Ryan Mountain Trail In Joshua Tree Is Difficult. Here’s Why

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The Ryan Mountain trail is a well-known 2.9-mile trail that requires approximately 1-2 hours to complete It has a total ascent of 1,050 feet, with the highest point at 5,457 feet.

The Ryan Mountain Trailhead offers astonishing views that will leave you stunned, making it one of the most frequently hiked trails at the Joshua Tree National Park.

How To Get To Ryan Mountain Trail At Joshua Tree National Park

The Ryan Mountain trailhead is sited along Park Boulevard about 1.5 miles past the Keys View Road split in the Joshua Tree National Park. It is situated between Sheep Pass Campground and the Ryan Campground.

Campers at the Sheep Pass can access the Ryan Mountain trail through the alternate trailhead with parking space available, unlike the non-campers who do not enjoy this parking spot privilege.

About the Ryan Mountain trail

Considering the number of miles (2.9), to be precise, one might assume that the Ryan Mountain Trail would be an easy hike. Though the trail is clear-cut, it is somewhat challenging as it has a 1050ft elevation gain. The Ryan Mountain trail was rated arduous by the Joshua Tree National Park.

Steps are incorporated at the beginning of the trail but cut off subsequently with elevation gain. The trail takes you through several enormous rock formations, such as Wonderland Rock. You’ll also come across lots of Joshua trees, plants, and wildlife.

These rock formations in the landscape are frequented by expert rock climbers from all over the country, although most visitors prefer to watch them climb and enjoy one of the best hikes in the Joshua Tree National Park.

As you proceed along the hiking trail, you will come across a dirt track with jaggedly chiseled steps. You can make several stops to take in the sweeping panoramic views or snag some beautiful pictures to relive the experience later. You also get to rest for some time while having some light refreshments.

On getting to the first half of the trail, you can see the Ryan Ranch, the Ryan Ruins, and the vast desert landscape spread out underneath you. As you proceed along the trail, you might catch glimpses of wildlife such as the bighorn sheep.

You should also be able to see Quail Mountain and different plants like the cactus as you climb to the summit of Ryan Mountain. As you hike to Ryan Mountain, you might see other hikers and climbers in other parts of the Joshua Tree National Park as the trail continues.

The Ryan Mountain Summit

The summit of Ryan Mountain is the second highest of all the mountains in the California desert, next to mount San Jacinto, which has the tallest peak. Upon reaching the summit, enjoy the stunning views as you see the desert and many trees, including the Joshua Tree and cactus plants.

If you are in luck, you might also see the distant mountains, Mount San Jacinto and San Gorgonio, the highest in Southern California on a clear day. Watch for birds and other wildlife while you are at it.

After taking in the surreal scenery of the mountain, you might as well make videos and take enough pictures to remind you of your adventures. Head down back through the trail to return to the park once you have had your fill of Ryan Mountain.

What bringing along for the hike

If you are considering hiking on the Ryan Mountain trail, here are some things you should consider bringing along with you;

1. Clothing

You might want to consider dressing according to the season when going for a hike on the Ryan Mountain trail in Joshua Tree National Park. Remember that there is no shade from the sun while hiking Ryan Mountain during summer, and the weather could be extremely hot. During winter, you might want to bring along some jackets and extra clothing to keep you warm from the wind and cold.

2. Comfortable hiking boots

As you gain elevation on the Ryan Mountain trail, you’ll come across various gravels and rocks. Since you’ll be hiking on this rough surfaced trail, consider bringing along light and durable boots with reinforced and closed toes.

3. Drinking water

No matter what time of year you’re planning to hike Ryan Mountain, you need to bring along enough water of about 1-2 gallons as you will not get water to buy once you’re on the Ryan Mountain trail. If you forget to come along with water, you can get water at National Park before going up the trail. This will help keep you from dehydrating, especially during summer when scorching hot weather.

4. Sunscreen and hats

Do not forget that Ryan Mountain is on a desert trail. Therefore it would be a great idea to come along with some SPF sunscreens to prevent sunburn due to the hot weather. You might also want to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and lip balm to prevent cracked lips.

Hats are also important as they’re additional sun protection against sunburn. An example is the wide brim bucket hat.

6. A good camera

As you enjoy one of your favorite hikes on Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree Park, you might want to make enough videos and take beautiful pictures of the entire time spent on the Ryan Mountain hike. This is where a high-quality camera comes in; your phone camera could also suffice.

7. Headlamps

This will come in handy for an evening Ryan Mountain hike. This helps light your path as you gain elevation and navigate past the rocks. Watch out for the elevation gain, as it can get tricky at night.

Locating The Ryan Mountain Trail

The Ryan Mountain trail is easy to locate as its parking space is on the main road in Joshua Tree Park.

Children and adults can go on the Ryan Mountain hike whenever they choose, as it is open to visitors throughout the year. However, the Joshua Tree Park services warn about hiking Ryan Mountain during summer, especially on days with extreme temperatures, as it could be very uncomfortable for hikers.

You might want to visit Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree in the early morning hours because it gets crowded as the day progresses. Also, going early is a great way to get good parking space and avoid the excruciating heat from the sun.

You get to watch the sunset from the summit if you visit in the late afternoon. If you like crowds, you can visit around late morning but be warned as there would be limited space in the parking lot; therefore, you might want to arrive early.

If you are visiting for the first time, look out for a tour guide or ranger, as they’ll help guide you and make the hike easier. There is little or no cell reception as you go up the mountain. Avoid running up the Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree so as not to exhaust yourself on the steep track. Also, be on the lookout for the Joshua Tree map to get information and directions as you hike.


Though the Ryan Mountain trail is a challenging climb, it remains one of the most hiked trails in the Joshua Tree National Park. The stunning view from the summit makes the hike worth the effort.