Sample Itinerary
4-Day Course
Course Start, Duffle Shuffle, Hike into Backcountry, Intro to Campcraft
Continue Backpacking
Backpacking, Peak Attempt, Solo Time
Hike Out, De-Issue, Graduation, Depart
7-Day Course
Course start, duffle shuffle, begin hiking
Introductory lessons in “camp craft,” continue backpacking
Backpacking, peak attempt
Backpacking, begin solo
Final challenge, graduation
Clean and de-issue gear, depart for airport

We hiked to the highest peak in the park. On our way there, we slept over and did the solo. That was one of the biggest impacts on me – it was a night all by myself to reflect. I connected with nature. It was a clear night sky with no distractions from anyone. I’ve never had that much connection to nature. Just silence all around – I could hear the wind moving. There was a point in the evening, where I got up and meditated on the view before the sun went down.

— Uzoma

Do you ever want to unplug, step away from your daily responsibilities, and face new challenges? Adventure is calling! Outward Bound’s Classic expeditions for adults are designed to help you hit the reset button by breaking your routines and radically changing your surroundings. This is an opportunity to build new skills and remind yourself (or discover for the first time) what it feels like to crest a mountain peak, hear the echoes at the edge of a vast canyon, or feel the rush of whitewater. Put some “firsts” in front of you and you’ll find that the moments of unexpected discovery linger long after you return home. 

  • Build skills, form connections: Meet like-minded peers and make connections as you work through priorities and adventures together, learn outdoor skills at the hands of expert Instructors, and earn every good night’s sleep.
  • Value strengths and strengthen values: Re-discover your inner strength, renew your natural leadership abilities and practice adapting to new environments. Tap in to your trust and compassion as you tackle obstacles with a support crew standing beside you.
  • Demonstrate mastery: As you awaken your wilderness skills and dig deep to rise to the physical and mental challenges, the bulk of the expedition’s leadership and decision-making responsibilities transfer from the Instructor to the crew. Work together to achieve team goals, solve problems and succeed both individually and together.
  • What you’ll learn: By allowing yourself to focus beyond daily responsibilities and obligations, you’ll master more difficult skills and open yourself up to new directions and opportunities you never thought possible. You’ll find clarity in the life changes you’re facing, you’ll uncover inspiration in the wilderness, and you’ll renew your sense of adventure to take on the next challenge in front of you.

Return home with newly expanded wilderness acumen, an energized outlook, a rekindled allowance of empathy into situations and relationships and an eye toward the future.

A group of adult backpackers make their way through the rocky terrain of Joshua Tree National Park.
Photo courtesy of Rikki Dunn
Three people rest and eat snacks as they examine a map on the ground.
Photo courtesy of Rikki Dunn

This course is designed for those either new to backpacking, or who have some experience and are interested in exploring the desert environment. The low elevation and high chance of encountering unique wildlife as students travel off the tourist track, will provide a rare experience and set of challenges.

Crew members will begin by learning foundational skills such as camp setup, cooking and navigation. As students learn these crafts and develop trust with their group, Instructors will step back and transfer ownership of the course to the students.  By the end of course the crew will manage their own routes, daily schedule, navigation and other necessary skills for expeditionary travel.  Each day presents opportunities to learn new skills and work closely with teammates to travel efficiently and become self-reliant in the desert.

Service to others and to the environment are core values of Outward Bound and they are integrated into each course. Participants follow Leave No Trace ethics as part of their service to the environment. Students develop an ingrained appreciation of service, seeing the impact of their actions firsthand, by multiple small acts of service with and for their crewmates while leading and supporting each other throughout the journey.

The silhouette of a person and a joshua tree are illuminated by the setting sun
Photo courtesy of Micha Bowe

In order for profound learning to take place, there must be time to reflect on the experience. Solo is that opportunity, and that time can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours. It is a chance to experience solitude in the wilderness without distraction while also taking a break from the physical rigors of activities. Students experience short periods of time away from their group throughout the course for reflection.  These “mini-solos” are at solo sites chosen by Instructors to provide as much solitude as possible (within emergency whistle-signaling distance of other group members). Participants have all necessary equipment, food and water during their Solo time, and safety is always the top priority.

