Joshua Tree National Park
With its proximity to Los Angeles, an almost otherworldly desert landscape, and abundant hiking and rock climbing opportunities, Joshua Tree National Park is an ideal outdoor education site. Located about 2.5 hours east of Los Angeles along the transition between the Mojave and upper Sonoran Deserts, the park is populated with its namesake Joshua Tree woodlands, a variety of cacti and numerous species of colorful wildflowers in the spring. Animal life abounds with deer, coyote, bobcat, desert big horns and wide variety of birds.
Joshua Tree outdoor education programs encourage positive experiences among students, including
- a sense of collaboration and cohesiveness within the group
- personal achievement through rock climbing
- environmental awareness in a rustic yet comfortable outdoor setting.
Your Naturalists at Large Field Coordinator will work with you from start to finish to create just the experience you’re looking for, whether your emphasis is academic (geology, biology, astronomy and human history) or you want to focus on helping your students bond as a group while building self-confidence and developing important life skills.
Naturalists at Large provides all group equipment, including
- complete outdoor kitchen where our staff prepares wholesome meals and snacks
- rock climbing gear including helmets and harnesses
Our instructors are knowledgeable outdoor professionals who excel at leadership and group facilitation. Our goal is to provide your faculty and students with the best possible experience based on your goals while providing fun and stimulating activities for all ability levels.
Schools looking for a service learning component can take part in Joshua Tree's "Discovering the Ancients". This service project has students participating in a science research project for the park that deals with desert plants. Students will help measure and record data on plants. The same plants are measured years after years to help the park establish different ways of determining the growth rate and age of specific desert plants. See our "Service Learning"
page for more info.
During our three- to five-day programs, your students will develop a “sense of place” as they are introduced to the natural and cultural history of the Joshua Tree area. Students’ leadership abilities will be enhanced while they learn basic camping skills and develop group cooperation through a shared camping experience.
Daytime activities include exploring area trails, studying the various habitats within the park, rock climbing, and group initiatives. Evening activities can include star walks, night hikes, and campfires. All activities can be customized based on your specific needs.
Students are generally organized into groups of 12 or 13 and are challenged to work together to establish camp, participate in meal preparation and clean-up, and solve problems posed by their instructors.
Your Naturalists at Large Program Coordinator will work with you to establish a theme and goals for your Joshua Tree trip, and then all activities will be designed around those goals. Natural history themes can include the desert community, adaptations of plants and animals for survival in a dry climate, geology and astronomy.
The Indian Cove campground is where the majority of NAL programs are held. There is no water at the site, but we bring in water from the spigot at the park entrance.
NAL typically uses group sites at Joshua Tree, but there are both group and family sites available.
- There are 13 group sites accommodating between 20-60 people per site.
- There are also over 100 family sites accommodating up to 8 people per site.
Comfort in the outdoors is critical to the success of any outdoor education program, and over the years we’ve developed customized tents and a system that works well for students and faculty.
- NAL uses dome tents that sleep 2 people with plenty of room for their gear.
- Faculty have the option of having a tent to themselves.
Joshua Tree also offers the following facilities:
- Rock Climbing
- Picnic and activity areas
Area trails are diverse and offer campers an intimate experience with the park’s unique flora and fauna.
- Boy Scout Trail – this 7-mile long trail starts in higher desert, surrounded by Joshua trees, and ends at Indian Cove campground. It’s the perfect length and difficulty if you’re interested in adding a backpacking component to your trip.
- Gunsight Canyon – Leads up out of the campground and into a narrow canyon for about a mile. It offers a great spot for bouldering and getting out of the mid-day sun while taking in the amazing views.
- Johnson Spring Caves – a downhill mile-long walk from the campground leads you this spot where students spend an hour or so exploring the cool, talus caves.
- Rattlesnake Canyon - Have a desire for a full day hike? Explore as far as you like up this canyon where water seeps from secret wells and the rock has been sculpted by thousands of years of floods.