Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Pioneertown, CA

  • Published 2022/03/01

If you want to feel the power of Hollywood, just visit Pioneertown, California, a little community that looks and feels like the movie set of an old Western.

How did Pioneertown come to be?

A group of investors came together in the 1940s and decided to build an Old West set for their cowboy films, hoping to eventually turn it into a living town.

Among these investors were Hollywood stars Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

They wanted to fill the town with 1880s-style buildings whose interiors still gave people various things to do.

The town ended up filled with Western fixtures like saloons, stables, and jails.

Once you enter these buildings, though, you’ll find motels, bowling alleys, and ice cream parlors.

During the 40s and 50s, Hollywood produced over 50 movies and TV shows in Pioneertown.

Today, this rustic community may not see many Hollywood productions anymore, but its appeal remains.

You can still see people having mock gunfights on Mane Street, for example.

Tourists who want to feel like being on a movie set will enjoy a trip to Pioneertown, California.

Do you want to know more about Pioneertown, CA?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in town:

Explore the Badlands at Pioneertown Mountains Reserve

Boulders at Pioneertown Mountains Reserve

Noah Sauve /

There’s no better way to discover what made Pioneertown so attractive to its founders than by exploring the vast Pioneertown Mountains Reserve.

From the 7,800-foot ridges at its peaks, the 25,500-acre reserve covers the area toward the Pioneertown Valley.

Beyond Pioneertown, you can find a rich variety of geological wonders.

Huge rock with a split in between at Pioneertown Mountains Reserve

Noah Sauve /

You’ll see the Sawtooth Mountains, stumble upon volcanic mesas, and enter the Preserve lands entering the San Bernardino National Forest.

During your trip, you can go hiking up the ridges to look at the pines or bring your dog on leashed walks.

Likewise, you can bring your family for a picnic then try to spot some birds and wildlife.

However, you can’t light fires, bring alcohol, or hunt animals.

Dusty pathway at Pioneertown Mountains Reserve

Jon Bilous /

Revisit the Old West at the Desert Willow Ranch

If you want to live the cowboy life, visit the Desert Willow Ranch in Pioneertown.

One of Pioneertown’s founders, the popular actor Russel Hayden once owned the ranch, until he sold it in 1969.

Since then, the new owners, John and Gay Smith, have developed the five-acre ranch into the attraction you see today.

What can you do on this ranch?

You can grill up some steaks and enjoy hanging out by a campfire underneath a bright starlit sky.

Likewise, you can walk for a little while to see a gunfight show or pop in at the local bar.

You can also ride horses on the miles of trails or otherwise go on foot.

Just be sure to bring your camera, too. You’ll fill your camera roll in no time here.

Meet a Local Artist at Jessie Keylon’s Art Studio

The works of the local artist Jessie Keylon should liven up your trip to Pioneertown.

You can find her little office and shop at Mane Street, which sells a variety of prints and art.

Likewise, you can buy art-making supplies at the store; if you’re lucky, you might even catch Jessie herself painting something.

Visiting her office is a terrific way to support art and artists.

After all, why not pay an artist for their work directly?

If you feel like bringing home a lively print, then drop by her store during your trip.

Check Out Unique Crafts at MazAmar Art Pottery

Bring home some unique craft items by checking out the MazAmar Art Pottery studio in Pioneertown.

You’ll never go wrong with buying artistic clay works like pots from this studio since the proprietor himself is an experienced clay artist.

In 2000, the artist and proprietor Thomas Alban moved to Pioneertown from Savannah, Georgia, and he started working with clay.

Today, the MazAmar studio offers a rich selection of functional artwork like Joshua Tree mugs, labyrinth plates, wine cups, vases, and more.

Each of these items is handmade; a devoted team of artisans and artists work together to produce every work.

If you’re running out of souvenir ideas, you’ve come to the right place.

Have a Feast at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

Exterior view of Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

BrianPIrwin /

In 1982, Harriet and Claude “Pappy” Allen opened their restaurant in Pioneertown.

