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.


Joshua Tree Writers Festival
Saturday, November 12, 2022, 9:00AM – 3:00PM
Joshua Tree Retreat Center
59700 Twentynine Palms Highway
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
This event celebrates writers, books, readers, and ideas inspired by our deserts and Joshua Tree National Park. Writers Ruth Nolan and Claire Vaye Watkins will conduct a panel discussion, “Daughters of the Desert.” Chris Clarke and Rohini Walker will conduct a panel on “En vironmental Writing.”
Kim Marcus, Serrano/Cahuilla from the Santa Rosa Mountains, will conduct a Native American tobacco blessing at the beginning of the event, tell a story of the Serranos at the Oasis of Mara, and his family will conduct a traditional bird song during the lunch break. Mojave Desert writers Claire Vaye Watkins and Ruth Nolan will read excerpts of their writing inspired by growing up and coming of age in wild and woolly places in the rural Mojave Desert. Discussion and Q&A session to follow.
Registration includes access to three programs on Sunday. These programs include a visit to the petroglyphs of Coyote Hole, a hike at the Pioneertown Preserve, and the class Field Sketching for Non-Artists.

Plein Air Painting Workshop with Oils
Sat, Nov 5, 7:30AM – Sun, Nov 6, 2:30 PM / $165
This workshop will help you to simplify and organize what you see, and go on to create satisfying, dynamic paintings with strong, logical dark and light patterns. Some previous painting experience is advised.
This class will be conducted at the reserved Lost Horse Campground with the option to “car camp” with the instructor on Saturday night. Class registration includes campsite reservations (optional). For more information on camping with this class or a list of local accommodations, please contact us at 760-819-4714.
Hike Level: Easy

Field Sketching for Non-Artists
Sat, November 5, 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM / $120
This class will teach you the basics of field sketching, focusing on using simple, lightweight tools, methods, and materials to streamline the process for nonartists. All materials are provided. Class size is limited to 8. This class will take place at the Black Rock Nature
Center. Hike Level: Easy

Geology of Amboy Crater
Sat, November 5, 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM / $9
In this class we will learn basic concepts of geology and explore Amboy Volcano and the surrounding lava fields to understand why they formed and if they could become active again. Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973, Amboy Crater was recognized for its visual and geological significance. There are a number of dormant volcanoes in the Mojave desert, and Amboy Crater is a perfect example of a cinder volcanic cone very similar to the volcanoes throughout the region. Join Professor Alessandro Grippo on this all-day field trip. Hike Level: Moderate

Photographing Joshua Tree By Moonlight
Sat, November 5, 5:30PM – 9:30PM / $95
In this evening field class, you’ll learn useful photographic techniques such as camera placement, focusing, exposure, lens settings, and composing the photograph. Craig Fucile, photography instructor at University of California Riverside Extension, will guide and assist participants in making moonlight photographs at two locations in the park, away from city lights. Participants should bring a tripod and remote (or wireless) switch for their camera.
Hike Level: Moderate

From Our Partners

A Beginners Guide to Incredible iPhone Photography
Sat, November 5 or 19, 6:00PM – 9:00PM / $10
Join Joshua Tree-based photographer & artist Rose Cefalu for an evening of iPhone photography. We will meet at her workshop and organize a walk to a beloved trail location. Before leaving you will learn some of the awesome power of the iPhone. During the last hour of class we will edit your images in the workshop, print them 8.5 x 11, and mount them in a white beveled 11 x 14 mat suitable for framing.
Students will explore the power of image-maximizing the iPhone in conventional and unconventional ways. No prior photography experience is needed, all levels welcome. Hike Level: Easy

Discover Contact and Anaconda Mines
Sun, November 6, 7:30AM – 12:00PM / $55
Join us to explore the mining history of Joshua Tree National Park. In this class, we will explore the Contact Mine, an abandoned mining site near the 29 Palms entrance. The moderate 3-mile out-andback hike follows an old access road to the mine site. We will also explore the Anaconda Mine site located nearby. We will view old mining equipment, shafts, and other artifacts left from the time these mines were active. Our instructors will discuss the geologic forces that formed the area, and we’ll find out how the gold got deposited there in the first place. We will learn about the history of gold mining and processing as it was typically done in the American West. Hike Level: Moderate

Cyanotype Processing Workshop
Sun, November 6, 10:00AM – 1:00PM / $105
Join Joshua Tree-based photographer & artist Rose Cefalu for a half-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. Your images will be enlarged to 8 x 10 negatives and will be contact printed, harnessing the sun’s UV light and developed in water. No prior photography experience is needed, all levels welcome. Hike Level: Easy

Photographing the Hi-Desert
Sat, November 19, 7:30AM – 5:00PM / $95
This class is sponsored by the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Grab your camera and put on your hiking boots for this intensive all-day photo shoot in Joshua Tree National Park! Craig Fucile will guide the class in seeing the natural beauty of the park through the camera lens. The class will begin with early morning light at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve followed by a mid-morning instructional program at Black Rock Canyon Visitor Center. The afternoon session will relocate to a special “photographers only” session at Keys Ranch, focusing on how to capture the buildings and historic remnants at this remarkable homestead. Participants are encouraged to bring a tripod with their camera(s). Hike Level: Easy

The Old Schoolhouse Lecture
Bradshaw’s Road to the La Paz Gold Fields
by Steve Lech
Friday, November 11 at 7 PM
This event is sponsored by the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park and the Twentynine Palms Historical Society. The lecture will be held at the Old Schoolhouse Museum at 6760 National Park Drive in Twentynine Palms on Friday, November 11. Doors open at 6:15 and the lecture begins at 7 pm. The donation for the presentation is $5 paid at the door.

JTNPA members receive a $10 discount for all Desert Institute courses.
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.

From Our Partners