Joshua Tree National Park Association, Desert Institute

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.


Sat, Nov 6, 8 AM – Sun, Nov 7, 4 PM
Location: Joshua Tree Visitor Center, 6554 Park Blvd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Spend a weekend with the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park where you can go to unplug, to get away, to learn new skills and to enjoy the company of other course participants. Trade in your computer, cell phone, Instagram, clocks, schedules, and work-jargon for an off-the-grid weekend with the girls – two days of pure unadulterated fun and education! Join Pam and Robin learning about camping, camp cooking, hiking, and enjoying Joshua Tree National Park. This weekend of classes will be held at the Lost Horse Campsite, a beautiful location that is perfect for this program! Camping is optional, but highly recommended.

Photographing the Hi-desert Fall 2021

Sat, November 6, 8 AM – 5:30 PM
Location: Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, 11055 East Drive, Morongo Valley, CA 92256
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. Fucile will share tips on how to record unique rock formations and vast views of the park. Participants are encouraged to bring a tripod with their camera(s). Class size limited to 12 participants, so sign up early! Download the course outline: Photographing the High Desert Fall 2021 for the itinerary, time and meeting location.
Instructor: Craig Fucile
Hike Level: Easy (Fitness Levels)

Old Schoolhouse Lecture Series 2021-2022

November 12, “Willie Boy & The Last Western Manhunt”, Clifford Trafzer, Author, Professor of History, UC Riverside
About this event
The Old Schoolhouse Lecture series is brought to you by the 29 Palms Historical Society and the Desert Institute. The series is composed of ten monthly lectures on the second Friday of each month beginning on September 10. The lecture series will return to in-person lectures at the 29 Palms Old
Schoolhouse Museum. The entrance fee for a single lecture is $5.00.

Geology: Creation of the Joshua Tree Landscape

Sat, November 6, 8 AM – 5 PM
Location: Oasis Visitor Center, 74485 National Park Dr., Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Investigate the natural architecture and origin of Joshua Tree National Park’s landscape with Tor Lacy, Professor of Earth Sciences. Starting on a zoom lecture on Friday, November 5, participants will be introduced to basic geologic principles including major rock groups, plate tectonics, mountain building, and the impact of weathering and erosion. Tor will discuss how these processes worked together to form the fantastic desert landscape of the park. The class will venture into the field on Saturday, November 6 to observe and identify monzogranite, gneiss, veins, and basaltic rocks as well as inselbergs, alluvial fans, and pediments. For those new to geology or experienced geologists, Tor will make learning about the complex and unique landscape of Joshua Tree National Park comprehensible and fun.
Hike Level: Easy to Moderate (Fitness Levels)

Summit Queen Mountain Fall 2021

Sat, November 13, 7 AM – 4:30 PM
This roughly 8.5 mile out and back hike brings participants into the rugged terrain surrounding Queen Mountain (5,677’), the second tallest peak in Joshua Tree National Park. Much like its taller sister, Quail Mountain, Queen ties together several distinct zones, each providing opportunities to discuss history (mining, homesteading, indigenous) and prominent geological features. From the dramatic vantage point of the peak, we’ll get a birds eye view of the Wonderland of Rocks to the west, the landscape that helped carve 49 Palms Canyon and led to the formation of its oasis, as well as long views east towards the Colorado Desert where the Coxcomb Mountains greet us on the horizon at the parts furthest eastern boundary. A fascinating array of granite and gneiss are present as are abundant lithophyte colonies growing upon these rocks. A tremendous amount of land within view is designated as “Day Use” as Bighorn Sheep regularly travel this zone and utilize it as a sanctuary.
Hike Level: Strenuous/Difficult (Fitness Levels)


Tell Your Inner Critic to Take a Hike
Fri, Nov 19, 3 PM – Sun, Nov 21, 2 PM
Location: Joshua Tree Visitor Center, 6554 Park Boulevard, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Join author and founder of Hiking My Feelings, Sydney Williams, to learn how to start a meaningful gratitude practice and how doing so can enrich all aspects of your life, increase resiliency, and aid in processing complex emotions and situations. Over the course of the retreat, you’ll learn about limiting beliefs and discover how to develop a healthy relationship with your Inner Critic to overcome adversity and bring your whole self to life, love, and work.
When we take time to disconnect from the distractions, we can reconnect with ourselves. With Hiking My Feelings, every hike is an opportunity to come home to yourself, release the stories that are no longer serving you, and stand tall in your truth. Join us for a judgement-free weekend where transformational healing is possible. We introduce participants to mindfulness and the healing power of nature, and the results are lasting improvements to mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Hike Level: Moderate (Fitness Levels)

