Joshua Tree National Park Association, Desert Institute

Photo Credit: Paul Moeller

Exploring Nature through Education


he Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park is an adult education program offering an in-depth exploration of the park’s natural wonders. Learn from highly qualified instructors who are passionate about sharing their expertise and committed to providing a personal and fun learning experience. The Desert Institute is sponsored by the Joshua Tree National Park Association and operates with the full endorsement of the National Park Service. Join us this season for an educational adventure.

This season of Desert Institute classes is made possible by the generous sponsorship of Visit 29 Palms. Check out to learn about all the great shops, restaurants, lodging and attractions in Twentynine Palms and start planning your visit.

If you are a member of JTNPA you will get a $10 discount off every Desert Institute class. Visit to learn more.


“How-To” Navigate With Map and Compass
Sat, Mar 5, 8:00 AM & Sun, Mar 6, 1:00 PM l $120
Misha Askren will teach participants how to navigate using a map and compass in this two-day field class. Learn the basics of topography, map reading, using a compass, and the history of navigation during classroom and field exercises. Must provide your own compass. Maps will be provided.
Hike Level: Moderate

Art History of the Coachella Valley
Sat, Mar 5, 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM l $110
The opening of Southern Pacific Railroad service in the desert in the late 1800s brought with it a steady flow of artists from the East Coast. The workshop begins in this early California period, surveying the painters who came through the valley. It covers modern art and artists who pioneered the movement in the desert, key events, and art inspired by the conditions and culture of the Coachella Valley, and much more.
Hike Level: Easy

Keys Ranch Nightscape Photography Workshop
Sat, Mar 5, 4:00 PM – Sun, Mar 6, 12:00 AM l $170
One-night workshop on the photographic techniques after dark including wide-field astro-photography, light painting, and light drawing. Learn how to photograph the night sky with your DSLR camera in historic Keys Ranch.

Summit Mary Peak
Sun, March 6, 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM l $55
At 3,820’ above sea level, Mary Peak affords terrific views of the vast Pinto Basin.. Mary Peak allows participants to hike along one of the most severelooking cliff faces in the park.
Hike Level: Moderate/Strenuous
Max 8 miles round trip. 2064’ Elevation Gain/Loss

The Old Schoolhouse Lecture
“Can’t Live Without You: Ocotillos and
Hummingbirds,” Jim Cornett, Biologist, Author
March 11, 7 PM l $5
Sponsored by the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park and the Twentynine Palms Historical Society, this lecture will be held at the Old Schoolhouse Museum, 6760 National Park Dr, Twentynine Palms.

Joshua Tree Through the Lens
Sat, Mar 12, 6:30 AM – 5:30 PM l $130
Intensive, all-day photo shoot in Joshua Tree National Park! Craig Fucile, photography instructor at UCR, will guide the class in seeing the natural beauty of the park through the camera lens. Fucile will share tips on how to record unique rock formations and vast views of the park.

Flora of Joshua Tree National Park
Sat, Mar 12, 8:00 AM – Sun, Mar 13, 1:00 PM l $170
Students will observe many of the flowering plants in Joshua Tree National Park, learn their names and something about their different places in the park’s greater plant community, and gain familiarity with the tools necessary to identify plants on their own. This class earns 1.5 college units from University of California, Riverside Extension.
Hike Level: Moderate

Mosses in Motion
Sat, Mar 12, 9:00 AM – Sun, Mar 13, 5:00 PM l $170
Come learn the many important roles mosses play in desert ecosystems! We will use microscopes to learn what features (macro & microscopic) define mosses evolutionarily and how to distinguish them from commonly confused lichens, algae, ferns, and low-lying herbs. Learn about the unique adaptive relationship of mosses to water and how this compares to the survival strategies of other desert plants, and so much more.
Hike Level: Moderate

Beginning Backpacking for Women in Mission
Creek Preserve
Fri, Mar 18, 5:00 PM – Sun, Mar 20, 3:00 PM l $145
Spend a weekend in the Mission Creek Preserve back country! For women who want to learn how to backpack and camp overnight. We will carry everything we need for an overnight adventure in our backpacks. Learn what to eat while camping, trail safety, backpacking gear and how to set up and tear down camp efficiently. You must be able to carry approximately 30 pounds in your backpack while hiking approximately 5 miles per day. Includes two days of hiking and one night on the trail.
Hike Level: Moderate

