Pioneertown: A Tail-Waggin’ Good Time

by Pamela Price

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Pioneertown, about 30 miles north of Palm Springs on Highway 62, takes people and their pets to the wild and unruly West on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month, when it stages its Mane Street Stampede and Wild West Show. A mere 20 miles east of Palm Springs, it was built in 1946 by Hollywood’s Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Dick Curtis, Russel Hayden and others as a film lot for B Westerns. Where an empty jail, saloon, and bank once stood, visitors arriving with their canine companions can relive that era.

If the dusty road adjacent the large parking lot—absent of parking meters or even a hint of the 21st century—seems surreal, hold onto your cowboy hat! Why? Because this patch of the Old West is now thriving, thanks to weekend events and fascinating shops, bolstered by the iconic Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, which in 2016 hosted a sold-out performance of Paul McCartney.

Sarah Tabbush and Thelma greet visitors to Pioneertowm

A picturesque four-mile drive from Highway 62, designated a California Scenic Drive, transports you to a rustic setting where the deer and the antelope once played.

Sonny and Vito, also known as the Rosato Brothers, arrived at Pioneertown seeking a welcome mat and found it at The General Store, where Sarah Tabbush, owner and manager, welcomes pets and their owners Thursday through Monday with her dog Thelma by her side.

“Thelma was a rescue,” says Sarah, who has a way of checking out shoppers with their dog in tow, which is diplomatically stated on a sign to the left of the entrance. Sonny and Vito were happy to be allowed to enter, after having been denied entry to the Babes Ride Out 6 at the 40-acre, high-desert Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground off Hwy 61. We had hoped to visit the park, but it was reserved for a private event—more than 1,000 motorcycle “babes” who were gathered for four days of nonstop, rip-roaring motorcycle events.

Considered the world’s largest ladies-only riding event and motorcycle cam-pout in the world, it is neither kid nor pet friendly, although Service Angels are welcome. We noticed the four-day event included a 21.8-mile ride to Pioneertown, so we took our cue and followed that route.

It became apparent the moment we arrived that this unexpected detour had led us to a great pet-friendly destination.

Ample free parking made it easy to leash up Vito and Sonny without a hitch— they were raring to explore the sights and smells of Pioneertown’s wide, unpaved road! All the shops were open, displaying a variety of high-desert products and local artists on exhibit.

Unless you meet up with a angry gunslinger during a weekend event, you and your pet will find a visit to Pioneertown a fun and welcoming blast to the past. Check it out at pioneertowngeneralstore.com and pioneertown.net.

Pam Price is the co-author of Fun with the Family in Southern California and The 100 Best Spas of The World. She has been the travel editor of The Malibu Timesfor thirty years and says she never misses an opportunity to take her two Malteses along on her travels.

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