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    What to Expect When You PCS to Marine Corps Base 29 Palms, California

    You’ve probably heard of Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms (mostly referred to as 29 Palms), often described as “in the middle of nowhere.” It is. The nearest widely known town is Palm Springs, about one hour away.

    But people forget that this base's location doesn’t define it. Among the negative stories are positive ones expressing how much military families loved their time at 29 Palms.

    Here’s what you need to know before moving to this desert duty station.

    PCS to 29 Palms PinterestThe 29 Palms Lifestyle 

    Even though 29 Palms is home to the world's largest Marine Corps Base and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), life on 29 Palms is quiet and serene. There is minimal traffic, which is a drastic change if you've ever experienced MCB Quantico or Camp Pendleton traffic.

    Since 29 Palms is somewhat isolated in the desert, the community relies heavily on each other. As a result, base organizations make a solid effort to host events to bring families together. For example, the base hosts a Father-Daughter dance, a Super Bowl party, Texas Hold ‘Em, and more. They also have an entire roster of other events, which you can find on the Marine Corps Community Services 29 Palms home page.

    Marine corps air ground combat center at 29 Palms

    Photo from MAGTF Training Command/Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at 29 Palms Facebook

    Before arriving, contact your local RAP to request a Welcome Aboard Package (WAP). It has helpful information about the base, Twentynine Palms, and nearby Tri-state attractions. Remember, 29 Palms is close to Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico.

    To help you further plan your PCS, we’ve gathered a few more important contacts: 

    Twentynine Palms highwayPhoto from Canva

    The City of Twentynine Palms 

    The City of Twentynine Palms is located in the Morongo Basin, part of the southwestern portion of the Mojave Desert. The city is in the high desert and sits at elevations between 2,500 and 4,000 feet above sea level. The nearest mountains, the Little San Bernardino and Eagle Mountains, are part of the Transverse Ranges.

    The city gets its name from historical records written by gold miners, desert surveyors, and explorers who described the area by the number of palm trees near the Mara Oasis, although there are some discrepancies citing 26 or 29 palms. 

    Due to the city’s location in the California desert, there’s a heavy focus on appreciating the scenic vistas and outdoor activities. Hikers and bikers easily take in the expansive and stunning views no matter where they go, and the vast open space and minimal ambient lighting easily show off a night sky you’ll never take for granted. If you’ve ever wanted to try rock or boulder climbing, Twentynine Palms is the place to be. 

    For more things to do, check out the city of Twentynine Palms’ events calendar. They have plenty of activities scheduled, including fun events like Pioneer Days. The Parks and Rec Department also contributes to family fun by offering bike races, flag football, Halloween celebrations, farmers’ markets, and other holiday events. 

    29 Palms Housing

    Of course, every PCS move requires you to consider whether you want to live on or off base. For 29 Palms, most people recommend that you try for on-base housing first.

    Liberty Military Housing manages 1,567 homes within 15 communities. The neighborhoods have community centers, pools, and fitness centers.

    If the housing list is full or you’re interested in living off base, MilitaryByOwner has a rotating inventory of homes for sale and houses to rent nearby in Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree, and Yucca Valley.

    29 Palms homes for sale or rent


    Things to Do Near 29 Palms 

    Joshua Tree National Park 

    You cannot live at 29 Palms without taking in the sights of the majestic Joshua Tree National Park. Because 29 Palms is the north entrance to the park, you’ll have plenty of chances to hike, rock climb, and explore 800,000 acres of rock formations, ancient Joshua trees, wildflowers, and desert species. When you’re finished, take advantage of the opportunity to camp at one of the nation’s most beloved national parks. 

    women hiking near Joshua Tree National ParkPhoto from Shutterstock

    Check out more adventures near 29 Palms:

    • Pioneertown is near Yucca Valley and is an old rustic town that is a must-see. Pappy and Harriet’s is a must for lunch while you are there.
    • The Oasis of Mara is a natural spring located on the grounds of the historic 29 Palms Inn, adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park.
    • The Palm Springs/Rancho Mirage area is a desert oasis with green golf courses and high-end shopping. It's the perfect trip you need to spruce up or treat yourself.

    Within three hours, you can visit Las Vegas, San Diego, and Los Angeles. In fact, Las Vegas hosts many of the 29 Palms Marine Corps Balls!

    Military spouse support at 29 PalmsPhoto from Shutterstock

    Advice from Military Spouses Who Know 29 Palms 


    "Do not come into 29 Palms with a negative attitude. If you come in open-minded, this experience will be so much fun! Don’t let the thought of being ‘out in the middle of nowhere’ scare you because the quiet beauty of this place is something that everyone needs! I would be happy to stay here another three years or come back again in the future without thinking twice."


    "29 Palms is a great place to live on base and get involved in the military community. If you join things like Stroller Warriors, MSA (Military Spouses Association), DLS (Desert Leadership Seminar), and CWF (Christian Women’s Fellowship), then building community is easy. 

    The one strength I heard so much about when moving here was that the community is unmatched. Another huge perk to this desert duty station is that within just a two to three-hour drive, there are many beautiful places to travel and explore."

    rock climbing at 29 palmsJoshua Tree National Park - Photo from Canva


    "There is a saying that goes, 'You cry when you get to 29, and you cry when you leave.' I was definitely one who cried when my service member got orders to 29 Palms. Little did I know how much this place would mean to me in such a short time. The community here is the best military community anywhere we have been stationed. There are always other spouses here to cheer you on when you’re having a rough day and lend a hand when you need it. It’s the people here that make such a difference. I enjoy playing tourist and visiting all the local shops, art galleries, and restaurants, but more than anything, I am so thankful for the friends I have made here.

    My advice for others headed to this corner of the desert is to get involved. Join MSA, volunteer with your unit, take a LINKS class, and attend the USO events. Twentynine Palms is great because of the friendships and connections you make here. It’s a diamond in the rough."

    As with all duty stations, 29 Palms is what you make it. You’ll hear all the bad, but if you ask for it, you’ll find all the good as well. This small town lends itself to outdoor adventure and can produce wonderful family memories.

    Get more tips for your upcoming PCS move with our series of free PCS resources!

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    Danielle Keech


    Danielle Keech

    Danielle Keech is a writer and content creator for MilitaryByOwner Advertising. She writes on military life topics, highlights clients’ open houses on social media, and manages the Military PCS Facebook group. She especially enjoys covering financial topics and helping military families exercise financial responsibility and plan for the future. Danielle has been a Marine Corps spouse for ten years (and counting!) and is a momma to four littles and one fur baby. She and her pilot spouse have lived in Virginia, Florida, Texas, California, Hawaii, and, most recently, Okinawa, Japan. And yes, you guessed it, Hawaii is her favorite duty station to date! Find MilitaryByOwner's Millitary PCS group here.

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