Joshua Tree Backpacking Expedition

add to outlook calendar add to gmail calendar October 10 - 13, 2019
Palm Springs, California
Entry Form Open from May 29, 2019 to June 12, 2019

All adult survivors 18 and older are invited to join TAPS for their first Expedition in Joshua Tree National Park on the 2019 Joshua Tree Backpacking Expedition as we find new purpose, gain radical perspective, and remember what it feels like to live with determination.

TAPS Expeditions are outdoor skills-based events that require dedication, preparation and a real sense of adventure. Professional guides will lead us through one of the country’s most most surreal and iconic national parks. Joshua Tree will provide stark desert landscapes contrasted by rugged rock formations, and as we walk among the twisted trees springing from the earth, we’ll be led to consider what we really can control as we learn to trust our guides, our gear, our team and ourselves.

TAPS Backpacking Expedition

TAPS Backpacking Expedition

TAPS Backpacking Expedition

TAPS Backpacking Expedition


Unlike most experiences in this unique National Park, we invite you on the TAPS Joshua Tree Backpacking Expedition as we backpack, hike and scramble to little-known and seldom seen destinations within Joshua Tree National Park. With the help of our experienced guides, we will hike through canyons and across sandy flats, scramble on giant granite boulders, and enjoy beautiful and diverse plants and animals in this other-worldly landscape.

Leading up to the expedition, we'll form a team bond and gain familiarity with each other through a series of mandatory team meetings to get to know one another and to discuss training regimens, gear lists, and so on. Your team will be a source of encouragement as you train for this backpacking adventure and an ongoing support network long after the expedition is complete.

While each expedition is unique and rewarding, they can also be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. Each offers an opportunity to experience for the first time or hone in on a valuable outdoor experience. We hope you’ll apply to join us after you’ve taken some time to consider your current physical and emotional strength and resilience. 

This expedition is being put together through a partnership with REI Adventures.




There will be one team meeting via conference call or video chat that that is mandatory for participants in order to form a team bond and gain familiarity with each other. You will have access to our Facebook group, which will include participants from this expedition, as well as those who participated in previous expeditions so you can ask questions and learn from their experience.


Day 1: The Expedition begins at 12 p.m. in Palm Springs, California where we will connect with our guides and begin our drive to Joshua Tree National Park. The adventure begins with a warmup hike and a safety brief about desert hiking and proper backpack fitting. After hiking to our cache, an essential location for the second leg of the hike, we will set up camp at Sheep Pass Campground and disperse group gear. To round out our first day together we will enjoy dinner and a beautiful sunset atop the highest viewpoint in Joshua Tree, Keys View. This viewpoint affords panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea and the San Andreas Fault. Driving: 2 hours, Hiking: 3 miles

Day 2: Our second day begins early with breakfast and breaking camp to hit the North View Trail. Our trail is stacked with boulder fins and opportunities for viewing wildlife such as big horn sheep, famous rock formations like Window Rock, flowering cacti, an array of wildflowers, and of course the park’s namesake, the Joshua tree. On our journey we will visit Keys Mountain to get warmed up for tomorrow’s scrambling and a beautiful view of the park. We will find our camp amongst the rocks and enjoy a backcountry dinner and Joshua Tree sunset with our fellow survivors and backpackers. Backpacking: 8 miles

Day 3: After a delicious breakfast we will enjoy our day’s hike with just our daypacks.Our first destination is Willow Hole, a beautiful riparian area with seasonal water pools and opportunities for wildlife viewing. We'll picnic among the giant granite boulders that make up the Wonderland of Rocks before an adventurous scramble to a hidden cabin from the 1930's known as Oh-Bay-Yo-Yo. Using our gloves to protect our hands from the coarse nature of the rocks, expect down climbing, some exposure and balancing with your feet and hands in contact with the rock. Before returning to camp we pass by the cache we made on Day One, resupplying with food and precious water. Once we’re back at camp we’ll enjoy another tasty backcountry meal under the stars. Hiking: 7.5 miles, Scrambling: 1.5 miles

Day 4: Our final day together begins with backcountry breakfast and our final goodbyes to camp. To journey home we will hike north up the Boy Scout Trail across an alluvial plain to Indian Cove where our van will be waiting for us. We then head to back to Palm Springs for one final lunch together and transit back to our initial meeting location to give hugs and see you laters to the team. Backpacking: 5 miles

*Note: This schedule is provided by REI Adventures is subject to change due to a number of reasons, including weather and participant skill level.

For a more detailed itinerary, visit REI Adventures Joshua Tree Backpacking page.


We fully expect your team members to become your family and an ongoing support network long after the TAPS Expedition is complete. You'll be provided with a directory following the expedition to keep in touch with each other.



A $50 deposit will be collected at the time of registration. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and sponsors, TAPS will cover the rest of the trip costs, with the exception of your transportation to and from Palm Springs, California, your first night's lodging expenses and some meals.



You will need to cover the cost of your transportation to and from Palm Springs, California. The closest airport is the Palm Springs International Airport. You must arrive at the Courtyard Marriot Palm Springs by 12 p.m. local time. We recommend arriving the night before to accommodate any potential travel delays. If you do arrive a day early, your first night's lodging will be on your own, but we will be available to recommend lodging options that fit within your budget. TAPS will cover the costs for all subsequent lodging and meals once we gather at 12 p.m. on Thursday, October 10.



This expedition requires no backpacking experience but does necessitate that you be physically fit and healthy. This physically demanding expedition will include carrying a 35 to 40 lb pack to hike in between 5 to 10 miles per day for four days. Even if you don’t have backpacking experience, if this adventure excites you then we encourage you to submit an entry form by Wednesday, June 12!

The TAPS Expeditions team will make sure you are prepared and well informed of the nature of this trip.

To maximize your enjoyment of the trip and to avoid sore muscles, we suggest you engage in a regular exercise regimen leading up to the trip. Prior to the trip, we'll have a conference call and/or an online video meeting to go over training regimens, gear lists and more.



Entry forms will be open from May 29 to June 12, 2019. Entry forms will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so you can expect a call within two weeks of submitting your entry from. If more entry forms are received than we have slots available, we will do a random selection from qualified entries.

It’s our goal to ensure that as many survivors as possible have the opportunity to experience healing in the wilderness. Preference will be given to applicants who haven't participated in a TAPS Expedition within the past year, so long as they are capable of participating in all activities.

If you have any questions, please email or call 800-959-TAPS (8277).

Photos courtesy of TAPS Staff and REI Adventures.