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California

Hiking the High Desert: Joshua Tree National Park

Program No. 20819RJ
Fulfill a dream and come to the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park, where you’ll hike amongst spectacular canyons, palm oases, towering boulders and a Joshua Tree forest.
Length
6 days
Rating (4.89)
Activity Level
Starts at
1,549

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climate
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itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Feb 12 - Feb 17, 2023
Starting at
1,549
Feb 23 - Feb 28, 2023
Starting at
1,549
Feb 28 - Mar 5, 2023
Starting at
1,849
Itinerary Note

This date stays at the Hyatt Palm Springs, an upgraded property, centrally located in the downtown area.

Mar 5 - Mar 10, 2023
Starting at
1,549
Nov 2 - Nov 7, 2023
Starting at
1,549
Nov 7 - Nov 12, 2023
Starting at
1,799
Itinerary Note

This date stays at the Hyatt Palm Springs, an upgraded property, centrally located in the downtown area.

Nov 12 - Nov 17, 2023
Starting at
1,549
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Feb 12 - Feb 17, 2023
Starting at
1,839
Feb 23 - Feb 28, 2023
Starting at
1,839
Feb 28 - Mar 5, 2023
Starting at
2,329
Itinerary Note

This date stays at the Hyatt Palm Springs, an upgraded property, centrally located in the downtown area.

Mar 5 - Mar 10, 2023
Starting at
1,839
Nov 2 - Nov 7, 2023
Starting at
1,839
Nov 7 - Nov 12, 2023
Starting at
2,229
Itinerary Note

This date stays at the Hyatt Palm Springs, an upgraded property, centrally located in the downtown area.

Nov 12 - Nov 17, 2023
Starting at
1,839

At a Glance

Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park and the desert surrounding Palm Springs is an opportunity not to be missed. Famous for the other-worldly Joshua Tree and geologic formations that attract elite rock climbers, the park is a desert lover’s paradise where the Sonoran and Mojave deserts meet. In the Palm Springs area hike to palm oases where water brings abundance and has created the largest density of California palm trees in the world. Ride the thrilling Palm Springs Aerial Tram for sweeping views of the Coachella Valley, the San Andreas fault zone and distant desert peaks.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Hiking up to 6.8 miles daily on varied terrain including sandy washes and rocky, established trails with loose footing; Some spots with passage of one person at a time; Some rock scrambling and use of hands required to navigate terrain and ladders; Elevation changes of 500-1,000 ft. on hikes; Seasonal shallow stream crossings and snow. Elevations of 4,500-8,500 feet. Participants will be required to carry a minimum of 2 -3 liter of water on hikes.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Learn about the unique natural history and human cultures of this desert region from expert naturalists.
  • Explore Joshua Tree National Park including the granitic maze known as the “Wonderland of Rocks.”
  • Hike the “Indian Canyons” in the Palm Springs area and explore San Jacinto State Park, accessed by the aerial tramway.

