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Joshua Tree National Park Hiking Vacation

Joshua Tree Backpacking Trip


  •   Point to point thru-hike
  •   Amazing desert landscapes
  •   Wonderful winter trip
  •   Dramatic rock formations
  •   Deset wildlife
  •   Fascinating history & interp


Experience Joshua Tree like few do. Our 4-day Joshua Tree National Park Backpacking trip traverses the most stunning parts of the park. Starting in the famous Wonderland Of Rocks, we’ll hike through these surreal rock formations, and travel overland to the western edge of the park. On our final day, we’ll summit 5501-foot Eureka Peak to enjoy 360-degree views surrounding San Bernardino Mountains and the Coachella Valley before descending to our waiting vehicle.

Throughout the journey, we’ll enjoy delicious, guide-prepared meals and rest easy in secluded backcountry camping spots. Join us for the ultimate Joshua Tree backpacking adventure.

Trip Dates

  •   December 21-24, 2020

Las Vegas, NV
4 days
26.5mi / 43km
$995 Per Person

Taxes & Fees

Travel to Las Vegas



BACKPACKER Treks are for experienced backpackers to join fellow, like-minded BACKPACKER readers on extraordinary group adventures in the United States. Yellowstone, Utah, the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Death Valley and more - these trips are in world-class backpacking destinations! These trips are 100% for readers of BACKPACKER Magazine and are not advertised to any other demographic. BACKPACKER readers are passionate about hiking, camping, wilderness and backcountry adventure - perfect company for like-minded companions!

Unique Adventures

These trips have larger participant:guide ratios (8:1) than on normal Wildland Trekking trips, allowing for lower price-point rates. The reason we can go with higher ratios is because participants must be experienced backpackers. The guide(s) will cook dinner each night but outside of that all meals are the guest's responsibility. Gear is also the guest's responsibility. Transportation, permits, reservations...etc. are provided. Just show up with your food, gear and passion for backpacking and have a blast connecting with nature and fellow backpackers!

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
  • Shuttle to Death Valley: 4 hours
  • Hiking Mileage: 4.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 280 feet

Our four-day trek into the backcountry of Joshua Tree National Park begins with a desolate drive deep into North America’s driest desert: the Mojave. Following your hotel pick up in Vegas, we’ll head south through a series of arid basins and abrupt ranges, bisecting Mojave National Preserve and getting our first elegant glimpses of Joshua tree groves as we proceed to our trailhead. After fueling up with a delectable lunch and readying our packs, we’ll embark on our hike.

Ascending through sprawling fields of creosote, Mojave yucca and other high desert shrubs, we’ll disappear into a canyon of towering boulders, winding our way into the infamous Wonderland of Rocks. Twisting and turning among the cretaceous plutons, at last we’ll end our day of ascent by setting up camp amidst the boulders and Joshua trees. We’ll soak in the desert sky and listen for the howls of coyotes as we fill our bellies and settle in for a good night of rest.

Day 2
  • Hiking Mileage: 8.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1100 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1500 feet

Today’s hike will delve us further into the heart of the park. After hot drinks and breakfast, we’ll break camp and set off along a series of crests and furrows yielding stunning views into the surrounding countryside. Descending from the maze of monzogranite formations, we’ll pause to refill our water supply and then disappear again into the remote wilds of the park.

Skirting our way along rolling foothills and slanted bajadas, we’ll descend gradually into a vast sea of Joshua trees. Just before the end of our day’s miles, we’ll stop to investigate a handful of evocative historical remnants dating back to the 1800’s. At last, we’ll sneak our way down a wash and into grassy quail territory to rest our weary legs for the evening, nestled in against the rocky outskirts of what will be tomorrow’s adventure.

Day 3
  • Hiking Mileage: 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 150 feet

While shorter in miles, today’s terrain will put the challenge level on par with the previous day. We’ll fill up with a delicious breakfast before endeavoring up our charming backcountry canyon, littered with sandy washes, marbled slickrock chutes, riparian thickets and boulders galore. Emerging from the canyon, we’ll make our way to the next water cache and replenish our lifegiving stores in the midst of this xeric land.

We’ll then follow a series of trails and gradual washes, witnessing a welcome transition into a lush high elevation flat, where we’ll find ourselves surrounded by craggy knolls spotted with some of the largest Joshua trees in the park. This grassy expanse will host us for our third and final night as we eat well and rest up for our exciting day tomorrow.

Day 4
  • Hiking Mileage: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 2500 feet
  • Shuttle to Las Vegas: 4 hours

Our final day brings with it a substantial amount of descent, but not before a heart-pounding summit of Eureka Peak. Right at the brink of the San Andreas Fault, we’ll follow a series of twists and turns before climbing to soak in panoramic views of Coachella Valley and the surrounding San Bernardino Mountains.

