cactus to clouds hike

Cactus to Clouds Hike

In This Guide
  • Planning Your Cactus To Clouds Hike
  • Turn by Turn Cactus to Clouds Hike Directions & Video
  • Cactus to Clouds Trail Maps
  • Skyline Trail Navigation Tips
  • Training for Cactus To Clouds
Distance21 miles (33.8 km)
Hike Time13 - 16 Hours (Total)
DifficultyVery Hard
Total Ascent (?)10,800 feet (3292m)
Highest Elevation10,833 feet (3302m)
Fees & PermitsTram Fee & Free Permit
Dog FriendlyNo
Park ContactMount San Jacinto State Park
Park Phone951-659-2607

The Cactus to Clouds hike is epic. It was rated one of the hardest day hikes in the world by Backpack Magazine. You start in downtown Palm Springs and climb over 10,000 feet to the summit of Mt San Jacinto, with a large stretch on the treacherous Skyline Trail. The Cactus to Clouds hike should only be attempted by the very experienced and very fit hiker, and only under the right conditions. This guide gives you all the info you need to do this incredible hike safely.

When to Hike Cactus to Clouds

cactus to clouds warning
The warning rock on the hike. People die here. Know exactly what you’re doing and be prepared.

The Cactus to Clouds hike is popular, especially with Southern California hikers, but it isn’t a hike you just show up and do. It’s a hike that you need to prepare for, and then you do it only when the conditions are right.

Because there are extremes at both ends of the weather spectrum (alpine and desert climates), timing your Cactus to Clouds hike is a bit of an art. Use the list below as a rough guide. Always check the local conditions before making any decisions. You’ll want to check the weather for Palm Springs (the start of the hike) and San Jacinto Peak (the end of the hike).

The best (and maybe the only) way to do Cactus to Clouds is to start before dawn. For example, on this trip report, I started at 1am. The idea is that you hike the desert in the cooler nighttime hours, and get to a high (and cool) enough altitude by the time the sun rises.

cris hazzard at dawn on cactus to clouds hike
You’re going to want to strategically use the weather in your hike. Here I am hitting 5000ft at dawn, and it’s already 85F.

To determine the best time to leave, look at an hourly weather forecast for Palm Springs and the summit. Figure out your slowest pace, and estimate where you’ll be at each hour and temperature. Treat it as a rough guide, knowing things can change and you may need to change your plans.

One last note on timing. Keep an eye on the Palm Springs daily high and low temperatures. Even if you leave in October, the temperatures can be higher than normal, in which case you should consider another day. Look at the hourly forecast and estimate where you’ll be at every hour.

Training for Cactus to Clouds

The Cactus to Clouds hike is steep and long, there’s no getting around it. You need to get used to climbing for 10-13 hours straight. I would recommend these hikes as preparation for hiking Cactus to Clouds.

Gear For the Hike

delorme on san jacinto
I used a satellite beacon to send a “I’m okay” message with my position to my family. Worth it’s weight in gold.

To start, bring extra water. There are no water sources on the hike before Long Valley. I brought 6 liters of water (3 liters in my daypack, and then 2×1.5 liter bottles), and that seemed to do the trick. I also refilled at the Long Valley Ranger Station just in case. Another option for water is the tram station, but it will take you off the hike. Don’t count on any water sources along the hike being available. In the summer, or during a drought, many sources are dry.

Some folks also bring a bottle of Gatorade. Sugar, electrolytes, water, it can’t hurt.

I also bring two small water bottles to leave at the rescue boxes. See the directions below for more info.

Trekking poles help on the climb, and I think they’re good in preventing a snake bite as well, since the pole will land ahead of your foot. Snakes are active at night here. Just tread carefully and you’ll be fine.

