Ryan Mountain

March 22, 2017


Joshua Trees National Park, CA

Ryan Mountain is one of the tallest peaks in Joshua Trees National Park of the southern California and itself is also the most popular “summit” in the park thank to the amazing 360-degree views and a well-constructed trail. The elevation gain is less than 400 m which means attaining the summit is a very reasonable goal for pretty much anybody. I did it as a side trip while driving through the entire stretch of Joshua Trees National Park.

Ryan Mountain hiking route. GPX DL

Earlier in the day I had done a short hike up Mastodon Peak but that’s not enough. There were still a couple hours till sunset which meant I had to seriously considering bagging another summit. A quick browsing at the park’s map obtained from the information center I figured an ascent of Ryan Mountain seemed like just the right idea. This also allowed me to drive through the entire stretch of this park although I didn’t have too much time to do tourism things. The clouds were dissipating as I approached the Jumbo Rocks area and that was motivating. The namesake trees of this park are surely unique and I stopped to take some photos before proceeding to the trail-head.

Jumbo Rocks area

My first time seeing Joshua Trees

Another photo to show the unique Joshua Trees

I have to say that the views from even the parking lot was beyond my expectation. The stoke level was high and 5 minutes later I finished packing and then up I went. Thank to the amazing views I plodded up at a fairly fast pace stopping only to take photos and in no time I was already halfway up the mountain. The route then ascends climber’s left onto a plateau before going further to the left and at this point the eastern view also fully opened up.

From the trail-head, looking up.

Lots of unique rock formation in this park

This hiker was running up the mountain.

Just another big chunk of boulder. It’s no wonder why climbers like here

Gaining elevation quickly

Looking back down into Lost Horse Valley

Another photo of looking back, towards Sheep Pass

Rock formations on Ryan Mountain

The next goal was to gain that broad saddle

Countless rock spires and boulders looking north.

At the saddle now.

Ascending above the saddle, the panoramic views were opening up.

The weather didn’t seem to be 100% stable so I continued plodding as fast as I could hoping to catch the best views from the summit. I certainly did and the evening lighting surely made Ryan Mountain a much more dramatic ascent than what anyone would expect. I waited for about half an hour hoping for sunset but the sun soon disappeared behind the clouds and then it got cold in no time.

A lone Joshua Tree on the upper portion of this trail

Me on the summit of Ryan Mountain

Summit Panorama from Ryan Mountain. Click to view large size.

The south-east view down into Pleasant Valley

This is the north-eastern view

Little San Bernadino Mountains to the south

More views while waiting for sunset

The clouds created some dramatic lighting

More about the lighting. It’s getting cold now so I had to go down.

Since I brought no extra layer with me I had to head down. My camera wasn’t that great for photographing “low light” scenery anything so there’s not much point in lingering. The descent was more-or-less uneventful and all I need to say was retracing the trail. The grade was fairly gentle which made some easy jogging at sections.

Evening colours on the clouds

This is that lone Joshua Tree again

Back to the car I resumed the drive westwards out of the park into Yucca Valley. It was already pitch dark at this point and I continued down the winding SR 62 into the city of Palm Springs where I could finally do the peak-bagging road-trip’s “evening routine”. There’s no point in passing out too early as the earliest tramway up Mt. San Jacinto is 10 am in the morning. I basically could sleep in till whenever I wanted which was always a bonus.