Pioneertown is a bizarre step back into a different era.
Imagine creating a place for you and your friends where you can play, work, and raise a family, add an 1880s vibe and you have Pioneertown.
Created in 1948 by Gene Autry, Roy Roger, and friends, Pioneertown was meant as a fully functioning, 1880’s themed movie set for actors of the day to work and live. While its heyday may have expired, a visit to Pioneertown is still a must. This desert oasis is a quick 20-minute drive from Joshua Tree or about an hour from Palm Springs.
Top 5 Things to Do in Pioneertown
Before the temperatures climb, start your morning off with a nice hike and then head over to Pappy and Harriet’s for lunch. It can get super busy so aim for arrival close to their 11 am opening, enjoy lunch, and then head over to the stampede. Take in the show and then browse the shops along Main St. When the sun begins to fade, head out to the Drive-In for a show under the stars.
1. Take a Hike - Sawtooth Trail Short Loop
This moderate hike starts down the road from Pioneertown. There are many offshoots, so download the trail map before heading out. Enjoy the incredible rock formations, Joshua Tree sightings, and if you’re lucky, flowering cacti. There’s also a nice creek that cuts through the landscape.
Dogs are allowed! Since dogs aren’t allowed in the National Park, this is a nice option.
- Length: 4.1 miles (loop)
- Elevation Gain: 443 ft
- ETA: 1.5hours
This is the most happening and popular place to be in Pioneertown both because of its incredible food, but also the thriving live music scene which has played host to everyone from Lizzo to Paul McCartney.
Their claim as ‘the best open fire Santa Maria bbq west of Texas,’ is 100% accurate and that’s coming from a KC native, so I know my bbq. The tri-tip with a side of mac and cheese is a must-try. If the sun is out, sip on a libation from their creative drink menu and enjoy an afternoon on their huge patio.
Don’t forget to check the music schedule. The inside venue is small but mighty and makes for an incredible music experience. When the weather is nice, the music moves to the outdoor stage where you can dance under the stairs.
3. Main Street Stampede Wild West Show
We had no idea what to expect from the ‘Stampede.’ I did have my hopes set on an actual cattle drive-esque stampede but alas it was not. What it was, was almost better, a wild west show. When the weather cooperates it’s held at 1 pm on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month Oct-May.
The actors are keeping the wild west alive! They were engaged, entertaining and genuinely looked like they were having a great time. The shows are funny and often incorporate the audience. It is very much worth the time. While free, donations are accepted and the proceeds given to a local children’s charity.
4. Shop on Main Street
A sign at the end of Main St cheekily claims ‘Hoof and Foot Traffic Only.’ Pioneertown is a combination of real stores and false storefronts. We were surprised at the caliber of some of the shops including XēBA BOTáNICA which hand crafts skin care products from organic plant-based materials. The owner was lovely and happily answered all my questions.
Other shops include the Pioneertown General Store, a local art studio, a pottery shop, a goat soap shop, and don’t miss out on a photo op with their goat. He typically basks in the sun wearing a handkerchief and a cowboy hat.
Shows are on the third Tuesday of every month and the screen is adjacent to Pappy and Harriet’s. Before showtime, enjoy vintage advertising and classic western shorts as well as Pioneertown trivia. If you're lucky, they might even have live music. Let’s just say it is a whole experience.
The Comedy Chuckwagon is the first Tuesday of every month. Check the schedule to see who is performing. If you’re like me and can’t fathom a movie without popcorn in hand, you need not worry, the drive-in now has a concession stand.
Where to Stay:
- Pioneertown Motel- This place is cute and very small so make sure to book in advance. They have a nice outdoor space that would be perfect for star gazing.
- Joshua Tree/ Yucca Valley Airbnb - We stayed in Yucca Valley which is centrally located a mere 10 minutes from Pioneertown and 10 minutes to the entrance of JTNP.
- Pioneertown Airbnb - If you have a large group, this place is so awesome it was featured on Netflix’s ‘World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals.’
Know Before You Go:
- Bring Layers — It is hot, hot in the summer, and very cold in the winter. Don’t be caught unprepared. We showed up in a blizzard without enough layers. It was not good.
- Bring Water — When the temperatures rise, you will be thankful for a water bottle by your side.
- Hat/ Sun Covering - Whether hiking, taking in the show or sipping cocktails on the patio, a hat will shield you from the elements. And don’t forget your sunscreen. No one wants to look old before their time.
*Fun fact…Pioneertown is still an operating production venue. It is regularly booked for tv, movie, and advertising productions.
- 156 Episodes of The Cisco Kid were filmed here between 1950-1956.
- Both Cyndi Lauper and Ice Cube filmed music videos in Pioneertown.
- Cyndi Lauper: Funnel of Love Music Video (2016)
- Ice Cube: I Rep That West Music Video (2010)
We ventured to Pioneertown a number of times when we were in Yucca Valley. I feel like I noticed something different each time and the Stampede still makes me smile. It was so hokey and fabulous all in one.