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.

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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.

What You'll Learn

  • 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 trip experts
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Thomas Combrink
Thomas Combrink was born in South Africa and, as a child, lived in Zambia and Zimbabwe where his father was a British government land surveyor. In the bush with his parents, he gained an appreciation and love for the natural world. Thomas earned degrees from Texas A&M (Park & Recreation Resource Management) and Michigan State University (Agricultural Economics). He retired from Northern Arizona University with research in applied economics and tourism. Living in Flagstaff for 32 years, he has explored much of the Colorado Plateau.

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

Profile Image of Thomas Combrink
Thomas Combrink View biography
Thomas Combrink was born in South Africa and, as a child, lived in Zambia and Zimbabwe where his father was a British government land surveyor. In the bush with his parents, he gained an appreciation and love for the natural world. Thomas earned degrees from Texas A&M (Park & Recreation Resource Management) and Michigan State University (Agricultural Economics). He retired from Northern Arizona University with research in applied economics and tourism. Living in Flagstaff for 32 years, he has explored much of the Colorado Plateau.
Profile Image of Kyle Storey
Kyle Storey View biography
Kyle Storey is an urban planner with a passion for creating sustainable and livable communities. He possesses a love for nature and agriculture and is committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices. Kyle works towards implementing cutting-edge technologies to reduce our carbon footprint and transition towards a more sustainable future. Kyle is also a seasoned outdoor group leader who is deeply in touch with the natural world. He has led numerous outdoor adventures, from hiking and camping trips to wildlife expeditions and nature exploration.
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While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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6 days
5 nights
12 meals
5 B 4 L 3 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner.
Palm Springs, CA
D
Hyatt Palm Springs

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 by 10 passenger vans during the program, unless otherwise specified. 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: Dinner will be on site at the Hyatt conference room. Dinners include fresh garden salad, sides of hot vegetable, starch; and a nightly rotating option of entrees. Water, ice tea, lemonade, hot tea and coffee included. Alcoholic beverages available for purchase.

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

DAY
2
Hike in Joshua Tree National Park
Palm Springs, CA
B,L,D
Hyatt Palm Springs

Activity note: Driving approx. 85 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: Enjoy a buffet breakfast in the hotel meeting room which includes a daily egg dish selections (for protein), potatoes and breakfast meat, oatmeal, toast and a selection of fresh fruit and juices and coffee.

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. Be prepared for extended sandy wash walking and rocky and sustained uphill trail sections on established park trails. 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 not to continue on the extended length of the hike. 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: Sack lunches along the trail. A rotating selection of sandwiches, chips, fruit, cookie and drink throughout the week.

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: Buffet dinner will be at the Hyatt hotel conference room.

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
Palm Springs, CA
B,L,D
Hyatt Palm Springs

Activity note: Driving approx. 20 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: In the evening we will gather and walk to a local restaurant in downtown Palm Springs. We’ll enjoy plated meals with water, tea and coffee included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After dinner, stroll through downtown Palm Springs back to the hotel at your leisure.

DAY
4
Hike Joshua Tree National Park
Palm Springs, CA
B,L
Hyatt Palm Springs

Activity note: Driving approx. 85 miles round trip; about 2 hours. 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: 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: In the evening we will gather and walk to a local restaurant in downtown Palm Springs. We’ll enjoy plated meals with water, tea and coffee included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After dinner, stroll through downtown Palm Springs back to the hotel at your leisure.

DAY
5
Instructor's Choice Hike in Coachella Valley
Palm Springs, CA
B,L
Hyatt Palm Springs

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

Dinner: Dinner on your own. Tonight we will enjoy the "Palm Springs VillageFest' which literally occurs just out front of the hotel and continues down the length of the strip. This weekly street fair is consistently voted as Palm Springs number one community event featuring arts, crafts, food, and entertainment! The street fair offers a large variety of meal options. Your coordinator will provide dining suggestions to various eating venues in the area.

Evening: Enjoy the desert evening with a bit of browsing time before returning to the hotel.

DAY
6
Departures after breakfast
Palm Springs, CA
B

Breakfast: Enjoy breakfast buffet at the hotel. At breakfast we will gather for reflections on our week's adventures and say happy trails to our new found friends.

Morning: Departures after breakfast. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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