Bring lots of snacks. I tried to eat a ProBar every 1.5-2 hours. The combination of heat, effort, and altitude will generally kill your appetite, but you need to eat if you want energy. I took some energy gels too, which are easier than solid foods to get down. I made sure I popped a few gels when I got to Flat Rock, and that helped on the last 2, very tough, miles up to Long Valley. You will probably burn about 4,000-6,000 calories on this hike.

medicine on cactus to clouds hike
Found this discarded box on the trail (and took it with me and threw it away). If this is a piece of extra gear that you need, you should probably do Cactus to Clouds another time. Doing a desert hike with a condition that causes dehydration is probably not a great idea.

If you are doing Cactus to Clouds in a transitional month, make sure you bring layers and clothing for an alpine climate at the summit. Palm Springs can be hot and sunny, and the San Jacinto Peak can be in blizzard conditions at the same time. You need to be prepared. Even during the summer, the peak can have strong winds and cold temperatures. There might also be ice and snow on the upper portions of the Skyline Trail, so micro-spikes and trekking poles are a good move.

Another quick tip, have extra batteries for your headlamp handy in your pack. Most headlamps are LED and last a long time, but just in case they die, you don’t want to be fumbling for batteries in the pitch dark.

Lastly, have some way to signal for help. I had 2 emergency beacons and multiple GPS units. I had plenty of survival gear, including a tarp for shade and shelter, a mirror, whistle, fire starters, and some other miscellaneous gear. Prepare for the worst.

I would read this article about some tragedies that occurred on the Cactus to Clouds hike before you start. It will certainly sober you up and will put your plans into perspective. Even if you feel 100% confident that you can complete this hike, make sure you have contingency and backup plans in place.

Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.

Osprey Talon

Osprey Talon 33

My best lightweight pack for hikes between 3-10+ hours. I use mine with the 3L water bladder from Osprey.

Women’s Reviews

Men’s Reviews

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Garmin InReach Mini

You can text, SOS, and get weather in the backcountry where your cell phone doesn’t work. Literally a life-saver.

Lowest Prices

My In-Depth Review

La Sportiva Spire

La Sportiva Spire GTX

Modern materials mean you get the protection of a traditional hiking boot (waterproof, etc.) with feel of a sneaker.

Women’s Reviews

Men’s Reviews

Black Diamond Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles

If you’re not using poles yet, you should be. This model takes a beating, is light, and is super comfortable.

See The Reviews

Socks Sock Liners

2-Layer Sock System

I use a light inner toe sock and then a top-quality outer sock to prevent blisters.

Injinji Sock Liners

Darn Tough Socks

Probar

Nutritionally Dense Superfoods

Probars are great: no preservatives, vegan, low-GI, compact, and tasty. Put good fuel in your body.

See the Probar Flavors

If you’re hiking in the backcountry it makes sense to have a decent emergency kit and some basic gear to spend the night in a pinch.Full HikingGuy Gear List

* No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Also → Big Sale at REI On Now:

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Getting to the Trailhead

Read this section carefully. Cactus to Clouds is a point to point hike, so there are some more advanced logistics involved.

The start of the hike is here: 101 N Museum Dr, Palm Springs, CA, 92262, USA.

The trailhead is within walking distance to many downtown Palm Springs hotels. If you want to stay for the weekend, you can walk from your hotel to the trail, do the hike, and then head back to your hotel for a warm (or cold) shower.

When you park, do not park in the Art Museum parking lot, or in the covered lot across the street, which has a 4 hour maximum time limit. Park on the street next to the garage and lot, which is free.

cactus to clouds heat
The temperature outside my car after I finished the hike. You might want some heat protection for your car interior.

The Cactus to Clouds hike doesn’t finish at the starting trailhead. After the hike climbs to San Jacinto Peak, it then heads back down to the Palm Springs Arial Tramway station (see the below for details). The station has food and drinks, including booze. If you’re in the mood, it’s a nice place for a post-hike celebration.

Once there, you can buy a one-way tram ticket back down the mountain in the gift shop at the tram station. They take credit cards and cash.

Check the tram website to see when the last tram down leaves. Also, the tram occasionally closes for maintenance. It’s very, very, very, very important to check the tram site. Avoid a forced C2C2C or an overnight on the station floor.

