The Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is a spectacular hike that offers panoramic views from the second highest point in the park.

Mount Ryan is one of our favorite hikes, not only in Joshua Tree National Park, but throughout Southern California. We’ve done it twice and it was a great time each time.

Since Mt. Ryan is located in the middle of the park and offers breathtaking 360 degree views, Mt. Ryan does one of the most popular hikes in Joshua Tree. In good weather, you can expect to share the trail with other hikers, including families with young children!

If you’re planning to hike the Ryan Mountain Trail during your visit to Joshua Tree National Park (and we think it’s a great addition to your itinerary!), read up on what to expect and what you need to know in advance.

What can you expect to see on the Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park?
Joshua Tree Mount Ryan Trail Background
How to get to the Mount Ryan Trailhead
How long does it take to hike the Mount Ryan Trail
Things to bring on a Mount Ryan hike
Tips for hiking the Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

What can you expect to see on the Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park is famous for its massive rock formations and desert flora, and you’ll see plenty of them as you begin to climb the mountain.

Mount Ryan rises to 5,456 feet and the view from the top is nothing short of spectacular. You can almost see the entire desert park below you, as well as the mountains in the distance.

The views get better and better the higher you go, so stop now and then to look around, enjoy and take pictures! The breaks also give you the opportunity to catch your breath during the climb!

Although the path climbs to the top, the first part of the trail is a staircase carved into the local stone and is relatively steep. Later, it’s still a steady climb, but without the steps.

A pile of loose rocks marks the top of Mt. Ryan. Once at the top, walk around to enjoy the views in all directions and find a place to sit and eat.

On a clear day the views are stunning, especially if you come when there is snow on the mountains in the distance. Look out for Mount San Jacinto and Mount Gorgonio, the highest peak in Southern California.

Rocks, flora and fauna

One of the best things about visiting Joshua Tree National Park is the variety of flora and fauna that can be seen.

At low altitudes, look for Joshua trees. You will also see a variety of succulents along the way. If you hike through Joshua Tree in the spring, you may see flowering cacti and Joshua trees during your visit.

Stop at the trailhead to take photos of the beautiful white granite pool formation visible from the trailhead. At lower altitudes you will see more formations to photograph, such as B. the wonderland of rocks.

Watch out for wild animals! In addition to small animals such as lizards, bighorn sheep can also be seen, especially in the highlands.

Important facts about the Mount Ryan to Joshua Tree Trail

The Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is a 3-mile loop trail that leads to and from the top of the mountain.

The elevation gain on this trail is about 1,070 feet, which is a real workout. There are many steps in the lower half of the path. The rest is earth and gravel.

The Ryan Mountain trail is considered difficult by the park. When we arrived, we saw hikers of all ages on the trail. Since this is a relatively hilly trail, we would say it is a moderate to low effort.

Dogs are not allowed on the path. The Ryanka Trail is open year-round, but if you plan to visit in the winter, choose a day with good weather to avoid ice or snow along the trail.

The Ryanka Mountain Trail is not accessible to strollers, so you may need to bring small children.

How do I get to the start of the route on the mountain? Ryan

The Ryan Mountain Trail is located on Park Boulevard, the main road that runs east-west through the northern part of Joshua Tree National Park (see map).

The trail is located between Sheep Pass Campground and Ryan Ranch Campground, about halfway between the north and west entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, and is marked.

There is a large parking lot and primitive restrooms along the way. There are no toilets on the road.

From the parking lot, you will see a sign for the trail and stairs leading up the hill to begin the hike.

How long does it take to walk the Ryan Mountain Trail?

Without any unnecessary stops, you could go to Mt. Ryan does it in 1.5-2 hours. But we usually do it around three or four, longer if the day is clear and the pictures are good.

We recommend taking about three hours, if you have the time, to enjoy the expansive views from the trailhead and summit and to observe the flora and fauna.

