Joshua Tree National Park offers a variety of incredible day hikes to choose from, but one hike that stands out for many is the 3 miles long Ryan Mountain Trail.
With a 360 overlook of the entire National Park waiting for hikers at the top, Ryan Mountain has become a must-do trail for Joshua Tree visitors.
To help you plan and make the most of this hike, here is our detailed guide covering all you need to know for hiking the Ryan Mountain Trail at Joshua Tree National Park!
Psst! If you have any energy left after your hike, we also recommend checking out the nearby:
If you’d rather go to the campsite and take a nap (like we did), we won’t judge ya either!
Quick Trail Facts
Before we dive into the details, here are a few Ryan Mountain Trail facts to give you an overall idea of the hike:
- Length: 3 miles out and back
- Time needed: 2-3 hours
- Trail difficulty: Moderate to difficult
- Elevation gain: Around 1066 feet
- Dogs allowed?: No
Location & Parking
Ryan Mountain Trail is located at the center of Joshua Tree National Park near other popular trails and campsites.
There is a decent size parking lot designated just for Ryan Mountain Trail where you can leave your car. Once you park you can find the trailhead in the middle of this lot. There is also a restroom if you need to use it before or after your hike.
At the trailhead, you can check out a map of the Ryan Mountain Trail and what you can expect. We came on a pretty busy day and there was a ranger at the trailhead giving visitors tips for the hike. Thanks to his suggestion we brought along jackets which helped us deal with wind and cold weather at the summit.
Ryan Mountain Trail Address: Park Blvd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Ryan Mountain Trail Description
Ryan Mountain Trail is one of the best hikes at Joshua Tree National Park but it is also one of the most difficult ones. With over 1000 feet elevation gain in just 1.5 miles, this trail is both challenging and strenuous.
Map Of Ryan Mountain Trail:
Ryan Mountain Trail is straightforward and follows the same path up a mountain for the entire time. Once you reach the summit you can rest for a bit before heading back down the same way you came up.
If you’re not familiar with Joshua Tree I always recommend using a hiking app like AllTrails or Maps.Me to stay on track with your route.
Ryan Mountain Trail is a busy hike so it’s best to do it early in the morning or later in the afternoon if you want to avoid the crowds. This trail also offers no shade or trees so it can get very hot during the day.
The weather was super windy during our visit in April so we also brought jackets that we were thankful for. Despite the hot weather, it was quite windy and chilly at the top.
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Know Before You Go
If you plan to hike the Ryan Mountain Trail, here are a couple of things to keep in mind before you head out on the trail:
- There is a fee to enter and hike at Joshua Tree, even if you’re coming just for the day. The current cost is $30 for a 7-day visitor car pass or $25 for a 7-day motorcycle pass. Or you can purchase an annual National Park pass for $80 which grants you unlimited entry into US National Parks for a year. This is what I have and it usually pays itself off within a couple of trips.
- There is limited reception in Joshua Tree but we did get a bit of signal on the Ryan Mountain Trail towards the summit.
- Joshua Tree weather gets extremely hot past April which can be very dangerous, even for short day hikes. Before heading out on any trails be sure to bring enough water, wear a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and bring a lip balm. Try to hike early in the morning before it gets too hot and avoid hiking in the middle of the day during high heat times.
- Joshua Tree does not have any drinking water. You will need to purchase enough water for hiking and camping ahead of time.
- There are no gas stations inside Joshua Tree National Park. Be sure to fill up on gas before entering the park so you don’t get stranded in the desert with no gas.
- Dogs are not allowed on this trail so this is something to keep in mind if you brought your dog to Joshua Tree. You can read more about Joshua Tree National Park pet policy here.
- It’s always a great idea to tell someone where you’re heading because accidents and heat exhaustion can happen at Joshua Tree. Sadly, people have lost lives at Joshua Tree, even on short trails like this one.
If you’re planning to camp at Joshua Tree overnight, there are several campsites near the Ryan Mountain Trail to choose from:
- Jumbo Rocks Campground. Jumbo Rocks is the biggest and most popular campground at Joshua Tree offering 124 campsites that are perfect for families and kids. We stayed here one night and really enjoyed it but these campsites do need to be booked ahead of time. You can make Jumbo Rocks Campground reservations here.
- Ryan Campground. This is a small campground close to the Ryan Mountain Trailhead that offers 31 campsites. You can make Ryan Campground reservations here.
- Hidden Valley Campground. This campground offers 44 sites on a first-come-first-serve basis. Hidden Valley Campground is a great choice if you’re heading on a last-minute trip or like to wing it instead of reserving campsites ahead of time. But in that case, try to get a campsite early on because they do fill up quickly especially on the weekends.
