Tour Keys Desert Queen Ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

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Added by Tara Schatz

This guided tour is only offered between October and May and provides a fascinating look at one of Joshua Tree's quirkiest characters and the life he carved from the desolate landscape.

Joshua Tree National Park flawlessly combines otherworldly landscapes, incredible recreational opportunities, and a colorful, wild-west history. Before it was a national park, Joshua Tree was home to cattle rustlers, gunslingers, miners, and rugged homesteaders.  

One of the most quirky characters to call Joshua Tree home was Bill Keys, who homesteaded with his family at Desert Queen Ranch for more than 60 years. The ranch has been meticulously preserved, and remains almost exactly the way it was left when Keys died in 1969. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. 

How to Tour Desert Queen Ranch

The walking tour requires walking a half-mile and lasts about 90 minutes, and the group size is limited to 25 people, and you’ll have lots of time to wander around and take photos, so be sure to bring your camera! You can to buy your tickets at the Oasis Visitor Center on the morning of your tour or reserve them up to 60 days in advance on Recreation.gov

Tickets are $10 per person 12 and over, $5 for kids 6-11, and free for kids under 6. Dogs are not permitted.

You can’t go into the house the Keys family lived in, but you can peak in the windows, and check out the outbuildings. 

What You'll See on the Tour

Bill Keys was a homesteader, ingenious inventor, and junk collector. He turned his truck into a saw mill, built a school house for his children, constructed numerous dams, dug mines, and rustled cattle. Read more about the history of the Keys Family.

Since the homestead has been meticulously preserved, you can expect to see most of the trash-to-treasure collection from the original homestead - old washing machines, tools, garden equipment, vehicles, and more. It really is like stepping back in time. 

Yes, it's a guided tour, and you'll learn a lot about the history of the Keys family, but you'll also get a chance to meander around the property and take photos. This is an underrated highlight of Joshua Tree National Park - perfect for families with older kids.


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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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