They had taken over an old “cantina” movie set used for Westerns during the 1950s and transformed it into the iconic restaurant it is today.

To attract customers, they served rich and tasty comfort food, including their signature Santa Maria BBQ.

Likewise, Pappy and Harriet performed music for live entertainment.

People dining at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

BrianPIrwin /

Today, the restaurant’s new owners proudly continue Pappy & Harriet’s legacy.

The iconic roadhouse still stands in its original spot, and it still serves its trademark ribs, burgers, and the Santa Maria BBQ.

When you hear your stomach grumbling, head to this legendary restaurant and fill your belly with food and song.

Parking outside Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

BrianPIrwin /

Go Camping at Pioneertown Corrals

Joshua trees at Pioneertown Corrals

Ovidiu Hrubaru /

Your Pioneertown vacation is incomplete without spending a night in the great outdoors, true cowboy-style.

See what it’s like to live in the Old West by setting up camp in the deserts of Pioneertown.

What can you do at camp?

Live cowboy-style by grilling barbecues, sitting by the campfire, gazing at the stars, and riding the trails on your trusty steed.

During the day, you can venture into Pioneertown to catch Wild West reenactments on Mane Street, held every weekend afternoon from late fall to early spring.

You can also rent the campgrounds for parties and weddings.

Grab Unique Items at the Pioneertown General Store

Wooden building of Pioneertown General Store

Ovidiu Hrubaru /

Back in the days of the Wild West, people bought medicines and supplies from general stores in frontier towns.

Today, you can find one such store in Pioneertown, a movie set recreating an old Western “general store.”

The Pioneertown General Store operates inside the old Likker Barn on Mane Street.

When you enter, you’ll find stellar jewelry and hand-crafted artwork made in the high desert.

Likewise, you might spot priceless antiques among the sets of old-time desert provisions.

If you’ve camped out near town, you can also buy supplies, like pocketknives, at the store.

Stay the Night at the Historic Pioneertown Motel

Entryway to Pioneertown Motel

Noah Sauve /

The historic Pioneertown Motel has stood in the town since 1946, where movie stars filming old Western movies in the 1950s relaxed during breaks.

For example, the actor Gene Autry played poker in the motel’s Room #9 until sunrise.

Today, the motel welcomes tired travelers and partygoers looking to unwind and relax after reveling all night.

Closeup exterior view of Pioneertown Motel

Ovidiu Hrubaru /

The motel also has more than enough space to accommodate large groups, with 19 guest rooms and a 24-hour lounge called “The Canteen.”

From time to time, the motel also hosts live events.

If you just want to enjoy the serene desert atmosphere, the motel’s calm desert gardens should help you relax.

Interior view of the room with beds and other things

Ovidiu Hrubaru /

Have a Few Drinks at The Red Dog Saloon

Exterior view of The Red Dog Saloon

Ovidiu Hrubaru /

What better way to live the cowboy life than by popping inside an Old West saloon?

After six years of planning, the Red Dog Saloon in the heart of Pioneertown has finally opened to the public.

Same as the Pioneertown Motel, the Red Dog Saloon operates from a historic building.

In 1946, the Pioneertown founders also built the Red Dog Saloon to fill out their recreation of an Old West town.

It even appeared in more than a handful of Western movies.

Various movie stars enjoyed themselves inside the saloon during filming breaks.

Today, the saloon offers spirits, cocktails, and flavorful beef tacos and queso.

Tie the Knot at Rimrock Ranch

Joshua trees during sunrise at Rimrock Ranch

D_Harrison_Foto /

If you’re looking for a unique and memorable wedding venue, look no further than Pioneertown’s Rimrock Ranch.

Get married like a pioneer at this picturesque 36-acre ranch located near the Joshua Tree National Park.

Back in the day, movie stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers stayed on the ranch for weekends at a time.

Today, there are four cabins, several retrofitted Airstream trailers, and the architectural marvel called the Hatch House.