What to bring on a mountain hike Ryan


The Ryan Mountain Trail is a desert hike. Regardless of the time of year, you should have plenty of drinking water with you, but all the more so in hot weather.

It is not possible to buy food or water in the park, so stock up before you arrive. Water bags or water bottles are a convenient way to carry enough water while hiking. There is no drinking water on the trail, so refuel at the visitor centers or outside the park.

Portable snacks and/or meals

We always bring protein bars, fruit and dried fruit mixes. It’s a relatively healthy way to dress and it’s very tasty! You will love to feast while enjoying the view from above.

If you start early, bring a thermos of hot drink to enjoy at the summit. If you’re at the summit at lunchtime, bring a sandwich! Make yourself something to get up and eat: We didn’t see many flat rocks to sit on.

digital camera withzoom lens

Your smartphone is a great way to capture the beautiful landscape: Don’t forget to record a video too!

However, if you like to take pictures of birds and animals, you can bring a small camera with a powerful zoom.

We use the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70 and we love it. It has a 30x zoom and a Leica lens and takes great pictures of birds and small animals. It’s small enough to fit in a pocket, so we don’t have to carry heavy equipment when we camp.


You won’t find much shade on the Ryan Mountain Trail (if you start very early, there will be some shade at the beginning). Wear a wide-brimmed hat with SPF protection.

Sun protective clothing

On camping trips where we know we will be in the sun most of the day, we wear sun shirts and pants. They are light and comfortable, even in the heat of the desert. Discover this shirt for women on amazon or this shirt for men.

Sunscreen, lip balm SPF and sunglasses

Again, Mt. Ryan Trail a trail in the desert. Don’t forget your sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm with SPF.

Good walking shoes or boots

Sturdy hiking boots or closed-toed shoes are required for good traction on rocks, gravel and mud. We wear Merrell Moab’s now, and we love them. The shoes are wide at the toes, supportive and not super heavy.

Check out the women’s shoes here on Amazon, and the men’s shoes here.

Garmin InReach Mini for messaging

If you don’t have a mobile phone, you can use the Garmin InReach Mini to send text messages or an SOS request when you need help. If you hike regularly, this is a good investment for your peace of mind!
Buy from REI. Buy from Amazon.

Tips for hiking the Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Start at the beginning of the day

In season, the Ryan Mountain Trail can be busy in the late morning and early afternoon. Although the parking lot is large, it can be full during peak hours.

Come early in the morning, not only to have parking when you arrive, but also to take advantage of better light for photography and less bright sun.

or late arrival at 12 am

If you start working late at night, you usually won’t have a problem finding a parking space. Plan your walk so that you can see the sunset on the way back, but return to your car while it is still light.

Late at night for photography, the light gets softer and you can get colorful skies even at sunset!

Autumn to spring hike on the Mount Ryan Trail

Although the trail is open year-round, the park does not recommend hiking it in the summer or in high outdoor temperatures.

Late fall and spring are the best times of year to hike in Joshua Tree National Park, and this trail is no exception. We did two hikes in late winter and early spring, on a clear, bright day.

Always check the weather conditions before you leave: There is rarely any snow in Joshua Tree in the winter! During the cold season, watch out for stains on surfaces caused by frost and ice.

Allowing sufficient time

We always recommend taking a little extra time when camping, especially if the hike offers great views.

You will take time to enjoy the views, take pictures and observe the plants and animals as you hike.

Also, if you plan to take breaks or if you want to do this hike with young children, you should take breaks during the ascent.

Weather Dress

Layers are a great idea for a mountain hike. It will probably be cooler in the shade, especially early and late in the day, and cool to chilly at the top.

Light, loose-fitting clothing will also keep you comfortable while walking. Dress to protect yourself from the sun: Thin, long-sleeved shirts and pants keep the sun off your back and keep you comfortable during the hottest part of the day.


Looking for more great hikes in Joshua Tree National Park? Check out our articles on the Barker Dam Nature Trail or the popular Hidden Valley Trail! Also check out our best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park!

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