CRHT: Geology Tour Road to Keys View Road, California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT), Joshua Tree National Park, California

CRHT: Geology Tour Road to Keys View Road - 13.1 miles

California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT)

Looking northeast over Queen Valley from the CRHT

Looking northeast over Queen Valley from the CRHT

Round-Trip Length: 13.1 miles
Start-End Elevation: 4,475' - 4,340' (4,540' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -135' net elevation loss (+835' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

CRHT: Geology Tour Road to Keys View Road - 13.1 Miles Round-Trip

Joshua Tree National Park's California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) stretches 37 miles from the Park's North Entrance Station in 29 Palms to the Black Rock Campground in Yucca Valley.

Trail Section Map | Full CRHT Map | Photo Gallery

This multi-faceted trail spans Colorado Desert transition zones in the east, expansive Joshua Tree flats in the middle, and upper-Mojave and pinyon-juniper ecotones in the west. 6 Park roads touch the CRHT, providing visitors with numerous access points and day hike options.

One access point is on Geology Tour Road in the heart of Queen Valley. The 6.55 mile section between Geology Tour Road (east) and Keys View Road (west) begins in a stark, boundless expanse of Mojave Desert scrub and rises through a pass between Ryan Mountain (5,461') and Lost Horse Mountain (5,313') to the great Joshua Tree forests of Lost Horse Valley.

The following description begins on Geology Tour Road and travels west to Keys View Road:

The trail heads SW down a vast, desolate expanse dotted with creosote, yucca, cholla and scrub. Joshua Trees are sparse and skeletal relative to those in Lost Horse Valley. Boulder gardens near and far accent the surreal void through which you're passing.

The Hexie Mountains (southeast) and Ryan Mountain complex (due west) are particularly well lit in the morning, their distance and scale distorted by miles of open space.

The landscape subtly evolves as you progress; a keen eye will note the introduction of new plants and cacti, healthier Joshua Trees and a more textured trail side. Look for jackrabbits and reptiles hiding about isolated clusters of natural shelter along the way.

The trail continues down with little exertive variation to a major wash crossing (2.35 miles : 4,330'), a distinctly rich ecological corridor worth exploring if time permits. Once across the trail climbs steeply to a ridgeline with panoramas across Queen Valley and on the more demanding route you'll follow to the Ryan-Lost Horse Mountain Pass.

The trail now twists and undulates frequently, trending uphill over rocky terrain through a more cluttered landscape. In approximately 3.35 miles (4,410') the trail bends decisively northwest into a shallow canyon leading up to the pass.

It negotiates rugged terrain to a small saddle (3.85 miles : 4,540'), then begins a steady descent through a narrow canyon on the west side of the pass. This segment is distinguished by thicker brush and dark basalt rock piles.

The trail emerges on the west side of the pass (4.95 miles : 4,405') in an busy Joshua Tree flat. While conditions are now mild remain navigationally vigilant, as numerous unmarked wash crossings can easily lead you astray.

The trail reaches the Ryan Campground access spur (5.75 miles : 4,375) and bears left (west) toward Keys View Road. This final segment moves easily through a mature Joshua Tree forest and crosses Keys View Road to the Juniper Flats Parking Area (6.55 miles : 4,340').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N33 59.118 W116 04.924 — Trailhead on Geology Tour Road
  • N33 58.801 W116 05.646 — .8 mile mark
  • N33 58.595 W116 06.255 — 1.45 mile mark
  • N33 58.120 W116 06.955 — 2.35 miles: Cross wash and proceed up steep hill
  • N33 57.833 W116 07.462 — 2.95 miles: Undulating toward pass
  • N33 57.839 W116 08.083 — 3.85 miles: Crest atop saddle-pass
  • N33 57.980 W116 08.417 — 4.3 miles: Descent down west side of pass
  • N33 58.431 W116 08.780 — 4.95 miles: Level in Joshua Tree forest west of pass
  • N33 58.897  W116 09.252 — 5.75 miles: Ryan Camp access spur
  • N33 58.608 W116 09.905 — 6.55 miles: Juniper Flats Parking Lot on Keys View Road

Worth Noting

  • East of the Ryan Mountain - Lost Horse Mountain Pass where the trail bends northeast (3.35 miles from Geology Tour Road : 3.2 miles from Keys View Road), you may notice a faint trail leading southeast. This is Squaw Tank Trail, a seldom used connection with the Fried Liver Wash Trail in Pleasant Valley. Squaw Tank Trail stems from an unmarked point on this section of the CRHT. It's possible to inadvertently veer off onto this if not paying close attention to the main trail, especially during wash crossings. Remain vigilant and mindful of your heading at all times.

  • Coyote Melons, a softball size gourd that grows from stringy vines on the ground, are common on the eastern fringes of Queen Valley. Despite an edible appearance, they're quite bitter and may cause intestinal distress if eaten. Indigenous people consumed its dried, ground seeds, while the hollowed out gourd was used as a ceremonial rattle.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • There are no designated or maintained backcountry campsites on this section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail.

  • Wilderness camping is permitted 500' from the trail and one mile from Park roads.

  • Campground camping is available at the Ryan Campground, located .1 miles north of the CRHT near its intersection with Keys View Road.

  • Camping is not permitted in day-use only areas. These are clearly labeled on topo maps and all backcountry registration boards.

Rules and Regulations

  • No dogs, bikes, guns or motorized vehicles are permitted on the California Riding and Hiking Trail.

  • Horses are permitted, but must stay on trails and may not graze on Park lands or drink from Park water sources.

Directions to Trailhead

The California Riding and Hiking Trail Backcontry Board access point is located 1.4 miles south of Park Boulevard on Geology Tour Road.

Contact Information

Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597

Visitor Information

Park Headquarters

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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