Click on photos for larger images. Sometimes you have to refresh the page to re-activate this feature. Hide Slide Show (you will have to refresh the page to see it again)

Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Mar 24 - Mar 31, 2018 -- $1350 ★★

Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California features a desert landscape whose signature plant is the rare and beautiful Joshua Tree. The park boasts unique geological formations such as granite monoliths and rugged canyons, plus a variety of wildlife including bighorn sheep, jackrabbits, and coyotes. March is a great time to escape your frigid climate and explore the arid and rocky Mojave desert.

Our route will begin near the Oasis entrance on the North part of the Park. We'll hike the California Riding & Hiking Trail for a few days, eventually hiking over 2/3 of this trail with an optional summit bid of Quail Mountain, the highest peak in the park. We'll then hike over to beautiful Covington Crest for a view of Palm Springs, Mt. San Jacinto and the Coachella Valley at night. Next, we'll head down Smith Water Canyon a true highlight of the trip. We'll then see the curiosity known as Samuelson Rock and end our hike by going over Ryan mountain on the way to Quail Springs Picnic area.

Some of the trail will be rugged, exposed to the sun, and poorly marked, possibly requiring off-trail navigation with a map, compass, GPS or dead reckoning. At some of our campsites, there will be bouldering opportunities for you to climb up various rock formations. There are rocks to climb for every ability level or you may not want to climb any rocks at all ... no judgment. Expect this to be a true adventure!


Weather is always an important concern when backpacking. Expect a warm respite from your end-of-winter blues. Historical March weather averages 60s and 70s during the day, which is perfect for backpacking, although we might also experience blazing heat during the day. or frost at night. Expect 30s and 40s at night although on the 2009 trip, it did get down to the low 20s so be prepared for weather extremes.

Trip Leaders

Rick Romine
Miles Gordon


$1350 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a hotel room with another trip participant. You will also be responsible for transportation to and from Ontario, CA (ONT) as well as personal equipment, any restaurant meals eaten off the trail and any gratuities for guides.

Covered expenses include 2 nights in a hotel, 6 days of trail meals, ground transportation, permits, fees and awesome guides.

Important Note

Water is scarce in this region and we must cache it ahead of time. Be prepared to carry as much as 2 gallons (16 pounds) of water in your pack. Even if we find surface water, the park prohibits us from using it, as it is to be left for the animals and plants.

Back to top


Packing List
Guides for this trip
Important Note
Difficulty (Please Read)
Packing List
Sign up Now!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fly or drive into Ontario, CA (ONT)

Take the free airport shuttle to Best Western Plus Heritage Inn Rancho Cucamonga/Ontario, 8179 Spruce Ave, Rancho Cucamonga, Ca. 91730, 909/466-1111

Equipment shakedown

Before body composition measurements taken

Trail mix distribution

Buy common last minute and forgotten items at REI, 12218 Foothill Blvd, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739, (909) 646-8360.

Go out for dinner in town. Dinner not included in trip cost.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

2nd set of before body composition measurements taken

Free hotel breakfast

Store all items you won't bring on the trail at either the hotel or a storage unit

Drive towards 29 Palms. On the way, take a half hour detour (each way) to cache water at the Covington Backcountry Board.

Drive to 29 Palms

Buy last minute and forgotten items at Joshua Tree Outfitters.

Drive to Oasis North Entrance Station, park at Oasis Backcountry Board

Drop off group and give them breakfast.

Guides head to Belle Frontcountry Campground and get 1 (or 2) sites for tonight, caching water nearby

Guides head to Ryan Frontcountry Campground and cache water nearby

Guides shuttle to Boy Scout Trail trailhead and spot a car here. They then return to the Oasis Trailhead.

Begin hiking at Oasis Backcountry Board, elevation 2900'

Hike 4.7 miles on the California Riding & Hiking Trail (CR&HT) to Park Blvd, elevation 3100'

Hike 1.3 uphill miles on the CR&HT to Belle Campsite, elevation 3800'

Camp at Belle Campsite, elevation 3800'. There will be water here for the next few days that we cached earlier.

Mileage Today: 6.0. Total mileage: 6.0

Possible bailout: Park Road

Monday, March 26, 2018

Hike 1.1 miles on the CR&HT to Pinto Basin Rd, elevation 3900'

Hike 4.3 miles on the CR&HT to Geology Tour Rd., elevation 4493'

Hike about 3.4 miles on the CR&HT to an old mining camp, elevation 4300'

Camp at old mining camp, elevation 4300'. There is a water pump here that's supposedly not reliable but has always had (untreated) water on all of our prior trips.

Mileage Today: 8.8. Total mileage: 14.8

Possible bailout: Pinto Basin Road or Geology Tour Rd.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Hike 2.3 miles on the CR&HT to Ryan Campground, elevation 4300'

Pick up cached water here

Hike 0.7 miles on the CR&HT to Keys View Rd, elevation 4342'

Hike 1.5 miles on the CR&HT to Stubbe Springs Trail Intersection, elevation 4500'

Hike 2.2 miles on the CR&HT to Stubbe Springs Trail Intersection (different intersection), elevation 4500'

Dispersed camp at unmarked campsite practicing Leave No Trace, elevation 4500'

Optional: Day-Hike 3.0 round trip miles to the summit of Quail Peak, the highest peak in the park elevation 5813'

Mileage Today: 6.7 or 9.7. Total mileage: 21.5 or 24.5

Possible bailout: Keys View Rd.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hike 5.4 miles on California Riding & Hiking Trail, elevation 4700'

Hike 1.4 miles to the Upper Covington Backcountry Board, elevation 4820'

Water is cached here

Hike 2.9 miles to Covington Crest, elevation 5000'

Dispersed camp at Covington Crest practicing Leave No Trace with sweeping views towards Palm Springs, elevation 5000'

Mileage Today: 9.7. Total mileage: 31.2 or 34.2

Possible bailout: Upper Covington Rd.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hike 2.9 miles to Covington Flat Backcountry Board via old road at 33°59'27.82"N 116°17'40.04"W, elevation 4820'

Hike 1.5 miles down a wash to Lower Covington Flat Road extension (dirt), elevation 4600'

Hike 3.0 scenic and time consuming miles through Smith Water Canyon, elevation 3700'

There is a steep 20' rocky dropoff where we may need to lower each other and/or our packs using a rope.

Possible pools of water in Smith Water Canyon are not for our consumption

Hike 0.5 miles to West Entrance Wash, elevation 3700'

Hike 1.9 miles up Quail Wash to Johnnie Connector trail and camp there, elevation 3700'

A usually reliable water pump is here [ususally reliable is a meaningless phrase]

Mileage Today: 9.8. Total mileage: 41.0 or 44.0

Possible bailout: Lower Covington Rd., Park Boulevard

Friday, March 30, 2018

Hike 2.2 miles up to Ryan Canyon, elevation 4200'

Hike 2.3 miles to Quail Springs Picnic Area, Park Boulevard, elevation 4000'

Mileage Today: 4.5. Total mileage: 45.5 or 48.5

Possible bailout: Park Road.

Shuttle back to Oasis Entrance to pick up other vehicle

Drive back to Ontario, CA

Check back into Best Western Plus Heritage Inn Rancho Cucamonga/Ontario, 8179 Spruce Ave, Rancho Cucamonga, Ca. 91730, 909/466-1111

"After" measurements taken

Dinner in town (cost not included in trip cost)

Awards Ceremony

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Free Hotel Breakfast

Check out of Hotel

Take free airport shuttle

Back to top