Ryan Mountain (Joshua Tree National Park)

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View of San Gorgonio Mountain and San Jacinto Peak from Ryan Mountain, Joshua Tree National Park
San Jacinto and San Gorgonio from Ryan Mountain
Boulders on the Ryan Mountain Trail, Joshua Tree National Park
Boulders near the Ryan Mountain trail head

Ryan Mountain  (Joshua Tree National Park)

  • Location: Joshua Tree National Park. From Highway 62, about six miles past the junction with Highway 247 and 26 miles northeast of I-10, take Park Boulevard (signed for the park) south (turn right if you’re coming from the west, left if from the east). Follow the road for a total of 17.6 miles to the signed Ryan Mountain Trail Head on the right side of the road, shortly past the junction with Keys View Road. Admission is $20 per vehicle for a week. The inter-agency America the Beautiful pass ($80 per year) is also accepted here.
  • Agency: Joshua Tree National Park
  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,050 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season:  October – April (day use only; gate shuts at sunset)
  • USGS topo maps: “Indian Cove”, “Keys View”
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here, here and here; video of the hike here
  • Rating: 9

Excellent views and an easy-to-follow trail make Ryan Mountain (elevation 5,457) one of Joshua Tree National Park’s most popular destinations. The trail is steep but the scenery is beautiful and varied from start to finish. You’re likely to have company on the trail but the hike still manages to feel isolated, thanks to the vastness of the terrain surrounding the mountain.

Ryan Mountain trail head, Joshua Tree National Park
0:00 – Trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From the parking area, follow the trail as it makes its way between some giant boulders. In 0.2 miles, a trail from the sheep pass campground joins up from the left. The trail to Ryan mountain stays straight, climbing steeply up a northwestern facing ridge. As you ascend, your efforts yield great views of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio.

San Jacinto Peak as seen from the Ryan Mountain Trail, Joshua Tree National Park
0:18 – View of San Jacinto Peak (times are approximate)

At about o.8 miles, the trail reaches a saddle dotted with a few pinyon pines. Continue uphill to a bench (1.1 miles) where a lone Joshua tree presides over the steeply dropping eastern slope of the mountain. The grade levels out here and the last 0.3 miles to the summit are the easiest.

On the long, almost flat peak, you enjoy a panoramic view including the giants to the west, the Santa Rosas, the Little San Bernardinos and a nearly aerial view of Wonderland of Rocks, Lost Horse Valley and more. A metal sign identifies the peak by name for photo ops. After enjoying the view descend via the same route.

0:28 - Pinyon pines at the saddle, about 2/3 of the way up
0:28 – Pinyon pines at the saddle, about 2/3 of the way up

In case you were wondering, Ryan Mountain was named after brothers Thomas and Jep Ryan, former owners of the nearby Lost Horse Mine, another one of the park’s popular destinations.

0:40 - Lone Joshua Tree at an overlook near the top
0:40 – Lone Joshua Tree at an overlook near the top

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Panoramic view from Ryan Mountain, Joshua Tree National Park
0:43 – Looking northeast from the summit

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