In the high desert country that was to become Joshua Tree National Park, rugged individuals tried their luck at cattle ranching, mining, and homesteading. The story of William F. Keys and his family is particularly representative of the hard work and ingenuity it took to settle and prosper in the Mojave Desert.
The ranger-guided tour of the ranch includes the colorful story of the 60 years Bill and Frances spent working together to make a life and raise their five children in this remote location. The ranch house, school house, store, and workshop still stand; the orchard has been replanted; and the grounds are full of the cars, trucks, mining equipment, and spare parts that are a part of the Desert Queen Ranch story.
Visiting the Ranch
Listed as a National Historic Register Site, the property is located in a remote, rocky canyon in Joshua Tree National Park. To preserve its historic character, admission to the ranch is restricted to guided walking tours. The tours are a half-mile in length and last 90 minutes. Group size is limited to 25 people.
From June 1 - September 17, 2016, tours will be offered on Saturday afternoons at 6:00 pm. Note that the previously scheduled tour for September 24 has been cancelled.
From November 14, 2016 - January 21, 2017, tours will be held at 2:00 pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Tickets are required and must be purchased in person on the day of the tour. Buy tickets at the Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms between 9:00 am and 12:00 noon to attend the 2:00 pm tour. Keys Ranch tours cost $10 per person aged 12 and over and $5 for children 6 to 11. Children under six are admitted free. Senior and Access Pass (Golden Age and Golden Access passport) holders pay $5.
These tour fees do not include the park entrance fee of $20 per car, good for a seven-day visit. Entrance fees are payable at park entrance stations.
To find the ranch, pass the entrance to Hidden Valley Campground, turn left at the Y-intersection, follow the road approximately two miles to the locked gate. Your guide will meet you there. (See map.) Please arrive at the ranch gate 15 minutes prior to your tour.
Safety & Comfort
Sturdy walking shoes, drinking water, sunscreen, and a hat will add to your comfort. Dress in layers to be prepared for changing weather conditions.
Smoking and eating are not allowed during the tour. Camcorders and cameras are permitted but camera tripods are not. (You may inquire about special tours for photographers and other artists.)
Take a Virtual Tour
Watch a three-part video series that offers an alternative tour of the ranch.