Joshua Tree National Park Association

Desert Institute

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to register?

For most programs, advanced registration is required. Exceptions include our Slice of Science lecture series or other free, public events. Registration may be completed online by clicking on your chosen program in the Desert Institute Calendar and following the prompts to register, or by visiting our Eventbrite registration pages. We can also register participants over the phone.

Where can I find information about my activity?

Upon receipt of your registration, we will send you an enrollment confirmation with a link to online liability waivers, your activity welcome letter with an itinerary, and information on clothing and equipment needs. Local lodging and camping information is available upon request. For all activities taking place in areas of the national park where entrance fees are required, admission fees are covered for programs taking place through December 17, 2023, and you will receive an entrance fee waiver by email after registering. For programs taking place after December 17, 2023, fee waivers will no longer be included with Desert Institute activities, per National Park Service regulations. 

Are Desert Institute activities safe for me to participate in?

Every effort is made to ensure that Desert Institute activities are safe. 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 while participating in Desert Institute activities. You must complete a health questionnaire and liability waiver to participate in any Desert Institute program. Participants should understand the physical activity level of chosen programs and prepare accordingly. Visit our Know Before You Go page for more information about safety, preparedness, and physical requirements.

Is there any paperwork?

Before participating in any of the field activities provided by Desert Institute, and as a condition to being accepted for such activities, you must sign, for yourself and for your minor(s) who are participating, a health questionnaire and waiver for release of claims, including of negligence, arising from your or the minor’s enrollment or participation. Failure to complete the waiver ahead of your program may result in registration cancellation. 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 an activity.

What should I wear and bring with me?

Desert Institute programs are held rain or shine. We reserve the right to change the activity itinerary due to weather or any 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 welcome packet. Please make sure you read through the lists, enrollment confirmation emails, and welcome packet materials in their entirety so you are prepared!

Can I bring my kids? What about pets?

Unless otherwise noted, our activities are designed for adults aged 16 and older. For our family-friendly activities, an adult must accompany children ages 15 and under unless otherwise noted. Pets are not permitted on activities, on National Park trails, or unattended in vehicles.

What if I need to cancel?

If you need to cancel, notify us at least 14 days prior to the start of the activity and we will process your refund minus any processing fees. No refunds, transfers, or credits will be granted if cancellation occurs within the 14-day date period. Please note that we cannot make any exceptions to this refund policy for any reason, including but not limited to illness, travel delays, personal situations, or emergencies. 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.

Desert Institute reserves the right to cancel a class or activity due to low enrollment, instructor illness, NPS regulations, or other reasons; we also reserve the right to cancel the registration of any participant who does not meet the requirements of the class or activity. In the unlikely event that Desert Institute cancels a program, you will be notified as soon as possible and we will provide you a full refund. We recommend you purchase travel insurance, as we are not able to reimburse for expenses incurred due to a canceled class.

Are there discounts for Desert Institute activities?

All current JTNPA members receive $10 off Desert Institute programs. (Some exclusions may apply.) To redeem your discount, members can apply their shopify discount code in the promo code field when checking out in eventbrite. If registering by phone, please mention your JTNPA membership to receive the discount. To become a member, email . Membership discounts cannot be applied retroactively.

Students currently enrolled at a high school, community college, university, or other degree-granting institution are eligible to receive up to 50% off our programs. Some restrictions may apply, please email us at for more information.

How can I request an accommodation?

Please contact Desert Institute if you have any questions about your ability to participate, or would like to request accommodations.

Does my activity include food, transportation, and lodging?

Unless otherwise noted, participants are responsible for food, transportation, and their own overnight accommodations. Please refer to the “what’s included” and “what’s not included” sections of individual activity pages in the Desert Institute calendar or Eventbrite registration pages.

How do I plan for camping in Joshua Tree National Park?

Some of our programs include overnight camping in the park as part of the experience, which will be indicated in the “What’s Included” section of the registration page. (Often we use private and highly scenic campgrounds tucked away from the crowds!) If your program is an overnight experience with camping included, but you do not plan to camp, please email us before booking so we can confirm that this arrangement is suitable for the activity–some activities might begin before dawn, and others like tracking require that all participants stay overnight in order to ensure the purity of landscape investigation. 

In the case that your program does not include camping but you would like to stay in the park overnight, some campgrounds are first come, first served, but most require advance reservations through Campground fees will apply. Visit the Joshua Tree National Park website for more information about camping in the park.

What should I do if I 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  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 page.


Give us a call at 760-819-4714 or email

General Information – Joshua Tree National Park Association
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