California’s Desert Landscape: Joshua Tree & Death Valley

Explore the best of Death Valley and Joshua Tree alongside NPCA experts and partners on this exciting journey through the Mojave Desert. These amazing Southern California national parks offer incredible trekking opportunities across diverse and mesmerizing landscapes. This tour offers a cornucopia of experiences in America’s stunning Mojave Desert with an inside look at the various threats this ecosystem faces and how NPCA is working to protect it.

Download Detailed Trip Brochure (1 MB pdf)

Available Dates:

March 18-24, 2023

7 days/6 nights

Minimum/Maximum: 12 guests/14 guests

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Itinerary Highlights

  • Journey amongst the iconic Joshua Trees and unique rock formations at Joshua Tree National Park
  • Hike through a labyrinth of golden colored hills and winding narrow canyons at Death Valley National Park
  • Tour Manzanar National Historic Site, a World War II Japanese incarceration camp, with National Park Service staff
  • Receive a behind-the-scenes look at Sand to Snow National Monument, home to some of the most botanically diverse mountains in the United States
  • Enjoy private meetings with National Park Service staff at Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Mojave National Preserve
  • See how NPCA works with local partners to protect endangered species such as the desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep

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Itinerary

Day 1: March 18 - Arrivals into Palm Springs, CO: Arrive by 3:00 PM into Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) in California and meet your Iconic Trip Leader at baggage claim. You will then transfer via private shuttle to your Palm Springs hotel for a chance to freshen up before gathering with your NPCA staff hosts and fellow travelers this evening. After brief introductions and an orientation to the days ahead, enjoy a delicious welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Learn about some of the key NPCA initiatives related to the itinerary, and prepare for a week of hiking, learning and adventure! Courtyard by Marriott Palm Springs (D)

Day 2: March 19 - Sand to Snow National Monument: After breakfast this morning, depart on a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs to Sand to Snow National Monument, which NPCA helped to establish in 2016. Meet here with a special NPCA partner and hear a personal account of the campaigning process for the designation of Sand to Snow National Monument as well as the establishment of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. This national monument gets its name from the area’s extreme elevation change—from the sand of the Sonoran Desert to the peak of San Gorgonio Mountain, a difference of about 10,000 feet. Sand to Snow is home to the most botanically diverse mountains in the contiguous United States and provides a critical water source for many of Joshua Tree National Park’s desert bighorn sheep. We’ll enjoy a scenic hike in the monument before we continue an approximately 1-hour drive to 29 Palms Inn, where we will check in and have dinner on-site in preparation for our day in Joshua Tree National Park tomorrow.
29 Palms Inn (B, L, D)

Day 3: March 20 - Joshua Tree National Park: Today, explore the wonders of Joshua Tree National Park with NPCA’s California Desert Program Manager and partners. This popular park is best known for its namesake yucca plant, but its landscape is dominated by enormous, intricately shaped granite rock formations. After breakfast, we’ll drive 45 minutes to our first hike of the day; delight in up-close views of these rocky wonders as we take an easy, 1-mile stroll along the Hidden Valley loop trail. Nearby, we will continue along a trail which will loop us through Barker Dam. This valley is rich with petroglyphs and lush with plant life thanks to the precious reservoir created by the dam. It also carries with it the tall tales from the days of gold mining and cattlemen. After a picnic lunch, we’ll embark on our day’s final journey as we travel together along the Willow Hole Trail, an out-and-back hike that ventures into the famed Wonderland of Rocks. This trail offers expansive views of the desert and distant mountains, proceeding through washes and into a labyrinth of cliffs, canyons, domes and unique rock formations. Get an in-depth look at how NPCA addresses the compromised air quality and diminished views in the park, mostly due to the agriculture industry in the San Joaquin Valley—one of the most polluted areas in the nation. After an invigorating day of hiking, return to 29 Palms Inn for some down time before heading to a local restaurant for dinner as a group.
29 Palms Inn (B, L, D)

Day 4: March 21 - Mojave National Preserve to Death Valley National Park: Start your day with breakfast at the Inn, saying goodbye to Joshua Tree as we drive approximately 2 hours north, stopping midway to stretch our legs en route to Mojave National Preserve. We’ll drive through Mojave Trails National Monument, which connects Joshua Tree National Park to Mojave National Preserve, creating a large natural corridor and living landscape. We’ll also learn about the important role NPCA played in preventing the development of the Cadiz pipeline, a water-mining project advocates prevented from being built across this fragile desert landscape. Upon arrival to Mojave National Preserve, meet with park staff for an introduction to the Preserve and to the landscape you’ll explore today. Enjoy a picnic lunch, followed by an exciting 3.2-mile hike along the Teutonia Peak Trail. Beginning with a gradual incline through a dense forest of Joshua Trees, the trail requires a steeper climb as you make your way towards the 5,755-foot summit. At the top, catch your breath as you take in views of the surrounding landscape including Cima Dome, the most symmetrical dome of its type in the United States. As you absorb your surroundings, consider the impacts of the Dome Fire which burned over 40,000 acres in the Joshua Tree woodland here in 2020. Since fall 2021, hundreds of volunteers, including NPCA’s California Desert team, have turned out to replant Joshua trees in those places hit hardest by the Dome Fire. Chat with NPCA staff and partners about this campaign and the impact of wildfires and other threats to the area’s wildlife. Back on the road, relax during a 1.5-hour drive to Shoshone, CA, where we’ll meet with an NPCA partner and have a chance to stretch our legs. Proceeding one more hour to reach Death Valley National Park, we will check in to our accommodations at Ranch at Death Valley, our home for the next three nights. Enjoy dinner this evening in the park and get a good night’s sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s adventures! Ranch at Death Valley (B, L, D)

