Desert Magic: A Girls Trip to Joshua Tree

Travel Advisor Liz Schmittgens in a red sweater.
Curated By

Liz Schmittgens

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  • Active Travel

  • Group Travel

  • California

  • Bachelorette Party Destinations

  • Countryside

  • National Park

  • Sightseeing

Cactus plants in desert
Curator’s statement

The desert landscape is a magical place to gather with the most important women in your life. It’s also a great place for a diverse group of friends looking for different things out of their long weekend with options for relaxation, outdoor and foodie activities. One of my girlfriends also introduced the idea of a Land Acknowledgement on this trip. A land acknowledgement is a way of formally recognizing and showing appreciation for the Indigenous peoples who have been traditional stewards of the land for generations before colonization. This helped bring a bit of extra magic to our long weekend together.

The Fora Difference

Book with Liz to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.

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Killer perks

Free upgrades, spa credits and more—we got you

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Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay in California

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Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel

Sleek property in downtown Palm Springs with chic rooms that offer views of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Fora Perks
  • $50 hotel credit.

  • Welcome amenities.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & late check-out whenever possible.

AutoCamp Joshua Tree

Curated for those who just can't get enough of nature, these airstreams ensure that your adventures are close to that signature California camping experience, minus the fuss.

Avalon Hotel & Bungalows Palm Springs

Chic, Spanish-style lodging at the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains in Palm Springs.

Fora Perks
  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade to next room category, based upon availability at check-in.

  • Complimentary welcome drink.

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Travel Advisor Liz Schmittgens in a red sweater.

Unlock perks by contacting Liz to book your trip.

Things to do in California

Mountains with tree and grass during blue hour.
  • Visit some truly unique outdoor art installations:

    • Transmission’ Sculpture by Daniel Popper

    • Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum

    • Rhythm of Life

    • Fitting In’ by Hector Santos

  • Take a drive out to Pioneertown for a funky mix of boutique shopping and kitschy Western shows.

  • Explore a trail on horseback at CottonWood Canyon Ranch.

  • Experience a unique sound bath at The Integratron dome.

  • Take LOTS of photos during golden hour. The sunset light in the desert is truly different and you will want to capture it with your group. Hire a local photographer for a professional eye.

  • Go for a hike to see the varied landscapes and admire the Joshua Trees. If you are there January to Mid-April, you'll also see the cacti flowering. Forty-nine Palms Oasis was a particular favorite, but there are many trails in the area:

    • Forty-nine Palms Oasis

    • Nancy Karl Trailhead

    • Barker Dam

    • Black Rock Canyon Trailhead

Places to eat & drink in California

A group of people in a restuarant

When you're in Pioneertown, don't miss the BBQ at Pappy + Harriet's. And don't be afraid to get messy with a rack of ribs. Your girlfriends will be sure to tell you if you have sauce on your face.

If you stay in a place with a kitchen, hire a local private chef. For girls trips or any group over five people, this is one of the best ways to get quality time with the group, skirt all the logistics of finding a restaurant that will take large groups and enjoy a great meal cooked by a local.

For off-the-beaten-path dining

  • La Copine Kitchen - A hidden gem with a rotating menu of California-inspired dishes.

  • Frontier Cafe - A quirky spot with a vintage vibe and delicious breakfast burritos.

For when you fly in and out of Palm Beach

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Zurich Like a Local.

Travel Advisor Liz Schmittgens in a red sweater.

Travel Advisor

Liz Schmittgens

Get in touch with Liz

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.