Like a rare flower that blooms in unexpected places, the high-desert towns of Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree bring travelers surprising delights. Situated on a stretch of Twentynine Palms Highway about 30 miles north of Palm Springs, these adjacent communities offer the serenity of their remote location, extra-starry skies and, because of their 3,300-foot elevation, temperatures 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the valley floor. These rural-but-urbane outposts attract those seeking an inspirational, beautiful, and contemplative setting to create art and music. The Sept. 5 though 8 Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, one of the nation’s largest yoga events, has become “the spiritual Woodstock,” offering music, workshops, and lots of yoga
Old Town Yucca Valley spans about a dozen blocks along Twentynine Palms Highway, where an assortment of vintage, antique, and consignment stores, such as HooDoo, may sell $10 tiki mugs or, at Pioneer Crossing antiques, a $33 Depression-era canister. Under the Sun Consignments stocks American antiques, such as a $1,700 oak writing desk. Make an appointment—and a donation—to see the Outdoor Desert Art Museum, home and studio of the late assemblage sculptor Noah Purifoy (free). Integratron, an acoustically perfect, all-wood dome offers purifying “sound baths” ($30 to $80).
Ma Rouge is an oasis of espresso and great pastries on the edge of Yucca Valley’s Old Town. The building’s high tin ceilings give an old-timey feel to a modern take on the coffeehouse, where contemporary art lines the walls, and at night, live music accompanies the quiche, sandwiches, soups, and smoothies ($3 to $8). You can have lunch for breakfast, or breakfast for lunch at Country Kitchen, where its owners, who have perfected chocolate chip pancakes with bacon and eggs ($8 and up), offer a refreshing salad of shredded cabbage, mint, and crushed peanuts with a tangy garlic vinaigrette ($9).
The Joshua Tree Retreat Center, a 420-acre meeting-and-events center that’s home to the Bhakti Fest, is a compound designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and son Lloyd. Visitors can camp ($25), or rent bungalows or larger houses ($55 and up). The Joshua Tree Inn ($89 to $159) celebrates the Mojave landscape and its long association with musicians such as Gram Parsons and Donovan, and actor John Wayne. Still popular with musicians who occasionally stage an impromptu jam around the pool, the inn is also a convenient gateway to Joshua Tree National Park’s hiking and bike trails.
Old Woman Springs Road, the highway midway between Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree, supposedly got its name from surveyors in 1856 who found a camp occupied by Native American women near a spring.
1. Photograph by Eric Allix Rogers. 2. PHotograph by Michael Hamilton. 3. Photograph by Greg Thomas. 4. Photograph by Joel Carranza.
This article originially appeared in the September 2013 issue.