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About Joshua Tree National Park Program

This experiential program focuses on learning through direct, hands-on experiences and interactive exploration of the unique surroundings. The impression Joshua Tree National Park leaves may be unforgettable, but equally enduring are the new skills, attitudes, and self-discoveries that students learn after a program of this nature

Length of trip: 3-7 days
Recommended group size: 10 to 60
Maximum size of Learning Group: 12 students





Peak Performance!™ works directly with the school to identify and develop the program content by creating a curriculum that complements the school's goals for the Desert Base Camp or Backpacking education program.

As a guide for framing a school’s program goals, we have outlined keys to Peak program effectiveness. Wilderness camping provides many types of learning activities in which students inevitably find themselves absorbed and deeply invested in outcomes- a perfect situation for learning.

At the foundation of Peak Performance! ™ activities are skills crucial for group survival in nature as well as success in life- communication, problem solving, teamwork, appropriate risk taking, and goal setting. Peak Performance!™ programs emphasize significant, positive, lasting changes in individuals and communities.

Sample goals that incorporate these philosophies, to be achieved while backpacking or at the Desert Base Camp, include:

  • Have a fun and positive outdoors experience in order to foster future learning in, and appreciation of, the natural world
  • Be able to identify examples of various ecological processes in the surrounding area
  • Challenge students physically and mentally and to facilitate the transformation of those challenges into personal learning experiences
  • • Explore environmental issues pertinent to the area and to the lives of the students

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With consideration to a group’s choice of maintaining a base camp or experiencing a backpacking course activity schedules may vary. Generally, groups are scheduled for day-long activities which include rock climbing and hikes to Johnson Cave, Rattlesnake Canyon, Gunsight Loop or Middle Earth Canyon in a rotation. Backpacking groups might also indulge in the Wonderland of Rocks, Queen Valley, and Johnny Lang Canyon. Instructors introduce basic hiking skills, including proper preparation for desert hiking or backpacking, map and compass skills and risk assessment.

The rock-climbing days include instruction in climbing techniques, use of equipment and the safety concerns of climbing. Prior to rock climbing, students are introduced to scrambling and bouldering, both of which introduce rock climbing skills and spotting techniques. Interspersed with the day hikes and rock climbing, the program also features cooperative learning activities that promote the development of communication skills, leadership skills and group cohesion.

The educational component includes instruction in the desert ecology, natural history of Joshua Tree National Park, geologic features, and plant and animal identification. Engaging discussions on National Park stewardship and human use of desert resources ensure that students derive the greatest possible benefit from their experience in Joshua Tree National Park.

Day 1
Arrival at Joshua Tree National Park
Large Group Opening
Set up Camp
Afternoon Activities:
Hiking, Natural History,
Map and Compass
Opening Campfire


Day 2
Middle Earth Canyon Hike
Lunch on hike
Scrambling and Bouldering
Astronomy and Constellations Program


Day 3
Rattlesnake Canyon Hike
Lunch on hike
Desert Ecology
Night Hike and Night Sensory Activities


Day 4
Rock Climbing
National Park Stewardship
Small Group Closures and Large Group Campfire


Day 5
Break down Camp
Large Group Closing Activities
Farewells and Departure

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