It’s that time of year again! The annual Perseids meteor shower will be gracing our desert night skies once again this August in all its out-of-this-world glory. Boasting some of the darkest night skies in southern California and bordering Joshua Tree National Park, an International Dark Sky Park, 29 Palms is the ideal destination for observing the Perseids this summer!

Producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak and known for its massive fireballs which are larger explosions of light and color that last longer than the average meteor streak, the Perseids are a sight to behold and one of the most exciting meteor showers to observe. These fireballs leave “long ‘wakes’ of light and color behind them,” according to NASA. Named after the constellation Perseus, NASA reports the Perseids originate from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862 by astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. With the meteors appearing in all parts of the sky, this shower will be easy to witness with the naked eye. Plus, with the waxing crescent moon setting in the early evening, viewers will be left with gorgeous dark skies for what is sure to be an excellent show!

There are a few things you’ll want to bring with you to make your meteor shower watch party a memorable experience, starting with a comfortable chair. A reclining lawn chair would be best as it allows you to sit back, look up, and enjoy the show.

Because it will be a late night, be sure to pack all your favorite late-night snacks and lots of water. We can’t emphasize the importance of water and staying hydrated enough, even for nighttime adventures! It’s easy to underestimate the effects of the summer heat at night and even if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s important to keep your water intake up. A gallon per day/per person is always recommended. It’s also a good idea to have a few extra layers of warm clothing handy as evening temperatures do drop and you’ll want to stay comfortable.

Another key item to have with you is a red flashlight. It is recommended that you do not use bright white flashlights, headlamps, or cell phones when getting ready to stargaze. It takes approximately 20-30 for the human eye to fully adjust to these types of low light conditions. Don’t have red lights? No problem! You can turn any regular flashlight into a red-light flashlight by covering it with red cellophane, tape, paper, fabric, or any other similar materials.

This red flashlight will also help you watch your step while getting settled at your viewing spot, and help you avoid stepping on cacti, desert critters, and uneven surfaces that can be difficult to see at night. Wearing closed-toe shoes is also highly recommended.

Plan on giving yourself at least one hour of viewing time as meteors are known to come in spurts with interspersed lulls. The optimal viewing time for the Perseids meteor shower will be between midnight and dawn, with the peaks expected on the mornings of August 11, 12, 13.

While many focus on this peak time, remember that meteor showers typically last weeks! According to EarthSky.org, the Perseids can be visible for up to 10 or more days following the peak, so if you can’t make it out to 29 Palms between August 11-13, you can certainly still plan a trip shortly after!

One of the common questions we get asked is where the best place to stargaze is, and fortunately, due to the lack of light pollution in our area, the opportunities are endless! Many of the hotels and vacation rentals in our city offer great views of the night sky so it can be as easy as pulling a chair out to the patio or backyard.

Designated as an official International Dark Sky Park in 2017, Joshua Tree National Park is the best (and most popular) place for stargazing in southern California, offering visitors incredible stargazing opportunities year-round. Do expect the park to be busy during the annual Perseid meteor shower and as always, take the time to plan out your visit in advance. With cell reception extremely limited in Joshua Tree National Park it’s important to download the new National Park Service mobile app as it provides the ability to download and save park maps and helpful visitor resources for offline use. Also, remember you can now purchase your park pass online and in advance by visiting www.recreation.gov.

*Please note, if you are planning on watching the Perseids from within Joshua Tree National Park, there is a temporary fire restriction in place, and all fires are banned until further notice. The restrictions include campgrounds, residential areas, and the backcountry, and bans campfires, barbeques, outdoor smoking, and other fire hazards.

Sustainable recreation and protection of cultural and natural resources have been significant issues for Joshua Tree National Park even before its designation as a national monument in 1936. In fact, Minvera Hoyt was motivated to preserve the area out of concern that increased automobile use was threatening the desert and its unique vegetation. The conservation issues that challenged early 20th century environmentalists are similar to the ones the park faces today.  As visitation rapidly increases each year, instances of illegal off-highway vehicle incursions are increasing. These incursions have serious consequences on the park’s natural and cultural resources.

