Hiking the High Desert: Joshua Tree National Park

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.
Rating (4.85)
Program No. 20819RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 4 L 4 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Desert Hot Springs, CA
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. You must come prepared for the physical demands of a hiking program. This hiking program is designed for participants that are in good physical shape and / or exercise regularly. Being active in a regular hiking, bicycling, swimming, and other aerobic activities will help in the physical demands of this program. 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.

Hike in Joshua Tree National Park
Desert Hot Springs, CA
Miracle Springs Resort & Spa

Activity note: Driving approx. 75 miles round trip; about 1.5 hours. Hiking between 4 and 6.5 miles on established trails. Depending on terrain, route, group ability, and interest; approximately 6 hours in the field. Participants will be required to carry a minimum of 2 quarts 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 passenger 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 traverse through interesting and scenic landscapes with excellent natural history features. Depending on weather and current trail conditions your Group Leader will start the week with hikes on one or more trails today including 49 Palms, the Maze, Hidden Valley, Pine Valley and Big Morongo Canyon Preserve to name a few. Along with the Group Leader’s expert commentary, today's hike will be a great introduction to the park and the Mojave Desert ecosystem as we hike through a maze of granitic outcrops. As we walk, we will doubtlessly encounter and discuss the famous Joshua Trees and Mojave Yuccas, but we will also consider in depth the geology and geography of the park. The sheer magnitude of the geologic backdrop of the park, which is a jumble of monzogranite boulder fields, can often surprise visitors with its origins and striking whimsical forms.

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

Afternoon: Continuing our hike we’ll make our way through some sustained portions of the hike in sandy washes. Upon completion in the late afternoon, we’ll return to the resort.

Dinner: Resort plated meal.

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

Hiking Indian Palm Canyons, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Desert Hot Springs, CA
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.

Hike in Joshua Tree National Park, Wonderland of Rocks
Desert Hot Springs, CA
Miracle Springs Resort & Spa

Activity note: Driving approx. 36 miles one way to Joshua Tree National Park; about 1 hour. Hiking between 4 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; some rock scrambling, maneuvering and use of hands to navigate terrain; some loose footing in dry washes. Some spots with passage of one person at a time.

Breakfast: Resort buffet.

Morning: After boarding our passenger 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. Departing from the Barker Dam trail head parking area, the spectacular terrain encountered will include a maze of granitic boulders rising from an undulating landscape of ridges, plateaus, small canyons and rocky washes. This is truly an off the beaten path adventure. In spring, the dry washes are especially pretty as flowers grow in the smooth white sandy stream beds and intermingle with flowering red chuparosa and brittlebush.

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.

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

Activity note: Driving approx. 50 miles to trailhead; about 1 hour. Hiking approx. 5 miles in Coachella Valley; about 4 hours; sandy wash and rocky established trails; 4 to 8-foot ladders on Painted Canyon Hike. Seasonable hot weather 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.

Breakfast: Resort buffet.

Morning: Weather permitting, we will travel to the Mecca Hills for the Ladder and Painted Canyon Hike in the eastern Coachella Valley. Ladder Canyon is a true slot canyon that follows a narrow sinuous before gradually opening up to ridge top views. The trail continues down into Painted Canyon and loops back to the trail head. Fantastic geologic formations and wild multi-colored rocks make this hike a local favorite. If the weather forecast prohibits us from going on this hike, Coachella Valley has many other great hiking destinations, including the Whitewater and Mission Creek Wildland Conservancy Preserves, the Coachella Thousand Palms Oasis 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 for dinner on your own Your group leader will provide you with a handout that includes a list of dining venues and locations in downtown Palm Springs.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own. Enjoy what you like from a large variety of dining options that will sure to suit everyone's taste. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: After dinner enjoy a leisurely stroll along Palm Springs main arts and shop district and soak in the desert air. 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.

Program Concludes, Independent Departures
Desert Hot Springs, CA

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

Breakfast: Resort buffet. 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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