Joshua Tree Women's Backpacking

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4–10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,199 for REI Members
$1,299 for non-members
Departures Nov 2021-Dec 2021

Immerse yourself in Joshua Tree National Park’s unique desert landscape and learn new skills on a memorable 4-day backpacking trip designed for—and guided by—women.

Lying at an ecological crossroads, where California’s high Mojave Desert meets the low Colorado Desert, Joshua Tree National Park’s rugged and beautiful backcountry makes it a perfect destination for a restorative wilderness escape.

On this exploration into Joshua Tree’s wild heart, we backpack past hundreds of the park’s spiky namesake trees and massive boulder piles, search for Bighorn sheep, and climb rocky trails to awe-inspiring panoramic vistas. We test our agility on a scramble through the fantastic Wonderland of Rocks and hike to Willow Hole where seasonal pools provide life-sustaining water to the animals that make this park their home.

As we hike, our exceptional guides teach us about the desert ecosystem and share invaluable tips on gear and wilderness travel. At day’s end, we kick back relaxed and tired, enjoying the pastel colors of sunset and the campfire glow on the smiling faces of our newfound adventure companions.

Open trip gallery
See all trip photos

Trip Highlights

  • Backpack through the dramatic desert landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park
  • Learn basic scrambling techniques on the rugged route to Oh-Bay-Yo-Yo
  • Discover the plants, animals and geology of this amazing desert ecosystem
  • Geek out on gear tips and spice up your backcountry cooking
  • Roundtrip transportation from/to Palm Springs, CA included
  • REI Women’s Adventure—designed for women, guided by women

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3-4]. Participants will carry their own backpacks weighing 35-40 pounds over distances of 5-8 miles with elevation gains/losses of up to 1,100'. Please make sure your backpack is well-fitted to your body before the trip. Day 3 will include a dayhike incorporating an optional 1.5 mile, Class 4 rock scramble.

  • Backpacking
  • Scrambling

What's Included

Lodging and meals as indicated on the daily itinerary. Professional guide services. Roundtrip transportation from/to Palm Springs, as well as transportation during the course of the trip. See this trip’s Gear List for details regarding any equipment that may be provided for your use during the trip.

Accommodations

Established frontcountry campsite, 1 night; primitive backcountry campsite, 2 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Hike cactus-dotted deserts to Joshua Tree’s highest viewpoint

Our adventure begins in Palm Springs, where we meet our guides and fellow adventurers at our host hotel at 12pm before setting out on the 90-minute drive to Joshua Tree National Park. Our warm-up hike offers a fantastic introduction to this unique desert ecosystem. Soon after hitting the trail, we’re surrounded by Joshua trees and a dramatic landscape of mountains and canyons, formed over the ages by the forces of wind and water. Next, we load up our packs and take another short hike to our cache location, dropping fresh water and food for use later in our adventure. In late afternoon, we head to Sheep Pass and pitch camp, our guides assisting with tent setup as the surrounding desert glows with late-day light. Before digging into a delicious guide-prepared dinner, we drive to Keys View (the highest viewpoint in the park) to watch the sunset over the California desert, the Coachella Valley and the distant Salton Sea. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: Minimal; Van transfer: 2 hours

Day 2

Backpack into a desert wilderness and search for park wildlife

We fuel up with a hot breakfast this morning in preparation for our journey into the park’s backcountry. After gearing up and adjusting our backpacks, we head down trail into the heart of the desert. As we hike away from the park roads and deeper into the wilderness, our guides interpret the unique features of this rugged landscape and provide tips on wilderness travel and backpacking techniques. We pass by towering rock fins, cacti of all shapes and sizes, and uncountable picturesque Joshua Trees, which only exist here in the Mojave. We also watch for Bighorn sheep, a desert-adapted species that seeks out this rocky terrain for protection against predators. Stopping at Keys Mountain, we get a taste of the scrambling we’ll do more of tomorrow, and a panoramic view of this awesome national park. Our campsite tonight is nestled amongst the giant rocks, a tranquil oasis where we can gaze up at an inky sky filled with countless stars. All meals included.

Backpacking: 8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +414’ / -627’

Day 3

Hike in the Wonderland of Rocks and learn basic scrambling techniques

Our day begins with the crystalline morning light and the smell of fresh-brewed coffee. We leave our backpacks at camp today and head out with just our daypacks for more backcountry exploration. Before long, we reach Willow Hole, a beautiful riparian area dotted with seasonal water pools. After a picnic lunch among the Wonderland of Rocks’ giant granite boulders, group members interested in a challenge can join our guides for an optional scramble to a hidden 1930s cabin known as Oh-Bay-Yo-Yo. Those participating in the scramble will use gloves to protect their hands from the rocks, and should expect some moderate exposure, downclimbing, and using both hands and feet to stay balanced. The route isn’t an easy one but promises to be one of the highlights of this adventure! Our final evening in camp is filled with laughter as we reflect on another epic day in Joshua Tree. All meals included.

Hiking: 7.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +320’ / -420’; Optional scrambling: 1.5 miles

Day 4

Relish a final desert hike before returning to Palm Springs

We enjoy a last relaxing morning in the backcountry before reluctantly breaking camp and loading up our backpacks for our hike out. We walk north along the picturesque Boy Scout Trail to our waiting van in Indian Cove, surrounded by the wide-open desert under the brilliant SoCal sky. Once back in Palm Springs, we eat lunch together before transferring to our host hotel and saying our final goodbyes to our guides and fellow adventurers. We anticipate being back at the hotel between 4–5pm this afternoon. If you are flying out of Palm Springs today, we recommend not booking any flights departing earlier than 6:30pm. Breakfast and lunch included.​

Backpacking: 4.6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +100’ / -1,100’; Van transfer: 2 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.