Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree


As you know from my last week’s post, I went hiking in Joshua Tree National Park in January. Sadly, dogs are not allowed on hiking trails so my sister and I went to the park ourselves to hike Ryan Mountain – the second highest point in Joshua Tree – and had to leave Xena at the resort. Luckily for me, Xena travels well except for the car ride. She keeps herself quiet and relaxes in the room until I get back.

First, we stopped at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center on Park Blvd and picked up a map. After locating the trailhead, we drove to the park entrance. “Annual pass please.” A friendly ranger lady told me that passes were sold out in two days. I think it was something to do with the fact that this year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. She handed me the same map and a newsletter and told us to enjoy the park today for free and get my annual pass the next time we visit. We got to visit the park free again the next day with Xena. 🙂

I’ve seen the park in the pictures but they did not prepare me for the real deal. What an amazing place! Two desert ecosystems, the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert come together in Joshua Tree National Park. It was breathtaking. The surreal rock formations and the beautiful desert landscape are something you should see for yourself.

With nearly 750 species of vascular plants, Joshua Tree is renowned for its plant diversity. No wonder that when the area was first proposed for preservation in the early 1930s, the name suggested was Desert Plants National Park.

After driving for a while – looking for the Ryan Mountain Trailhead sign, we reached the trailhead right off Park Blvd. As the ranger lady warned us, it was much colder and windy. As we put on layers of clothing to keep ourselves warm, we saw a few other hikers doing the same.


The trail was easy to follow. It started out with steps and then changed to mildly rocky terrain. The rocks on the trail were vibrant with orange lichens. Later, I learned that they are called Caloplaca nashii. I found them so fascinating!

There are approximately 17,000 species of lichen worldwide and approximately 1500 lichen taxa in California. Lichens occur from the intertidal zone to the top of mountains. They grow on soil, rocks, on bark and wood, even barnacles and roofs. There are currently recorded 145 lichen taxa from Joshua Tree National Park.



The Summit
The view of Pleasant Valley below from the summit


Luckily, the hourly forecast was pretty much right on so we were able to avoid the storm. It started to rain when we were leaving the park.

Make sure to bundle up if you go to Ryan Mountain in winter. Some parts of the trail can get very windy. We saw a young family hiking with an infant. The baby was crying hard and they couldn’t make him comfortable. I am sure he was painfully cold. My ear hurt from the chilly wind inside my wool hat!

The panoramic views as far as the eye can see at the top were incredible. I only wished my little adventure pup was with us.

Good to Know:

  • Hike Date: 1.6.16
  • Restroom available at the trailhead
  • Distance: 3 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain: 1,070 ft.
  • Ryan Mountain sits at 5,457 feet.
  • Difficulty Rating:  Challenging
  • Dog-friendly:  No

Get Our Latest Comprehensive Dog-friendly Trail List Here. Enjoy!

Happy Hiking!

2 comments on “Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree”

  1. Wow, what a great place – the rock features and the number of interesting plant species! I love cacti and lichens. Perhaps you will visit it again one day? 🙂

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