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Ryan Mountain

Joshua Tree National Park

March 28th, 2010

3.0 miles
1050 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:11

Starting elevation
4416 feet
Max elevation
5477 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Joshua Tree, drive south along Park Blvd. and enter the park via the West Entrance Station. Continue following the road past Hidden Valley. At the fork in the road where going straight (right) leads to Keys View, turn left to stay on Park Blvd. Continue past the Ryan campground, another mile or two until you reach the Ryan Mountain trailhead parking, which is a large long parking area with restroom facilities.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

The large parking lot at the Ryan Mountain trailhead was nearly full when we arrived. Jared was still napping in the car, so I made a brief excursion to where a sign said Indian Cave, just to the right of the Ryan Mountain trailhead. However, I didn't see anything of note. No obvious petroglyphs, just some burned rock where someone had probably built a campfire.

I returned to the car and we started off on the hike. The trail almost immediately starts climbing up some steps past a collection of White Tank granite boulders. Though this is a relatively short hike, it climbs pretty much relentlessly. There are no flat sections to speak of. It's a steady climb, though, not too steep.

Looking back at the boulders near the parking lot


The trail heads straight out, perpendicular to the parking lot and road, and as you climb you can still see the parking lot below, beyond the granite boulders. After climbing a bit you'll reach the one and only trail intersection on this hike. The trail to the left heads over to Sheep Pass Campground. We instead took the right fork to continue on the Ryan Mountain trail.

Landscape dotted with Joshua trees

As we climbed further still, we lost sight of the parking lot around the corner, but gained better views of the Joshua trees, dotting the mostly flat landscape for miles. Nearer at hand, there weren't many Joshua trees at all along the trail, instead mostly cactus and bushes.

The Ryan Mountain trail is a bit deceptive in that you can't see the end for quite some time. Don't be fooled into thinking the top of that mountain you see in front of you is the peak. Instead, the trail twists and turns, revealing yet another, higher peak. We followed it up and up, eventually reaching an area with views looking down to the east. We rounded the corner and then could finally see the true summit on our right. The last section is also nice because it starts to level off a bit.

I was a bit surprised to find out that the summit wasn't very windy. There's a large rock cairn at the top. I'm not sure why it's there, but I did see some people add more rocks to it, so it may just be a case of it getting larger over time simply because it's there.

That's Cap Rock far below (center)

Rock formations to the northwest

Malapai Hill

The views from the top (elevation 5457) are great, extending almost 360 degrees. To the west we could see Cap Rock below. To the south, the mountains where Keys View lies. To the east, Malapai Hill and the Hexie Mountains.

Panoramic view looking west from Ryan Mountain
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After enjoying the views, we started our descent. The Ryan Mountain trail is a very popular trail, probably since it's only about 3 miles roundtrip and provides excellent views of much of the park. We encountered lots of hikers along the trail. Bikes and dogs are not allowed.

Descending the northeast side of Ryan Mountain

Continuing the descent

It's an out-and-back hike, so we simply retraced our steps back to the parking lot.

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