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  • Sunset at Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms, CA

Join us in 29 Palms this March 31 – April 7 for International Dark Sky Week – a worldwide event hosted by the International Dark-Sky Association that celebrates the wonder of our night sky! Founded in 1988, the International Dark-Sky Association works “to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting,” and has hosted the International Dark Sky Week event since 2003.

The theme of the 2019 International Dark Sky Week is “open a window to the night” and we’ve highlighted some special opportunities to do just that this week in and around 29 Palms:

Star Party at Sky's The Limit Observatory and Nature Center in 29 Palms, CA.

Star Party: Mars and a Bright Open Cluster
Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center, 29 Palms, CA

Saturday, April 6, 2019
8:00pm – 10:00pm

The constellation Leo is near zenith (directly overhead) with bright star Regulus. To the east is M66, a bright galaxy that is 21 million light years away. Look further east and find Bootes and the brilliant globular cluster M3. It is 32,000 light years distant. To the left of the Star Regulus, look to the west for the dim constellation Cancer. You will find a great open star cluster M44, commonly called the Beehive – one of the brightest as it is only 538 light years distant. Sunset will be at 7:08pm. Prominent constellations: Leo (The Lion), Virgo (The Virgin), Bootes (The Herdsman), Hydra (The Water Snake), Cancer (The Crab). This is a free event, no registration required.

Learn more about events at Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center
Find lodging in 29 Palms

Dark Sky Astronomy Programs at the Mojave National Preserve near 29 Palms, CA.

Dark Sky Astronomy Program
Mojave National Preserve

Saturday, April 6, 2019
8:00pm – 9:00pm

Join the Dark Sky Ranger to view the magnificent night sky and learn about the importance of the dark sky at the Mojave National Preserve. Meet at 8:00pm at Site #1 at Hole in the Wall Campground, and be sure to bring some warm layers, a flashlight, and a camp chair. This event is free and does not require registration.

Learn more about astronomy programs at the Mojave National Preserve
Find lodging in 29 Palms

Designated as an International Dark Sky Park by the IDA, Joshua Tree National Park offers visitors to 29 Palms an incredible way to experience the night sky.

Starry Starry Night Evening Program
Joshua Tree National Park
Thursday, April 4, 2019
8:00pm – 8:45pm

Celebrate International Dark Sky Week in an International Dark Sky Park! Join a Park Ranger for a tour of the universe as seen from Joshua Tree National Park. Meet at the Indian Cove Amphitheater, near Site #40 at the end of Indian Cove Road. Bring warm layers, water and snacks, and consider carpooling as parking is limited.

If you have explored Joshua Tree National Park at night you have surely marveled at all those stars, but did you know it’s an official International Dark Sky Park?

Designated as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association on August 12, 2017, Joshua Tree National Park boasts some of the darkest night skies in southern California! Defined by the IDA as “a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment,” Joshua Tree National Park joins 19 other national parks with Dark Sky Park status, and offers visitors an unforgettable experience under the stars.

Learn more about stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park
Find lodging in 29 Palms

Save the Date – the 5th annual Night Sky Festival is taking place in 29 Palms on Saturday, September 21, 2019!

Join us in 29 Palms this fall as we celebrate of our stunning night skies! From astronomy lectures and solar telescope viewing, to guided walks with docents and astronomy themed crafts and activities for youth, to the evening star party with astronomers and 20+ telescopes, this festival offers fun for the whole family! Located just outside the north entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center hosts the majority of the Night Sky Festival events, and will open ticket sales in the summer. Learn more about the Night Sky Festival, and book your stay in 29 Palms today.



Recently during my tour of the Mojave Desert in southern California, I was captivated by the natural landscape of this mysterious desert, with its open vistas of rugged wilderness that gives you the privilege to experience total freedom of space when camping or hiking. The authenticity of the Mojave’s landscape enhances the natural beauty of the southern California terrain. I am an adventurous traveler, one that loves exploring the mystery of a place, and discovering the hidden treasures of a destination. During my travel to the Mojave Desert, I stumbled upon a rural desert city, called Twentynine Palms.  

