Since 2002, High Desert Test Sites—cofounded by Andrea Zittel, Andy Stillpass, John Connelly, Shaun Regen and Lisa Anne Auerbach—has hosted the work of more than 450 artists, 11 expansive site-specific programs, and 25 solo projects. Long directed by Andrea Zittel, HDTS leadership was recently handed over to Vanesa Zendejas, Zittel’s longtime administrator and program manager. HDTS has been a registered 501c3 nonprofit since 2013.
High Desert Test Sites is a nonprofit arts institution that supports and stewards experimental artwork in the Joshua Tree region. We support programs that intersect contemporary art with everyday life, creating intimate exchanges between individuals, artworks, landscape, and community, challenging art to be relevant both to a region and beyond.
Who We Are
PO Box 1058
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Office hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-5pm PST
Vanesa Zendejas - Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elena Yu - Assistant Director of Programming and Communications, email@example.com
Connor Schwab - Facilities and Grounds Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sydney Foreman - Director’s Assistant and Visitor Services, email@example.com
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Shaun Caley Regen
Elena Yu, Emily Endo, Emma Palm, Sydney Foreman and rotating A-Z West Work Trade Residents. Thanks to Elizabeth Carr and Zena Carr at the Sky Village Swap Meet! RIP Bob Carr.
WEBSITE AND DESIGN
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
David Knaus - Chair
Andrea Zittel - Director Emeritus/Treasurer
Brooke Hodge - Secretary
Aram Moshayedi - Member
Marilyn Loesberg - Member
Susan Lubeznik - Member
High Desert Test Sites is grateful to The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Tides Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation - Arts Regranting Program/Inland Empire at The Community Foundation, Strengthening Inland Southern California through Philanthropy, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Ranch Projects, California Arts council, Sky Village Swap Meet, Copper Mountain Mesa Community Association and our generous donors for their support over the years.
When HDTS was founded in 2002, part of the original mission was to run on zero budget. The idea was to support artistic visions in practical terms—provide tools, help, a cot, guidance, and infinite space. For many years this worked and it produced self-driven projects that were ambitious and independently spirited.
Over the past ten years, HDTS has been working towards building a more substantial funding structure for artists’ projects. This has included hosting recurring fundraising projects including our Artist Painted Rock Auction, Gem/Mineral Expo, pop-ups at art fairs and art museums, and producing limited edition prints for sale.
But these endeavors never quite add up to what we need—to pay our artists fairly, to pay for venue rentals, for staff, to feed our volunteers, pay for all-terrain forklift rentals, liability insurance, the bookkeeper, and so much more.
As our programs grow every year, so does our budget. And although we make every effort to raise the money that we need with Andrea’s self-sufficient spirit in tow, we still rely on support from donors to make it all happen.
HDTS has been a registered 501c3 since 2013. Please consider a gift in any amount to help us in providing access to engaging, experimental, contemporary art in the high desert region.
Donate via PayPal, via Venmo (@hdts_azwest), or via check:
PO Box 1058 Joshua Tree CA 92252
Although many past HDTS projects have only been temporarily sited, some are permanent and scattered throughout the Morongo Basin. The best way to find these works is to follow the directions on our current HDTS driving map. Our map also includes sites we’ve partnered with in the past and admire as independent projects. Most HDTS works are located at sites that we regularly activate and operate out of. Those sites include:
Our new base of operations, A-Z West is Andrea’s lifelong project, where she lived and worked for 20 years before handing the keys to HDTS in 2022. Located a few minutes outside downtown Joshua Tree, this 85-acre compound includes four restored homestead cabins, several experimental living structures, permanent sculptures, 4,000 square foot studio space, and pristine desert landscape.
Public tours of A-Z West are offered every 2 weeks, alternating between 1-hour outdoor only tours, and 2-hour tours that include most interiors. Tickets for these tours can be purchased through the West Works store. All funds raised from tour ticket sales supports HDTS programming and general operating expenses.
HDTS office hours at A-Z West are Tuesday through Thursday from 10 am–5 pm. Our office is not open to the public but by appointment only. Please email Sydney if you are interested in making an appointment.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left, then the next right. At the hanging wooden signs, go straight to park in the Encampment lot, or make a left to go to the house, cabins, or studio.