At the bottom of the tram ride it’s an inexpensive Uber ride back to the Palm Springs Art Museum. There is no cell reception at the tram station, but they do have free wifi to connect and call a car (inside only). You can also ask the guest services desk at the tram station to call you a taxi.

Cactus to Clouds Trail Maps

This guide covers the most popular routing on Cactus to Clouds, using the Museum and Skyline trails. There are other routes, like the North Lykken Trail. Leave the tougher, more obscure trails for the next time.

The Skyline Trail (the portion of the hike until you get to Long Valley) is not an officially sanctioned trail by any park service. It is recognized as a cross-country route by authorities and public access is allowed. According to the official topographic map, the lower parts of the hike are on the Aqua Caliente Indian Reservation. The Skyline Trail is entirely maintained by local hikers.

The history of the Skyline Trail is murky. Some say it was a Cahuilla Indian trail, others say it was started by the CCC in the 1930s and abandoned. The modern day Cactus to Clouds hike started in 1991 when members of the Coachella Valley Hiking Club revived the trail and started leading hikes there.

Click To View Map

Cactus to Clouds Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Here’s what I use to navigate my hikes. I recommend a combination of paper and electronic options with backups.

Gaiagps

Gaia GPS

Gaia GPS is a planning and navigation tool that you can use on your phone, tablet, and the web. I use it on my phone when I need to interact with the map and know where my position is on it. I use it at home on the computer to plan routes. You can overlay maps such as public lands to find out free places to camp. It’s a powerful tool.

HikingGuy Discount on Gaia GPS

Fenix Nav

Garmin Fenix Watch

This thing does everything: maps, GPX tracks, compass, barometer, altitude, heart rate, blood oxygen, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, and the list goes on. I keep a GPX route on the watch so I can quickly glance down and make sure I’m in the right place.

Fenix Prices & Reviews

My In-Depth Review

Topo Map

Topo Maps & Guide Books

Don’t be caught out if your batteries die. Take a topo map with you on the trail. Some people also print my guides out for use on the hike.

I also highly recommend taking a map and compass navigation course. It’s a few hours, it’s fun, and it could save your life.

Map and Compass Navigation Basics Classes

Don’t just rely on a cell phone, especially if you are hiking in the backcountry.

cactus to clouds 3d map
The hike starts in the Palm Springs Art Museum parking lot, at 470ft. It then climbs to the Long Valley Ranger Station, where the tram ascends to. From there it’s well marked trails to the summit of Mount San Jacinto.
cactus to clouds hike elevation
The bulk of the climbing is from Palm Springs to Long Valley, which is where the tram takes you. The 2 miles or so to Long Valley are among the toughest, with gradients reaching 50%. After that, the remaining 5 miles or so only climb about 2,000 feet. Unfortunately they feel pretty tough because of all the climbing you did previously.

Breakdown of Cactus to Clouds Sections

It helps to mentally break the hike into sections and tackle one at a time. Here’s the skinny. Distances are approximate and will change depend on how many wrong turns you make (if any). I’ve seen some mileage charts online that had different (and lower) milage values. Take them with a grain as salt and use it as a rough guide.

Some folks hike all the way back down to Palm Springs, but as you can imagine, it’s extremely tough, long, and has most of the white blazes facing the other way. This is called he C2C2C. Save it for the day that the normal C2C is too easy for you.

The Point of No Return

Hopefully you read the article about deaths on Cactus to Clouds and fully understand that you can easily die if you make poor choices and/or have bad luck. Even if you’re planned and timed your Cactus to Clouds hike perfectly, sometimes we all have bad days.

You need to do some assessments on your condition in the first few miles. Check in with yourself at the picnic tables, and then at Rescue 1. If you’re feeling tired or have doubts, you need to turn around. I would say that in ideal conditions, after Rescue 1, you need to be 100% committed to hiking up to Long Valley. In hot conditions, I would make that call at the picnic tables. After that point you should NOT turn around and hike down through the heat. Continue up to Long Valley no matter what. A common thread in deaths and rescues is turning around (and maybe getting lost on the way down). 