Day 5: March 22 - Death Valley National Park: After breakfast on-site and a quick stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to get an introduction to Death Valley from park staff, we’ll proceed to the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail, an easy .8 mile loop where we’ll keep an eye out for endangered pupfish. From there, we’ll journey along the moderately-difficult Mosaic Canyon Trail, winding our way through narrow canyons and discovering fascinating geologic features at every turn. You’ll also have an opportunity to hear about NPCA’s work to protect California desert landscapes and the exciting return of American Pronghorn to the park. In the late afternoon, spend some downtime at Ranch at Death Valley. This evening, we will take a drive after dinner to meet with park staff for an expansive night-sky viewing program. Death Valley offers some of the best stargazing in America and is designated a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park, the darkest possible rating. Ranch at Death Valley (B, L, D)

Day 6: March 23 - Death Valley National Park and Manzanar National Historic Site: Getting an early start today, we’ll enjoy sunrise at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. After breakfast and ample photography opportunities, we’ll continue west and hike to Darwin Falls, a mesmerizing Death Valley oasis situated at a higher elevation in the park. After Darwin Falls, we’ll take a 1.25-hour drive to Manzanar National Historic Site for a cultural tour of this fascinating World War II Japanese incarceration camp. Sue Kunitomi Embrey, a woman who was incarcerated at the camp during the war, helped plan annual pilgrimages to Manzanar and spearheaded a campaign to designate it as a national historic site. NPCA and National Park Service staff will help the group imagine what life was like behind the barbed wire fences of this camp and discuss the lives of Embrey and others who ensure these stories continue to be told for generations to come. You will hear from your NPCA expert why it’s so important to protect these sites and stories through the National Park Service. After the tour of Manzanar, sit back and relax as we make our way back to the Ranch at Death Valley, a 2.5-hour drive. Once back at the Ranch, freshen up before reconvening for a farewell group dinner at the Inn at Death Valley. Join together with your NPCA staff hosts and new friends to reflect upon a memorable week in California’s desert landscape.
Ranch at Death Valley (B, L, D)

Day 7: March 24 - Death Valley National Park to Las Vegas: This morning, we’ll check out of our lodging bright and early to drive to nearby Zabriskie Point for one last Death Valley treasure. Here, we will bask in the glow of a final sunrise, taking in the views as we eat breakfast. From there, continue via private transfer 2 hours to Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) for afternoon flights home. (B)

Please note: This itinerary is subject to change based on weather conditions and park closures related to COVID-19.


NPCA TRAVEL ELIGIBILITY: NPCA is the only independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advocacy on behalf of the National Park System. Over 70% of our funding comes from donations from individuals like you. NPCA trips are an exclusive NPCA member benefit. One traveler per group must be an NPCA member to participate in an NPCA trip. An annual membership starts at $15 per person. Please make dues payable to NPCA by check or credit card at npca.org.

TRAVEL SAFE WITH NPCA: Your safety is our top priority. NPCA has worked diligently with each of our travel partners to develop important safety measures for all our trips. As guidelines and protocols evolve, we are committed to creating flexible options for those interested in rescheduling or booking new travel. For more information, check out our COVID-19 Travel Update.

MORE INFORMATION: For full details on this trip, including inclusions, exclusions, accommodations, terms and safety protocols, please download the detailed trip brochure.

Download Detailed Trip Brochure (1 MB pdf)

MAKING RESERVATIONS: To secure your space on this NPCA trip, please contact Jared Dial, NPCA’s Associate Director of the Educational Travel Program, at 1.800.628.7275 or email the Travel Program at travel@npca.org.

TRAVEL PROTECTION: We strongly recommend purchasing important optional travel insurance that will cover you for a variety of travel-related contingencies, such as trip cancellation, interruption, and/or delay; baggage loss, theft, damage or delay; accident and/or sickness medical expenses; accidental death; as well as evacuation/repatriation coverage. Please note that a Pre-Existing Condition waiver is available if you purchase the policy within 21 days of making your initial trip payment. Also consider the optional “Cancel for any Reason” protection. All questions regarding the plan’s coverage should be directed to Travel Insurance Select through USI Affinity at 1-800-937-1387 or by visiting their website.

Check out NPCA’s full tour lineup at www.npca.org/trips

  • Cost:
    $6,935 per person double occupancy; $1,170 single supplement
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