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  • Sunset at Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms, CA

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.

 

 

Join us this summer in 29 Palms and discover the Mojave Desert’s stunning dark night skies bursting with stars and dazzling meteor showers, and a breathtaking Milky Way!

From constellation tours and star parties at Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center, to upcoming solar and lunar eclipses, and evening programs at Joshua Tree National Park – an officially designated IDA International Dark Sky Park – there are incredible stargazing opportunities awaiting you in 29 Palms this summer. Plan your summer visit today!

Full Moon, Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms California.

Celestial summer night sky guide:

JUNE

JULY

AUGUST

Stargazing at Sky's The Limit Observatory and Nature Center, 29 Palms, California.

Best stargazing experiences in 29 Palms:

Star Parties at Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center
9697 Utah Trail, 29 Palms, CA 92277
Free public star parties are offered every Saturday, except on nights when the moon is full. Explore deep space with knowledgeable and passionate astronomers, learn about the prominent constellations and have your breath taken away by the summer milky way! Star parties start
about an hour after sunset and last approximately two hours.

Book a private stargazing party with the 29 Palms Astronomy Club
Whether you’re looking to spend an evening under the stars in Joshua Tree National Park or from the comfort of the patio of your hotel or vacation rental, the 29 Palms Astronomy Club will come to you! They offer fantastic private stargazing experiences, and cover the national park as well as the entire Morongo Basin area.

Discover the night sky in Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive, 29 Palms, CA 92277 
Recognized as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, Joshua Tree National Park offers spectacular stargazing opportunities throughout the year, boasting some of the darkest skies in southern California. Relax under the stars at one of the evening programs hosted at Jumbo Rocks Campground, every Saturday from 8:30pm – 9:30pm from June 1 – August 19, 2019.


Stargazing in Twentynine Palms, California.

Stargazing Checklist:

Bring a red-light flashlight – Avoid standard flashlights and headlamps with bright white light and either purchase a red-light flashlight, or convert your regular flashlight by coloring it with a red sharpie or covering it with red cellophane.

Bring warm layers – Be prepared for temperatures to drop quickly in the evening so be sure to bring extra layers of warm clothing.

Pack food and water – Don’t let a rumbling stomach distract you from enjoying the stars, or assume you won’t need water. The Mojave Desert is an extremely dry and hot place, even on summer evenings so bring at least 2 liters of water per person.

Bring a comfortable chair – Since you’ll be spending a long evening looking up into the sky you’ll want to have a lightweight camping chair to give your legs a break from standing, and so you can sit back and enjoy the show, especially during meteor shower peaks!

Avoid stargazing when the moon is full – Check the moon’s phase and try and get out during the new moon phase in order to see the stars at their brightest!

California Now Podcast

For more information and inspiration on stargazing in southern California, tune in to the first-ever Road Trips: Searching for Stars episode of the California Now Podcast as host Soterios Johnson gets out of the studio and explores Southern California’s awe-inspiring night sky!

Be sure to pick up a copy of the special road trip issue:
California Road Trips: 50 Life-Changing Adventures


Plan your summer getaway to 29 Palms, and come and experience some of the darkest night skies in southern California!

Recently during my tour of the Mojave Desert in southern California, I was captivated by the natural landscape of this mysterious desert, with its open vistas of rugged wilderness that gives you the privilege to experience total freedom of space when camping or hiking. The authenticity of the Mojave’s landscape enhances the natural beauty of the southern California terrain. I am an adventurous traveler, one that loves exploring the mystery of a place, and discovering the hidden treasures of a destination. During my travel to the Mojave Desert, I stumbled upon a rural desert city, called Twentynine Palms.  

Twentynine Palms is a natural wonderland of desert wilderness and rich cultural history which is vividly captured with historical murals that are displayed throughout the city.  The city of Twentynine Palms I learned is not only the home of the popular and historical headquarters of Joshua Tree National Park, it is also an official gateway community to Mojave Trails National Monument and Route 66, which to my delight is a short drive of about (49 minutes), north of Hwy 62 via Amboy Road.  A key feature that I noted of the Mojave Trails National Monument is that it connects the Mojave National Preserve with Joshua Tree National Park, which “ensures the biological connectivity of this landscape, while preserving traditional uses, such as hunting and off-highway vehicle recreation.” (BLM website)

Welcome to Mojave Trails National Monument

The Mojave Trails National Monument was designated in 2016, and is home to several significant natural treasures, such as the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of the original and historic Route 66, which takes you to the old world, as you discover vintage road signs, iconic neon signs, historical highway motels, restaurants, and motor courts.