Outward Bound expeditions encourage students to grow into the best version of themselves. Compassion for self and others is foundational to our educational approach. Students work collaboratively with their peers and as individuals to navigate challenging circumstances and the everyday harshness of the natural environment. The physical and mental challenges students experience on course allow them to discover their strengths and build authentic connections. Through intentionally tiered technical skill instruction, students also gain self-efficacy in outdoor competencies related to their course. Consistent and cultivated space for introspection or interactive reflective processes supports students making connections between their experiences and their life back home Whether the expedition is a few days or a few months, students realize that they are stronger than they know, and develop confidence and perseverance that will last a lifetime.

Some of the social and emotional learning outcomes students can expect include:

  • Belonging – a sense of connection in the group founded upon respect, inclusion, empathy and compassion
  • Courage – catalyzing strengths in order to persevere and take on challenge and risks
  • Physical Engagement – develop body awareness and confidence through sensate and bodily experiences
  • Self-Regulation – the ability to counter distraction and strong emotions by calming, refocusing, and turn-taking
  • Reflection – examination and questioning of actions, roles, relationships and assumptions 
The silhouettes of Joshua Trees are illuminated against an orange, pink and purple sky as the sun sets or rises.
Photo courtesy of Micah Bowe

Joshua Tree National Park

Welcome to the high desert moonscape, where rugged mountains and desert plateaus have been sculpted by wind and rain.  Three distinct ecosystems come together to form this land of extremes: the dark, cold, star-filled nights against warm sand and boulder-filled days. Participants will travel through granite monoliths and through narrow canyons that have attracted travelers from around the world long before the park became a national park in 1936.

The Mojave Desert’s sunny fall and spring weather is perfect for a week on the trail or basecamping below the next climb. Weather in the park is generally dry and rainfall is sparse, though unpredictable, and sometimes persistent thunderstorms do occur. Temperatures can vary, averaging 50 to 80 degrees during the day to a cool 30 degrees at night and potentially hitting 100 early or late in the season.  

Travel in the desert takes careful planning to ensure an ample water supply. Logistics staff place water and food caches around the park to enable extended backcountry travel in this unique wilderness. 

These regions are the ancestral lands of the Yuhaviatam/Maarenga’yam (Serrano), Cahuilla, Newe (Western Shoshone), Chemehuevi, Southern Paiute and Cocopah (Xawiƚƚ kwñchawaay) nations. We acknowledge them as the past, present, and future caretakers of this land, and also pay respect to their elders, both past and present. We recognize and continually support and advocate for the sovereignty of the Native nations of this territory and beyond. By offering this land acknowledgment we affirm tribal sovereignty, commit to working to support these tribes, and commit to holding Outward Bound California accountable to this work.

Course Stories

I’ve never had that much connection to nature.

We hiked to the highest peak in the park. On our way there, we slept over and did the solo. That was one of the biggest impacts on me – it was a night all by myself to reflect. I connected with nature. It was a clear night sky with no distractions from anyone. I’ve never had that much connection to nature. Just silence all around – I could hear the wind moving. There was a point in the evening, where I got up and meditated on the view before the sun went down.

— Uzoma
Thank you Outward Bound for providing a framework for me to rediscover myself.

As an adult with a job and family, mortgage payments, and retirement planning, it can be difficult to not feel stuck, Stuck in the repetition of redundancy and stuck in the area of personal growth and development. As a child, your main job is to learn and grow about yourself and the ways of the world; as an adult the opportunity to work on yourself is easily diminished by other priorities. It becomes such a foreign concept that you can get lost in who you think you are and will always be. Thank you Outward Bound for providing a framework for me to rediscover myself and a safe place to uncover new things I have been hiding from. I am, in some ways, heartbroken to leave the course, but have no fear in returning to my life because I know that it will be forever changed for the better.

— Adult Backpacking Participant


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Getting Started

If you are ready to enroll on a course click the enroll button next to the course you wish to select or you can enroll over the phone by speaking with one of our Admissions Advisors (toll-free) at 866-467-7651.

To secure your spot on a course you must submit an enrollment form and $500 deposit that is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee.