Joshua Tree Women's Backpacking

Trip Length4 Days
Group Size4–10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,799 for REI Members
$1,979 for non-members
DeparturesNov 2024-Dec 2025

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.

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.

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 distances of 3 to 8 miles daily over varied and uneven terrain including rocks and sand. Please make sure your backpack is fitted to your body before the trip. Day 3 will include a day hike incorporating an optional 1.5 mile, Class 4 rock scramble. While rock scrambling, you will be using four points of contact (both hands and both feet) on the rocks at most times as you climb up, over, and around big boulders.

  • Backpacking
  • Backpacking
  • Backpacking

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

Itinerary map for Joshua Tree Women's Backpacking
Day 1

Hike Cactus-dotted Deserts to our cache drop

Our adventure begins in Palm Springs, where we meet our guides and fellow adventurers at our host hotel before setting out on our journey to Joshua Tree National Park. Our warm-up cache hike offers a fantastic introduction to this unique desert ecosystem. Soon after hitting the trail, we are surrounded by Joshua trees and a dramatic landscape, formed over the ages by the forces of wind and water. Dropping fresh water for use later in our adventure, we head to our campground and pitch camp, our guides assisting with tent setup as the surrounding desert glows with late-day light. If desire, weather, and daylight are favorable, we can enjoy another short but fun adventure close to camp before we watch the sunset cast shades of orange, pink, and gold over the Mojave Desert while our guides prepare a delicious dinner in camp. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: Minimal; 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. We arrive at our campsite, but before we can enjoy this tranquil oasis, we must do one more stroll and reclaim our cache, then we can enjoy being nestled in our tents amongst the giant rocks, from where we can gaze up at an inky sky filled with countless stars, enjoying the company of newfound friends. All meals included.

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

Day 3

Hike in the Wonderland of Rocks and learn rock 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 adventurous option to scramble to an amazing vantage point overlooking Rattlesnake Canyon that our guides have affectionately named Pride Rock. Those looking for even more adventure, may have the chance to discover a hidden hideout from the 1930's known as Oh-Bay-Yo-Yo. Those participating in the scramble can use gloves to protect hands from the course rocks, and should expect scrambling up, down, over, and around huge boulders, some exposure, short steps from one rock to another, and balancing with your feet and hands in contact with the rock. Your guides will be there to provide coaching and lend a helping hand when needed. 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 rock scramble: 2+ hours, 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. We enjoy our last lunch together before transferring to Palm Springs and our host hotel, 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 6:00 pm. Breakfast and lunch included.

Backpacking: 6.5 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +150'/- 1,200'; Van transfer: 2 hours

Itinerary map for Joshua Tree Women's Backpacking

Gear List

We provide

  • All Group Cooking Gear
  • Group First Aid Kit
  • Stoves and Fuel
  • Tent(s)
  • Trekking Poles

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (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.

Trip specifics may change over time. Reviews reflect the version of the trip that was active at the time the reviewer took it. Please review the itinerary as described above and call our team for any additional details.