Coso of the Mojave: Rock Art and Desert Cultures

2019 mojave

Explore the mysterious history of the Mojave Desert and the Coso culture

April 2–8, 2019

One of the densest and most spectacular concentrations of rock art in North America, the western Mojave Desert reveals one of the great cultural mysteries, the Coso of long ago. Visit Coso depictions of the universe's origin and insights into their unique traditions, as we spend a week studying the archaeological and cultural evidence of the Coso people and forming your own theories.


  • Get exclusive access to sites on a naval base.
  • Meet tribal members from indigenous communities to learn different perspectives on this unique cultural landscape.
  • Examine extensive rock art panels throughout the Mojave Desert.

About the Coso of the Mojave Program

  1. Scholars
  2. Accommodations
  3. Is This Trip For You?
  4. FAQs
  5. Terms & Policies

Alan Garfinkel

Alan Garfinkel, Ph.D., is a California and Great Basin anthropologist and archaeologist and an authority on Coso Range rock art and prehistory. Garfinkel is the author of five books and has published 47 articles in academic journals. He received the California State Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation in 2008 and 2011.

Thursday, April 4–Saturday, April 6
Best Western Plus Country Park
420 W Tehachapi Blvd
Tehachapi, CA 93561
Phone (661) 823-1800


This program involves strenuous walking over loose sand and rocks, as well as some boulder-scrambling, and is not feasible for those with impaired mobility. Coso rock art is found on large outcrops of basalt throughout the forested uplands of the Coso Range (elevation is 5000 feet above sea level), as well as the broad brush-covered plateau to the south. The volcanic landscape is rocky and uneven. While staff members are available for assistance, you should be comfortable using your hands to steady yourself and be able to take steps higher than a standard staircase step to navigate around boulders and rocky terrain. The group will be asked to stay together while wandering through the canyons, on Naval Base land, and other private property.Expect some areas of stark topography which creates the vast and dramatic vistas for which this area is known. Areas of the Mojave are among the driest in the nation with an annual rainfall of only 4.5 inches.


The elevation level for this trip ranges from 3,000 - 8,000 feet, as we travel among areas of the Mojave Desert and Southern Sierra Nevada Range. We recommend ramping up your exercise regime prior to arrival or arriving a day or two early to acclimate, especially if coming from sea level. If you have any questions, please contact your physician.

Remote Facilities?

A portion of this program takes place on a Naval base where access is strictly limited. Only U.S. citizens are allowed on the property (this is a security requirement implemented by the Navy in the wake of 9/11). You may be asked for identification and photo taking is prohibited during transit. Be prepared for security screenings, liability waivers, and presentations on rules and regulations. Most of our drives are paved roads that wind thru canyons and over high desert mountains. Expect some travel on good, graded dirt roads which wind through beautiful Joshua Tree forests. While we take advantage of restroom facilities along our travels, many are not available at trail-heads or throughout our hikes. We will offer a simple “hiker’s toiletry kit” if you wish one, and we always practice “Leave No Trace” ethics.

Cultural Sensitivity?

Elements of this trip include visits to rural areas, where traditional families welcome us as guests. Please know that we practice "visiting with respect" with each and every family, regardless of their provided amenities. Is rock art really art? Many tribal members and descendent communities reject the term “art” and prefer to use “image” instead. They recognize that to many westerners, “art” is a value-laden word that has been misused to disparage these images and misses the point of the images entirely. We use these terms interchangeably in our materials and dialogue to convey mutual understanding. In many cases, rock images were created for both practical and religious purposes.

Should I get travel insurance?

Yes, we highly recommend that all of our program participants purchase some type of travel insurance to help you protect your purchase against any unforeseen circumstances. When you don’t purchase travel insurance, you risk losing your full deposit and any other payments that you have made toward the trip. Crow Canyon does not endorse any particular travel insurance agency, but we recommend visiting (link) as a starting point. At the least, Crow Canyon recommends purchasing cancellation, evacuation, and/or baggage insurance.

If I cancel, will I get my deposit back?

If you cancel before 90 days prior to the start of the program, you can get a refund equal to 50% of your deposit. Instead of a refund, you could transfer your deposit to another program through 2020 or turn your deposit into a tax-deductible donation. If you cancel after 90 days prior to the program, you forfeit all payments and your deposit.

Are there any restrictions regarding the rock art?

Rock art provides a window into the past rituals, beliefs, and artistic abilities of its creators. Because of its scientific, aesthetic, and religious significance, it deserves respectful behavior. This unique and ancient artwork is also very fragile. We can help ensure its preservation so that our grandchildren's grandchildren will also be able to appreciate it. Please never touch or apply any chalk or other material on the designs. Please avoid walking or sitting on rock art panels. When visiting a rock art site, leave no trace of your trip so that others may have the pleasure of finding the site in its pristine, undisturbed condition. If you see vandalism or damage occurring on public land, please report it to your guide.

Who should I reach out to with questions?

Crow Canyon’s Cultural Explorations team works hard all year planning these incredible trips. If you have questions regarding the itinerary, accommodations, travel, etc., please reach out to Kate Thompson by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 970-564-4395.

If you have questions about payments or invoices, please contact our Enrollment Specialists by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 800-422-8975, ext. 457.

For further information on the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center’s Terms, Conditions, and Cancellation Policies please click here. You will find details on tuition, cancellations, travel insurance, accommodations, medical information, and more.

Tuition & Reservation

Single Tuition
  Member*: $3,445
  Nonmember: $3,570

Shared Tuition
  Member*: $2,995
  Nonmember: $3,120

Deposit (due at time of registration): $500
*If you are interested in becoming a Crow Canyon member, please contact our Enrollment Specialists.

Registration Deadline: January 30, 2019

To Register:
Call: 800-422-8975, ext. 457
E-mail: [email protected]


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