Behind the Bail Bonds
Sited in the rocks on this 10 acre boulder strewn parcel adjacent to A-Z West are several works that may take a few hours of exploring to divulge: Morongo by Nathan Lieb, Surveillant Architectures by Julia Scher, and CA Truck Heads by Sarah Vanderlip. Feel free to visit this site sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking and do not block the road.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left. Follow along power lines, park just before the turnaround area.
Andy’s Gamma Gulch
Co-founder Andy Stillpass has generously allowed countless HDTS projects to take place on this 100-acre parcel in the beautiful boulder and Joshua Tree-strewn wilderness north of Pioneertown off of Pipes Canyon Rd. Several works are permanently sited here, includingGradually/We Become Aware/Of a Hum in the Room by Halsey Rodman, Trail Registry by Scout Regalia and Tapwater Pavilion by Tao Urban. Andy’s is also available to visit from sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking or if you do need to park off the side of the road, be careful not to end up in soft sand.
Directions: From Hwy 62 turn right at Pioneertown Rd. Drive about 7.5 miles. Turn right on Pipes Canyon Rd. Drive 2.2 miles to Gamma Gulch Rd, turn left (respect our neighbors – do not drive above 20 mph on this road!) Drive 1.6 miles to God’s Way Love (if the sign has blown off look for Dave & Jeannie’s sign), turn right. Drive 0.4 miles.
Purchased from a tax sale back in the early aughts, this 40 acre site is surrounded by BLM land. Located at the most eastern edge of Wonder Valley, in the Sheephole Valley Wilderness area, this site is a commitment to get out to, and feels like the end of the California high desert before being clearly on the way to Arizona. This flat, sandy, washy land is home to several permanently sited works, including Dineo Seshee Bopape’s HDTS 2022 work, and a mostly “invisible” project: Bob Dornberger and Jim Piatt’s Secret Restaurant. On the opposite side of Ironage Rd and slightly to the north is a work by Kiersten Puusemp (Untitled) that you will probably need to get out of your car and explore a little in order to find. Also accessible from sunup to sundown, be very careful when parking off the side of the road as the sand is very soft here.
Directions: From 29 Palms continue east on Hwy 62. Drive forever (23 miles) and turn left at Iron Age Rd. Drive a mile or so until you see something. (Iron Age Road connects both Amboy Road and Hwy 62, so you can reach it using either access road.)
HQ at Sky Village Swap Meet
The HDTS HQ is a visitor’s center and creative hub where artists, craftsmen, visionaries, and friends engage with the high desert community through creative projects and performances. You can pick up a copy of our driving map to HDTS projects and other local sites of interest at the HQ every Saturday from 9 am–12 pm (closed July-August)—and please check our Instagram page regularly to see what special events we have on the calendar. More on the HDTS HQ here.
Directions: 7028 Theater Road (just off Hwy 247, right behind Barr Lumber), Yucca Valley, CA 92286; 760-365-2104
One of our favorite community partners is Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center, where we’ve hosted many past HDTS programs and events. CMMCC is located in North Joshua Tree, about 15 minutes north of A-Z West. On the property is an old firehouse that served the neighborhood in the 80s, and now HDTS rents for community programs, public exhibitions and events. Currently HDTS is working on siting our Desert Research Library at the Firehouse Outpost and later opening this resource to the public. Stay tuned for project updates!
The Firehouse Outpost is currently open to the public only during public events. Please email Elena if you have questions about the space or are interested in Firehouse Outpost programming.
Directions: 65336 Winters Rd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252; Driving west on Hwy 62 into downtown Joshua Tree, pass Park and make a left on Sunburst. Right on Golden, left on Border, past Aberdeen and make a right on Winters. Take Winters past where it turns to dirt road, CMMCC is on the left.
Welcome to the HDTS Desert Destination Log. This log is the result of a broad community of contributors with a diverse range of interests. One thing that we all share in common is our love for this area with all it’s complex, weird, deeply idiosyncratic people and places. Most touristic guides to the area feature a list of “greatest hits” - but we know that there is so much more out there to be discovered, often right under our noses - like the best Marine bar in 29, or the film classics movie theater in a residential garage in Yucca Valley, or the monthly pancake breakfast at the Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center.