Things you should know before traveling on backcountry roads in Joshua Tree National Park:

-Joshua Tree National Park is covered in cryptobiotic soil, which holds the desert in place. It absorbs rainwater and is a source of nitrogen and organic matter that other life in the park depends on. It takes 5-7 years for it to even start to grow back. (https://www.nps.gov/jotr/learn/nature/cryptocrusts.htm)

-Illegal off-roading can introduce invasive plants through your car tires, which can carry invasive seeds or spores. The damage is further exacerbated because disturbing natural vegetation can encourage invasive species to spread rapidly.

-Joshua Tree National Park is rich with human history dating back to the 1500s. If you drive off an established route, you could disturb a cultural site that potentially holds important and fascinating information regarding the area’s cultural and natural resources.

-Driving off the legal route encourages other drivers to follow your path, causing even more damage from repeated use.

-If you want to pull over to take a photo or explore, make sure to pull over in an established pullout, which will be paved or lined with boulders.

-Illegal off-roading can put your safety at risk. Unestablished routes may have difficult 4WD terrain you are unprepared for.

-No one expects to run into trouble while off-roading, but sudden rainfall, an unexpected injury, car troubles could turn a fun drive into a crisis. Always be prepared for the worst case scenario.

-If you drive off the legal route and get stuck, it is unlikely that anyone would find you. There is little cell service in the park, particularly in remote areas where off-roading is most common.

-Stay with your vehicle if you get stuck. It may be your first impulse to search for help, but the people searching for you are much more likely to find your vehicle before they find you wandering alone in the desert.

-If you plan to use one of the park’s many legal 4WD routes, tell people where you’re going and when you plan on returning. Carry multiple forms of communication, such as a personal locator beacon in addition to your cell phone.

-Unauthorized off-road driving can incur you a $180 fine for each instance.

Learn more at: www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/backcountry-roads.htm

Joshua Tree National Park Inside Scoop

Download your copy of the JT Inside Scoop!

Get the inside scoop on everything you need to know to plan your visit to Joshua Tree National Park this season and beyond!

This must-have collection of resources covers an array of topics and starts with a warm-hearted welcome from Park Superintendent David Smith who shares his own pro tips for visiting the park! Find helpful trip planning checklists, important links to the park’s hiking trails and campground maps, tips on hiking safely in the summer season, and knowing how to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat related illness.

This Inside Scoop is also packed with great information about the park’s wildlife, and simple actions that you can take during your visit that will help to protect some of the park’s most iconic species like the desert tortoise and bighorn sheep. Wondering what to do if you encounter a mountain lion, tarantula, or rattlesnake? That’s covered too!

Plus, learn about the Dr. James Buckner Luckie Study Center and opportunities to volunteer in the park this spring break!

Looking for information or have questions that are not covered in this Inside Scoop? Plan a visit to one of Joshua Tree National Park’s Visitor Centers:

Oasis Visitor Center
74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Open daily from 7:30am to 5:00pm

Joshua Tree Visitor Center
6554 Park Blvd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Open daily from 7:30am to 5:00pm

Cottonwood Visitor Center
Pinto Basin Road, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Open daily from 8:30am to 4:00pm

Hi everyone! My name is Jack Fusco, I’m a professional astrophotographer based out of San Diego. So much of my work involves planning out images weeks or months in advance for everything to come together. Some of my images from Southern California have been featured by National Geographic, NASA APOD, BBC and many others. I’m excited to share some of the planning I did to take some of my images around the 29 Palms area.

When it comes to astrophotography, or stargazing in general, you have a lot of things to consider and plan out. Of all the things you need to factor in, dark skies will always be the most important. The further you can get from light pollution the more incredible the night sky will appear. It’s guaranteed to be an experience you won’t forget.

One of the issues that can often come with finding dark skies is the remote location you need to travel to find them. Long drives before or after your stargazing session aren’t always easy or the safest option. Because it’s just a short drive from San Diego, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas and is right in the middle of some amazing stargazing locations, 29 Palms made for the perfect night sky home base for a long weekend of stargazing.

After making the drive from San Diego, I mapped out 3 nights and 3 locations of stargazing. With each location, I’ll share some both tips for photographing and stargazing.

