Ryan Mountain Trail Hike Joshua Tree

Ryan Mountain Trail Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions and Video
  • Ryan Mountain Trail Maps
  • Everything You Need to Know To Do the Hike
Distance3 miles (4.8 km)
Hike Time1:30-2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,060 feet (323m)
Highest Elevation5,457 feet (1663m)
Fees & PermitsPark Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park Website (?)Joshua Tree National Park
Park Phone760-367-5500
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The Ryan Mountain Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Joshua Tree for a good reason. Ryan Mountain, at 5,457 feet, right in the middle of Joshua Tree, offers panoramic views as far as the eye can see. On a clear day you’ll be able to see the massive peaks of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio, the highest point in Southern California. The actual trail is straightforward but tough, climbing 1,050 feet to the summit of Ryan Mountain. It’s a must-do hike in Joshua Tree, so give it a try!

How to Get to the Ryan Mountain Trail

The Ryan Mountain Trail is located right in the middle of Joshua Tree Park on Park Blvd. Use this trailhead address:
Ryan Mountain Trail, Park Blvd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

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There’s plenty of parking in the lot and primitive bathrooms. The parking lot fills up quickly.

Ryan Mountain is the most popular hike in the park. Get here at dawn for the best experience.

Gear for the Hike

The Ryan Mountain Trail is pretty straightforward but it is tough. There is no shade and in the summer there have been emergency evacuations due to the heat. Bring at least 1L of water; when it’s hot bring at least 2L. The trail is rocky and light hiking boots will be the best option for your feet. You can also do this hike in fitness clothes. I’ve seen folks do it in casual clothing but it won’t feel great.

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La Sportiva Spire

The La Sportiva Spire boots feel like comfortable sneakers but offer the protection of hiking boots. They’re great on everything from short hikes to longer hikes of 10+ miles. You don’t want to skimp on your feet.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Opsrey Stratos Blue

I test a lot of gear, and for short to medium day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) are consistently the best. They’re lightweight, hold a hydration bladder to make drinking water easy, have lots of pockets to organize gear, and most importantly, are incredibly comfortable. Check out the reviews; they are impressive.
Reviews & Colors Here: Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) 

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI (or Amazon).

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated March 2020.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Ryan Mountain Trail Maps

Click To View Map

Ryan Mountain Trail Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy (prices on REI and Amazon) and does a lot of the same things.

Elevation Pr0file

Ryan Mountain Trail Hike Joshua Tree Elevation
You basically climb straight up, then come back down. There’s no hiding on the climb; you have to work to climb the 1,060 feet in 1.5 miles.

3D Map

Ryan Mountain Trail Hike Joshua Tree 3d Map
The first half of the hike climbs up stairs and trail to the saddle, where you bear right to hit the last part of the trail to the summit.

Ryan Mountain Trail Hike Directions

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Ryan Mountain is named after J.D. Ryan, who started a mill to crush stone here for miners in 1895. The steam mill required wood from the neighboring landscape to run, and the deforestation from the mill is still evident today in the park, over 100 years later.

Video Directions

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Turn by Turn Directions

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The trailhead is on the east side of the parking lot. The massive rock on the right is called white tank granite that’s 135 million years old.
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From the start you climb up stairs built from native rocks.
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Some of the stair sections are beautifully laid out.
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After about 0.2 miles you’ll reach the junction with the Sheep Pass Campground trail. Make the right turn.
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The stairs break and you get some nice views of Mt San Jacinto in the distance.
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And then there’s more stairs as you climb up to the saddle.
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Once at the saddle the trail turns right and you’re done with the stairs. The trail still climbs to the summit but it’s a little bit easier than the first half.
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Keep right towards the summit.
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And there it is! The pile of rocks marks the Ryan Mountain summit.
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From the top you get panoramic views Joshua Tree National Park, San Gorgonio Mountain (right), and San Jacinto (left).
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Grab your shot on the summit and then head back down the way you came to finish the hike.
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The views on the descent are pretty spectacular.

Native Rock Shelter

When you get back to the parking lot, don’t forget to visit the Native American rock shelter a minute away from the lot.

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The trailhead is marked by an interpretive sign about Desert People.
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Head under the rocks to see where Native peoples would shelter, grind nuts and berries, and cook them. You can still see the smoke stains on the top from centuries of use.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.