Joshua Tree Highlands Houses

Genie Davis December 1, 2015 No Comments


Highlands House Villa Roccosa – Photo from Highlands Houses

If you’ve ever read your child a fairy tale…

And your child loved the story…

Then a stay in one of the Highlands Houses rental properties just outside of Joshua Tree National Park is in order.


The park itself, of course, is like something from a fairy tale. It has wonderfully strange rock boulders that look like something the giant from Jack in the Beanstalk tossed into the desert. Then there are the trees themselves, with their branches lifted as if they were frozen angels, the strange fuzzy tops of cholla, and the red blossoms of ocotillo. With short nature trails abounding, including the delightful stroll through the Cholla Cactus Garden at the southern end of the park, and the loop trail near the visitor’s center at the 29 Palms entrance to the park, there are plenty of ways for you and even the youngest traveler to enjoy the park. My children have loved it for years, including special side trips to tour a near by orchid farm (yes, orchids in the desert!) and the outdoor found art exhibits of Noah Purifoy. Barker Dam is another child-friendly stop in the park, with a ranger led tour taking groups through a recreated ranch property, and a pleasant trail around the dam itself.


The landscape is stunning – photo Highlands Houses

Highlands Houses are four desert vacation rentals spread out over five acres, and perfect for a family trip. The delightful indoor-outdoor configuration of the homes includes magical-feeling design elements that would entrance any child. And they’re close to the park entrance, too.

Villa Roccosa is all about the rocks. It is a large, modern cabin with a stainless steel and concrete kitchen, cozy Murphy bed in the living room, and ample futon for one or two children in a niche adjoining the dining room. The big draw here is a pile of stunning rock boulders that seem to have spilled into the living room. The windows are placed in such a way that through them, visions of rock out-croppings, Joshua Trees, and sky are visible like an ever changing picture book. Children old enough to enjoy a dip in a hot tub – with temperature settings, allowing a milder climate than hotel hot tubs would allow – will enjoy the outdoor, family sized tub here. It’s a great spot to watch the moon rise or the sunset. Star gazing is great, too. Look up from a spot on a porch or a while soaking in that hot tub, and take in the constellations. Light pollution is practically non-existent, which makes this a great place to teach the kids about the North Star, or show them the wonders of the Milky Way.

Another great spot to star gaze, possibly the best of all, is a grouping of chairs and table off the patio, facing into the desert. A perfect breakfast spot, you’ll feel as if your dining room is in the middle of the desert – because it more or less is.

The kids will also love the little touches here, a small Buddha and Ganesha statues, a rabbit statue crouched beneath a bush.

If this isn’t the home for your clan, check out the Artist Retreat, which has an adjoining art studio; the brightly painted small cabin at Luna Mesa, and the 1800-square-foot Sky House, with two bedrooms and a jacuzzi on the patio. The latter property would make a great spot for a large family reunion.

Luna Mesa – Highlands House property – photo Highlands Houses


Owner Frederick Fulmer can set up massage, pilates, rock climbing, child care, and yoga classes in the homes. With views all around, it’s more than possible to enjoy an entire weekend just staying at the property.

You’ll find great views and plenty of privacy, as well as the ability to take short, child-friendly hikes around the desert terrain in what is essentially your own back yard. And with the park itself just a few minutes drive away, short trips into the heart of the park to explore strange formations like Skull Rock or take a stroll around blossoming ocotillo are easy to accomplish. One of the biggest luxuries and best family-friendly attribute of these properties is the ability to take limited jaunts through the park and return to a relaxing home base with plenty of space for the kids to enjoy.


What about food? Well, stocking up to cook in one of the homes’ stylish kitchens is easy with major name groceries just a few miles away in Yucca Valley. In the town of Joshua Tree itself, try a slice of delicious pie or an eggless egg salad sandwich at Natural Sisters. This vegan and vegetarian spot has plenty of child-pleasers from the tasty veggie burger to chocolate chip cookies. If the kids want pizza, that’s available in Joshua Tree, too.

In short, with the backdrop of Highlands Houses, creating a magical desert weekend that’s easy for the entire family to enjoy is surprisingly simple, and very relaxing. From moon-rise to sun-up there’s always something to see and do – or lean back and do nothing at all.

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avatarAbout the Author:

Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

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