Think big picture. Then hike to it. At 5,456 feet, the summit of Ryan Mountain has the best view in Joshua Tree National Park. Its brilliant panoramic expanse, spanning desert to mountains, and—bonus—late afternoons in winter can feature a sky tinged with lavender thanks to the low-sitting sun.
The trail to the top is just 1.5 miles (one-way), but it’s a rather rapid ascent of over 1,000 feet, so expect to huff and puff a bit. Several stone steps and a few steep grades make up parts of the adventure, but the desert views stay with you most of the way—increasing in size the higher you rise.
Joshua Tree’s signature forests and nature-carved rock slabs surround you.
The summit is marked by a huge pile of boulders and rocks, and there’s plenty of room to jump for joy or sit quietly on a slab of the mountain and scan the scenery, including three valleys, the Pinto Basin, Mount San Jacinto, and the Little San Bernardino Mountains. Stay for sunset (bring a headlamp and leave before it’s too dark) and enjoy the tangerine glow.
WEEKEND SHERPA RECOMMENDS: More recently, LA’s influence is coming through among artists who have moved to the area or own properties and are setting up unique stays at or near their abodes. Like this Airstream, located a few minutes from town up a dirt road, on 1.5 acres overlooking the desert landscape, including Joshua Tree National Park. The artisan touches range from sweet patio lighting and firepit warmth to Pendleton wool blankets for a spirit of the west desert decor.