Descending steeply into the labyrinth of ravines that make up the Little San Bernardino Mountains, we’ll snake our way between canyon walls, over open slopes, and through pinyon-juniper woodlands, dropping at last down sandy gullies into Black Rock Canyon Campground. After a celebratory lunch at the trailhead, we’ll make the return drive to Las Vegas for a a well-deserved shower and bed.

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified trip leader (full-time Wildland Trekking guide)
  • Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada to the trailhead and backp
  • Backcountry dinners in the field
  • Bear cannisters when/where required
  • Entrance fees and national park permits
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Backpack, tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, trekking poles, cooking gear (gear list below)
  • Breakfasts, lunches and trail snacks
  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear (Oboz hiking shoes and boots recommended) (clothing list below)
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Trip leader gratuity (industry recommendation is 10+% of trip cost)

Optional Gear List

  • Trekking poles
  • Backpacking stove and fuel (if your breakfasts only need boiled water, guide can boil water for the group in the morning at camp eliminating need for personal stoves and fuel)
  • Waterproof matches and/or lighter
  • Water filter (guide can filter water for the group at camp but if you would prefer to bring your own)
  • Camera, spare batteries
  • Notebook or paperback book
  • Vitamins
  • Fly fishing gear, if you want to fish (area-specific)

Important Packing Note

Please leave a shoe-box's worth of room in your pack for accommodating approximately 5 pounds of group gear that the guide will disperse to the group on the night of the trip orientation. Group gear will include food items for the group dinners as well as group dinner cookware, stoves, water filtration, etc.

Group Dinners

Your guide will plan and prepare all of the dinners for the duration of the trip for the group. Our prepared backcountry dinners include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, etc.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

Gear List

  • Multi-day backpack (recommended 4000-5000 cubic inches)
  • Backpacking tent
  • 15 degree sleeping bag (down or synthetic)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Trekking poles (optional)
  • 3 1-liter water bottles or hydration system and a water bottle
  • Headlamp or flashlight and extra batteries
  • Bowl, plate, mug, fork, spoon, folding pocket knife and personal cookware needed for your breakfasts and lunches
  • Folding pocket knife
  • Waterproof matches and/or lighter
  • Backpacking stove and fuel
  • Camp pillow, lightweight, packable camp pillow.
  • Contact lenses and glasses if you wear contact lenses please also bring a pair of glasses - your contacts are likely to become dirty and may be difficult to clean
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm
  • Toiletries, and a small washcloth in stuff sack (bandana can serve as a washcloth)
  • Camera, spare batteries (optional)
  • Notebook or paperback book, (optional)
  • Knee braces, if needed
  • Prescription medicine, please inform your trip leader of any medications you are taking
  • Vitamins, (optional)
  • Fly fishing gear, if you want to fish
  • Money, for tipping your trip leader (optional but appreciated, generally 10+% of your trip cost based upon the quality of your experience)

Clothing List

  • Sturdy Hiking boots, mid weight, lug-soled, above the ankle, waterproof and ideally well broken in Important note: Buy your boots 1/2 size to 1 size larger than your street shoes to allow for feet swelling and thicker socks
  • Lightweight tennis shoes or Crocs®, for camp
  • Hiking socks, one pair for every two days of your trip, plus an extra pair to sleep in. Recommended brands include Bridgedale®, Smartwool®, or similar padded socks (wearing thin liner socks under your hiking socks is highly recommended). No cotton socks!!
  • Sunhat or baseball cap and bandana
  • Warm hat and gloves, sherpa style hat and light-to-mid weight fleece or wool gloves
  • Long underwear, one pair of wicking tops and bottoms that are light-to midweight, example materials include capilene, merino wool, polypropylene, etc.
  • T-shirt or nylon travel shirt
  • Warm top, mid-weight shirt, sweater or pullover, also wicking material such as merino wool, fleece or polypropylene
  • Fleece jacket or insulated coat, warm, lightweight and packable fleece jacket or coat insulated with a synthetic material
  • Nylon pants and shorts, or zip-offs
  • Fleece pants (late August and September backpacking trips and Basecamp Trip only)
  • Rainproof jacket and pant - Waterproof/breathable jacket and pant such as Gore-Tex® or coated nylon - with the pants look for side leg zippers or a style that will allow you to remove them without removing your boots

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!

Where Do We Meet?

You'll meet your hiking guide and group in Las Vegas, Nevada for an orientation meeting at 5:00 PM the evening before the trip begins. Your guide will be in contact approximately 2 weeks before your trip and will specify the exact location of the orientation meeting at that point. The next morning we'll pick you up at your hotel for transport to the trailhead.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.

Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day no later than 7 PM.

Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.

Guide Working Parameters

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.

Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on BACKPACKER trips is 8 guests and 1 guide. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 14 and older to join this trip

Weather in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is a desert environment, and an exceptional winter destination. See below for average summer temperatures in Joshua Tree:
Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)


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