Brothers Tom and Jepp Ryan homesteaded this plot of land situated in the northwest corner of Joshua Tree National Park in the late 1800s when nearby Lost Horse Mine—the most successful gold mine in the area—was just about to enter its prime. The two brothers owned the mine with their third brother Matt and an additional prospector, Johnny Lang.
The just over 2-mile hike from the trailhead to the historic grounds is very family friendly and gains a mere 80 feet, making this trail one of the most popular in the park. The trailhead is accessible from Park Boulevard and is immediately accessible to those staying at Ryan Campground. Though the trail through black bush, creostone, yucca, and twisted Joshua trees isn’t super inspiring, the ranch ruins most definitely are.
The remarkably well-preserved ruins (which were inhabited until cattle grazing ceased and Joshua Tree became a national monument in 1936) are interesting for kids and adults alike and offer insight into life for the two rich bachelors that once inhabited the two buildings. The beauty of the old buildings is striking: the adobe bricks used to construct the house were mixed with the standard clay, sand, and water, but the Ryans also added tailings, the refuse left over from extracting gold from ore. The result? A discovery upon completion of the building that it gives off a distinct sheen thanks to the gold dust. For the best experience, visit the site at dusk and watch “the gold brick house” shine.
The grounds are peppered with historical gems for those whose interest is piqued. Purportedly there are eight grave sites in addition to may old artifacts strewn about the premises. Look hard enough and you’ll stumble upon some Native American rock art. It’s imperative to keep in mind that touching or disturbing these ruins or artifacts disrupts them for future generations.