If you need to take water from a rescue box, do it and contact the Coachella Valley Hiking Club afterwards to let them know. There is zero room for mistakes here. Be confident in your fitness and your route before you start.

Getting lost or too tired to continue can mean death. This is real.

Skyline Trail Navigation Tips

The first part of Cactus to Clouds is on the Skyline Trail, normally hiked in the dark, can be challenging to follow. Hiking with a headlamp puts your focus right in front of you. The peripheral vision that you use to recognize a twist or turn on the trail is just not there. Here’s how to make sure you’re on the right trail.

Cactus to Clouds Hike Directions

Video Directions

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Turn by Turn Directions

Note: Apologies for the blurriness of some of these photos. The camera was on the wrong setting for the darkness. The first photos were done in twilight to make the starting directions a little easier. It’ll switch to darkness eventually.

cactus to clouds hike parking
The hike starts on the far end of the parking lot at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Don’t park in this lot, you’ll get a ticket.
cactus to clouds hike trailhead
The trailhead is well marked with signage. Read the signs for any notices.
cactus to clouds hike trailhead
This is also the start of the Museum Trail, a shorter day hike on the same route.
cactus to clouds hike trailhead
There’s signage to warn hikers who aren’t prepared.
cactus to clouds trail
Here’s an overview of the first few miles out of Palm Springs. You go straight up on the ridge line.
cactus to clouds trail
Start hiking up the well marked trail.
cactus to clouds trail
The trail is steep from the beginning.
cactus to clouds trail
As the trail winds it’s way behind houses, there are a lot of private property signs. Respect that and stay on the trail, avoiding shortcuts.
cactus to clouds trail
Almost immediately after starting there are some stairs that lead to a paved driveway.
cactus to clouds trail
Cross the driveeway and continue up the trail. The first part of the trail, to the picnic benches, is also known as the Museum Trail.
cactus to clouds trail
Do your best to stay on the trail. Cutting switchbacks is not only bad for the land, but also makes it harder for other hikers to know where they’re going.
skyline trail white blaze
The white dots are your best friend on the Skyline Trail. On this beginning stretch, there are some small side trails and shortcuts, but the main trail is well marked with the white dot blazes. They’re easy to spot at night with your headlamp.
skyline trail white blaze
Here you can see two white blazes marking the trail. They’re not always this close, but they’re pretty consistent for the first half of the Skyline Trail.
skyline trail white blaze
The trail is steep on this first section. Keep going up, following the white blazes.
cactus to clouds trail
The trail splits, follow the trail to the left and avoid the steep shortcut that includes a rock scramble.
cactus to clouds trail
White blazes can also mark a switchback. If the trail doesn’t look obvious in front of you, check back and up for a switchback.
cactus to clouds trail
Follow the trail signs. There are a few of these in the beginning Museum Trail portion of the hike.
cactus to clouds trail
Continue up the steep trail.
cactus to clouds trail
At one point the trail goes downhill for a short stretch and you’ll think you are going the wrong way, but it’s not.
cactus to clouds trail
At the end of that short downhill section you’ll see another brown trail sign. Stay to the left. The trail to the right is the steep shortcut from earlier.
skyline trail white blaze
The trail goes over hard rock for some stretches. These are generally marked with white blazes.
cactus to clouds trail
The parts of the hike closer to Palm Springs have some nice overlooks. Generally there is a trail sign to keep you on the main trail and not on one of these spurs.
skyline trail white blaze
Keep climbing, following the white blazes.

