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The winter months are one of the best times to visit the high-desert, and the busiest. From hiking trails to some serious stargazing, we rounded up our favorite things to do in the high and low desert during the winter. A little off the beaten path and away from the more popular tourist-y spots, these will get you outside enjoying the high-desert like a true local.
Our favorite hike is on the edge of the Joshua Tree National Park, but not inside the park boundaries. It’s a quick one-mile loop that ascends to 400 feet elevation with amazing views of most of the Morongo Basin. Less busy than other areas of the park, it takes around 45 minutes with lots of Joshua Trees and Pinyon Pines along the trail.
See the Simi Dabah Sculptures
Spread over five acres of residential land, Simi Dabah's raw metal sculptures are a must-see in the hi desert. Large geometric sculptures are left raw to rust and look striking against the desert backdrop.
Hike Goat Mountain
If you are up for a more challenging hike than the Hi View Nature Trail, opt for this one, and you’ll likely have the mountain to yourself. A rocky trail leads you up the side of the famous Goat Mountain in Landers. Once at the top, you have a 360 view of the entire basin. Takes about 45 minutes to get to the top.
Visit the Sky Valley Swap Meet
This swap meet is an every-weekend desert mainstay. We always go for weird junk finds and if we’re looking for something specific and have patience, we will eventually find it at the swap.
Shop the Farmers Market at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center
Where else can you enjoy a vegan lunch in a Lloyd Wright-designed cafe? The JT Retreat Center started serving a really good breakfast and lunch in the past year or so. Their hours are limited and subject to change, so make sure you check their Instagram for the latest updates and menu.
Stargaze in 29 Palms
The desert is notoriously famous for its clear night skies, but if you’re looking to take your stargazing to the next level visit a monthly night program at the Sky’s the Limit observatory and nature center in 29 Palms. Check their calendar for special events and regular programming.
The Mojave Desert Land Trust just opened their new discovery garden at their headquarters in Joshua Tree. Open from sunup to sundown, it’s a great place to see and study native desert plants.
We hope you’ll give some of these desert outings a try on your next trip out here! And if you’re looking for recommendations for places to shop, eat, and stay, check out our full travel guide.