loading spinner

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.
6 days
Rating (4.89)
Activity Level
Starts at

Enroll with Confidence

We want your Road Scholar learning adventure to be something to look forward to—not worry about. Learn more

Protecting the Environment

Through Carbonfund.org, we offset a portion of the emissions created by your travel. Learn more

Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
Plan ahead.
What kind of weather can you expect? Take a look!
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
Feb 12 - Feb 17, 2023
Starting at
Feb 23 - Feb 28, 2023
Starting at
Feb 28 - Mar 5, 2023
Starting at
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
Nov 2 - Nov 7, 2023
Starting at
Nov 7 - Nov 12, 2023
Starting at
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
DATES & starting prices
Feb 12 - Feb 17, 2023
Starting at
Feb 23 - Feb 28, 2023
Starting at
Feb 28 - Mar 5, 2023
Starting at
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
Nov 2 - Nov 7, 2023
Starting at
Nov 7 - Nov 12, 2023
Starting at
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

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
Profile Image
Mike Masek
Mike Masek is a wilderness skills instructor, herbalist and ethnobotanist living in Flagstaff, Ariz. In addition to his current work with Road Scholar, he is adjunct faculty at Northern Arizona University where he teaches traditional uses of native plants and outdoor survival skills. He also teaches programs at the National Parks and Coconino Community College. He has spent a lifetime exploring the canyons and deserts of the American Southwest and loves to share these treasures with others.

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

Profile Image of Mike Masek
Mike Masek View biography
Mike Masek is a wilderness skills instructor, herbalist and ethnobotanist living in Flagstaff, Ariz. In addition to his current work with Road Scholar, he is adjunct faculty at Northern Arizona University where he teaches traditional uses of native plants and outdoor survival skills. He also teaches programs at the National Parks and Coconino Community College. He has spent a lifetime exploring the canyons and deserts of the American Southwest and loves to share these treasures with others.
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 Mike Young
Mike Young View biography
Mike Young has lived in Arizona for 40 years, and taught math and geology at Yavapai College prior to his work with Road Scholar. To convey the Arizona landscape, Mike uses a broad range of topics including botany, natural history, and geomorphology. He has worked as a commercial boatman, designed and constructed his own home, and conducted field exercises throughout the intermountain West. He is an accomplished hike leader who inspires hikers of all skill levels.
Profile Image of Kristin Hooten
Kristin Hooten View biography
Kristin Hooten has spent the majority of her life in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona. She earned a bachelor's degree in Parks and Recreation Management with an emphasis in Outdoor Education and Leadership from Northern Arizona University. Kristin has worked in the outdoor industry in different capacities and enjoys her ongoing education with the surrounding region. When not in the office or field, she is found enjoying the great outdoors either on a paddleboard or in her camper.
Profile Image of Christopher Eaves
Christopher Eaves View biography
Christopher Eaves has called the Southwest home for the past two decades, exploring the wild lands and rivers of the region. After teaching middle school math and science for 15 years, he joined Road Scholar to continue his ongoing passion for promoting learning. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Western University of Colorado and a master’s in Education from Northern Arizona University. Chris's hobbies include mountain biking, hiking, and traveling the globe with his spouse and children.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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: 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.
30 Reviews
Sort by
Most Recent
  • Most Recent
  • Most Favorable
  • Least Favorable
4.89 Average
(5) Review left 11/07/2022

Excellent Program!

(5) Review left 3/21/2022

This was my first Road Scholar trip. I wasn't sure what to expect, but with the information set ahead of the trip, I felt prepared. I enjoyed meeting new people and loved the hikes and scenery. I plan on taking another trip. The hard part is deciding which one.

(5) Review left 3/12/2022

A great trip to experience many facets of the Joshua Tree, Mt St Jacinto, and palm springs ecosystems. Nice hiking in beautiful and varied locales, with terrific trip leader.

(5) Review left 2/27/2022

Great trip. I thought it was a bit more strenuous with a brisk pace often while on the trails. The instructor was good about taking an occasional break but I would definitely do some endurance and strength training before you go. Disappointed in the Hyatt facilities but definitely centrally located. The trails were beautiful and the leaders were very knowledgeable and accommodating. Had a great time overall!

(4) Review left 2/27/2022

I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the great terrain on the hikes. The group of travelers was fun and personable. The hotel was overall good, but inconsistent hot water in our rooms. Food was good, and they were very accommodating to various dietary needs.

This reviewer did not give a star rating. Review left 2/26/2022

Enjoyed the hiking experiences. Accommodations disappointing. Shabby and in need of many repairs. Several non-functioning amenities in the room. Pool/hot baths area dirty and disorganized. However, the staff provided excellent service and were very accommodating. Food plentiful and satisfying. Wonderful group of folks on the trip. Would deffinately consider future Road Scholar trips.

(5) Review left 2/26/2022

Wow. What a beautiful place to be in February. Sunshine and great hikes in 'out of the way' areas of the park made for a great time. Smaller group (16 folks) allowed us to really share and make new friends easily. Will consider Road Scholar again for future trips.

(5) Review left 2/22/2022

This trip was great, if challenging. Coming from low altitude in the winter time, temp at home was in the 20s and 30s, hiking in 90+ in the sun temps at significantly higher altitude uphill in the sand was difficult on my lungs and body. If you are doing the same drastic change, you might want to consider how it will affect you and plan accordingly. The last days hike was probably not a good one since only 6 of 16 participants chose the primary route and the rest of us got no educational content that day. Accommodations were great, leaders were great and knowledgeable.

(5) Review left 2/21/2022

The hikes were varied in scenery and intensity, and the participants were very friendly, kind and helpful to each other along the trails. The guides were pleasant and informative.