The following images pick up from the night,

skyline trail white blaze
Here’s what the white blazes look like in the dark. They stand out well with a headlamp.
cactus to clouds hike picnic tables
At just under a mile or so, you’ll reach the picnic tables. You’ll see the first ones down to your right as you enter the area.
cactus to clouds hike picnic tables
This satellite photo helps understand where you need to go at the picnic tables. It’s an open area so you have to hit the edges to find the trail again. Do a hard left to continue.
cactus to clouds hike picnic tables
There will be one table to your left as you exit toward the Skyline trail.
skyline trail white blaze
The trail continues with the white blazes.
cactus to clouds trail
Shortly you’ll come to this big cairn. Bear right behind it.
cactus to clouds trail
Here’s a satellite photo of the trail by the cairn.
cactus to clouds sign
You’ll also see this sign by the cairn, which some filthy animals have tagged.
cactus to clouds trail
When you come to this rock, hike to the left.
cactus to clouds warning
Shortly after that rock you’ll reach the warning rock. Consider this the point of no return and keep hiking.
cactus to clouds trail
Here’s a satellite photo of the last two rocks and the trail intersections. From this photo you can see lots of intersections. In the dark with my headlamp, the main trail was the only one I saw. Maybe it’s the painted rocks, but in real life this was easier than navigating the intersection that the map showed.
cactus to clouds trail
Here’s my GPS track through on that satellite photo for reference. The little diversion I did off the trail was to read the warning rock.
cactus to clouds trail
After that, you’re on the Skyline Trail until Round Valley. Any side trail will be pretty small and unofficial. Always stay on the bigger and more well-worn path. Follow the white blazes as usual.
cactus to clouds trail
When the trail goes through open areas, look for a line of rocks marking the trail. The local hikers have done a really great job of marking the trail.
palm springs
As always, the trail climbs, giving you skyline views into Palm Springs below. The lights of the city should be visible for most of your hike in the dark.
skyline trail white blaze
When there are no white blazes, the trail is usually well worn. Look for boot prints as you climb.
Rescue Box 1
Just after 2 miles you’ll reach Rescue Box 1.
Rescue Box 1
Rescue Box 1 is right on the trail and easy to spot.
Rescue Box 1
If you brought water to leave, do it here.
skyline trail white blaze
Continue hiking up the climb, keeping your eyes open for the white blazes.
skyline trail
When the hike goes over flat sections, look for branches and rocks that mark the way.
tram station lights
At around 4 miles, you’ll see a bright light in the distance, up the mountain. These are the lights at the tram station. This will be your north star for a the next few tough hours. When it gets light out, you can still see the grey metal beams of the tram station occasionally.
skyline trail
Remember to periodically check your track against the GPX file. There were only a handful of times when I lost the trail, but checking in with the GPX every 20 minutes or so and seeing myself on the trail ensured that I wasn’t wandering off into the desert on some coyote run.
4300 foot marker
A little before 5 miles, you’ll see the 4300 foot marker.
4300 foot marker
The trail continues back behind the 4300 foot marker.
skyline trail white blaze
Again, the white blazes stay with you, marking the Skyline Trail.
sunrise on skyline trail
When dawn arrives, you’ll be happy and hopefully high enough that the desert heat isn’t an issue anymore. The trail is much easier to follow once you have some sunlight to supplement your headlamp.
lights from the tram station
The lights from the tram station will still light the way. So close yet so far…
cactus to clouds trail
When you get to around 5,000 feet the desert changes and there is much more cactus and scrubs.
cris hazzard on cactus to clouds trail
