California’s Desert Landscape: Joshua Tree & Death Valley (REGISTRATION CLOSED)

Explore the best of Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks alongside NPCA experts and partners on this exciting journey through the Mojave Desert. Visit three large desert parks that NPCA helped to establish — Sand to Snow National Monument, Mojave National Preserve, and Avi Kwa Ame National Monument — and get a behind-the-scenes look at how NPCA works with local partners to protect these valuable places.

Download Detailed Trip Brochure (1 MB pdf)

Available Dates:

March 16-22, 2024 - REGISTRATION CLOSED

7 days/6 nights

Minimum/Maximum: 12 guests/14 guests


Why Travel with NPCA?

Our goal is to offer premium educational travel itineraries in the places we know best: America’s national parks.

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Itinerary Highlights

  • With NPCA partners and local experts by your side, get a behind-the-scenes look at Sand to Snow National Monument, home to some of the most botanically diverse mountains in the United States
  • Connect privately with National Park Service staff at Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks and Mojave National Preserve
  • Engage with a Tribal partner to learn about the national monument designation of Avi Kwa Ame
  • Journey among the iconic Joshua trees and unique rock formations at Joshua Tree National Park
  • Embark on a guided kayaking excursion on the calm waters of Lake Mohave
  • Hike through a labyrinth of golden colored hills and winding narrow canyons at Death Valley National Park


Day 1: March 16 - Arrival Day and Tour Sand to Snow National Monument: Arrive by 12:00 PM into Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) in California and meet your Iconic Trip Leader at baggage claim. Once our full group arrives, we’ll board our private vehicles for a 30-minute ride to Sand to Snow National Monument, which NPCA helped to establish in 2016.

At the monument, we’ll meet with a special NPCA partner to hear how Sand to Snow National Monument and Big Morongo Canyon Preserve earned federal protection. Sand to Snow gets its name from the area’s extreme elevation change — from the sand of the Sonoran Desert to the peak of San Gorgonio Mountain more than 10,000 feet above. This monument 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 and picnic lunch before we drive approximately 1 hour to 29 Palms Inn, our hotel for the next two nights. There will be time to check in and freshen up before gathering with our NPCA staff hosts and fellow travelers for introductions and an orientation to the days ahead. We’ll learn about some of the key NPCA initiatives related to the itinerary, and hear more details about the hiking, learning and adventure ahead! Then, we’ll enjoy a delicious welcome dinner at the hotel. 29 Palms Inn (D)

Day 2: March 17 - Joshua Tree National Park: Today, we’ll take in the wonders of Joshua Tree National Park with NPCA’s California Desert Program Manager and partners. This park is best known for its namesake yucca plant, but the most popular sections of the park are dominated by enormous, intricately shaped granite rock formations.

After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll drive 45 minutes to our first hike of the day. As we take an easy, 1-mile stroll along the Hidden Valley loop trail, we can delight in up-close views of the park’s rocky wonders. Nearby, we will continue along a trail which will loop us past Barker Dam. This valley, lush with plant life that takes full advantage of the water in the reservoir, also carries with it tall tales from the days of gold mining and cattlemen.

After a picnic lunch, we’ll embark on our final journey for the day: the Willow Hole Trail. This out-and-back hike ventures into the famed Wonderland of Rocks, offering expansive views of the desert and distant mountains. We’ll walk through washes and into a labyrinth of cliffs, canyons, domes and unique rock formations. Along the way, we’ll learn about how pollution from the agricultural industry in the San Joaquin Valley, some 471 miles away, compromises the air quality and views in the park. We’ll also hear about the steps NPCA is taking to address this issue. With an invigorating day of hiking under our belts, we’ll return to 29 Palms Inn for some downtime before our group dinner at the on-site restaurant.
29 Palms Inn (B, L, D)

Day 3: March 18 - Mojave National Preserve to Laughlin, NV: We’ll start our day with breakfast at the inn, then we’ll say goodbye to Joshua Tree as we drive approximately 2 hours north to Mojave National Preserve. We’ll stop in Mojave Trails National Monument, midway on our day’s journey, to stretch our legs. This monument connects the landscapes of Joshua Tree and Mojave, creating a natural corridor and vast living landscape. On the way, we’ll learn about how NPCA is fighting a massive water-mining project that would forever damage this fragile desert landscape.

Upon arrival to Mojave National Preserve, we’ll meet with park staff for an introduction to the site. After a picnic lunch, we’ll take an exciting 3.2-mile hike along the Teutonia Peak Trail. The initial gradual incline through what was once a dense forest of Joshua trees becomes steeper as we climb toward the 5,755-foot summit. At the top, we can catch our breath while taking in views of the surrounding landscape, including Cima Dome, the most symmetrical dome of its type in the United States. As we absorb our surroundings, we might see evidence of the Dome Fire which burned over 40,000 acres 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 fire. We’ll have the chance to chat with NPCA staff and partners about this work, as well as other threats to the area’s wildlife.