Moreover, you will find in the city of Barstow, California many street murals depicting and celebrating the iconic Route 66. This iconic route further takes you into the historical mining and ghost towns of southern California, such as Amboy and Calico.  

Route 66 has been popularly referred to as the “mother road” because it was originally used by many Americans as travel path, for vacations to California. It was at one time the link for the United States across the rocky mountain divide to the Pacific Ocean.  It was also a travel path that was used by many to  migrate to different parts of the US, hence it  “celebrates the legacy and resilience of the American people, more significantly connects you to the essence of the American spirit.

Significantly, the romance and nostalgia of Route 66 is immortalized in popular culture, in movies, songs, such as Bobby Troup’s (1946) hit, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”, and the (1960s), Route 66 television show. The fascinating discovery for me on this tour was the Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark. An adventurer’s treat, a volcanic cinder cone in the middle of the Mojave Desert that resembles a lonely isolated mountain.

Visit 29 Palms and discover the iconic Route 66 to Amboy Crater Natural National Landmark in the Mojave Trails National Monument

Located 1.5 miles south of Route 66, and 55 minutes from the city of Twentynine Palms, Amboy Crater stands at 250 feet tall, 1,500 feet in diameter, and was formed by ash and cinders. Situated on one of the youngest volcanic field in the United States with its last documented eruption taking place 10,000 years ago, Amboy Crater is truly a geological wonder.

You can hike the trail on the west of the cinder cone, with the trail taking you to an opening where it seems that a one time a violent volcanic eruption ruptured the crater wall. CalWild provides a great description of the crater, explaining “inside, of the 250-foot-high crater contains two lava dams, which have formed small lava lakes. These are now flat in general appearance, covered with light colored clay, creating the impression of miniature “dry lakes.” Beyond the crater lies 24 square miles of lava flow, that has features of lava lakes, collapsed lava tubes and sinks, spatter cones, and massive flows of basalt.”

By hiking up to the 1,508-foot-tall center rim you will be rewarded with an awesome view that reveals an epic desert landscape. I recommend hiking the Amboy Crater trail in spring or early fall, when temperatures are cooler.

Visit 29 Palms and discover pristine sand dunes in the Mojave Desert, California

My partner, being the romantic he is, planned the last part of the tour towards the end of the day, so that I would experience the bold, brilliant, colors of the sun setting in the Mojave Desert.

As the evening progressed into the night, to my delight, I was taken to the exotic Kelso Dunes, located in the Mojave National Preserve. The night was lit up by the bright, sultry full moon. The light of the moon guided us in our hike to the top of the dunes. Once at the top you will experience panoramic views of the surrounding dunes and peaks, a picture perfect sea of sand that awakens all your senses. As we lay on the sand, we could feel the stillness of the night, the cool grains of the sand on our feet, the refreshing cool breeze of early fall silently fanning us. The Kelso Dunes have an energy of peace and tranquility that awakened my soul to experience the harmony of natures wonderland. 

According to popular belief, the dunes are noted for their singing.
 Jennifer Morrell describes “Kelso is one of a few acoustic dunes that produce a squeaking or booming sound as sand grains compress and slip over one another. A silica coating on the grains that helps them stick together also resonates when they are moved.”

Please note: that the wind and the sand continuously changes the outline of the dunes, this makes navigating the trail difficult, hence there is no permeant hike trail to the very top of the dunes.  Furthermore, driving through the Mojave Preserve to the Kelso Sand Dunes can be difficult, and requires planning and navigation research.

For more information on these destinations, visit:
Mojave Trails National Monument
Amboy Crater Natural National Landmark, Mojave Trails National Monument
Route 66, Mojave Trails National Monument
Mojave National Preserve
Kelso Sand Dunes

Ash Maharaj is an Advisory Board member for the 29 Palms Tourism Business Improvement District, and owner of the iconic Harmony Motel. Visit Ash’s blog to read more on her adventures in the Mojave Desert.