Twentynine Palms is a natural wonderland of desert wilderness and rich cultural history which is vividly captured with historical murals that are displayed throughout the city.  The city of Twentynine Palms I learned is not only the home of the popular and historical headquarters of Joshua Tree National Park, it is also an official gateway community to Mojave Trails National Monument and Route 66, which to my delight is a short drive of about (49 minutes), north of Hwy 62 via Amboy Road.  A key feature that I noted of the Mojave Trails National Monument is that it connects the Mojave National Preserve with Joshua Tree National Park, which “ensures the biological connectivity of this landscape, while preserving traditional uses, such as hunting and off-highway vehicle recreation.” (BLM website)

Welcome to Mojave Trails National Monument

The Mojave Trails National Monument was designated in 2016, and is home to several significant natural treasures, such as the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of the original and historic Route 66, which takes you to the old world, as you discover vintage road signs, iconic neon signs, historical highway motels, restaurants, and motor courts.

Moreover, you will find in the city of Barstow, California many street murals depicting and celebrating the iconic Route 66. This iconic route further takes you into the historical mining and ghost towns of southern California, such as Amboy and Calico.  

Route 66 has been popularly referred to as the “mother road” because it was originally used by many Americans as travel path, for vacations to California. It was at one time the link for the United States across the rocky mountain divide to the Pacific Ocean.  It was also a travel path that was used by many to  migrate to different parts of the US, hence it  “celebrates the legacy and resilience of the American people, more significantly connects you to the essence of the American spirit.

Significantly, the romance and nostalgia of Route 66 is immortalized in popular culture, in movies, songs, such as Bobby Troup’s (1946) hit, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”, and the (1960s), Route 66 television show. The fascinating discovery for me on this tour was the Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark. An adventurer’s treat, a volcanic cinder cone in the middle of the Mojave Desert that resembles a lonely isolated mountain.

Visit 29 Palms and discover the iconic Route 66 to Amboy Crater Natural National Landmark in the Mojave Trails National Monument

Located 1.5 miles south of Route 66, and 55 minutes from the city of Twentynine Palms, Amboy Crater stands at 250 feet tall, 1,500 feet in diameter, and was formed by ash and cinders. Situated on one of the youngest volcanic field in the United States with its last documented eruption taking place 10,000 years ago, Amboy Crater is truly a geological wonder.

You can hike the trail on the west of the cinder cone, with the trail taking you to an opening where it seems that a one time a violent volcanic eruption ruptured the crater wall. CalWild provides a great description of the crater, explaining “inside, of the 250-foot-high crater contains two lava dams, which have formed small lava lakes. These are now flat in general appearance, covered with light colored clay, creating the impression of miniature “dry lakes.” Beyond the crater lies 24 square miles of lava flow, that has features of lava lakes, collapsed lava tubes and sinks, spatter cones, and massive flows of basalt.”

By hiking up to the 1,508-foot-tall center rim you will be rewarded with an awesome view that reveals an epic desert landscape. I recommend hiking the Amboy Crater trail in spring or early fall, when temperatures are cooler.

Visit 29 Palms and discover pristine sand dunes in the Mojave Desert, California

My partner, being the romantic he is, planned the last part of the tour towards the end of the day, so that I would experience the bold, brilliant, colors of the sun setting in the Mojave Desert.

As the evening progressed into the night, to my delight, I was taken to the exotic Kelso Dunes, located in the Mojave National Preserve. The night was lit up by the bright, sultry full moon. The light of the moon guided us in our hike to the top of the dunes. Once at the top you will experience panoramic views of the surrounding dunes and peaks, a picture perfect sea of sand that awakens all your senses. As we lay on the sand, we could feel the stillness of the night, the cool grains of the sand on our feet, the refreshing cool breeze of early fall silently fanning us. The Kelso Dunes have an energy of peace and tranquility that awakened my soul to experience the harmony of natures wonderland. 

According to popular belief, the dunes are noted for their singing.
 Jennifer Morrell describes “Kelso is one of a few acoustic dunes that produce a squeaking or booming sound as sand grains compress and slip over one another. A silica coating on the grains that helps them stick together also resonates when they are moved.”

Please note: that the wind and the sand continuously changes the outline of the dunes, this makes navigating the trail difficult, hence there is no permeant hike trail to the very top of the dunes.  Furthermore, driving through the Mojave Preserve to the Kelso Sand Dunes can be difficult, and requires planning and navigation research.

For more information on these destinations, visit:
Mojave Trails National Monument
Amboy Crater Natural National Landmark, Mojave Trails National Monument
Route 66, Mojave Trails National Monument
Mojave National Preserve
Kelso Sand Dunes

Ash Maharaj is an Advisory Board member for the 29 Palms Tourism Business Improvement District, and owner of the iconic Harmony Motel. Visit Ash’s blog to read more on her adventures in the Mojave Desert.

@visit29palms

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