Joshua Tree National Park Association, Desert Institute

Photo Credit: Paul Moeller

Exploring Nature through Education

The 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.


Discovering Your Creative Vision with Acrylics
Sat, September 24, 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM / $110
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist you’ll increase your ability to produce memorable work while enjoying the camaraderie of fellow artists in a beautiful desert setting. The desert is a fragile environment and eco painting techniques will be used. Please note that the class will follow Leave No Trace
Hike level: Easy

Desert Snakes: Mystery & Intrigue
Sun, September 25, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM / $105
Feared and respected by many for their potential to inflict harm, snakes have long captured the fascination of humanity. William Hayes will introduce participants to a remarkable variety of venomous and non-venomous snakes that inhabit Southern California’s deserts in this allday class. Starting in the classroom, Dr. Hayes will discuss the many adaptations that are essential for snakes to survive in the desert ecosystem including unique morphological, physiological, behavioral, and ecological traits. Snake venom will also be discussed in detail providing answers to the following questions. What, exactly, is venom? How is it made and how is it delivered? Can venoms be beneficial? The class will explore the surrounding desert to identify reptile habitats and hopefully see some snakes!
Hike level: Easy to Moderate

Mastering Landscape Photography Workshop
Fri, Sep 30, 7:00 PM – Sun, Oct 2, 3:00 PM / $180
The class is based on the idea that landscape photographs can be a means of communicating with our viewers. This class is intensive and comprehensive and will give you plenty to think about and incorporate into your photography. It offers an optional but exciting camping experience in the pristine Lost Horse campground. You may also book accommodations in Twentynine Palms and maps will be provided to guide you to the shooting locations.

Saturday, October 1, 9 AM – 2 PM
Copper Mountain College, Bell Center Community Room
6162 Rotary Way. Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Archaeopalooza is a free, family-friendly program to celebrate California Archaeology Month and is a tribute to the Desert Institute’s long-time instructor, Daniel McCarthy. There will be ongoing lectures on archaeological topics in the lecture hall. This event is sponsored by Copper Mountain Community College District and the Society for California Archaeology. RSVP requested:

Processing Workshop
Sun, October 2, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM / $105
Join Joshua Tree-based photographer & artist Rose Cefalu for ½ day of experimental printmaking, known as Cyanotype printing. You will learn about the history of the process along with hands-on work producing fine art prints. No prior photography experience is needed, all levels welcome.

Discover Pine City
Sat, October 8, 7:30 AM – 1:00 PM / $55
This hike is just the hike for those still a little intimated by Joshua Tree’s vastness: easy, informative, and just the right length. Beginning at the Pine City backcountry board, this trail is less traveled and one of Joshua Tree’s nicest “hidden” treasures.
Hike Level: Moderate

Insects and Arthropods of the Morongo Basin
Sat, Oct 8, 2022, 8 AM – Sun, Oct 9, 12 PM / $155
This class is sponsored by the Big Morongo CanyonPreserve.
Did you know that insects can survive in temperatures over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade with little or no water? On October 4, viaZoom, Kurt Leuschner will explore the lives of the largest group of animals in the world through a study of insect anatomy, survival traits, habitats, and behaviors. Participants will learn to identify and distinguish insects from other arthropods and then practice their skills in the field. Field observations will include desert, dune, and riparian habitats, as well as a special night session with black lights at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Leuschner will share amazing stories of insects like the yucca moth, the ant lion, and the world they inhabit.
Hike Level: Easy to Moderate

Beneath the Desert Sky Concert Series Returns
Mark your calendars! Saturday, October 15, our Beneath the Desert Sky Concert Fundraiser returns. A night of music curated by David Catching, owner of Rancho de la Luna Studio in Joshua Tree. Follow us on social media for the announcement about the amazing lineup, spectacular location, and details on how to grab your ticket for this fundraiser benefitting Joshua Tree National Park’s Astronomy Outreach Program. It is going to be another unforgettable night Beneath the Desert Sky!

From Our Partners

Discover the Art Murals of 29 Palms
Sat, October 22, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM / $110
As a gateway to Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms boasts wide-open vistas, the world’s largest US Marine base, and a burgeoning local art scene resulting in 20+ murals and sculptures detailing the unique history of the city as well as the landscape and wildlife of the Mojave Desert. Known as “The Oasis of Murals,” this outdoor art gallery features large-scale scenes of homesteader history, local characters, pivotal events, and the cities’ inextricable ties to the military. Hike Level: Easy

Wilderness Cooking School: Campsite Cooking
Sat, Oct 29, 8:00 AM – Sun, Oct 30, 2:00 PM / $240
Have you ever noticed that when you are out in the wilderness, everything tastes better? Back in the days of the Wild West, Dutch ovens were like gold. They were that important. 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. You will also learn practical tips and tricks to ensure that cooking is an enjoyable and memorable part of the overall outdoor experience. After dinner, professional photographer Scott Klinger will go through the basics of night photography to enable you to document your campfire creations and outdoor adventures. To work up a good appetite, hikes with Lew Kingman are scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday. Lost Horse campground has been reserved for Friday, October 28 for those who wish to camp a day early. Class size limited to 12 participants, so sign up early!
Hike Level: Easy

A Beginners Guide to Incredible iPhone Photography
Sat, October 29, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM / $100
Join Joshua Tree-based photographer & artist Rose Cefalu for an evening of iPhone photography. You will meet at her workshop and walk to a beloved trail location. Before leaving you will learn some of the awesome power of the iPhone. She will also talk about design basics, like the “rule of thirds” and “perspective” to maximize the potential of images. In the last hour of class you will edit your images in her workshop and print them 8.5 x 11 and mount them in a white beveled 11 x14 mat suitable for framing. No prior photography experience is needed, all levels welcome. All printing materials and supplies are included in the course fee.

The Old Schoolhouse Lecture
Liz Hatch Meyer
Bill Hatch’s Memoir of a Road Trip Through the Mojave Desert in the 1930s
Friday, October 14 at 7 PM
In March of 1928, Twentynine Palms pioneer Bill Hatch took a road trip with his father to explore the Mojave Desert and Death Valley, driving Bill’s Packard Six Phaeton. Liz Hatch Meyer has collected her father’s photographs, the 1914 AAA map they used to find the water sources to fill the radiator, and the type-written narrative that Bill’s father wrote about the trip. Local historians David Beeken and Lisa Pitts created a masterful video of the adventure, which will be shown at the event. Doors open at 6:15 and the lecture begins at 7 pm. The donation for the presentation is $5 paid at the door. A season pass is available for $40—a $10 savings. Visit JTNPA members receive a $10 discount for all Desert Institute courses. Become a member at:

From Our Partners