I haven’t been mentioning it, but this entire way is basically straight up. It’s steep. Make sure you’re eating at regular intervals and stop for a breather when you need to.
cactus to clouds trail
On this day, there were a ton of clouds from a forest fire in the Cajon Pass.
ridge at Round Valley
At around 6 miles you will start to see the ridge at Round Valley. The trail has some level and downhill sections here and is quite pleasant.
skyline trail white blaze
When it’s light out, the white blazes are easier to spot and still mark the Skyline Trail.
skyline trail
There are a couple of trail splits on the route, which are also marked on many maps. At this one, make the left. It heads downhill a bit and feels counterintuitive after so much climbing, but it’s the correct way.
skyline trail
You can also use your map to navigate these trail splits. Both ways get you there. The longer way is usually the (less steep) official version
skyline trail
After that last split, your legs get a break when the trail goes downhill.
skyline trail
When the split ends, continue on the main trail. You can see the cutoff to the right, which is cordoned off with stones.
Sunrise on the hike
Sunrise on the hike.
skyline trail
You’ll see a painted rock pointing backward to Palm Springs. Keep heading up to Long Valley.
skyline trail
The crest at Long Valley gets closer. The steepest parts are yet to come.
Rescue 2
Eventually you reach Rescue 2.
Rescue 2
If you brought an extra water, leave it in the box.
skyline trail
Shortly after Rescue 2 there are some decent places to stop for a snack and drink. You might have seen some little areas where people camped and had a small fire. Doing this as a backpacking trip, temperatures permitting, is also an option.
chino canyon
This section has some great views into Chino Canyon to the right, where the tram comes up. You can really start to see how far up you’ve gone and how tough the route is.
Flat Rock
At around 8.5 miles you’ll reach Flat Rock, also known as Dry Falls.
Flat Rock
At Flat Rock the trail continues across the wash and to the back. It might be overgrown, so keep your eyes open.
cactus to clouds trail
Here’s an overview of the last two miles to Grubbs Notch. You can see how the steepness dramatically increases, with the worst stretch at the very end after Coffman’s Crag.
skyline trail
Now you start going up. Just mentally prepare yourself, take breaks when you need to, and keep hiking.
grubbs notch
You’ll see the high point to the left of Grubb’s Notch as you climb. That’s where you’re going.
views of San Gorgonio
When you cross the Traverse you’ll get some nice views of San Gorgonio and the valley below, including Chino Canyon where the tram is.
skyline trail
I ran through my 3 liters of water somewhere around here and refilled. I also topped up my water at the ranger station later.
skyline trail
The trail heads across the Traverse. Sometimes it splits into smaller trails that come back together. My focus was staying on the trail with the most footprints, and it worked.
coffmans crag
When you get to Coffman’s Crag, the trail turns left and gets the steepest.
skyline trail
The trail skirts the edge of the mountain, giving you great views down below and of the tram.
cris hazzard on skyline trail
This part is steep. I had to take breaks every few minutes.
cris hazzard on skyline trail
Eventually you’ll see the sky as you approach Grubb’s Notch. The hardest is behind you.
long valley
YOU MADE IT! At Grubb’s Notch you emerge at peaceful and flat Long Valley. From here on out, you are in Mount San Jacinto State Park, and the trails are well marked and easy to follow. And not as steep.
long valley
Head onto the Desert View Trail, and then make the quick right onto the service trail.
long valley
Here’s a closeup of the right turn onto the service trail. Don’t go through the log, even though it looks cool.
cactus to clouds hike
The service trail is not an official trail but is marked as a shortcut to the tram.
cactus to clouds hike
Keep going straight, avoiding any trails to the left. There are picnic benches here if you want to refuel for the final push.

