This is my favorite one-star motel. That's not internet sarcasm, it's the truth. It's a great motel. But it is truly deserving of just one star.
How is that possible? Because what it lacks in services, amenities, and maintenance it more than makes up for in atmosphere, location, and the general experience.
The Pioneertown Motel is a great place to go if you're trying to get away from it all. It's down a sand road about 20 minutes from the next nearest town, Yucca Valley, which is about 40 minutes from Palm Springs, which is about two hours from Los Angeles.
I had one of the smaller rooms, and it was certainly of very good size. Almost as big as my big city apartment. It was decorated in a style that would make a Wild West grandmother feel at home, with cowskin rocking chair, tea table, and photographs of wagon wheels. The bathroom comes equipped with a too-small assortment of grandmother's mismatched, but well-meaning, towels as well.
The building is far behind on basic maintenance, and bits of the cabinets, shelves, and other parts of the room may break off in your hands. Don't hang your clothes on anything other than the hangers in the slaughterhouse-style closet. If you do, they will pick up the thick layer of grit that has accumulated on all of the unseen surfaces.
The bed frame is not attached to the headboard, and the headboard isn't attached to anything at all. This makes sitting up in bed and reading impossible because they bed will slide across the tile floor and the headboard will collapse onto the floor.
There is no phone. There is no television. There is no radio. If you're looking electrical conveniences, you've come to the wrong place. But do load up your smartphone with an astronomy app before you come, because the star gazing is excellent and you'll wonder what the names of all those points of light are. It's far more entertaining than whatever you're missing on TV that night.
There is wireless internet, but it rarely works more than a few minutes at a time. When it does work, it's very slow. You could bring your own internet, except that there's no WiMax service available, and little cell phone coverage. In the three days I was there, I managed to get one bar of AT&T 4G just once. Verizon phones don't seem to fare much better.
The motel is at the heart of Pioneertown, which is both an occasional movie set, and a real working town. It has a post office, a pottery studio, a saddle shop, a recording studio, a saloon, and a couple of other small shops. Somehow, most of these accept credit cards, even though many shops in downtown Chicago still don't (a slam at Chicago, not Pioneertown).
People get around by pickup truck, Jeep, and horse. I saw two people stop by the post office to pick up their mail on horseback. The main street is littered with hay bales, wooden barrels, and troughs for horses to drink from.
Not surprisingly, the motel offers no room service. The only food option is an excellent honkey tonk across the street. Good steaks, great people, and reasonable prices. Plus, live music. Be sure to make reservations. Waits of 90 minutes to two hours are not uncommon, because this place is popular with both locals and with wanna-be cowboys from L.A. (Everyone assumes outsiders are from L.A., even if they have a New York accent.) Occasionally a famous person or band will perform here, and then there will be a cover charge. One night when I was there, it was $60 because a famous person was playing. Another night there were two bands, but admission was free.
If you don't want to eat at the honkey tonk, there's a small assortment of mid- to low-end restaurants in Yucca Valley. Or you can bring your own food. My room had a medium-sized refrigerator, and a full-sized kitchen sink. It's OK to start a fire in the parking lot, as long as you ask the lady running the place first. Bring some kind of metal ring to contain your campfire.
With the Pioneertown Motel, it's important to remember that you really are in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes it helps to think of this not so much as a motel, but as "Camping Plus."
That means that there is not enough hot water for a real shower (Protip: learn to shower under the barest trickle of hot water and you might make it last to the end). If you're claustrophobic, you might want to skip bathing entirely. The shower is a phone booth-sized, tile-lined box that would easily play a central role in any horror film. My wife had a panic attack inside it one morning. It gave me the heebie-jeebies, too.
Camping Plus also means that you may encounter small desert creatures where you'd rather they not be. I was lucky, I only saw cockroaches. I just squished them and moved on with my life. But don't be surprised if you see other, larger, critters in your room. While the doors are thick, old, heavy wood, they do not seal. Not even close. The gap at the corner of my room's door was big enough to run a toy train through. I can easily envision a snake, a fat scorpion, any number of lizards, or maybe even an adventurous smallish porcupine coming in unannounced looking for companionship.
In a four-star hotel this would be a significant problem. But at the Pioneertown Motel, it's OK. Remember, you're in the desert. People don't belong here. You're on the critters' turf. If I saw something creeping around my room I'd probably just accept it the way I did with the roaches. You don't come to the Pioneertown Motel for creature comforts. You come here for the sense of adventure.
Also note that while this is the desert, it's the HIGH desert. So it's colder here than you might expect. The higher you go in the mountains, the cooler the air becomes. It snowed the day before I arrived, even though it was 85 degrees that day in Palm Springs. If it's 90 degrees in Palm Springs, it's probably 75 degrees in Yucca Valley, and 50-65 in Pioneertown. Don't believe what you see on the internet -- there is no "forecast" for Pioneertown. The National Weather Service Forecast Office responsible for this area is a couple of hundred miles away in Las Vegas, and it doesn't even know Pioneertown exists. The nearest government weather post is in Twentynine Palms, but that's just an observation station at the Marine base. Some internet weather services will use this for their Pioneertown forecast, but it won't even be close to accurate. There are forecasts for Palm Springs, but according to agencies that track this sort of thing, they are notoriously inaccurate, and wouldn't apply to Pioneertown if they were. My advice is to dress in layers that you can remove as you get farther away from the motel.
Would I stay here again? Heck, yes. It's half the price and twice as interesting as anything in Palm Springs. And if you're a photographer, an outdoorsman, or anyone with even a slight sense of adventure, you'll totally get a kick out of this place.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.