Night 1 – Joshua Tree National Park

Distance from 29 Palms: 5 miles
Approximate Drive Time: 5 minutes

Starting in 29 Palms, I was literally 5 minutes to the North entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, an International Dark Sky Park. If you’re not familiar, an International Dark Sky Park is certification given to land with exceptional and protected views of the night sky.

Jack Fusco Joshua Tree Arch

The North entrance to Joshua Tree is closest to some of the most iconic locations in the park, like Arch Rock at the White Tank Campground, Skull Rock, Barker Dam (closed at night, but worth the day trip!), and the Jumbo Rock area.

I decided to start my night sky weekend by visiting the Skull Rock area to do some exploring of the nearby trails.

Jack Fusco - Joshua Tree Moonlit

For this area, I decided to bring a 14mm wide angle lens as the trail was right next to beautiful rock formations that I wanted capture. The wide angle allows for both the rocks and a large portion of the night sky to be caught in the same frame.

With the wide-angle lens, I was using exposure times of around 10-15 seconds. This will vary a bit from camera to camera, but it allows for a lot of light to be captured while keeping the stars looking pin point sharp!

This area of the park is a fantastic choice for stargazing as well. I recommend bringing along a headlamp with a red light to help preserve your night vision. Skull Rock has roadside parking that’s just a short walk to the trails. Once you’re a bit further from the road, you can protect your vision from any passing headlights. This will help make sure you can see the greatest number of stars possible!

Night 2 – Kelso Sand Dunes, Mojave National Preserve

Distance from 29 Palms: 85 miles
Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Jack Fusco - Kelso Dunes Milky Way

Located in Mojave National Preserve, I was very excited to make my first trip out to the Kelso Sand Dunes. Although you can’t possibly be closer than Joshua Tree to 29 Palms, the drive is still very easy to make to the dunes. If you enter “Kelso Dunes Trail” on Google Maps, it will bring you right to the trail head. The last short bit is technically off-road, but is still accessible taking your time with 2wd cars.

As with all locations, I strongly suggest arriving well before dark so you can familiarize yourself with the area and the trails. Because the trail here is across sand, it can be a bit harder to follow on windy days or even in the dark. Using an offline GPS map on your phone (in case you lose service) will help make sure you stay safe.

Jack Fusco Kelso Dunes MW Stargazer

The hike to the dunes isn’t a long one, but can be tiring once you start walking on the areas with soft sand. The dunes rise 650 feet above the desert, so making your way up hill can also be on the strenuous side.  If the idea of climbing up huge sand dunes doesn’t sound appealing to you, there are still absolutely incredible to see without heading up hill! Whether you plan on making your way to the top or just close enough for a great view, be sure to bring plenty of water.

The view of the surrounding Providence Mountains is almost as beautiful as the dunes and they also help block out light pollution. This means not only do you have an incredible view of the stars, but the surrounding area is very dark as well. The dunes can be very tricky to navigate in total darkness, so plan on exploring while the sun is out and keeping closer the trail once it’s dark.

Use an app like StarWalk or Sky Guide to help locate any visible planets or the Milky Way while you’re here! No matter what you’re looking for should be easily visible.

For photographing this area, I mainly stuck with lenses that were 35mm or wider. Depending on your distance to the dunes, a 50 or 85mm lens would capture the curves in the dunes wonderfully.

A wide-angle lens in this location will mean getting really low to the sand to pick up some of that awesome texture and lines created by the wind!

Night 3 – Amboy Crater, Mojave Trails National Monument

Distance from 29 Palms: 50 miles
Approximate Drive Time: 50 minutes

Recently designated as a National Recreation Trail, Amboy Crater offers an easy hike through a lava field straight to the edge, and even in to, an extinct cinder cone volcano. I planned my hike here to be lit by the rising Moon so I could take photos both leading up to the crater and inside and have them well lit. Although it washes out a bit of the stars, the Moon can provide enough light so you can see detail in even dark foregrounds like the lava field surrounding the crater.

