After spending our initial day in Joshua Tree National Park exploring the easternmost side of the park — primarily by car — we were ready to enjoy the sunshine and stretch our legs on a series of hikes throughout the central areas of the park on our second day.
Day 2 Itinerary: Ryan and Hidden Valley Hikes
We started our day with a morning hike to the summit of Ryan Mountain, a 3-mile, 1,050 feet of gain out-and-back summit hike. We came across a few other people along the way but for the most part, we had the trail to ourselves.
The first part of the climb was fairly steep, followed by a more gentle slope up to the top. It was very clear out — a bright blue, cloudless sky that allowed us to see for miles. I can see why this is one of the most popular hikes in the park!
We also hiked out to the nearby Ryan Ranch via an easy and flat 1-mile, out-and-back trail. Several of the homestead’s original adobe-style structures remain, although we were disappointed to find many of them suffered from graffiti and other damage.
In happier news — the rock piles, Joshua trees, and cacti along the trail were amazing!
We drove to Key’s View but didn’t stay long — our panoramic views from the summit of Ryan Mountain were amazing and offered a similar experience with a lot fewer people.
From the viewpoint, we drove to the trailhead of Wall Street Mill and ate turkey sandwiches in the car for lunch before setting out for an afternoon on the trail.
We began by hiking to Wall Street Mill, which is a flat, 2-mile, out-and-back trail to a historic gold ore milling site. I was surprised by how few people were on this trail given how easy/accessible it is and all of the cool sights along the way — there is a recreation of a sign the landowner posted after he murdered his neighbor over a boundary dispute, rusted vehicles and vehicle parts, an old water tower and well, and the mill itself. We enjoyed the plaques detailing some of this history along the way.
Our final hike of the day was the popular Barker Dam hike, a 1.1-mile loop to the historic dam. This hike was interesting because it was part desert trail and part climbing over slabs of rock.
There was one area with a cave featuring drawings from indigenous tribes — we were so discouraged to see people ignoring the signs asking people not to climb on these rocks. I had my camera and could zoom in on the paintings, but most people couldn’t get the shot they wanted on their phones and climbed all over the place to get it. The next time we’re here, this will probably all be off limits or damaged like some of the other things we saw. It’s really unfortunate people won’t follow the rules.
We headed back to our camper to clean up and have dinner – after a full day of hiking, we were happy to have a little downtime in the evening! It’s easy to see why this area of the park is so popular – lots of easy hikes and plenty to see from your vehicle by simply driving around.