Want to stretch your legs with a challenging hike in Joshua Tree National Park? Ryan Mountain provides a relatively short but steep hike up to a great viewpoint in the middle of the park. The hike is 1.5 miles, one-way, and gains 1,000 feet in elevation.
The trailhead for the Ryan Mountain hike is located along Park Boulevard in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park. It’s west of attractions like Skull Rock and east of the road to Keys View.
The park ranger at the visitor center recommended the hike up Ryan Mountain, and that’s all the reason I needed to give it a try. This trail is about one thing, and one thing only: climbing.
It immediately starts uphill. In many places, it’s like you’re going up a staircase. Think about that – a thousand foot, or 100-story, staircase.
The trail circles around the side of the mountain that you see from the trailhead.
I wasn’t in the greatest shape as I headed into this trip, and on the day I hiked Ryan Mountain, I had already been hiking every day for a week. In other words, it was pretty challenging for me.
Before long, you realize you’re headed to a saddle.
This saddle, by the way, is about 700 feet up. When you get there, you’re more than 2/3 the way to the top.
The climb is somewhat easier after the saddle.
When I reached the top, there were a few other people up there, but they were all hunkered down behind rocks, bushes, or anything else they could find. The weather was quite windy, and at the top of Ryan Mountain, it was howling (not to mention, a little chilly).
There’s a sign that confirms your arrival at the top of Ryan Mountain. I was more interested in finding some shelter from the wind behind a pile of rocks.
Eventually I came out from my sheltered spot and took a few pictures at the top of the hill. There are a few tiny Joshua trees up there, but not a lot of them.
You’ll also find some various kinds of cactus, and of course, some pretty good views of the surrounding park in every direction.
I think this shot looks back towards the Geology Tour Road area, which is where I decided to explore next.
The Bottom Line
The hike up Ryan Mountain is challenging, but it should be doable for most people. I took about 58 minutes to reach the top, and I made it down in less than 40. The amount of time you spend at the top depends greatly on how windy it is – on a more calm day, it would be very pleasant up there. Windy or not, the views are great.
Here’s a look at the time-lapse video of the drive into Joshua Tree National Park from Twentynine Palms, ending at Ryan Mountain Trailhead: