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11 Best Things to Do in Pioneertown, California

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Experience a Wild West set brought to life at Pioneertown. This article covers the best things to see and do in this tranquil desert community. California is known for its bustling metropolises and National Parks, but it is also home to many undiscovered places filled with hidden gems.

Adventure-seekers can venture off the beaten path to the desert community of Pioneertown. This tranquil region in Yucca Valley offers the perfect respite for wandering souls.

While Pioneertown has existed for decades, it has remained largely unknown for many years. The town recently gained fame thanks to famous neighbors like Joshua Tree National Park.

It served as the set for various Western movies and was later transformed into a community with motels and restaurants. The town makes for a great day trip from Palm Springs, too. 

The History of Pioneertown, California

Sunny day at historic Pioneertown chapel with rustic wooden architecture and vibrant desert plants.
fotoping / Adobe Stock

The area of Pioneertown served as an ‘Old West’ set for over 50 films in the 1940s and was frequented by Hollywood’s top actors, like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Given the town’s long commute to Los Angeles, the actors (together with Hollywood investors) decided to build a town they could stay in during filming to avoid going back and forth to LA.

Pioneertown was the setting for movies like ‘The Cisco Kid’ and ‘Main Street. ‘ Today, it offers visitors an authentic Western experience. It is the place for you if you enjoy line dancing, good food, and a cold beer. 

See Related: Best Vacation Rentals in California

Best Things to Do in Pioneertown

Step back in time and experience an old west town at its best. Here are the top things to do in Pioneertown:

1. Visit an Old West Movie Set

Vintage wooden facade of Ernie Kester's Film Museum in Pioneertown, California, showcasing rustic Wild West charm against a desert backdrop.
4kclips / Adobe Stock

Address: 53745 Pioneertown Rd, Pioneertown, CA 92268, United States

Pioneertown was the brainchild of a group of Hollywood actors who wanted to create an Old West movie set that served as a functional community. The Wild West architecture of the 1800s influenced the town with its false facades, bars and saloons, jails, and ice cream parlors (think Westworld).

While most movie sets are just that- a set, Pioneertown is a set that was brought to life. ‘Mane Street’ is a major attraction here and includes everything from a post office to a church and even a marshal’s office.

If you’re lucky, you may even see a mock gunfight and Old West reenactments. Stop by the gift shop for a souvenir from this unique town.

2. The Pioneertown Motel

The Pioneer Motel

Address: 5240 Curtis Rd, Pioneertown, CA 92268, United States

One of the highlights of Mane Street is Pioneertown Motel, a quaint desert inn that provides an authentic old-west town experience in the Yucca Valley. This desert escape offers a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

It is also near attractions like Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. While the motel does have air conditioning and showers, it allows visitors to disconnect from the real world. There are limited amenities and no TVs or phones in this rustic respite.

Before you get here, pack everything you need and set your status to ‘out of office. ‘ This desert getaway is a must-see spot on a trip to California.

3. Pappy and Harriet’s

Pappy and Harriet's

Address: 53688 Pioneertown Rd, Pioneertown, CA 92268, United States

A major attraction in Pioneertown is Pappy and Harriet’s, a local indie bar where you get to experience entertainment in the Wild West. The bar is perfect for music lovers and has attracted artists from all over the world. Singers like Paul McCartney and the Arctic Monkeys have performed here.

Once Pioneertown was past its Wild West set days, Pappy and Harriet’s was a joint for biker gangs. It was later transformed into a more family-friendly destination, offering great Tex-Mex food with beer.

Dig into the diner’s famous Asada chili and enjoy great live music. This spot is famous among many travelers and even earned the title of one of the Top Ten Hidden Gems in the country by Billboard Magazine, making it one of the more fun things to do when you visit Pioneertown.

See Related: Things to Do in Los Angeles

4. The Integratron

The Integratron

Address: 2477 Belfield Blvd, Landers, CA 92285, United States

Take a break from the Wild West and get your dose of science for the day. The Integratron is located in the Mojave desert, right outside Pioneertown.

Ufologist George Van Tassel built this 38-foot mystical energy machine. He claimed to have built the structure based on instructions he received from visitors from the planet Venus.

The Integratron was built to rejuvenate and was funded by donations from prominent figures like Howard Hughes. The sound bath is the highlight of this place and is raved about by many.

It includes a 60-minute bath that provides sonic healing, using different sounds for relaxation and introspection. Tickets to the sound bath sell out quickly, so make your reservations well in advance.

5. Keys Ranch

Historic Keys Ranch in Joshua Tree National Park, rustic wooden buildings against rock formations and blue sky.
Steve Cukrov – stock.adobe.com

Address: Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, United States

Once you’re done exploring Mane Street in Pioneertown, it’s time to head deeper into the West and experience ranch life. Keys Ranch is a preserved ranch depicting a pioneer family’s life in the 1900s. It once belonged to a miner named Bill Keys, who lived on the property for nearly 60 years.

Keys called the remote patch of land Desert Queen Ranch. As the owner of over 30 mines and a stamp mill, he dug for gold and ore in the surrounding area. Bill and his wife, Frances, raised three kids in the rocky terrain he called home.

They also had a vegetable garden and a farm with chickens and goats. Bill Keys developed the property over the years, and after his death, it was preserved to depict the life of a true pioneer of his time. You can take a 90-minute guided tour of Key Ranch to learn more about the history of the people and the land.

6. Lost Horse Mine

Lost Horse Mine in California

Address: Lost Horse Mine Spur, California, United States

The land surrounding Pioneertown was once famous among miners who dug nearly 300 mines in the 1800s, hoping to find riches. While most of their efforts were futile, one mine did produce returns. The Lost Horse Mine now sits on the land protected by Joshua Tree National Park.