Visitors coming from Joshua Tree or Pioneertown love the ranch because of its serene atmosphere and charming location.

Besides weddings, Rimrock Ranch also offers rentals for parties, retreats, film shoots, or photography sessions.

Relive the Wild West with the Mane Street Stampede

If you want to immerse yourself in the Wild West experience, attend the Mane Street Stampede in the middle of Pioneertown.

These volunteer performers perform scenes that remind you of infamous Wild West figures Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, and Wyatt Earp.

They also perform comic skits about life in a frontier town.

The troupe performs the Mane Street Stampede every Saturday afternoon, from April to September.

They also give away donations from fans to children’s charities along the Morongo Basin.

See Gunslingers in Action with Gunfighters for Hire

People shooting at Gunfighters for Hire

Ovidiu Hrubaru /

Besides Wild West reenactments, you can relive the old Western flicks you’ve seen as a kid with the Gunfighters for Hire in Pioneertown’s Mane Street.

These gunfighters comprise residents who reenact scenes from the Old West. Besides shootouts, the actors also perform comedy skits.

Many of them are also retired police officers, so they know how to handle firearms safely.

Old men performing at Gunfighters for Hire

Ovidiu Hrubaru /

They also know how to reenact gunfights while keeping everyone, from performers to audience, safe.

The troupe performs from October to May, every 1st and 3rd of Saturday.

Admission to the performances is free.

Performers performing at Gunfighters for Hire

Ovidiu Hrubaru /

Other Things to Do Nearby

Search for UFOs at the Integratron

White building of Integratron with desert landscape in the background

Karen N Kahler /

Drive 22 minutes away from Pioneertown to reach the nearby community of Landers, California.

You’ll find the popular Integratron here, one of the most unique structures you’ll see in the state.

In 1954, George Van Tassel designed it according to the writings of inventor Nikola Tesla, Moses’ Tabernacle, and telepathic messages from aliens.

The Integratron stands at 38 feet and spans 55 feet in diameter. Its dome is also made from all wood.

Building details of Integratron

Christopher Michel , CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

According to Van Tassel, this dome is an “electrostatic generator” that could let people travel through time or rejuvenate their bodies.

Today, three sisters own the Integratron.

They have also maintained it for 30 years, intending to preserve it and share the Integratron Sound Bath with the world.

In 2019, the National Register of Historic Places listed the Integratron in its records.

Wooden ceiling of the Integratron

Christopher Michel , CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn Natural History at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum

Just ten minutes away from Pioneertown lies the town of Yucca Valley, where you can find the Hi-Desert Nature Museum.

This museum aims to teach families about how the peculiar desert environment of Yucca Valley and surrounding areas developed.

Since the museum deals with natural history, they have a mini-zoo and permanent exhibits that show the evolution of the wildlife in the region.

The museum’s permanent exhibit includes dioramas of desert fauna, displays on the native insect life, and displays of dinosaurs.

Likewise, you can find rare gems and mineral samples gathered from California and other sites around the world.

Check Out Unique Items at Pioneer Crossing Antiques

This time, go to the Pioneer Crossing Antiques store in Yucca Valley to find some interesting artifacts on sale.

The store carries various items, such as American art pottery, local artworks, Plein-air planters from California, even books and cabin ornaments.

Likewise, Pioneer Crossing also sells top-quality Zapotec rugs and Pendleton blankets.

If you want to spruce up your home or give your friends cute knickknacks, then drop by the Pioneer Crossing Antiques store.

Sitting just five miles from Pioneertown, this antique store should belong to your itinerary.

Final Thoughts

Pioneertown is a unique attraction in itself that should top the destination lists for curious travelers, not just Old West buffs.

Return to the Old West of your childhood imagination by spending a weekend at Pioneertown.

Likewise, you can venture out to other nearby places that share the charming old-fashioned aesthetic and rich history.

Book your Pioneertown trip today!

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