Leave three hours if you’re driving to Pioneertown from Los Angeles Airport. Once there, check in to the super-cool Pioneertown Motel, which was renovated in 2014, and have a wander round town, making sure to check out the cowboy vintage wares at the Pioneertown General Store.
Head a few miles out of town to the raw but beautiful Pioneertown Mountains Preserve for the sunset (take plenty of water) with views across the plateau. Get back to Pioneertown in time for dinner at the iconic Pappy & Harriet’s. Try the signature chilli and plan on staying late to soak up the vibe and listen to live music.
Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms
Get up early and drive down the beautiful winding road to Yucca Valley, then on to Joshua Tree, with its thrift stores, saloons and hippy vibe. Have a fortifying breakfast at local favourite Crossroads Cafe, where the huevos rancheros are a winner, before heading into Joshua Tree National Park, where you often see dramatic fashion shoots among the evocative rock formations.
After a few hikes at spots like Hidden Valley and Wonderland of Rocks, have a healthy lunch at the all-organic Natural Sisters Cafe in Joshua Tree. Next, explore The End in Yucca Valley, a gorgeous vintage boutique. Drive back through Joshua Tree to the 29 Palms Inn, in the town of Twentynine Palms. Built in 1928, it’s a quaint 70-acre oasis, with a heated pool and the best restaurant in town. Order your picnic for the next day, and relax…
Salton Sea and Palm Springs
After breakfast at the 29 Palms Inn, and maybe a morning yoga session, drive back into the Joshua Tree National Park from the Twentynine Palms entrance, and take a selfie at Arch Rock as you drive south through the park towards the Cottonwood Spring Oasis, with its short, shady walk.
As you leave Joshua Tree, head towards Palm Springs, but take a detour before you get there, heading south towards the Salton Sea, a shallow saline lake that is home to all kinds of oddball Americana, from colourful, monumental “outsider art” piece Salvation Mountain, to the fish skeletons and abandoned, salt-encrusted cars and buildings at Bombay Beach, once a thriving resort.
When you’re ready for civilisation, head to Palm Springs, which has seen a glut of cool new hotels open lately. You could join the young and the beautiful at the Ace Hotel, with its famous pool parties, but we’d recommend Holiday House, a 28-room boutique hotel in a 1950s building with friendly staff, great modern art and a restaurant with the best fries in town, according to Eater.
If you do want to venture out, head to Workshop Kitchen+Bar, where Michael Beckman’s locavore food is served in a space that won a James Beard award for restaurant design in 2015. After black cod or a mesquite-grilled pork chop, toast your desert adventure with a Hemingway-inspired Jack Rose cocktail.