Between the late 1800s and 1900s, this mine produced 16,000 ounces of silver and 10,000 ounces of gold, valued at $5 million. While no more gold and silver treasures are buried below (unfortunately), visitors see what is left of the mine.

If you are an avid hiker, take the 4-mile loop around the mine that starts from Keys Views Road. This will take you to the gold mine and a mine shaft where workers are lowered into the mine. It was followed by stamp mill miners like Bill Keys, who used to crush ore.

Take the 0.3-mile loop to the top of the hill for a shorter hike, where you can enjoy spectacular views of Lost Horse Valley and Pleasant Valley.

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7. Cholla Cactus Garden

Cholla Cactus

Address: Cholla Cactus Garden Trail, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, United States

A visit to Pioneertown also allows visitors to explore the vast landscapes in the surrounding regions. If you consider yourself a thrill-seeker, consider walking in the Cholla Cactus Garden. This is one of Joshua Tree’s most treacherous paths and is not for the faint.

This garden is also called the Teddy Bear Cholla, but don’t be fooled by its name. These cacti are anything but cuddly. While the terrain is quite flat, the cacti make the hike dangerous.

The best time to walk this 0.3-mile trail is during sunrise or sunset. When the sunlight shines through the cacti, it gives the plant a divine glow and is picture-worthy. This is also another great trip from Palm Springs to make.

See Related: Best Travel Backpacks for Minimalists

8. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree silhouette against rocky terrain in Joshua Tree National Park
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: California, United States

Just 15 minutes outside Pioneertown is one of California’s most famous national parks—Joshua Tree. This ecological terrain comprises two deserts, the Mojave Desert and Colorado, which form the Joshua Tree. It is most famous for its Joshua Tree (hence the name), which attracts tourists from all over the world.

While the park is mostly known for its flora and fauna, you can explore its surroundings on hiking trails that cross valleys and plains. These places offer great sunset views.

If you like rock climbing, the park offers more than 8,000 beginner and expert routes. You can even take a guided tour of Joshua Tree National Park through GetYourGuide.

Given its proximity to Pioneertown, visitors can spend the night glamping at Joshua Tree or do a day trip to the park. Joshua Tree National Park is one of California’s top places to see. You can even take a guided walking tour to learn more about the park. It’s one of the coolest things to do in Pioneertown.

See Related: Northern California vs Southern California

9. Palms Oasis

Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve tranquil waterscape with reflective palm trees
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Fortynine Palms Canyon Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, United States

Visitors get to explore California’s Wild West at Pioneertown, but the surrounding region has a lot of history to offer. Outside Pioneertown, the Palm Oasis is a trail filled with exotic fauna and flora. This is an easy excursion from either Palm Springs or Palm Desert.

The Native American path is 300 feet high and curves around a sharp ridge and again around a palm grove. To reach the narrow ravine, you must hike across rocky terrain.

The trail ends with 100 palm trees and pools, which are the highlight of the place. These palm trees are native to California and require a constant water supply.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Northern California

10. Spiritual Vortex

Spiritual Vortex

While many believe Vortexes to be myths, they actually exist in places like Joshua Tree. A vortex is a space that exudes an energy that washes over you the minute you arrive. Joshua Tree is known for its cosmic draw, and each year, spiritual people flock to the desert to feel its energy.

With its exquisite rock formations and punctuated Yucca trees, Joshua Tree’s desert landscape can lull you into a meditative state. While we can’t know if Vortexes exist in Joshua Tree, the desert town definitely has calming energy.

See Related: Hotel vs. Motel vs. Inn – What’s the Difference?

11. Gaze at the stars

Stargazing

One of the best parts about venturing into the outdoors is watching the stars on a clear night; Pioneertown has no shortage of them. Almost any spot in this area is great for stargazing. You can even camp in Joshua Tree and watch the stars from there.

On a clear night, you can see different constellations and galaxies from the Pioneertown mountains. The desert region’s low humidity and distance from the city make it the perfect place to watch the stars. If you enjoy stargazing, there are various groups you can join, or you can even sign up for a guided night sky program.

Spend your day exploring the pioneer way of life and nature that surrounds this town. While this place does not have WIFI, you can use this time to unwind in a sound bath or watch the stars in the night sky.

Tours in Pioneertown

1. Dakota House by AvantStay Top Recommendation

Looking for the perfect desert getaway? Look no further than Dakota House by AvantStay. This modern boho paradise is gleaming with natural light and surrounded by incredible views. With a private hot tub and access to world-class hiking, you'll be able to relax and recharge in style. And with AvantStay's 24/7 support team and tech-enabled concierge, you'll have everything you need to make the most of your stay. Book now and enjoy all that Dakota House has to offer!

2. TRZ: Pioneertown Ranch w/ Basketball & Billiards

This beautiful property has been thoughtfully reimagined as a luxurious and comfortable retreat, ideal for families or groups of friends. You'll fall in love with the stunning views of the Pioneertown Mountain Preserve and Sand to Snow Monument. And you'll appreciate being away from it all, while still being just minutes from Pappy & Harriet's and numerous hiking opportunities. TRZ Residence is the perfect place to relax and unwind.

3. Cowboy Camper in Pioneertown

Step back in time and experience all that Pioneertown has to offer when you stay in this vintage cowboy trailer. Under a starry sky, you'll be just a short walk away from Pappy's and Mane Street. The two bunk beds are each 48x75 and the kitchen is equipped with a propane heater, sink, gas stove, dining table, and utensils. The bathroom has a shower, sink, toilet, and closet. Exterior amenities include a caravan with seating, picnic table, and propane BBQ.

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