Pioneertown – Pioneertown, California - Atlas Obscura
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Pioneertown, California

Pioneertown

A fake town founded by Western movie stars is now becoming a hip desert community. 

Roughly two hours outside of Los Angeles, there is a tiny little desert town that looks frozen in the 19th century.

Dusty slatted cabins are adorned with cow skulls and cactus gardens. Old fashioned barrels and rocking chairs sit on every porch. There are actual tumbleweeds tumbling down the streets. This isn’t an abandoned ghost town—far from it—rather, this town was originally a 1940s movie set.

The population’s average age is around 30, and in the past year a restaurant, a recording studio, and a vintage store opened up in Airstream trailers and the old slatted buildings. Paul McCartney recently played a set at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace Saloon.

As a New York Times piece described it, “Pioneertown wants to be the new Old West,” but it wasn’t ever the real Old West, to begin with. Pioneertown was originally designed to accommodate actors during the filming of old Western movies.

The saloons, trading posts, and other frontier storefronts were used as backdrops in a number of early Western serials from The Cisco Kid to Judge Roy Bean. Given the swift and prolific production schedules of the televised adventures, the set was soon expanded to accommodate real residences where the actors could live. The construction of the town was funded and overseen by such Western greats as actors Roy Rodgers and Russell Hayden

 

Know Before You Go

Pioneertown is located just 15 minutes from Joshua Tree, 32 miles from Palm Springs, and about a two and half hours drive from downtown Los Angeles. Pioneertown can be reached via Interstate 10 to Highway 62, with clear signs along the way pointing travelers in the direction of the town. 


Pioneer town hosts Old West re-enactments April through October on Saturday afternoons, for those keen on getting a true Western experience.