Backpacking Joshua Tree National Park

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4-10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,149 for REI Members
$1,249 for non-members
Departures Dec 2021-Dec 2022

There is much to do in the 800,000 acres that make up Joshua Tree National Park; our 4-day adventure takes us through the best of the deeper backcountry spots.

Nestled between the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts in Southern California lies this surreal and iconic national park. Stark desert landscapes contrast rugged rock formations, and twisted trees spring from the earth, creating an exciting and challenging landscape to explore. Joshua Tree has long enticed rock climbers and rock stars alike—its world-class climbing and otherworldly geography put it at the top of any adventurers list.

Our trip is designed to take us into the backcountry to experience more of the park. We backpack, hike and scramble to little-known and seldom seen destinations with the help of our experienced guides. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, wildflowers and famous rock formations. Hike to Willow Hole to explore seasonal water pools that supply critical water to the national park’s wildlife. Experience days filled with discovery, evenings alive with impossible sunsets and nights spent under a brilliantly starry sky.

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Trip Highlights

  • Hike through canyons and across sandy flats; scramble on giant granite boulders
  • Follow expert guides who provide in-depth knowledge and backcountry meals
  • Experience Boy Scout, Big Pine, and Willow Hole Trails on this 4-day adventure
  • Enjoy beautiful and diverse plants and animals in this other-worldly landscape


This trip is rated Moderate Plus (3-4). Participants will carry their own backpacks weighing 35 to 40 pounds distances of 4.6 to 8 miles daily over varied terrain. Please make sure your backpack is 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. 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.


Group campsite, 1 night; backcountry campsites, 2 nights.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Hike the Boy Scout Trail and camp at Sheep Pass.

Our adventure begins in Palm Springs where we meet our guides and fellow travelers at the Courtyard Palm Springs Marriott at 12pm. We enjoy a box lunch on the 90-minute journey to Joshua Tree National Park. Our warmup hike provides a beautiful setting for a safety brief about desert hiking and proper backpack fitting. We’ll load our packs with water and food and hike to our cache—essential for the second leg of our expedition. Sheep Pass Campground is our next stop. With camp set up and group gear distributed, it’s time for sunset atop the highest viewpoint in Joshua Tree, Keys View. This viewpoint affords panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea and the San Andreas Fault. Back at camp our guides prepare a delicious front-country meal while you relax and enjoy our desert home for the night. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 3 miles; minimal elevation gain. Driving: 2 hours.

Day 2

Backpack to our wilderness camp.

After a hot breakfast we break camp, pack our backpacks and head to the North View Trail. As we go deeper along this trail stacked with boulder fins, we keep our eyes peeled for wildlife such as big horn sheep and famous rock formations like Window Rock. We have the opportunity to see flowering cacti, an array of wildflowers, and of course the park’s namesake, the Joshua tree. We'll stop at Keys Mountain to get warmed up for tomorrow’s scrambling, providing a little extra adventure and a killer view of the park we’ll be exploring over the next two days. We journey on until we find the perfect campsite among the towering rocks. Our guides prepare an excellent backcountry dinner and we recount our day’s adventure and enjoy a beautiful Joshua Tree sunset with new friends. All meals included.

Backpacking: 8 miles; elevation gain 414’; elevation loss: 627’.

Day 3

Explore a Wonderland of Rocks and hike to Willow Hole.

Our day starts with the essentials—hot coffee and breakfast! With just our daypacks, our first destination is Willow Hole, a beautiful riparian area with seasonal water pools; this is our best opportunity to see wildlife. We'll picnic among the giant granite boulders that make up the Wonderland of Rocks before an adventurous option to scramble to a hidden cabin from the 1930's known as Oh-Bay-Yo-Yo. While this part of the hike is challenging, it is sure to be a highlight of your adventure. Using our gloves to protect our hands from the coarse nature of the rocks, expect down climbing, some exposure and balancing with your feet and hands in contact with the rock. Before returning to camp we pass by the cache we made on Day One, resupplying with food and precious water. Our skilled guides prepare another meal this evening as we wait for another star-filled night. All meals included.

Hiking: 7.5 miles; elevation gain 320’; elevation loss: 420’. Optional scrambling: 1.5 miles.

Day 4

Backpack the Boy Scout Trail to Indian Cove.

We take the morning to enjoy camp and breakfast as a group and then start packing up camp in preparation for our last hike and our reluctant return to “reality”. Today’s hike takes us north up the Boy Scout Trail across an alluvial plain to Indian Cove where our van will be waiting for us. We then head to back to Palm Springs for a final lunch together as a group. Following lunch, we load up in our group transport and transfer back to our host hotel in Palm Springs where we make our final goodbyes. We anticipate being back at the Courtyard Palm Springs Marriott at 4pm; however, this cannot be guaranteed. If you are flying out of Palm Springs on this day we recommend not booking a flight that departs before 6pm. Breakfast and lunch included.​

Backpacking: 6.5 miles; elevation gain 150’; elevation loss: 1,200’.

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering.  To obtain maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection.  This gear list has been created to help you choose equipment for the trip.  Try to bring only what is necessary - this will help you and the field staff. 

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.