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
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'
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'
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