The information in this log has been slowly gathered over time - originally James Trainor and Andrea Zittel started putting together a guide for their students of the Institute of Investigative Living. Then former A-Z West Wagon Station Residents started to add to this list and now members of both our HDTS and larger local community have contributed an even wider array of destinations. And of course, there are still so many places to add.
Because many of the descriptions are subjective and based on personal experiences, there may be more than one entry on a particular site or subject. In most instances destinations have websites or are further researchable online or with a smart phone – so use this guide as a helpful list of possible things to explore and then do further research to plan your visits. And always, when exploring, be respectful to local residents, plants, and fauna. Remember that this is a fragile ecosystem - walk lightly, and above all respect people’s privacy.
The Desert Destination Log was originally a printed publication that we sold at the HDTS HQ. We still plan to reprint the Log on our risograph printer someday, but thought it would be handy for people to have access to the Log online, too.
At the bottom of this page, you will find a wish list of future subjects - please send us entries on these and more at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AZ West is the home of both the Wagon Station Encampment and High Desert Test Sites — the two entities that are collaboratively working together to create this desert destination log. A-Z West is also the private residence of Andrea Zittel and is dedicated to personal practice and special programs.
High Desert Test Sites is a non-profit support entity for artists whose practices explore the intersection between contemporary art and life at large. Part of the HDTS mission includes “learning from what we are not.” HDTS programs include guides to the high desert’s cultural test sites, immersive excursions, solo projects, workshops, publications, and residencies.
The name Joshua Tree refers to both the National Park, and a small unincorporated town and its surrounding community. The community of Joshua Tree sits roughly in the middle of the Morongo Basin — a long basin that is traversed from west to east by a single highway called Hwy 62 (also known as 29 Palms Hwy). Each community in the Morongo Basin has a distinct character. Joshua Tree is considered to be made up of rock climbers, new-agers, hippies, and people from LA (or other urban areas) who own desert weekend retreats or run Airbnb businesses. Twenty years ago Joshua Tree consisted mostly of ramshackle homestead cabins and a few small businesses that would close during the hottest months of the summer. Now Joshua Tree has become a major tourist destination and is flooded with vacationers year-round.
Yucca Valley is the largest town in the Morongo Basin. It is incorporated and is governed by a Mayor and Town Council. It is where you will drive for a plethora of larger grocery stores, Home Depot, Super Wal-Mart, and an assortment of food establishments. (Twentynine Palms also has some large grocery stores and an assortment of restaurants and other businesses). The far west end of Yucca Valley near the intersection of Hwy 62 and Pioneertown road is known as Old Town and has the best antique stores in the area. Further east, off of Old Woman Springs Road, is a vibrant family run swap-meet called Sky Village Marketplace (which also has a giant art installation created by Bob Carr). The best Mexican food in the Morongo Basin is a small taqueria in the back of Kasa, a Mexican food market.
Morongo Valley is the gateway town to the Morongo Basin. It is the most western of the small of communities along Hwy 62, and the first that you enter after coming up the grade. The topography in Morongo tends to be hillier and has more vegetation. It is home to the Morongo Preserve, a lush oasis that has water even during the warmer months of the year. One of our favorite businesses in Morongo is Holly’s Trading Post where you will find all sorts of amazing vintage artifacts from all over the world for incredibly reasonable prices. After Holly’s don’t forget to stop at Cactus Mart for the best selection of succulents and cacti in the larger Morongo Basin.
Landers is a small community north of Yucca Valley, accessible by Hwy 247 or Old Woman Springs Road. The general name Landers is often used interchangeably to refer to both the community of Landers and its sister community of Flamingo Heights. An interesting fact: because of its elevation, Landers actually has many more Joshua Trees than the town of Joshua Tree.
Twentynine Palms sits at the west end of the Morongo Basin. The town of Twentynine Palms is perhaps best known for the nearby Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. It is also the site of the 29 Palm Oasis (around which the 29 Palms Inn was built) and it has over twenty-five murals depicting the history and native elements of the area. Not too far from 29 Palms Inn is a small Indian reservation belonging to the Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians. There are no coffee shops in Twentynine Palms (as of this writing), but a plethora of establishments where you can get massages and Marine haircuts.