Jack Fusco - Amboy Crater Jupiter Saturn Above Mojave Trails National Monument

As with all desert locations, be aware of temperatures and conditions before heading out. Warm conditions can continue in to the night, so be sure to bring enough water. Proving the temperatures are suitable for outdoor activity, the hike to the crate is just over a mile and approachable for all levels. It’s very well defined through most of the trail and easy to keep your way. The approach to the rim or interior of the crate isn’t particularly difficult, but it does get somewhat steep. The lava rocks can be sharp and lose in certain areas. At night, this can make coming down much more difficult than going up. If you’re not comfortable, the view outside of the crate is still spectacular.

One of the highlights of being at the Amboy Crater is the nearly 360 view of the night sky while you’re there. Because the crater sits in the middle of a large lava field, you’ll have an amazing unobstructed view of the night sky from horizon to horizon.

Jack Fusco - Amboy Crater Mojave Trails National Monument

For taking photos, your focal length will likely vary depending on how close to the crater you’re setting up. From further away, a wide-angle lens will make the volcano look small in your frame and capture a huge portion of the sky above and around.

To set up along the trail, try using a lens 35mm or above if you want the crater to appear larger in your photo. As you approach or enter in to the crater, a wide-angle lens will help capture your surrounding area and still show off the incredible landscape.

No matter what location you decide on, you’re sure to come home with a unique and unforgettable stargazing experience. Although I live close enough to make the drive to any one of these locations, I’m happy I chose to stay in 29 Palms to start my adventure. Being able to cut a few hours off my drive each way allowed me the time and energy to explore these incredible areas. These are locations I will 100% be returning to in the near future and can’t wait to share more photos! Follow me over on Instagram (@jackfusco) to see all my new photos from around the 29 Palms area!

If you visit and get a great photo, be sure to tag @visit29palms and #visit29palms for a chance to have your photo featured!

Jack Fusco Visit 29 Palms

Jack Fusco is a landscape astrophotographer / timelapser based out of San Diego, California. What began as a way purely to document his travels as a touring musician, photography has become his mainform of creative expression.

On his often-sleepless journey, he strives to share the wonder of the night sky with as many people as possible. Whether chasing the Milky Way along coast lines or capturing the Northern lights in unforgiving remote locations you’re sure to find him coffee in hand, smiling up at the stars.

Many of Jack’s images are often planned days, weeks, or even months in advance while waiting for weather and celestial objects to align. The resulting work shows a true and complete dedication to his craft. His work has been featured by National Geographic, TEDx, LA Times, NASA APOD, BBC, Forbes and many more. Find his work at www.jackfusco.com |www.instagram.com/jackfusco  

Day One: Outdoor Adventure

Enjoy blue skies, dark nights, and an otherworldly landscape in Joshua Tree National Park

Start your Joshua Tree National Park adventure at the park’s Oasis Visitor Center in 29 Palms and explore one of the many fascinating aspects of this otherworldly national park with a free, half-hour Ranger Talk, held every morning at 10:00 AM. Following the Ranger Talk head out for an easy stroll along the Oasis of Mara Nature Trail where you will discover how this natural desert oasis is the cornerstone of the Joshua Tree National Park story, and how in the presence of water, life has thrived in and around the oasis for more than 9,000-years.

If popular trails like Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, or Ryan Mountain are on your to-do list, we recommend planning your visit on a weekday, between Monday and Thursday, when you’ll find more space to yourself on the trails. We also recommend getting an early start to your day and entering through the north park entrance in 29 Palms where you can avoid the congestion and potentially long wait times at the west entrance in the town of Joshua Tree.

After an adventurous day outdoors, you’ll surely have worked up a big appetite! Check out 29 Palms diverse collection of restaurants – and enjoy a great meal after a great day outdoors. Once you’ve relaxed and refueled, we invite you to sit back and watch our dark night sky come to life!

The California desert is known for it’s stunningly dark night skies, and our community was thrilled to see Joshua Tree National Park receive International Dark Sky Park designation by the International Dark Sky Association in 2017. Be sure to spend at least one late night marveling at the stars and Milky Way while you’re visiting 29 Palms, whether it’s in the National Park, at a free, public star party at Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center, or with a private stargazing experience with the 29 Palms Astronomy Club who will bring the star party to you!