General Notes

Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Stewart Lasseter
Stewart Lasseter completed studies in geo-science, natural history and Spanish at the University of Arizona. He then studied as the protégé of a Native American healer, learning from her practices of wholeness, kinesiology, mind-body medicine, and dyslexia correction. He has years of experience bringing groups in touch with the natural world and has completed post-graduate studies in health sciences at Prescott College.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Stewart Lasseter
Stewart Lasseter View biography
Stewart Lasseter completed studies in geo-science, natural history and Spanish at the University of Arizona. He then studied as the protégé of a Native American healer, learning from her practices of wholeness, kinesiology, mind-body medicine, and dyslexia correction. He has years of experience bringing groups in touch with the natural world and has completed post-graduate studies in health sciences at Prescott College.
Profile Image of Joel Kane
Joel Kane grew up roaming Appalachian Pennsylvania but has called the Southwest home for years. After serving in the Navy, he earned a bachelor's degree in geology from the University of California/Los Angeles. He later worked as an interpretive park ranger for the National Park Service at Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming, Zion National Park in Utah, Oregon Caves National Monument in Oregon, and the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. He is pursuing his master's degree in geology at Northern Arizona University/Flagstaff.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Joshua Tree: The Complete Guide: Joshua Tree National Park
by Kaiser, James
Stunning photographs showcase the wondrous landscape of Joshua Tree National Park in this unique guidebook. Joshua Tree National Park is a desert getaway that boasts some of the most dramatic and unexpected scenery in the Southwest. This edition features updated information, as well as a newly expanded section on the geology of the park. Fascinating chapters discuss the park's history, geology, and wildlife along with a guide to desert wildflowers and maps of more than 20 of the best hikes in the park. An indispensable guide for outdoor enthusiasts, rock climbers, and vacationing families on a budget, this beautiful guidebook will enhance any traveler's collection.
Desert Lore of Southern California
by Pepper, Choral
Renowned western writer and former Publisher of Desert Magazine, author Choral Pepper evokes the mystery and magic of southern California's desert, spinning tales of lost mines, Indian myths, legendary characters and strange natural features. She enable the explorer to experience the stories beyond the vistas along byways and trails from the Palm Springs area to the Salton Sea, down the Colorado River, and through the desert parks from Joshua Tree to Anza-Borrego.
Joshua Tree: Desolation Tango
by Deanne Stillman
This book captures, remarkably, the mystery and beauty of this special park. Deanne Stillman's text is beautiful, understated and precise. Galen Hunt's photographs are truly artful. This is great introduction to one the most special places on Earth. It's a poetic document along with excellent photographs. This tribute reveals the landscape of a startling country whose visa requirements are resolute inquisitiveness, an active imagination, and simple curiosity.
The Desert Smells Like Rain
by Nabhan, Gary Paul
Longtime residents of the Sonoran Desert, the Tohono O’odham people have spent centuries living off the land – a land that most modern citizens of southern Arizona consider totally inhospitable. Ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan has lived with the Tohono O’odham, long known as the Papagos, observing the delicate balance between these people and their environment. Bringing O’odham voices to the page at every turn, he writes elegantly of how they husband scant water supplies, grow crops, and utilize edible foods. Woven through his account are coyote tales, O’odham children’s impressions of the desert, and observations on the political problems that come with living on both sides of an international border. 148 pp.
Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis
by Glennon, Robert
In the middle of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas casinos use billions of gallons of water for fountains, pirate lagoons, wave machines, and indoor canals. Meanwhile, the town of Orme, Tennessee, must truck in water from Alabama because it has literally run out. Robert Glennon captures the irony—and tragedy—of America’s water crisis in a book that is both frightening and wickedly comical. Unquenchable reveals the heady extravagances and everyday inefficiencies that are sucking the nation dry.
A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert
by Patricia Wentworth Comus (Editor)
"Once in a generation, a guide to understanding a major North American landscape comes along. This book is such a touchstone, sure to become a classic. The emphasis here is on biodiversity, mutualism, co-evolution, and, especially, ethno-relationships—the long history of connection between desert peoples and their homeland, on both sides of the border.
Palm Springs: The Landscape, the History, the Lore
by Churchwell, Mary Jo
Mary Jo Churchwell depicts the desert community of Palm Springs over the last 150 years, reveling in eccentric anecdotes and inspiring landscapes. With equal doses of history, nature and personal reflection.
Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey
Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, the noted author's most enduring nonfiction work, is an account of Abbey's seasons as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, Utah. Abbey reflects on the nature of the Colorado Plateau desert, on the condition of our remaining wilderness, and on the future of a civilization that cannot reconcile itself to living in the natural world.
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 4 L 4 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Desert Hot Springs, CA
D
Miracle Springs Resort & Spa

Activity note: Resort check-in available by 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration 5:00 – 5:30 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the meeting room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions in our private meeting room. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions. Transportation will be provided primarily by passenger vans, unless otherwise specified. Each morning, we will preselect sandwiches for the following day and assemble our lunches from the sides available. Throughout the program, our naturalist Group Leader will cover subjects including geology, geography, human, and natural history. We will hike as one group throughout the week with a hike leader in the front and a sweep towards the rear. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may be changed due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the resort, we’ll enjoy hot plated entrees with healthy sides, plus access to the salad bar. Coffee, tea, lemonade, and water included; other beverages available for purchase from the hotel lounge.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, perhaps use the pool, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Hike in Joshua Tree National Park
Desert Hot Springs, CA
B,L,D
Miracle Springs Resort & Spa

Activity note: Driving approx. 75 miles round trip; about 1.5 hours. Hiking between 4.5 and 6.8 miles on established trails. Prepare for sections of sandy wash walking, rocky trail sections and uphill elevation gain. Depending on terrain, route, group ability, and interest; approximately 6 hours in the field. Participants will be required to carry a minimum of 3 liter of water in their day pack for each hike.

Breakfast: In the resort meeting room, we’ll enjoy a buffet including a daily egg dish, breakfast potatoes and meats, oatmeal, toast, and a selection of fresh fruit, plus juices, coffee, milk, tea, water. After breakfast each day, we will pre-order sandwiches for the following day and assemble our own lunches from the available fruit, chips, cookies, and other snacks as desired.