Pioneertown proper is located at the top of Pioneertown Road. It was originally built the 1940s as an old-west motion picture set. Movies were shot on Mane Street and the actors stayed in what is now the Pioneertown Motel. Some of the films shot in the area include The Cisco Kid and Judge Roy Bean.
Pioneertown has an interesting history and wound up in the possession of USC and the Catholic Church before being sold off to private individuals who then moved in to make real homes in buildings that once were fake movie homes. Now, as tourism increases, businesses are starting to take over these structures as Pioneertown invents itself yet again. There is also a gun slinging fake shootout every weekend, and Pappy and Harriet’s, a bar and restaurant that is a widely acclaimed music venue and weekend destination.
The area commonly known as Pioneertown also includes other smaller adjacent communities like Rimrock and a large swath of Pipes Canyon.
Wonder Valley is the large open area just east of Twentynine Palms — there is no center “town” in Wonder Valley, but rather a scattering of homestead cabins that that extend about twenty miles out into the desert. Two parallel highways traverse the valley, one on the north side, Amboy Road (which eventually turns north toward Death Valley and Las Vegas), and one on the south side, Highway 62 (which you would take if you wanted to go straight to Arizona or the Colorado River). The heart of Wonder Valley, both literally and figuratively is a roadhouse restaurant bar run by the Sibley family called The Palms. Wonder Valley is home to an extremely diverse population and is the best location in the Morongo Basin for those who want solitude and wide-open spaces.
Amboy was once a major stop along the famous Route 66, but after cross country traffic was rerouted to a major interstate to the north it dwindled down to more of a ghost town. There are a total of ten surviving buildings and a population of about four. Amboy has been used for film and movie shoots over the years, and it is also the site of an art residency program called Matza Amboy organized by the Swiss artist Séverin Guelpa. To get to Amboy from Joshua Tree, take Amboy Road through the length of Wonder Valley. After the road crests near the Sheephole Mountains, drive past the deep salt trenches on the left, as well as a turn off for Amboy Crater. If you continue past Amboy, you can take the road north to the Mojave Preserve.
There is so much to explore a few hours beyond the Joshua Tree area, both north and south. The Mojave Preserve is a National Monument with many different destinations within its boundaries, and Death Valley is about a four-hour drive from the Morongo Basin. You can even take tiny, isolated two-lane highways heading north until you connect with Interstate 15, which takes you directly into the heart of the Las Vegas Strip.
From the Morongo Basin you can either cut directly through the park or around either end to explore the area to the south. The Palm Springs area is a more developed string of communities with golf courses and shopping malls. The original city of Palm Springs is known for its richness of mid-century architecture, and it hosts an annual Modernism Week when some of the mid-century homes are open to the public.
The larger area around Palm Springs is called the Coachella Valley and there are many great hiking destinations throughout the valley. Further south is the Salton Sea and the the Imperial Valley, which is a vast agricultural area that continues to the border of Mexico.
To the east are Arizona and the Colorado River. High Desert locals go to the river in the summer to cool off (it’s best if you have access to a boat to explore in). Keep driving further east and you’ll get to places like Flagstaff and Phoenix.
There is so much to explore, from tiny roadside dining reached via nearly impassable dirt roads, to sprawling and bustling tourist destinations like the Grand Canyon. Keep driving…
The Virginian in 29 Palms
Wine and Roses (bar at the Yucca Valley Airport)
Overview of Antique shops in Yucca Valley
Big Bear Mountain
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Hikes in JT National Park
Hikes in Box Canyon
Yogi goat farm
History of Jojoba farming in the area (any jojoba farms still functioning?)
29 Palms Inn (history and talk about restaurant)
Chemehuevi Burial Grounds in 29
Architecture Tour of Palm Springs with Robert Imber
Any particular architectural greatest hits in Palm Springs
Vintage furniture shops in Palm Springs
Best thrift stores in Palm Springs
Mojave Preserve (several different destinations in the preserve)
Back road up Big Bear Mountain
Pioneertown Preserve hikes
Hi-Desert Nature Museum
Organic fruit market in Morongo Valley
Holly’s Trading Post
La Michoacana ice cream store in Yucca Valley
Bowling alleys in Yucca Valley and 29 Palms
Hi-Desert Ultralight Club
CA Supreme Salt