Desert Days + Starry Nights at AutoCamp’s New Airstream Stay in Joshua Tree

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Remote travel destinations like national parks and private accommodation options (hi, van life) have looked sexier than ever over the past two years as travelers seek safe ways to travel in the light of Covid-19.

Your own RV parked in a wild setting? Please and thank you.

AutoCamp may already be a household name among Bay Area adventurers who have stayed in the Santa Barbara-based company’s Airstreams in the outposts of Guerneville (since 2016) and Yosemite National Park, which opened its doors in 2019. The brand now offers its unique glamping experience. in Joshua Tree, giving us all a new reason to brake for the desert.


If you’ve never been to an AutoCamp or dipped your toes into the Airstream life, you can expect a blurring of the line between camping and a limited-service hotel.

All AutoCamp sites have a central clubhouse, an architectural focal point where you can check in, grab snacks and drinks, and relax in the communal lounge. At Joshua Tree Camp, located about a 10-minute walk from the eastern outskirts of town, the structure was designed from raw, natural materials by HKS to resemble the semi-cylindrical, weatherproof Quonset huts that were prefabricated for the US Army during World War II. San Francisco-based Narrative Design Studio outfitted the interior with mid-century modern-style furniture, hand-woven textiles, and pieces made by local artisans.

The 25-acre property is dotted with 47 Airstreams (plus a few luxury suites and tents) each with a comfortable queen bed; a kitchenette equipped with basic crockery, cookware and utensils (you will appreciate the cast iron pan for grilling); cupboards; and a bathroom with shower, sink and toilet. Nice little extras include bathrobes, essential toiletries, free water bottles to refill at the on-site water station, and heat and air. There are also, of course, outdoor picnic tables and fire pits; wood can be purchased at the clubhouse. If you are considering becoming a chef, it would be wise to pack your own spices and oils.

As day turns to night, the campground comes alive in a new way and the sunset over the horizon of the low mountains is not to be missed. Grab a glass of wine from your personal stash or AutoCamp’s general store, pull out that s’more kit, and get cozy by the fire for the show. Depending on when you visit, you might catch a local live band on the clubhouse terrace and maybe even make some new friends.

Speaking of the community aspect, new activities are in the works for the future, including movie nights, yoga classes, sound healing and fireside chats. The heated pool will open in March, and there’s even a specially screened stargazing station.

When to visit is up to you, although we recommend going while it’s still cool and before word gets out. Winter and early spring are the best times to hike Joshua Tree. If you brave the summer months, at least know that your Airstream will be air-conditioned.

When you’re ready to explore, you’ll find plenty of hikes and nature spots. Or take one of AutoCamp’s bikes to explore Joshua Tree Town’s quirky shops, bars and arts scene.

Eat + Drink Around Joshua Tree

(Courtesy of Joshua Tree Saloon)

Joshua Tree Lounge is a local hotspot with a huge outdoor patio and a menu of American fare — think burgers, crispy fish tacos, and nachos — with live music on the weekends. // Cafe Carrefour is a favorite for dinner-style breakfasts or a late lunch. // Get all the wines and spirits you will need at Joshua Tree Bottle Shop. // More of a beer lover? Try a local craft beer off the beaten track at Joshua Tree Brewery. // Dez Fine Food is a great place to grab pre-made sandwiches and salads before heading to the park. // Campbell Hill Bakery is a must visit – their breakfast sandwiches often sell out at 9am. // Foodies would do well to add kitchen in the desert to their route. Located at 29 Palms, the restaurant/bar serves dinner and weekend brunch with a Caribbean flair. // Girlfriend in Yucca Valley is worth the short drive for elegant dishes such as Lyon salad and PEI mussels. with Pernod butter. While in the area, stop for groceries – Yucca Valley has more market options than Joshua Tree.

Activities and recreation in Joshua Tree

Split Rock at Joshua Tree National Park.

(James Lee)

If you are here to hike and explore the desert, Joshua Tree National Park has countless steep trails and outcroppings for bouldering. If you only have the weekend, focus on the highlights including Split Rock, Ryan Mountain, and Hidden Valley.

Fans of quirky arts and crafts will find plenty to enjoy in Joshua Tree. the World famous crochet museum is a one-of-a-kind oddity. Or, if trash is your treasure, visit the free site Noah Purifoy Open Air Museum to browse sculptures made from reused scrap metal. // The dome Integrtron in Landers (about 20 minutes from the park) has been a hippie destination since the 1950s. Today, the National Register of Historic Places landmark offers 60-minute sound baths by reservation. // Pioneertown is a quirky one-street Wild West movie town with fun memorabilia to uncover. Stop by for drinks and tacos at the Red Dog Saloon, or get your meat fix at the always packed Pappy + Harriet’s.

Where to shop in Joshua Tree

(Courtesy of Mercado Mojave)

While we don’t call Joshua Tree a shopping destination exactly, thrifty and trash sorters can make for some great finds if you know where to look.

Mojave Flea Market Post in Yucca Valley stocks clothing and homewares from a number of different designers, including SF-based Hampui Hats. // Acme 5 is a boho-modern boutique brimming with enviable treasures such as Moroccan silk pillows, African mud cloth textiles, Mexican blankets and locally made pottery. Be sure to look at the back patio for the outdoor sculptures. // Look for colorful vintage at The end. // Heavenly Village Market is an exchange meeting only on weekends. // Need a quick t-shirt or summer dress? You’ll find brands like Free People and Lucky Jeans on Itinerant travelers. // Mojave Market brings together local artisans and makers for a Saturday-only pop-up (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) in Pioneertown; a Yucca Valley market in preparation for 2022.

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