Morning: After boarding our vans, we’ll travel into Joshua Tree National Park. There are numerous hiking trails and destinations in the park and beyond. All of the hikes offer scenic landscapes with interesting natural history features. Trail selection and length of each hike for the day will be dependent on the weather, in particular unseasonably hot temperatures and/or windy conditions. Our group will begin the week with a hike on one or more trails in the national park and adjacent areas. Maze - Window - North View Trail combination loop hike: 6.8 miles, 853 ft. elevation gain. Established park trails with sandy wash walking, rocky and sustained uphill trail sections. This hike offers a great cross-section of desert terrain, land forms, vegetation and far reaching view! Note: midway through this hike the Group Leaders will offer a shorter return to the trailhead on an extension of the Maze Loop Trail for those that choose. This shorter hike option totals 4.7 miles and 360 ft. elevation gain for the day. 49 Palms Oasis Trail: 3.1 mile out and back trail on established park trail. 300 ft, elevation gain. Rocky conditions and sustained uphill hiking in sections.Tucked in the "corner" of a boulder lined basin - the 49 Palms Oasis is a picturesque native California Fan Palm grove that offers a cool sanctuary for numerous bird, animal, and reptile species. Big Morongo Canyon Preserve Trail system: variable distances 1 - 4 miles. 200 ft. elevation change. Riparian and foothill terrain on established trails. Spring wildflowers on display in wet years! The Group Leaders will provide natural history commentary during today's hike at rest breaks as an introduction to the park and the Mojave Desert ecosystem.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll stop at a pleasant spot to enjoy the sack lunches we prepared after breakfast.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our hike through incredible scenery, Upon the completion of our hike in the mid-afternoon, we’ll return to our accommodations.

Dinner: Resort plated meal.

Evening: In the hotel meeting room, enjoy a presentation on a topic of regional significance by a local expert.

DAY
3
Hiking Indian Palm Canyons, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Desert Hot Springs, CA
B,L,D
Miracle Springs Resort & Spa

Activity note: Driving approx. 40 miles total for the day; about 1 hour, with stops for hikes. Hiking approx. 5.5 miles throughout the day on 2 hikes. Hiking approx. 4 miles at Indian Palm Canyons; about 2.5 hours; established trails; elevation gain of approx. 400 feet. Hiking approx. 1.5 miles at the top on Long Valley trail; about 1 hour; elevation of approx. 8,000 feet; seasonal snow may be present.

Breakfast: Resort buffet.

Morning: After breakfast, we’ll set out for a hike in the Agua Caliente "Indian Canyons" just a couple of miles south of downtown Palm Springs. From the Visitor Center, the Victor Trail leads along the rim of Palm Canyon and features diverse Sonoran Desert vegetation and scenic overlooks, making it a popular hike. After about 2.5 miles, the Victor Trail descends to the head of Palm Canyon where we will hike along the canyon floor back to the Visitor Center and our vehicle. Palm Canyon is one of the largest oases in the world where the California Palm tree can be found. Cool and mostly shady, the canyon trail follows a stream which often still has pools and springs well into late spring.

Lunch: At the shady Andreas Canyon picnic area on the banks of Andreas Creek amidst towering native palm trees and cool running water, we’ll enjoy our sack lunches.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll transfer to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the "World’s Largest Rotating Tramcar." Once aboard, we will experience a breathtaking journey up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon. The 10 minute ride begins at the Valley Station at an elevation 2,643 feet and ends at the Mountain Station with an elevation 8,516 feet. Getting off the tram, we will explore the pine clad environs of Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness on a hike along the Desert View Trail among spectacular Jeffery Pine and White Fir trees. From various lookout points, we’ll enjoy sweeping vistas of the desert floor.

Dinner: At a local Mexican restaurant, we’ll choose from a wide variety of plated entrees on a select menu. Chips and salsa, soft drinks, coffee, tea, and water are included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll then return to the resort for the remainder of the evening at leisure. You may wish to enjoy the hot spring pools on site, or just relax.

DAY
4
Hike in Joshua Tree National Park, Wonderland of Rocks
Desert Hot Springs, CA
B,L,D
Miracle Springs Resort & Spa

Activity note: Driving approx. 36 miles one way to Joshua Tree National Park; about 1 hour. Hiking between 4.5 to 6 miles depending on terrain and the route taken; approx. 6 hours in the field. Off-trail hiking at The Wonderland of Rocks due to few trails; sections of rock scrambling, maneuvering and use of hands to navigate terrain; stepping up, walking side hill on granite surfaces utilizing balance, flexibility and leg strength. Some spots with passage of one person at a time.

Breakfast: Resort buffet.

