Pioneertown, CA: Adventures in the Desert

Guest blog post by Eavan:
A couple weeks ago I told my co-workers I was heading to Pioneertown for the weekend. Their immediate response was, “where?!,” followed by grumblings about me being a hippie. Well maybe I do dream about living on a organic farm slash winery slash puppy sanctuary one day, but for all the naysayers out there–let the record show that Pioneertown is one of California’s most unique desert oases.

Located off of Twentynine Palms Highway, about 20 miles from Joshua Tree, Pioneertown is a hidden gem. Originally built in 1946, the town was to function both as a movie set for old Westerns and a living space for the actors. What a sweet deal! Instead of a trailer, getting to live in the town saloon? Count me in.

Nowadays, Mane Street only has a handful of residents, one of which includes an older gentleman, his yellow lab, a pig, and a small horse. Guests can wander around the set, explore the desert surroundings and rock formations, and eat and drink at the town’s one restaurant: Pappy and Harriet’s. You would think that by having the monopoly on nightlife and dining, Pappy and Harriet’s would be overpriced. Instead, you get cheap stiff drinks served in mason jars and good bar food and BBQ. The ambiance is welcoming, filled with colorful locals and a handful of tourists. (One man at the bar proudly told me his beard would be old enough to vote come November!)

Every night the bar has live music and judging from the tour posters hung throughout the establishment, it’s not just the neighborhood cover band. Naturally there’s no pretentiousness in a town like this so if you feel inclined to dance and sway to the desert rock, hop on the bandwagon.

After downing some mason jars of whiskey, playing a few rounds of pool, and gyrating to live music, visitors can mosey over to the Pioneertown Motel, about 100 yards from the bar. Rooms are $70-$100 a night depending on the day and are as quaint and knick-knack filled as you’d imagine. Each room has a different theme from Annie Oakley to John Wayne. There are only 18 rooms at the inn, so be sure to book in advance.

Around midnight as the last of the locals leave Pappy’s, the town starts to get really interesting. I’ve never heard silence like this!  No cars, no trains, no helicopters, no extra lights beyond the hotel. It’s just silence, a sky full of a million stars, a good time with friends and a bottle of booze, and the desire to scream “WINNING!!!” into the empty desert.

Keep in mind: The desert gets really chilly at night.  Common sense, I know, but it doesn’t change the fact that I was totally freezing going from 70-degree LA to 30 degree desert.

If you decide to make a weekend trip out of it, visit some of thrift shops in downtown Joshua Tree and be sure to make an appointment for a sound bath at the Integratron!

Bonus tip(s): There is no convenience store, gas station or 7-11 type establishment in Pioneertown. As mentioned before there is one bar/eatery. Before turning off of Twentynine Palms Highway I highly recommend stopping for bottled water and other rations. You’ll be thankful when the hangover kicks in!

The Pioneertown Motel is dog friendly! Bring your pooch and they’ll have a blast meeting the town horse and pig.

Photo via Wikipedia.

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One thought on “Pioneertown, CA: Adventures in the Desert

  1. Pingback: 2fer Tuesday: SoCal Coachella Alternatives « 2 Weeks Paid

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