Joshua Tree National Park Hiking & Camping

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4–10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,499 for REI Members
$1,649 for non-members
Departures Nov 2020-Dec 2021

Discover the rugged desert landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park and camp under a canopy of brilliant stars on this 4-day southern California hiking getaway.

Just a short drive from Palm Springs lies a wilderness wonderland brimming with fascinating geology, surprising biodiversity and the spiky, photogenic yucca trees that give this region of the Mojave Desert its name. Hikers, climbers, photographers and campers are drawn from all over the world to play in this park’s unique boulder outcroppings and Joshua Tree forests. Its prime location in the high, exposed Mojave creates the perfect weather for hiking and boulder-hopping all day, followed by unforgettable star shows each night.

From our comfortable basecamp, we hit the trail each day to explore a different highlight of this exceptional park, summiting mountain peaks and discovering palm-filled oases while our guides share their knowledge of Joshua Tree’s rich natural and human history. Back at camp, we enjoy magnificent desert sunsets and delicious guide-prepared dinners before climbing into our spacious tents for a peaceful night’s sleep. A fantastic recipe for a memorable escape into the great outdoors.

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Trip Highlights

  • Set out each day on scenic hikes through Joshua Tree’s varied landscapes
  • Summit Ryan Mountain, discover Lost Palms Oasis and explore Smith Water Canyon
  • Learn about this complex desert ecosystem from our exceptional guides
  • Enjoy delicious guide-prepared meals and camp in comfort
  • Roundtrip transfers from Palm Springs included

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate [3]. Participants should be comfortable with daily hikes between 4–8 miles with elevation gains/losses of up to 1,200'.

Hiking trails are composed of dirt, sand and rock with some steep sections.

  • Hiking

What's Included

Three nights camping accommodations in Joshua Tree National Park; tents; meals as indicated on the daily itinerary; professional guide leadership; van transportation during the course of the trip; park entry fees and permits.

Accommodations

Camping, 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Joshua Tree and hike to the summit of Ryan Mountain

Our trip begins this morning in Palm Springs, California. We rendezvous with our guides at 12pm at our host hotel, and after introductions and a brief orientation, we set out for J-Tree! Our first hike this afternoon leads us directly from our campsite to the top of Ryan Mountain (5,456'). This out and back hike climbs more than 1,000 feet from the desert floor to a summit that provides awe-inspiring views into the rugged heart of Joshua Tree. At hike’s end, we return to our picturesque basecamp nestled among some of the park’s towering rock formations and enjoy the lightshow as the setting sun paints the sky with streaks of brilliant color. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 4 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,255'/-1,255'; Van transfer: 1.5 hours

Day 2

Hike through classic J-Tree landscapes to a desert oasis

After an early start and hearty breakfast, we set out for today’s trailhead near Joshua Tree’s southern border to begin our hike to Lost Palms Oasis. Our trail leads us through a classic desert landscape dotted with yucca, ocotillo and cholla before passing a series of massive boulder piles, the likes of which make Joshua Tree such a popular rock-climbing destination. The trail becomes sandier as we walk along a wash between towering rock walls before finally reaching our objective: the largest stand of fan palms in Joshua Tree National Park. We drop our daypacks and eat lunch in the shade of these beautiful trees before making our way back down trail to our waiting van. En route back to camp, we stop at Keys View, the highest point in the park, to take in sweeping panoramas of the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, Mount Gorgonio (11,502') and the Salton Sea. All meals included.

Hiking: 7 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,000'/-1,000'

Day 3

Explore a hidden canyon and search for desert-adapted wildlife

Today we discover a corner of the park rarely explored by most visitors. We begin our through-hike in Smith Water Canyon, surrounded by quintessential Joshua Tree scenery: open desert studded with the park's namesake yucca palms. As we wind our way through the narrow canyon, Joshua Trees are replaced by juniper and cottonwoods. This riparian habitat is home to many of the park's wildlife inhabitants, so while the odds of encountering other hikers are slim, don't be surprised if we spot a bighorn sheep or one of the many birds of prey that make this park their home. Tonight, our final evening in camp is filled with good food and laughter as we soak in the warmth of a campfire and reflect on the day’s adventures. All meals included.

Hiking: 8 miles, Elevation gain: +1,000'

Day 4

Hike to Barker Dam and visit a historic gold mill before returning to Palm Springs

We break camp after breakfast and head to Barker Dam, the first of our two short hikes this morning. Originally constructed in 1900 by ranchers needing water for their cattle, the dam now serves as a watering hole for park wildlife and creates an appealing composition for landscape photographers. Next, we hike to Wall Street Mill, a well-preserved gold processing mill built in the late 19th century, and now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. In early afternoon, we stop for a fun barbeque lunch at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, the renowned high desert honky-tonk that’s hosted the likes of Paul McCartney and the Arctic Monkeys. The final leg of our journey transports us back to Palm Springs, arriving at the airport around 3:30pm and making a second drop-off at our host hotel at 3:45pm. Please do not schedule a departing flight out of Palm Springs before 5:30pm this afternoon. Breakfast & lunch included.

Hiking: 3.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: minimal; Van transfer: 2.5 hours

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.