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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hike up Ryan Mountain - Joshua Tree National Park

Views from the summit 

What would a KW trip to a National Park be without a hike?  It would be a sad one of course.  Thankfully, we had just enough time to squeeze in one of the park's most popular hikes before the rain came in.  One of the first things I (almost) always do when visiting a new National Park is stop at the Visitor's Center.  I love to look at the exhibits, check out the shop, and best of all, talk to the rangers.  

Views from the trail (looking back down towards the trailhead)

In KW fashion, I did a lot of research I had a few ideas about which hikes I wanted to do in the park and narrowed it down to two options:  Ryan Mountain (3 miles) a shorter steeper hike to the second highest peak in the park with amazing 360 views or a hike to the Lost Horse Mine (6.7 miles) a longer flatter hike to an old preserved gold mine and relic of the old California Gold Rush Era.   We were torn and couldn't decide... amazing views or freakin gold mine?  So I did what I always do when I get to a National Park,  I asked the ranger his opinion.  His answer?  Both... every hike in the park.

I asked him "if I could only do one" and finally he told me that was such a tough choice that I should just flip a coin.  He then proceeded to tell us that the parking area at Lost Horse Mine is only 5 or so spaces as to keep the traffic down and help preserve the mine (i.e. it is highly unlike you are going to get a parking space on a Sunday at the end of the peak season).  Sounds like I don't need to flip a coin, sir.  So we decided to stick to Ryan Mountain, a shorter hike with guaranteed parking as we watched the gray clouds rolling in.  

Sign at the summit of RM

Making our way down the trail 

Flowering Cactus near the summit 

Long story short, I'm bummed we didn't have the time to hike the Gold Mine with the long drive back to LA and the storm rolling in.   But, if you can only do one hike in the park, I would have to say Ryan Mountain should be it.  It's short and sweet while still giving you that elevation and therefore, a good sweat.  The elevation doesn't make it a leisurely stroll in the park, but the short distance makes it a moderately easy hike. There is a big parking lot and the trail is easy to follow.  While I can't speak for the other trails, I can promise you this one will be worth your while. 

Looking back at the trail we had just followed 

Don't forget, this is a desert hike so this trail won't offer you any shade as you make your way up the mountain which can be a little brutal on a sunny summer day.  But it will offer you a beautiful view of the park and the various cacti and fauna JTNP has to offer.   360 views of the entire park from one if its most central peaks is worth the shadeless 1,000+' hike.  While the view from the top is amazing, the hike all the way up (and even more so down) offers spectacular views.  Ryan Mountain is a good way to see a bird's eye view of Joshua Tree.  Being the desert, everything below you is so flat and you can see for miles while making your ascent up the trail.  

Following the trail around the mountain

Signage at the trailhead 

Trail Stats
Distance:  3 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:  1,070'  
Summit Elevation: 5, 400 feet
Trailhead: Along Park Boulevard  
Notes:  The trail is easy to follow.  A good portion of the trail has rock/steps that make the ascent up to the summit of Ryan Mountain easier.  The elevation gain is noticeable but the short distance makes it a relatively quick and easy hike.    On a clear day you can even see San Jacinto and San Gorgonio in the distance.  There is a rock pile at the summit for full 360 photos.  You saw the sign- no dogs, no bikes, no fires. There are pit toilets at the trailhead. 

Rock Pile at the Summit 

Rock Pile at the Summit 

Views from the summit 

Joshua Trees along the hike 

Making our way back down the trail 

Gorgeous views, a good work out, and an easy trail to find.  Plenty of parking and easy to follow.  Did I mention insanely gorgeous 360 views?  If you can only do one hike in the park, this should be it.  It is popular, but for good reasons.  Where else can you stand on top of the desert, seeing spotted Joshua Tree for miles across the landscape?  Check back in Monday for my Joshua Tree Sum Up post, talking all about the park and the trees that made it famous.

Hike On, 

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