(5) Review left 2/20/2022

This program was excellent. Being from Pennsylvania I was not sure I would like desert hiking or find any beauty there, but after this high desert hiking experience, I found I love everything about the desert around Joshua Tree NP. When I returned home, I signed up for another Road Scholar desert hiking program.

(5) Review left 2/19/2022

I loved this program! Very exciting to see the Joshua Trees, walk in a slot canyon, and see the amazing rocks!

(5) Review left 11/21/2021

Great to go on Joshua Tree group hikes (that I could not of navigated safely myself) .

(5) Review left 11/20/2021

The Joshua Tree program was a wonderful desert and oasis experience! The hikes revealed unique insights into the area each day and included different hiking challenges, views, climates and experiences each day. Staying in Palm Springs provided a little desert luxury, entertainment and great accessibility from the airport. Our guides were outstanding and shared their great knowledge base with interest and skill.

(5) Review left 11/18/2021

Great trip. It’s more challenging than spirited. Stewart and Fil are a great team.

(5) Review left 3/18/2020

A fascinating area. The desert provides a lot of surprises and secrets. Well worth a visit.

(5) Review left 3/18/2020

Enjoyed this trip very much. Joshua Tree is a beautiful location and I learned a lot about the geology, plants, and nature of this park.

(5) Review left 3/14/2020

This excellent program included four days of hiking in varied and beautiful scenery. We hiked in high deserts, among towering rocks, through slot canyon and a palm oasis, and even through several inches of snow high above Palm Springs. Our two guides, Shane and Stewart, eagerly shared their knowledge of the history, geology, and plant life of these amazing landscapes. Please remember that it is very important to carefully read the descriptions of the hikes, including elevation gain, distance, and terrain. – and then train accordingly. These hikes are not walks in the local park! A couple of them were definitely on the high end of the “Spirited” category. If you are prepared for sand, rocks, ladders, cacti, and even ladders, you will have a great time. The hotel was comfortable, and the food was good. The ice cold drinks at the end of each hike were a very welcomed extra treat. Although the program is only for 5 nights, there many other excellent hikes and sightseeing opportunities available in the Palm Springs area if you can stay for a few extra days. I have posted some pictures of our week at www.ellieknesper.smugmug.com.

(4) Review left 3/12/2020

Be sure to train well before hiking this program.

(5) Review left 3/11/2020

just a fantastic experience in a great area, major scenic views. perfectly organized and monitored by a very knowledgeable leader , Steward !

(5) Review left 3/10/2020

This is my second time participating in this program. I do recommend it. Unlike my first experience some years ago, this present one had optional hikes that were physically less challenging. Since my physical abilities changed after I sighed on, I very much appreciated these options. However, even these less demanding options greatly challenged a very few participants. Everyone needs to read the program description and call in if they have questions.

(4) Review left 3/09/2020

Beautiful Joshua trees!! Amazing rocks!! Lots of different cacti. The tram to the mountaintop was beautiful and exciting, as was the 6 inches of new snow at the top. The palm oasis was amazing. Great, but strenuous trip.

(5) Review left 3/01/2020

I enjoyed the diversity of the hiking in this program - palm trees, slot canyon, icy terrain, rocks. With the rock scrambling, icy conditions, etc. this is not just a walk in the park so come prepared to hike. Also, read the material that is sent ahead of time so that packs and water capacity are sufficient.

(5) Review left 2/29/2020

wonderful hikes in glorious desert scenery with two terrific guides.. loved it!

(5) Review left 2/24/2020

This trip in Joshua Tree National Park offered some great hikes with varied terrain and views. It was beautiful. Come prepared to do some vigorous hiking and enjoy the scenery. Palm Springs is a wonderful, upgraded location for this trip.

(5) Review left 2/17/2020

Loved the variety of the hikes and soaking in the heated pools at the end of the day. My perception of the Palm Springs area and southern California has changed.

This reviewer did not give a star rating. Review left 3/24/2019

Great trip! I'll be happy to submit my evaluation if I can get an active link to it. Nina Fair

Road Scholar
We are thrilled that you enjoyed your trip, and please know that an evaluation is on its way to you. We look forward to your comments.
(5) Review left 3/23/2019

Stewart was a great leader, full of information. It was obvious that he was passionate about the mix of geography, topography, flora, and fauna. We were there during the super bloom at the south end of the park. The beauty was only surpassed by the fragrance. My favorite area was the Wonderland of Rock. Great park, great program, and a great bunch of new Road Scholar friends.

(5) Review left 3/14/2019

Joshua Tree hiking trip was a wonderful adventure. Each hike was of a different nature, and I had no idea of the variety within. Our National Parks are a jewel, and this one is no exception. Hiking it gave me an added appreciation.

(5) Review left 3/09/2019

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazing area with very diverse hikes. Our instructor, Stewart, had a wealth of information on the area and made sure we understood what we were seeing. The hikes were set up so we could walk a varying paces without feeling we needed to push ourselves beyond our capabilities. There were a few moments in the rock climbing and going through the canyons that were "what have I got myself into" moments but Stewart and Cutler made sure we were safe in all of our experiences.

(5) Review left 3/01/2019

This program was great! The leaders had to make adjustment to plans due to recent flooding. They did a great job of planning varied, interesting and challenging hikes! Ended spending the evening at the Street Fair in Palm Springs - fun to get a chance to see the town, enjoy the food, and some of the food/arts it had to offer. Loved learning about Joshua Tree and surrounding areas. Both leaders were very knowledgeable and more than willing to share their expertise.

Important registration tip:
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.