- Sheep Pass Campground. Sheep Pass is a nearby group campground that offers 6 campsites for large parties. You can make Sheep Pass Campground reservations here.
What To Bring
While the weather at Joshua Tree is pretty hot most of the year, it does cool down significantly in the winter. Typically, the best months to visit the California desert are February, March, April, October, and November.
During our trip in April, it was raining and super windy one day, then extremely hot the next. For our trip, we brought a variety of clothing items from leggings and jackets to t-shirts and shorts.
Here are some other items that we packed for our hikes at Joshua Tree:
- Merrell Mix Master Trail Running Shoes that are perfect for day hikes like this one
- Nike One Luxe leggings that are made from sustainable materials and can be worn for a few days straight when hiking and camping
- Comfortable t-shirts & flannels – great for hiking and camping outdoors
- Polarized Sunglasses to help with harsh sunlight
- Sunscreen & lip balm which is essential for hiking at Joshua Tree
- Reusable water bottle with a filter, plus extra water for longer day hikes like this one
- Headlamp and a first aid kit for emergencies
- Portable phone charger in case your phone runs out of battery or you get lost
- A light jacket & cozy beanie in case it gets cold at the top of Ryan Mountain
- A small day pack. I use the REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack which fits everything I need for a day hike and comes with a breathable back & mesh straps for extra comfort.
Our Experience Hiking The Ryan Mountain Trail
Here is the detailed breakdown of the Ryan Mountain Trail for those wondering what the hike is like & a few of the “must-see” stops along the trail.
After arriving at the trailhead, we checked out the trail map and chatted with the ranger who already hiked this trail multiple times that morning. We barely made it up once, so I can’t imagine hiking it multiple times in a single day!
The Ryan Mountain Trail starts on a wide path and immediately starts climbing up in elevation. This trail is quite strenuous but my 60-year-old mom made it (with plenty of rest stops along the way) so it is doable for most people.
While the majority of trails at Joshua Tree are relatively short and easy, the Ryan Mountain Trail is challenging and can take longer than expected. Be sure to bring extra water and some snacks in case that happens.
The hike itself is straightforward and follows the same path. The first section traverses up on the side of the mountain and then climbs directly up to the summit of Ryan Mountain.
The trail consists mostly of dirt and giant rocks that can be difficult to climb for people with knee or joint issues so be sure to take your time.
About halfway up we got a bit of cell reception so this is a good spot to check in with someone if you’re exploring Joshua Tree for an extended time.
As we neared the top, the wind started picking up significantly and we were so glad that we brought jackets and warm clothing.
Once we reached the summit the hard work paid off and we were greeted with sweeping panoramic views of Joshua Tree as far as we could see. We even spotted a bighorn sheep that was hopping around the rocks near the mountaintop.
It was very windy at the peak so we didn’t hang around for too long before we started making our way down the mountain.
The way down was so much faster but it can be tough on knees and toes because you’re climbing down 1000 feet in elevation. If you have hiking poles, it’s a great idea to bring them along for assistance.
Overall, it took us around 2.5 hours to hike the Ryan Mountain Trail with frequent breaks for resting and taking photos.
Joshua Tree is one of the most beautiful National Park in Southern California that is easy to access and hike. We hope you’re ready to take on the Ryan Mountain Trail but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask us in the comment section below and we’ll do our best to answer them!
Looking for a vacation rental around Joshua Tree National Park? Check out this post next that covers 10 Stunning VRBO Rentals In Joshua Tree, California!
RockHill Ranch Vacation House in Joshua Tree – click here to book it!
Looking for more Joshua Tree National Park Inspiration? Here are a few other Joshua Tree travel posts that you may like:
- 7 Incredible Day Hikes At Joshua Tree National Park
- Hiking Wall Street Mill Trail At Joshua Tree National Park
- Guide To Hiking Barker Dam Nature Trail In Joshua Tree
- Hiking Skull Rock Trail At Joshua Tree National Park
- Guide To Hiking Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail At Joshua Tree
Interested in stepping up your photography skills? Here is the camera gear that I use and recommend to create amazing travel photos:
- Main camera: Sony a7II Camera With 28-70 mm Standard Lens
- Polarizer Filter for the standard lens (helps eliminate reflection and enhance color especially on super bright days): Amazon Basics 55 mm
- Wide Lens (great for nature shots): Sony 16-35 mm F4
- Polarizer Filter for the wide lens: Amazon Basics 72 mm
- Small Tripod (to stabilize photos and eliminate blur): JOBY Gorrilapod
- Memory Cards: SanDisk 32 GB
- Batteries: Sony Camera Charger Set
- Camera Bag: Lowepro weather-resistant bag
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