Photographing Joshua Tree By Moonlight
Fri, March 18, 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM l $130
Encounter a quiet world of deep shadows and pale highlights. In this evening field class, learn photographic techniques such as camera placement, focusing, exposure, lens settings, and composing the photograph. Craig Fucile, photography instructor at UCR, will guide you in making moonlight photographs. Bring a tripod and remote switch for their camera.
Hike Level: Moderate

Fine Art Photography in Joshua Tree National Park
Fri, Mar 18, 7:00 PM – Sun, Mar 20, 2:00 PM l $195
What is art? We will seek a definition that provides guidance that we can use to grow as an artist. We will explore the very nature of art, looking at and listening to examples of painters and composers, and cover the five stages of growth.
This class is intensive and comprehensive. Optional camping experience in the pristine Lost Horse campground.
Hike Level: Moderate

From Our Partners

Geology and Natural History of Anza Borrego Desert
State Park
Sat, Mar 19, 9:00 AM – Sun, Mar 20, 4:00 PM l $170
This two-day weekend field class explores the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The region is one of the most active seismic areas in North America. You’ll need to make your own weekend accommodations. We have acquired a few campsites at Anza Borrego State Park for those who wish to camp. Visit our
website for more details.
Hike Level: Easy to Moderate

Wilderness Cooking School: Campsite Cooking
Sat, Mar 26, 8:00 AM – Sun, Mar 27, 2:00 PM l $230
Pretty much anything you make at home in the traditional oven and on the stovetop can be made in the wild in a Dutch oven. The founders and cookbook authors of Dirty Gourmet will be with you to teach culinary techniques with an emphasis on cast iron, campfire, and propane stove cooking. Also learn the operations and settings required to get the most out of your camera at night and in dim light, and popular types of night photography. Tripods and a manually adjustable DSLR camera are required for the photo segment.
Hike Level: Easy

Wildflower Wanderings
Sun, March 27, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM l $95
Saturate your senses with the beauty of a wildflower bloom in Joshua Tree National Park. Desert Naturalist, Darrell Shade will lead this all-day field class on a tour through the colorful flowers of a desert spring.
Hike Level: Easy

Contemporary Art of Joshua Tree
Sun, March 27, 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM l $140
Bernard Leibov, Director of BoxoPROJECTS, takes us
though his highlights of the local cultural scene. After
an introduction and orientation in the classroom,
Bernard will take us on the road to visit several of the
interesting art sites in the area. Hike Level: Easy

Joshua Tree National Park Association to Become a Friends Group
Twentynine Palms, CA – The Joshua Tree National Park Association is now an official Friends Group for Joshua Tree National Park! This means that we will now actively fundraise on behalf of the park. Our new designation will allow us to fundraise to fill gaps between the park’s budget and its actual operating costs in areas previously prohibited.

This first year will be filled with different fundraising and friendraising events and opportunities. Stay tuned to our website and social media channels to learn how you can be involved in upcoming projects.

We are so grateful for the continued support of our community and look forward to the next step in our journey together as we explore new ways to contribute to the desert we know and love!

Become a member of the Joshua Tree National Park Association Member’s Circle and join a loyal group of individuals and businesses dedicated to the protection and preservation of Joshua Tree National Park. Our members support the work we do through their annual membership. Join us and show your favorite park some love!

Join today at
Contact or call
760-698-2776 for more information.

The Desert Institute Podcast
The Desert Institute has received a grant from Marya and Craig Phillips, longtime supporters of the Desert Institute, to help produce a series of podcasts in 2022. We will interview some of our incredible Desert Institute instructors and delve deeper into their areas of expertise.

Listen to episode one now!

Episode one features photography instructor Sandi Wheaton. Sandi is also a freelance tour director. She is based in Canada. After being downsized from General Motors in 2009, she took a life-changing drive across America on historic Route 66, creating three photography projects and an award-winning travel blog. One of Sandi’s greatest passions and long-term photography projects is the ecologically-troubled Salton Sea in southern California. She has been visiting and photographing the Salton Sea since 2004, sharing the work through several solo exhibitions over the years. A true globetrotter, Sandi leads weeklong photography tours in Iceland and California, has taught Forensic Photography at the University of Windsor, and teaches “Moviemaking Made Fun” on a cruise ship.

From Our Partners