Day Two: Arts & Culture

Discover an Oasis of Murals, a thriving arts community, and a small city with a rich history!

Discover the rich history of our vibrant desert community by exploring our Oasis of Murals. The series of outdoor murals are located throughout the downtown area and illustrate the colorful history of 29 Palms, from the history of the Serrano and Chemehuevi Native America tribes, to the founding pioneers and homesteaders, to the establishment of the 29 Palms Marine Base, to a celebration of the unique flora and fauna of the beautiful Mojave Desert. Download our Oasis of Murals brochure and plan a self-guided tour!

The Mojave Desert has long since been a place of inspiration for artists and musicians, so whether you’re feeling inspired to drop in to the 29 Palms Creative Center and Gallery to paint or learn the pottery wheel, or view the latest exhibit at the 29 Palms Art Gallery, you will be impressed by the rich arts and culture of our desert community.

Continue your exploration of our city’s rich history and culture with a docent led tour of the Old Schoolhouse Museum, owned and operated by the Twentynine Palms Historical Society. Every city has its own story and history just waiting to be discovered, and there’s no better place to immerse yourself in 29 Palms history than at the Old Schoolhouse Museum.

Day Three: Road trip through the Mojave

Explore the unimaginable diversity of Mojave Trails National Monument and take a cruise along the iconic Route 66!

Spanning 1.6 million acres, the newly designed Mojave Trails National Monument is an incredible part of the California desert, and is home to beautifully rugged mountain ranges, pristine sand dunes, ancient lava flows, historic Native American trading routes and incredible WWII history, plus the longest undeveloped stretches of the iconic Route 66. Exploring Mojave Trails National Monument will require more research and planning than its neighboring Joshua Tree National Park or Mojave National Preserve so be sure to stop by the 29 Palms Visitor Center to pick up maps and travel information to help plan your day trip.

Grab lunch to-go from one of our restaurants and then head northeast on Amboy Road and make the nearby Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark your first stop in Mojave Trails.

Day Four: Discover our local hidden gems

Shop, dine, and play in downtown 29 Palms

A great way to spend the morning is to get out and explore some of the unique shops in downtown 29 Palms. You’ll discover a beautiful collection of home décor and furnishings at Habitat, a colorful collection of locally made art, gifts, and crystals at Mojave Sol, and eclectic collectibles and antiques at the Carousel of Treasures.

After a fun morning spent exploring the shops in 29 Palms, enjoy a leisurely lunch while you contemplate the many interesting ways to spend your afternoon. 29 Palms is home to some unique attractions including the high desert’s only axe throwing venue. Spend an hour or two at The Boardroom and let your competitive side shine while playing one of the many fun axe throwing games.

If quirky road side attractions peak your interest, take a short drive east on Highway 62 and visit Glass Outhouse Art Gallery. You’ll not only discover a great indoor gallery space with contemporary art exhibits, but also a fun collection of playful outdoor art displays, including one of our favorites, “Schwinn Ranch.”

Dinner and a show is great way to spend your evening in 29 Palms, and we offer some a unique take on this popular date night theme. Remember drive-in movie theaters? We’ve still got one! Smith’s Ranch Drive-In Movie Theater is one of only 18 remaining drive-in movie theaters in California, and offers double features on the big screen Thursday through Sunday, with new films every week. Another great option for the “show” part of your evening is to see a play or musical at Theatre 29, a non-profit community theatre that has been entertaining the Morongo Basin and Coachella Valley area since it opened in 1999!

And lastly, if you’re in town on Saturday, be sure to stop by the 29 Palms Farmer’s Market where you can shop fresh, locally grown produce and a wide variety of artisan goods!

Places to Stay in 29 Palms:

29 Palms Inn
29 Palms RV Resort
9 Palms Inn
America’s Best Value
Campbell House
El Rancho Dolores
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott
Harmony Motel
Holiday Inn Express
Motel 6
Oasis Inn & Suites
Sunnyvale Garden Suites
SureStay Plus by Best Western

+ Choose from a wide variety of short-term vacation rentals!

