Ryan Mountain Hike Joshua Tree National Park

Updated: Nov 28

Joshua Tree National Park is home to some of the best desert hiking trails in the US National Park System.


The park is named after the peculiar Joshua Tree that can only be found in this geographic region.


In this post we will highlight all of the important questions visitors might have before attempting the Ryan Mountain hike within the park.


Have a specific question about hiking Ryan Mountain? Jump ahead using the table of contents below:


At the time of this writing visitors aren't required to utilize the National Park Service timed entry reservation system.


But it wouldn't hurt to hop over to Recreation.gov to ensure that policy hasn't changed. My gut says the NPS will eventually move most National Parks within the US over to this system eventually.


If you've never heard of the National Park timed entry system I would recommend checking out my post on the subject after you're done learning about Ryan Mountain.


You'll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I'm still happy you're here!

 

Where is Ryan Mountain located?


Joshua Tree National Park is about a two hour drive east of Los Angeles. Another great jumping off point for visiting the park is Palm Springs which is only about a 45 minute drive from the park.


If you're look to stay even closer to the park consider looking into the towns of Indio (to the south) or Twentynine Palms which sits to the north.


Ryan Mountain trailhead
Signs leading up to the trailhead

Visitors heading straight for Ryan Mountain should enter the park from the north. Using the West Entrance Station or road from Twentynine Palms will get you to Ryan Mountain the fastest.


If you enter from Twentynine Palms you'll need to turn right at the fork. The road leading into the park from the West Entrance Station will pass the Ryan Mountain parking area.


Those entering from the southern park entrance will have closer to an hour drive to reach the Ryan Mountain parking area.


While there's really only one fork to the main road the passes through Joshua Tree, the park itself is quite large and it takes quite a bit of time to drive across.


What to expect when hiking to Ryan Mountain


Ryan Mountain was my favorite hike that we attempted when visiting Joshua Tree National Park. I was pleasantly surprised at how diverse the park and trails here feel despite the desert terrain.


We arrived early on a cool December morning to attempt this hike. There were only a handful of other cars in the parking lot when we showed up.



Views in Joshua Tree
If you look closely you'll notice miles and miles of mountain ranges

Since we were one of the first visitors to arrive the trail was pretty empty on the way up which made the experience nice and peaceful.


Although the trail is fairly steep (gaining over 1,000 ft or 300 meters) in a short amount of time, the relatively short distance keeps the overall difficult in check.


This out and back trail is 3.0 miles (4.8 km) in total length so even younger visitors or those not in top tier hiking shape should be able to manage it.



As you work your way up the side of Ryan Mountain by foot you'll be rewarded with ever changing views of the vast Joshua Tree National Park.


The way up doesn't have any sheer drops so even if you're afraid of heights this one shouldn't be an issue.


Keep an eye out for wildlife along the way. About half way up the mountain we encountered a curious desert hare that went hopping by!


a desert hare in Joshua Tree National Park
We came across a desert hare on our way up Ryan Mountain

By the time we reached the top of Ryan Mountain the sun was completely out but it was still chilly due to the high winds we encountered.


This is typical for Ryan Mountain so even if you're comfortable at the start of your hike you might want to consider packing an extra layer to throw on when you reach the top!


The panoramic views of Joshua Tree National Park from atop Ryan Mountain are some of the best in the entire park. The Joshua Tree spotted desert seems to go on for ever no matter which direction you look.


We had the summit to ourselves for part of the morning and once we had our fill we started working back down the mountain.


The trek back down is easier in most ways, but tougher on your knees given the steepness. If you brought trekking poles this would be a great time to pull them out.


At this point the parking lot had filled and we could tell given the number of hikers we passed on the way down. Since the trail is narrow in many parts you'll have to take turns passing with your fellow hikers.


Stairs on the Ryan Mountain trail
I wasn't kidding when I said the trail up is steep!

It's a pain but at least if you arrive early you won't have to deal with it on the way up as well!


Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this hike and would definitely do it again next time I'm out to Joshua Tree.


Other things to know about Ryan Mountain


Preparing for new hikes can be a challenge at times.


There’s a fine line between being under prepared and over prepared when hitting the trail.


Not having the proper gear or supplies can make for a miserable experience. On the flip side, it can be a huge pain to venture out with way more than you need.



Below you’ll find a list of commonly asked questions to help you properly prepare for Ryan Mountain.


Once you're done there I'd also recommend checking out my guide with tons of useful things to know before visiting Joshua Tree.


