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General Class Info

Desert Institute

Desert Institute Fall 2021 Catalog

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Untitled | Photo by Cindy Cunningham | Copyright © - Used with Permission


You may register by phone, fax, mail, or online. Please register early; our classes have limited sizes.

Course Information Packet

Upon receipt of your registration, we will send you a course itinerary, map, enrollment confirmation/entrance fee waiver, and information on clothing and equipment needs. Local lodging and camping information is available upon request.

Safety, Insurance, and Physical Fitness

Every effort is made to ensure safety on Desert Institute courses. However, participants are responsible for their own safety and accident insurance. JTNPA does not accept responsibility for lost, stolen, or damaged property or any bodily injury incurred during the course. You must sign a liability waiver in order to participate in the course. Participants must be in good physical condition for courses/activities in a desert that may be hot, dry, windy, and sometimes surprisingly cold. Be sure to visit our health and safety page for more information.

Waiver and Release of Claims

Before participating in any of the field activities provided by the Desert Institute, and as a condition to being accepted for such activities, you must sign, for yourself and for your minor child who is a participant, a waiver and release of claims, including of negligence, arising from your or the minor’s enrollment or participation. Your information is confidential. Participants must provide their own health and accident insurance. Please obtain a doctor’s clearance if you have any condition that may impact your ability to participate in a class.

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Weather, Clothing, and Equipment

Courses are held rain or shine. We reserve the right to change the course itinerary due to weather or other conditions. Students should be prepared for a variety of desert weather conditions, including cold and windy days. Appropriate clothing, footwear, and sun protection are very important. Clothing and equipment needs will be identified in your course information packet. Be prepared – bring plenty of water!


The Desert Institute is sponsored by the Joshua Tree National Park Association, and operates with the full endorsement of the NPS. Course fees only cover a portion of Desert Institute program costs.

Children and Pets

Our courses are designed for adults. An adult must accompany children under 16; the minimum age is 14. Due to federal regulations, pets are not allowed on courses or waiting unattended in personal vehicles.

Cancellation Policy

If you need to cancel, please contact us at (760) 367-5539(760) 367-5539 or at least seven days prior to the start of the course and we will process your request minus a $25 processing fee. No refunds, transfers, or credits will be granted after the seven-day date. Please note that we cannot make any exceptions to this refund policy for any reason, including but not limited to medical reasons, illness, travel delays, personal situations, emergencies, or weather. This program depends on registration alone for its funding. While inconvenient, please understand that this policy enables us to sustain our programs even with last minute cancellations. Course fees only cover a portion of Desert Institute program costs.

Course Cancellations

Classes are held rain or shine. However, we reserve the right to change the course instructor, itinerary, or meeting location due to weather or other conditions. Sometimes it may be necessary to cancel a course due to instructor illness, low enrollment, NPS requirements, or other reason. If that happens, we will notify you and provide a full refund based upon your registration information.

Academic Credit

Credit is available from UCR Extension, University of California, Riverside. Credit fees are listed separately from noncredit fees. Credit units are based on a quarter system. Credit students may be required to successfully complete assignments or exams. Teachers may apply for Professional Career Development through their school district.


There is a $10 discount per class for JTNPA members, including those who join when they register. Discounts may not be combined.

Camping & Park Information

Most campgrounds are first come, first served. Reservations are available for Black Rock Campground External Link , Cottonwood Campground External Link , Indian Cove Campground External Link , and Jumbo Rocks Campground External Link . For other courses, campsites may be reserved online through External Link or by calling (877) 444-6777(877) 444-6777. Campground fees will apply. Participants are responsible for their own accommodations and food. Visit the park website External Link for more information.

Can’t Find a Campsite?

The park has become an extremely popular destination in recent years. Due to this popularity, all park campgrounds usually fill on weekends October through May. If you arrive too late to get a site in a designated campground, you have the following options:

  • Camp on Bureau of Land Management land outside the park.
  • Go to a private campground or stay in lodging in gateway communities. Please contact area chambers of commerce External Link for information.

Sleeping in your vehicle overnight along the roadside or at a roadside pull off is not allowed and violators may be subject to a citation.

For more information, visit the national park's Camping Outside of the Park External Link page.