As our modern lifestyles cause us to be increasingly plugged-in to technology, it becomes more and more vital to find balance, and ways to maintain and restore our health and well-being. Taking a break from our daily, fast-paced routines helps us recharge and re-energize our senses, and while there are countless ways to consider doing so, none are as tried and true as getting outdoors for some fresh air and quality time in nature. Spending time in nature has immediate positive impacts to our lives, especially for our overall health, fitness, and wellness.

From the quiet and soothing sounds of nature, to an otherworldly landscape with fascinating flora and fauna, to commanding sunsets and night skies bursting with stars, the California Desert offers unparalleled opportunities to connect with the natural environment and recharge your senses, and 29 Palms is the perfect destination to experience it all.

Here’s three ways to improve your health, fitness, and wellness in 29 Palms:

1. Hike your way to wellness

From feeling the warm sunshine on your face, to taking in the calming sights and sounds of nature, to the rush of endorphins as you reach the summit, you’ll feel good about lacing up those hiking boots and hitting the trails this winter. While hiking is proven to have significant health and fitness benefits, it can also help boost your mood and improve your mental health by reducing stress and calming anxiety.

Planning a visit to 29 Palms opens up endless opportunities for hiking, climbing, and exploration in the California Desert region, and whether you’re looking to start with short and scenic trails like the 0.5-mile Indian Cove nature trail, something more moderate like Lost Horse Mine or 49 Palms Oasis, or ready to take on the challenging Ryan Mountain, Joshua Tree National Park offers nearly 300 miles of world-class hiking trails.

For those seeking solitude on the trails, plan your visit to Joshua Tree National Park during a quieter weekday, and consider exploring new areas in Mojave Trails National Monument or taking the scenic drive out to the Mojave National Preserve where you’re sure to find a nice variety of hiking trails.

2. Stop for the sunset

Few places in California offer such commanding sunsets as the Mojave Desert. There’s always been something inherently powerful and spiritual about the sunset, and with research showing the experience of sitting outside and watching the sunset enhances our overall sense of satisfaction in life, we can all benefit from making more time for sunsets.

Key’s View in Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular places to watch the sunset, and for a good reason. At over 5,000 feet in elevation, the lookout at Key’s View offers panoramic views of the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea, and Mount San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio, two of the tallest mountains in southern California.

While Key’s View can be crowded during the peak holiday periods, sunset chasers looking for an equally stunning vantage point but with less people should consider making the drive to the iconic Amboy Crater Natural Landmark in Mojave Trails National Monument, or the exotic Kelso Sand Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve. Both locations will reward you will an outstanding spot to sit and watch the dramatic shift in the colors and tones of light across the vast desert landscape.  

And let’s not forget about those sunrises; an equally powerful and calming experience for those willing to get up before dawn. Early risers seeking a quiet and serene place to watch the sunrise will want to plan a drive to Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park, where the rewarding east facing views and picture perfect vantage point offer an incredible view of the sun rising over the horizon.

3. Find solitude under the stars

There’s nothing like looking up at a clear night sky and getting lost in the stars. After a rejuvenating day spent outdoors in the fresh air, pull up a comfy chair, rest your legs, and spend the evening under our breathtaking dark night sky, where the shinning stars and stunning constellations will surely take your breath away.

Enhance your stargazing experience with a private star viewing party with the 29 Palms Astronomy Club who bring the telescopes and passionate astronomers to you – whether you’re in the national park or lounging on the patio at your hotel or vacation rental. If you’re looking to enjoy the night sky in a social setting, look no further than Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center who offer free public star parties every Saturday evening. Sky’s The Limit is located on Utah Trail, just outside of the north entrance of Joshua Tree National Park.

Find accommodations
Book your stay in 29 Palms where you can choose from the areas largest collection of hotels and motels, plus a wide variety of vacation rentals – all located within in minutes of the north entrance of Joshua Tree National Park.

Plan your adventure
Once you arrive, be sure to drop by the 29 Palms Visitor Center where you’ll find helpful staff, informative resources and a great collection of free road maps for Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave Trails National Monument, the Mojave National Preserve and surrounding areas. Open daily from 10:00am – 4:00pm at the corner of Hwy 62 and Desert Queen Ave in downtown 29 Palms.

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