Is there cell phone service at Ryan Mountain?


Cell phone service through out Joshua Tree National Park is fairly spotty. Don’t expect to have much along the way when hiking Ryan Mountain. I did have some luck receiving signal at the very top, but I wouldn’t count on it.


Is there an additional fee to access Ryan Mountain?


There isn’t an additional fee to access Ryan Mountain once you’ve entered Joshua Tree National Park. But as a reminder there is a fee to enter the park itself. Be sure to check out the current entrance rates at the National Park Service’s website before visiting.


How long does it take to hike Ryan Mountain?


The roundtrip distance to hike Ryan Mountain is about 3.0 miles or 4.8 kilometers. The trail is somewhat steep as it climbs over 1,000 ft (304 meters) in a relatively short period of time.


The average hiker should budget about 1 hour for the way up and 30 minutes for the trip back down.


Man taking a photo on Ryan Mountain
The sun was blinding but I definitely had to try taking a photo atop Ryan Mountain

On top of that be sure to leave plenty of time in your schedule to enjoy the views once you're up there!


Are pets allowed?


Pets are not allowed on any of the trails in Joshua Tree National Park. This rule includes the Ryan Mountain trail.


Are there bathrooms?


Restroom facilities can be found near the beginning of the trailhead for Ryan Mountain. After you park your vehicle keep a lookout for them. Once you set out hiking Ryan Mountain your only option will be the great outdoors!


Should I bring any special hiking gear for Ryan Mountain?


I would recommend wearing a decent pair of hiking boots when visiting Ryan Mountain. The trail is well kept but it’s primarily made of loose rock and dirt. Many portions of the hike can be fairly steep.


Once you reach the summit of Ryan Mountain it can be extremely windy. For this reason I would also suggest bringing an extra layer of clothing since it can be quite chilly here. There’s nothing worse than reaching the payoff point for a hike like this and be unable to enjoy it due to the cold.


Depending on the time of year you’re visiting Joshua Tree it can be extremely hot during the day. Be sure to bring plenty of water. There isn’t any where to purchase water within the park So you’ll need to plan ahead.


There’s essentially zero shade on this hike so be sure to pack sunscreen to protect you from the desert sun. If you have fair skin like me you should also consider packing a light top layer to cover your skin.


What is the best time of day to hike Ryan Mountain?


I would recommend attempting this hike in the morning. The earlier the better. There are a few reasons for this.


First off parking at the trailhead can be limited. If you show up late you’ll be stuck waiting for others to finish the hike before you can secure a parking space.


Starting this hike early also means you can avoid the harshest periods of sun exposure. Don’t under estimate the desert sun.


Not only will you avoid the harshest periods of sun exposure but you’ll also avoid the hottest parts of the day.


All of these reasons are why I would recommend you attempt this hike earlier in the day. If you’re an early bird you could also try waking up in time to catch the sunrise from atop the mountain!


Not a morning person? You could also attempt this hike closer to sunset. Be mindful of limited parking if you choose this option since you won’t be the only person with this idea. If you hike Ryan Mountain at sunset be sure to pack a headlamp or flashlight for the trek down since it will likely be extremely dark.


Is there food for purchase at Ryan Mountain?


There isn’t anywhere to purchase food or water at Ryan Mountain. Not even vending machines at the trailhead parking lot.


Also keep in mind that there isn’t really anywhere to purchase food or water within the entirety of Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll want to stock up before entering for the day!


What is the best time of year to hike Ryan Mountain?


I would recommend hiking Ryan Mountain any season other than summer (which runs from early May to early September) since it can be extremely hot during these months.


Hikes like Ryan Mountain and other longer treks within Joshua Tree National Park are quite pleasant during the winter (December to February) when temperatures within the park are cool.


Do I need a special permit or reservation to hike Ryan Mountain?


You do not need to make any special reservations or acquire any back country permits to hike Ryan Mountain. Access is included in the normal Joshua Tree National Park entrance fee.


Is hiking Ryan Mountain dangerous?


The Ryan Mountain hike is perfectly safe. The trail is well marked, duration manageable and there aren’t any sheer drops along the way.



The most import thing to remember when hiking Ryan Mountain is that it can be extremely hot along the trail later in the day. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen. There is no cover along the way.


Looking for more information on Joshua Tree?


If you're still looking for additional information or cool videos I took within Joshua Tree National Park then you're in luck! I also have a helpful YouTube video that highlights all of my favorite activities to see and do within the park.