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
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’
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
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