Think Outside

Desert Environments

Desert environments are often considered barren inhospitable landscapes. Upon a closer look, however, these are beautiful, diverse, and thriving ecosystems. Whether you are looking to rock climb in Pinnacles National Park or study geology and desert ecology in Joshua Tree National Park, we can create a program to meet your needs. Activities and locations offered vary by specific itinerary and may include some of the ones detailed below.


Recreational Activities

  • Backpacking
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Subterranean exploration in canyon-bottom talus caves
  • Bicycling (mountain and road)
  • Yoga and mindfulness practice
  • Large group games


Educational Activities

  • Guided natural history and ecology hikes
  • Lessons in biology, geology, weather, desert science, outdoor survival skills, native flora/fauna, and more
  • Exploration of native and endemic species
  • Environmental awareness games and lessons
  • Team-building initiatives/challenges
  • Journal writing and creative assignments
  • Service-learning projects


Evening Activities

  • Campfires with skits, songs, stories, and s’mores
  • Environmental resource use discussions
  • Astronomy observation and lessons
  • Native American myths and stories
  • Night-hikes focusing on nocturnal animal adaptations


Activities are presented in a variety of formats throughout the program and are experiential in nature. Lessons are planned to be stimulating and challenging. Instructors give participants the tools to promote personal discovery and self-direction in learning, while supporting learners with information about the topics being explored. A thoughtfully developed progression of hands-on learning, structured lessons, experiential outdoor activities, and free time is provided to maximize learning and craft a positive, memorable experience.

The Joshua Tree Basecamp program features group campsites with picnic tables and toilets situated among the boulders and cacti of the park. This is the area from which day hiking, rock climbing, subterranean cave exploration, natural history lessons, and other activities are launched. The basecamp setting allows for an immersion in the outdoors, as participants camp under the stars and spend their days exploring a unique desert environment, while the comfort of a group campsite creates a pleasant, low-stress environment conducive to learning and enjoyment.

The Backpacking and Rock Climbing Program in Joshua Tree National Park offers participants an immersive experience in a spectacular natural setting. Participants are divided into trail groups, each of which heads out on a different path into the backcountry. They travel through backcountry areas of the park and are responsible for cooking meals as a group, developing low impact camping skills, and learning how to live comfortably outdoors in a supportive environment. The program may also include a top-roped rock climbing experience. Joshua Tree’s environment—with desert bighorn sheep, endangered desert tortoises, and other unique inhabitants—provides a fascinating look at the Mojave and Colorado desert ecosystems. Participants explore desert plains, riparian areas, and dramatic canyon-bottom talus caves as they get to know each other and the desert landscape.

Boojum offers both basecamp and backcountry travel programs in and around Grand Canyon National Park. Activities include hiking, backpacking, visiting national historical landmarks and cultural sites, and more.

A relic of the Neenach Volcano eruption 23 million years ago, Pinnacles got its name from the large triangular protrusions, or pinnacles, that the blast created. The Pinnacles basecamp program features group campsites with picnic tables and toilets in a Nature Conservancy just a few miles from the day-use park entrance. Each day students travel to the park for hiking, rock climbing, natural history lessons, and other activities. Our Pinnacles National Park program features views from the top of Chalone Peak or the High Peaks Trail, breathtaking sunsets, spectacular star gazing, and extensive rock climbing opportunities for all skill levels.

We acknowledge that the land on which we currently program includes the ancestral homes and unceded territory of the Yuhaviatam/ Maarenga’yam, Newe Segobia, Ɂívil̃uwenetem Meytémak, Me-Wuk, Nuwuvi, Yokuts, Chukchansi, Chumash, Amah Mutsun and Costanoan people, commonly referred to as Serrano, Western Shoshone, Cahuilla, Coast Miwok, Southern Paiute, Pueblos, Southern Sierra Miwok, Chumash, Barbareño Chumash, Popeloutchom, Ohlone, and Chalon people. This land was stolen by Spanish, Mexican, and then American profiteers through acts of forced servitude, genocide, and deceit.

As a land-based business, we acknowledge that we benefit from the ongoing system of settler colonialism, which includes the genocide waged against these people and the theft of their land.

This acknowledgement is an essential, yet small, element of a much larger attempt towards cooperatively building a world where right relationship is possible.

We constantly ask ourselves: “What does it mean to use and be successful from stolen land? How do we achieve right relationship to this land and its people?”

We feel it is our duty as a guest to this land to listen to Native voices, in the spirit of building continued accountable relationships.

Allan ZabeckiDesert Environments