Geology of the San Andreas Fault Fall 2021

Sat, November 20, 9 AM – 4 PM
Location: Coachella Valley Preserve, 29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Rd, Thousand Palms, CA
California is a state defined by plate tectonics, motion, continental drift, and subduction zones. Join geologist Ted Reeves as he explains the origin and effects of the San Andres Fault system. Reeves will unfold the geologic story of the Indio Hills, the Mecca Hills and Salton Trough in this all-day field class. Participants will meet at the Coachella Valley Preserve and walk a short distance to see fault features. We will then travel to Box Canyon and Painted Canyon and observe spectacular faults and folds where the Pacific plate is forcing up the Mecca Hills. Reeves will illuminate fault- related features in the field with special emphasis on physical deformations of the landscape. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to explore the San Andreas fault zone and the palm oasis!
Hike Level: Moderate

Geology and Cultural History of Cottonwood

Spring Fall 2021
Sat, December 4, 9 AM – 4 PM
Location: Cottonwood Visitor Center,
Cottonwood Exit (168) off of Highway 10, Pinto Basin Rd., Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Stretch your legs and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Cottonwood Mountains with Ted Reeves, in this all-day field class. Reeves will discuss the geologic history of Joshua Tree National Park, and the rocks and plants of the Cottonwood Mountains. We will also discuss some human history of the Cottonwood Spring area during the late 1800s. Participants will walk six miles through the rolling hills of the Colorado Desert to see mills, mines, and more. Along the trail, Reeves will share the adaptations of plants and animals to the desert environment. A portion of the walk will follow a prominent freight road built in the 1880s. Attendees will learn what is known about the road’s creation and use. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn how geology is connected to cultural history at Cottonwood Spring!
Hike Level: Moderate (Fitness Levels)

Hiking My Feelings: Using Mindful Movement to Open the Flow of Creativity

Fri, Dec 3, 3 PM – Sun, Dec 5, 2 PM
Location: Joshua Tree Visitor Center, 6554 Park Boulevard, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Have you been taking time for yourself to reflect on what you really want? Are you stuck in a creative rut? Are you ready to make 2022 your Year of Creative Exploration? Sydney + Barry Williams have been hiking and brainstorming for years and it has revolutionized the way they live their lives and the way they do business. By combining mindset techniques acquired as a Division 1 athlete, competitive skydiver, and corporate executive, incorporating playful techniques from improv (“yes, and!”), and encouraging mindful movement, they’ve developed a personal reflection format to help you unlock your best ideas, open the flow of creativity, and improve your mental, spiritual, and physical health. Join us for a judgement-free weekend where transformational healing is possible. We introduce participants to mindfulness and the healing power of nature, and the results are lasting improvements to mental, physical and spiritual health. Hike Level: Moderate tickets-152743559097?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

Winter Light: Photographing Desert Preserves

Fall 2021
Sat, December 4, 8 AM – 4:30 PM
Location: Whitewater exit off HYW 10, Whitewater, CA 92282
Join us for a day of photography in two special desert places off the beaten track: Whitewater Preserve, and the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Winter is an excellent season to photograph the low desert, with its cool temperatures, longer shadows, and views of distant peaks.
The day consists of photographic field sessions, group instruction and one-on-one assistance from your instructor. Your questions will be answered! You’ll learn tips and techniques for controlling sharpness, exposure, making panoramic photographs, and using lenses, along with creative exercises in photographing the desert landscape. Class begins in the morning
close to the rugged cliffs of Whitewater Preserve. After lunch, we relocate to Big Morongo Canyon Preserve for afternoon field sessions among the cottonwoods. Hiking at each preserve is easy – to moderate; we’ll be walking on trails that are mainly level. Participants are encouraged to bring a tripod with their camera(s).

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