We can relax from the hike during our less than 2-hour drive to Laughlin, NV. When we arrive, we’ll check into our home for the next two nights, the Avi Resort & Casino, which is owned by the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, and then have some downtime before dinner at a local restaurant.
Avi Resort & Casino (B, L, D)

Day 4: March 19 - Avi Kwa Ame National Monument​: We’ll begin our day with breakfast at the hotel before embarking on a guided kayaking excursion on Lake Mohave, within Lake Mead National Recreation Area, where we’ll take in the desert views from a different perspective. After lunch, we’ll drive about 1.25 hours northeast to the central region of Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, where we’ll learn about Avi Kwa Ame — the Mojave name for Spirit Mountain — and the surrounding landscape. The area is sacred to many Tribes, including several Yuman-speaking Tribes who pay reverence to Spirit Mountain as the center of their creation. We’ll have the chance to engage with Tribal leaders as we discuss the advocacy efforts that led to the establishment of Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, which preserves over 500,000 acres of some of the most visually stunning, biologically diverse and culturally significant lands in the Mojave Desert.

A little later, we’ll visit the petroglyph-rich Grapevine Canyon, then return to the Laughlin-area hotel to freshen up before heading to dinner at a local area restaurant. Avi Resort & Casino (B, L, D)

Day 5: March 20 - Laughlin, NV to Death Valley National Park: After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll check out and begin our journey to Death Valley National Park. We’ll drive nearly 3 hours, with comfort stops en route to Shoshone, CA. In Shoshone, we’ll meet with local NPCA partners, enjoy lunch and stretch our legs. Then, it’s back on the road for the final hour of driving to reach the Furnace Creek area in Death Valley National Park. We will check in to the Ranch at Death Valley, our home for the next two nights. We’ll eat dinner in the park before catching a good night’s sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s adventures!
Ranch at Death Valley (B, L, D)

Day 6: March 21 - Death Valley National Park: We’ll have an early start today to enjoy sunrise at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. After breakfast and ample photography opportunities, we’ll make a quick stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to get an introduction to Death Valley from park staff. Then, we’ll proceed to the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail, an easy 0.8-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. We’ll also have an opportunity to hear about NPCA’s work to protect California’s desert landscapes and the exciting return of American pronghorn to the park.

In the late afternoon, we’ll have some downtime at the Ranch at Death Valley. Then, we’ll reconvene for a farewell dinner at the Inn at Death Valley where we’ll be joined by our NPCA staff hosts and new friends to reflect upon a memorable week in California’s desert landscape. After dinner, we’ll have the option to join 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. Though the moon will likely be bright, there will still be plenty to see and discover in the night sky.
Ranch at Death Valley (B, L, D)

Day 7: March 22 - Death Valley National Park to Las Vegas: We’ll check out of our lodging bright and early to drive to nearby Zabriskie Point for one last Death Valley treasure. Once there, we will bask in the glow of a final sunrise, taking in the views as we eat breakfast. Afterward, we’ll continue for the 2-hour ride to Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) to catch afternoon flights home.

Please note: Accommodations and activities are subject to change at any time due to unforeseen circumstances or circumstances beyond NPCA’s control.

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)

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 TRAVELER RESPONSIBILTY Participants in NPCA’s Educational Travel Program assume responsibility for selecting a trip aligned with their ability, fitness, and overall health. Before joining a trip, all participants must complete and submit NPCA’s waiver of liability, personal information form, flight form, and acknowledge the tour operator’s Terms and Conditions. Additionally, participants are expected to familiarize themselves with all pre-departure materials, ensuring appropriate clothing and gear for the journey.

By enrolling in NPCA’s Educational Travel Program, participants commit to upholding NPCA’s Core Values of Commitment, Inclusion, Integrity, and Respect, as well as embracing NPCA’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) principles. This commitment extends to participants conducting themselves safely and appropriately, following instructions from the tour operator or NPCA staff, and adhering to the laws of the destination(s) visited on the NPCA trip. Participants understand that their dedication to these values is essential for creating a safe, positive, respectful, and memorable experience for all involved.

MAKING RESERVATIONS: To secure your space on this NPCA trip, please click the “Register Now” button at the top of this page or contact NPCA’s National Parks Experiences Program at 1-800-628-7275 or

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.

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calendary icon Date May 2, 2023
  • Cost:
    $6,475 per person double occupancy; $7,350 per person single occupancy
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