Just Go to Joshua Tree National Park - Hiking the Ryan Mountain Trail – Just Go Travel Studios

Just Go to Joshua Tree National Park - Hiking the Ryan Mountain Trail

California Joshua Tree National Park

There are many hikes in Joshua Tree National Park and sorting through the “must dos” can be challenging.  The Ryan Mountain Trail is one of these trails that should not be missed.  This hike, which is located in the western part of the park, provides a route to the top of Ryan Mountain, awarding those willing to take the challenge with 360-degree panoramic views of the entire park and beyond.  Though the exposed trail is a bit challenging to summit on a hot day, it is highly recommended for those who have the time and energy to take it on!

Ryan Mountain Trail Infographic

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 Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary

 

The Ryan Mountain Trail is one of many hikes and sightseeing activities covered in our 12+ page itinerary for Joshua Tree National Park.

 

PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE RYAN MOUNTAIN TRAIL

To access the trail, park at the Ryan Mountain trailhead parking lot, located on Park Boulevard approximately 8.2 mi west of the intersection with Pinto Basin Road and about 12.6 miles east of the park’s western entrance.  You should allow about 25 minutes from the Oasis Visitor Center, and slightly less if coming from the western entrance.

Ryan Mountain Trail Information for Joshua Tree National Park

Window Trailhead Parking from the National Park Service

Parking is dedicated to this hike and there are just over 50 spots available, depending on the number of campers and larger vehicles present.  As this hike is popular, you should be prepared for the lot to be busy and potentially full.  You should be able to find a spot if you arrive to the hike early in the day or in the late afternoon.  If not, just be patient and a hiker coming off the trail should vacate a spot every 5 to 10 minutes.

Pit toilets are available at the trailhead, and they were very clean and in good repair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HIKE UP RYAN MOUNTAIN

As you stand looking south (which is likely the direction you parked your car), the trailhead starts from the left side of the lot.  Immediately after starting out on this hike, you head due south, and remain going in this direction for the entire trek.

Ryan Mountain Trailhead Sign in Joshua Tree National Park

Shortly after starting the hike (about 0.2 miles in), you’ll see another trail intersecting the Ryan Mountain Trail.  This is the Sheep Pass Connector Trail, which originates from the Sheep Pass Campground (about 0.8 miles to the east).  These trails stay together all the way up to the top of the mountain.

After the intersection, the dirt trail heads steadily uphill.  Those that engineered this trail really took care to make the climb even over the length of the hike and did so while maintaining a fairly direct route to the top.

While you are heading up, take time to look around.  The rock formations nearby are amazing to see.

Rock formations on the Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

The trail is very well maintained.  Even though you are climbing up a mountain, sturdy hiking shoes are adequate for this hike.  We kept the hiking boots in the car and were more than happy with our decision.

Like other hikes in Joshua Tree, it may appear to be barren and without life, but if you look around you'll be able to see plenty of life, like these barrel cactus, which dot the landscape (in addition to Joshua Trees, of course!).

Barrel Cactus in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park

As you get close to the top, the trail winds slightly before you finish climbing nearly 1100 feet since the start of the trail.  At this point, you’ve likely been hiking for over an hour and will be ready for a break at the top!

 

    

RYAN MOUNTAIN PEAK AND THE RETURN TRIP

Ryan Mountain Peak in Joshua Tree National Park

At the top of the mountain, you’ll have great 360-degree views all around you.  If you are lucky enough to come on a clear and smog-free day, you’ll be able to see the San Bernardino Mountains to the west and all the way into Arizona to the east.  We found it incredible that even though we were in the middle of the desert, we could see snow on the nearby mountains!

View from the peak of Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park

Snowy peaks from the top of Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park

The top can be busy, but it was large enough to accommodate all the hikers when we went and still allow everyone plenty of space.  Depending on the weather, you can also expect to have quite a bit of wind while you are enjoying the views and refueling.

Refueling at the top of Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park

We really liked the hike back down immensely.  Of course, the easier walk was nice and went pretty fast. However, the best part was that we had the sun at our backs, which made the views to the north very clear and highlighted the colors of the desert.  Make sure you take time to stop and enjoy the views on the way down but be careful to watch your step and not get complacent with your footing!

View from Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

View down the Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Coming down the Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Coming down Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park

 

 

 

 

 

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FINAL THOUGHTS

  • This trail is rated as “strenuous” by the National Park Service. The hike is not that difficult at all-the rate of elevation gain is modest compared to many other “moderate” trails in the National Park System.  However, what makes this hike difficult is the constant sun exposure (surprise-there is no shade in the desert!) together with the potential for blistering temperatures.  If you are not prepared, the combination of the beating sun and the steady incline will prove to be too much to handle.  To counteract this, we recommend carrying twice as much water as you think you need (2 liters for this hike is a good amount, even in the wintertime as it can be very dry), plenty of sunblock and allow plenty of time for the hike.  You should also make sure you wear a hat.
  • For carrying water, we recommend the Platypus pack. While similar to other water packs, this bag can be used with any backpack and is easy to clean.  Another great option is this bottle by CamelBak.
  • If you can, we recommend taking this hike earlier in the morning or in the later afternoon. This will provide the best views as well as the most moderate temperatures.  Other hikes to do in the middle of the day include short ones like the Cholla Cactus Garden.  The Hidden Valley hike, which is nearby, is also a great walk and is has some shady spots!

 

   

    FURTHER JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK INFORMATION FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS

    • There is a ton to do in Joshua Tree, and the Ryan Mountain Trail is just one of the places we cover in our 12+ page itinerary for Joshua Tree National Park. Our itineraries cover great hikes, places to stay, what to pack and what to do while you are in the area.  We also rank each hike based on hundreds of ratings to take away the guesswork of how to spend your time while you are in the park.
    • Another great hike to take in Joshua Tree is reviewed in our blog, Hiking the Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail.
    • For a broad overview of what we did while we were in Joshua Tree, see our extensive blog post on Joshua Tree National Park. We discuss many more of the hikes and places to see while visiting the park.
    • We’ll work with you to create custom, vintage-style posters, postcards and note cards from your own photos, including those of Big Bend National Park. Check out our process!
    Joshua Tree National Park custom poster

        OTHER USEFUL LINKS INFORMATION ON JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK


          Amy and Pete from Just Go Travel Studios

           

           

           

           

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          • Peter Vincent Brahan on

            Thanks Jamie! Yes, we were surprised that it was rated as a “strenuous” trail. I think that is mainly due to the exposed nature and making sure people know what they are getting into if they decide to hike in the heat of the day in the summer. Make sure you try it out next time you head down to Joshua Tree!

          • Jamie on

            Good advice for hiking early in the day since the trail has no shade… and carrying more water than you think you need. This is the standard for adventure in the US southwest. I would have bypassed this hike since it said strenuous, but after reading your article, I think it seems more moderate and would hike this trail!

          • Tara on

            This is such a great overview, but I’ll admit it makes me sad because the day I planned this hike on our visit, it rained buckets, and we had to skip it. Now I realize what I missed out on. Our favorite was the Barker Dam Trail.


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