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Chillin' On The Summit Of Ryan Mountain

Ryan Mountain Hike, Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a hiker’s paradise, especially in early March when the temperatures are moderate and the desert flowers are beginning to bloom.While visiting Palm Springs, my daughter and I made a day trip to the park.

We only had a few hours so we chose the Ryan Mountain hike for the fantastic 360 degree views you get from the summit. The hike is steep in places but not difficult. Over 1.5 miles it gains 1000 feet of elevation on a very well-marked trail. Allow 1.5 hours to do the return hike.

The best time to do the Ryan Mountain hike is in spring, fall and winter. If you attempt it in the summer, do it first thing in the morning before the desert heats up.

The Ryan Mountain Trailhead
The Ryan Mountain Trailhead

The Ryan Mountain hike is a moderate one on an easy to follow trail. It’s a popular hike that offers 360 degree views of Joshua Tree National Park – so its a great hike to get your bearings. If you’re new to the park this is one of the top hikes to do.

The hike starts off in a world of big boulders. I felt like I was on the set of the Flintstones cartoon with Fred and Wilma the only thing missing.

Even though the trail is a snap to follow, it is still rugged so good footwear is important. In short order you’re treated to superb views as the Wonderland of Rocks opens up to the northwest. 

Starting off on the Ryan Mountain hike
Starting off on the Ryan Mountain hike

Within 15 minutes of hiking you get some views and they just get better the higher you go. You should be able to see San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Peaks, the Wonderland of Rocks and the Lost Horse Valley.

Expansive views on the Ryan Mountain hike right off the bat
Expansive views on the Ryan Mountain hike right off the bat
The Ryan Mountain hike is a popular one
The Ryan Mountain hike is a popular one
I love this arid landscape
I love this arid landscape
Joshua Trees grow only in the Mojave Desert
Joshua Trees grow only in the Mojave Desert
Chillin' on the summit of Ryan Mountain
Chillin’ on the summit of Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain summit shot
Ryan Mountain summit shot
You know it's dry when you see these cacti
You know it’s dry when you see these cacti
10,381 ' Mt. San Jacinto is one of the mountains you see from the summit
10,381 ‘ Mt. San Jacinto is one of the mountains you see from the summit
Superb views everywhere you turn
Superb views everywhere you turn
A place for meditation and contemplation
A place for meditation and contemplation

We got lucky with a sighting of about ten desert bighorn Sheep. Apparently about 250 sheep live in Joshua Tree National Park.

Desert bighorn sheep seen on the Ryan Mountain hike
Desert bighorn sheep
Heading back to the car on the Ryan Mountain hike
Heading back to the car on the Ryan Mountain hike

Go prepared on the Ryan Mountain hike

As with any desert hike, you should go prepared. Take water, sunscreen and a sunhat. You might need a light-weight jacket if its blowy on the summit.

Dogs and bikes are not allowed on this trail. You do need a park pass to access the trail. Entrance fees are $30 per car, good for a week. Motorcycles are $25. Should you enter on foot or bicycle it’s $15.

Allow 2-3 hours to do the round-trip hike – and even more time if you hang out at the summit.

For more information on Joshua Tree National Park visit their website.

Map of the Ryan Mountain hike
Map of the Ryan Mountain hike

Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree is a great place to camp – and allows easy access to so many great hikes. It sure beats driving back and forth to Palm Springs. Campgrounds though usually fill between October and May!

There are 9 developed campsites, with many of them are closed from late May until early September. Some sites like Jumbo Rocks Campground are by reservation only whereas many are on a first come- first served basis.

For more information on all the campsite – and attendant rules and regulations visit the camping section of the Joshua Tree National Park website.

I’d like to visit for several days for the stars alone – and the fact there are so many private and very beautiful camping spots.

Beautiful camping spots in Joshua Tree National Park
Beautiful camping spots in Joshua Tree National Park

Further reading on hiking in US national parks

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Ryan Mountain hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California

 

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Don’t think I’ve ever heard of this park before. Looks an interesting hike; unusual landscapes.

  2. I’ve never been to Joshua Tree National Park, but these images make me want to go! It seems like the perfect hike to do when you’re in Palm Springs. I actually like that dogs and bikes aren’t allowed on the trail.

  3. I remembre seeing lots of Joshua trees on a road triple around the USA some years back. It also reminds me of a hike in Death Valley in August!
    Fabulous desert landscapes! Thanks for the Great images

  4. Joshua Tree is one of my favorite parks – I love all those big bolders and the spikey Joshua Trees. We stayed just outside the park at a funky little cottage, but this is one of the few places I’d like to camp. . . the camp sites, scattered between the boulders, look amazing. We really liked both Barker Dam (go early for wildlfe and good reflections) and the hidden valley — both easy hikes, but probably on the other side of the park from where you were. I hope you did some of the Indian Canyons while in Palm Springs!

    1. @Cindy I’m in love with those boulders too and the contrast in textures is such a dream for photographers.I will be back with my tent sometime in the near future. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place at night. And I have done some of the Indian Canyons but not on this trip. Palm Springs is an easy trip from Calgary so I do see many return visits.

  5. I love the California desert and think I would love this hike, too. I’ve driven around and through Joshua Tree National Park, but have never spent any quality time. This is a great tip for something to do there with only a few hours to spare (which is usually the case with me). Beautiful photos — you really capture the beauty of the desert.

    1. @Cathy This is such a great hike when you’re short on time. I would love to be there this week as it rained and I imagine the desert flowers are going to be incredible.

  6. I’m glad you enjoyed Joshua Tree NP. This is about 1.5 hour from me and it’s been far too long since we’ve visited. This looks like such a great hike that I may need to look into it next time. My kids love scrambling all over those rocks. Lucky you for spotting the big horn sheep! We’ve only ever seen coyotes. Beautiful photos, leigh and you really captured the highlights of this park.

  7. Ahh I love Joshua Tree! It’s got so many unusual and amazing landscapes. I love how you captured all the different layers of color you can see there. And yes, you really should go back and camp under the stars there – it’s incredible at night.

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