Morning: After boarding our vans we'll return to Joshua Tree National Park and explore more of the park, which encompasses 880,000 acres. For today's hike we will plan on hiking and exploring in the "Wonderland of Rocks" area - located in the very heart of the park. The exact hiking route through the Wonderland of Rocks is dependent on the group’s ability and the Group Leader’s discretion. Departing from the Barker Dam trailhead, the spectacular terrain encountered will include a maze of granitic boulders rising from an undulating landscape of ridges, small canyons and desert dry washes. Footing will be variable throughout the day. We will begin on a well-established mostly level trail visiting both ancient and modern cultural sites along the way. As the trail narrows, we will begin our approach to the Wonderland of Rocks. Depending on trail/weather conditions and group ability your Group Leader will proceed on a favorable route into the Wonderland of Rocks. All routes will lead to a dazzling array of granite boulder jumbles and secluded desert locations! For the "Jumble" route we will queue up as a group and navigate, sometimes one by one, a series of step ups and scramble moves through, over and on top of a series of granite ridges and inclined granite boulder surfaces. The granite surfaces exhibits a surprisingly gripping surface for our boots and foot steps. With clear directions and guidance - plus a helping hand at the ready from your Group Leaders, we will systematically proceed on our predetermined route through a series of step ups and lateral moves through the boulder field. From this relatively short, distance wise, portion of our hike we will gain passage into the Wonderland of Rocks proper and emerge into an open secluded park like landscape! Continuing, we will follow a network of desert stream beds and terraces stopping at points of interest for photos and trail side commentary by your Group Leaders.

Lunch: Sack lunches along the way.

Afternoon: Upon completion of our hike, we’ll transfer back to the resort with time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: Resort plated meal.

Evening: After a short briefing on tomorrow’s hike location, trail conditions, environmental concerns and gear requirements, the remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

DAY
5
Instructor's Choice Hike in Coachella Valley
Desert Hot Springs, CA
B,L
Miracle Springs Resort & Spa

Activity note: Ladder Canyon/Painted Canyon Hike: Driving approx. 50 miles to trailhead; about 1 1/4 hours. Hiking approx. 5 miles; about 4 hours; 820 ft elevation gain/loss. Sandy wash and rocky established trails; series of 4 to 8-foot ladders on Painted Canyon Hike. Whitewater and Mission Creek Preserve Hike: Driving 23 miles to trailhead; 40 minutes. Hike 6.5 miles; 650 ft elevation gain/loss. Well established hiking trails with some sustained uphill, uneven footing and a stream crossing (seasonal).

Breakfast: Resort buffet.

Morning: Today we will depart for one of the many great hiking destinations in the Coachella Valley or surrounding area. The hike location chosen for the day will depend on group interest, ability and the main determining factor - the weather forecast for the Coachella Valley for the day! Unseasonable hot temperatures or extreme Santa Ana wind events are real possibilities at any time of year. If present, these conditions will dictate the safer and more enjoyable hike locations for the group. Hike locations for the day may include: Mecca Hills: Ladder and Painted Canyon Hike in the eastern Coachella Valley. 4.5 mile loop hike, 820 ft. elevation gain/loss. Access to Ladder Canyon requires an initial short rocky ascent and a maneuver past a large boulder to a series of 4 - 8 foot high ladders. The ladders leads to a spectacular slot canyon that follows a narrow sinuous course before gradually opening up to ridge top views. The trail continues down into Painted Canyon and loops back to the trail head. Note: At the entrance of Ladder Canyon the Group Leader will offer an alternative route directly up Painted Canyon for a colorful and interesting in and out hike for those that choose to not to negotiate the ladders. Mission Creek Preserve to Whitewater Preserve. 6.5 mile one way; 650 ft. elevation gain. This is a "key exchange" hike. Half the group will start at each end of the trail and pass in the middle of the hike. The Whitewater Preserve offers stream side hiking along a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Gradual upstream grade leads to a stream crossing and an ascent out of the drainage to connect with the Mission Creek Trail. The Mission Creek Trail follows an intermittent stream through mixed chaparral and oak woodlands. The trail ascends to a drainage divide before descending into the Mission Creek drainage. Other hike locations Big Morongo Preserve, and surrounding San Bernardino National Forest locations, to name a few.

Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: After completing our hike, we’ll return to the hotel with time to freshen up before transferring to downtown Palm Springs. The weekly "Palm Springs Village Fest” is consistently voted as Palm Springs’ number one community event featuring arts, crafts, food, and entertainment. Alternatively, you may wish to simply relax at the resort.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like from the large variety of choices at the street fair. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: We’ll then regroup at a predetermined time and place for transfer back to the resort. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
6
Program Concludes, Independent Departures
Desert Hot Springs, CA
B

Activity note: Free airport shuttle available with departure at 8:30 a.m. Resort check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Resort buffet. At breakfast we will gather to share reflections on the week's adventures and bid everyone Happy Trail! This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.