If you are cooked at this point, there is no shame in taking the tram back down and calling it a day. You can bail out here by making the right at the next junction and heading to the tram, skipping the portion to San Jacinto Peak. If you do continue on, just remember that you still have 11 miles of hiking left to complete.

cactus to clouds hike
At the big junction with the concrete path to the tram station, make the left to head to the Long Valley Ranger Station.
cactus to clouds hike
There’s a nice map on the board that will help you orient yourself for the rest of the hike, along with the obligatory mountain lion warnings.
cactus to clouds hike
The ranger station is very close to the sign. There are bathrooms here, so go if you need to.
cactus to clouds hike
You need to stop at the ranger station to get a free permit.
long valley ranger station
The permit station is on the porch in front of the ranger station. There are instructions, weather reports, and trail conditions here. Fill out the permit, keep one copy, and leave the other.
long valley ranger station
There’s water in back of the ranger station. On this day, there was a warning about possible toxins in the water, but I noticed that the rangers were filling their bottles here, so I went ahead and topped up.
long valley ranger station
There’s a cool sign on the ranger station that’s great for posing in a picture with.
cactus to clouds hike
After your break at the ranger station, head back on the trail, which is clearly marked.
cactus to clouds trail
After doing the Skyline Trail, these trails will seem like Disneyland. Don’t be fooled though, you still climb 2,000+ feet and it will feel harder after your 8,000 ft initial effort.
cactus to clouds trail
Just follow the signs from here on out. These trails are well marked because many day hikers take the tram up and summit Mount San Jacinto from Long Valley. If you leave Palm Spring early enough, you can beat the crowds from the tram. If not, you will understand some of my grumpy old hiker friends call this hike the Cactus to Crowds.
cactus to clouds trail
After the first level stretch, you start going uphill again. No getting around that.
cactus to clouds trail
Avoid the Round Valley Loop and head to Round Valley directly.
bathrooms on cactus to clouds trail
There are some primitive bathrooms before the Round Valley campground. I saw a female hiker open the door, take a look, and turn around. Just a heads up.
cactus to clouds trail
Keep heading toward San Jacinto Peak as the Round Valley Loop rejoins.
cactus to clouds trail
Avoid any side trails and stay on the main trail.
cactus to clouds trail
Eventually you reach Round Valley Campground. If you wanted to make this a backpacking trip, you could camp here before the summit. Hike left toward the peak.
water on cactus to clouds trail
There may not be water available here. Check with the rangers.
cactus to clouds trail
The trail starts to climb again.
cactus to clouds trail
Almost there, you reached Wellman Divde. Make the right at the vista point.
cactus to clouds trail
Wellman Divide is the first time you can see west on the hike, into Orange and San Diego counties. It’s a good place for a snack break before the last push to San Jacinto Peak.
cactus to clouds trail
At the official junction of Wellman Divide, make the right.
cactus to clouds trail
The junction is well marked.
cactus to clouds trail
Also, note the tram sticker on the back of the sign. These appear on many signs heading back from the summit to aid unprepared day hikers.
cactus to clouds trail
The hike starts going up through some manzanita.
cactus to clouds trail
The trail gradually winds it’s way up the side of the mountain. That pointy mountain you see on the right is Cornell Peak at 9,750 ft.
cactus to clouds trail
At one point the trail goes through a boulder field, and is still easy to follow.
cactus to clouds trail
After emerging from the boulder field, you continue up with incredible views to the right.
cactus to clouds trail
After a long stretch, the trail cuts back to the left.
cactus to clouds trail
After the switchback, the trail opens up again with incredible views.
cactus to clouds trail
At the end of this stretch, you head over some rocks to the ridge.
cactus to clouds trail
The last junction! Head to the right and up to San Jacinto Peak.
cactus to clouds trail
The trail to the peak is well marked. It wasn’t always like this, but it’s much better and protects the landscape from the tram crowds.
cactus to clouds trail
Soon the hut will come into view. Keep hiking up past the hut.
cactus to clouds trail
This last part is a bit of a scramble, but some cairns at the beginning point you in the right direction.
cactus to clouds trail
The very end is a free-for-all scramble to the peak.
san jacinto summit
BOOM! You made it, the summit.
san jacinto summit
Grab your photos, hydrate, and fuel up. You still have 5.5 miles of glorious downhill to go. After you’re done at the summit, head back to the Long Valley Ranger Station.
long valley ranger station
At the station, look for this small mail box next to the trail.
long valley ranger station
Put your copy of the permit back into the box. At the end of the day, the rangers match the incoming permits with the outgoing permits to get an idea of how many hiked and who’s still out there.
long valley tram station
Keep hiking back to the concrete ramp to the tram station. After the hike you just did, this concrete ramp will feel like pure hell. Know that it’s your last uphill of the day, and there’s cold beer and soda at the end of the path.
long valley tram station
Head into the tram building and go up one level. You can buy a ticket back down the mountain at the gift shop. If you go up another level from the gift shop, there is a restaurant, cafeteria, and full-service bar.
long valley tram station
Take the tram back down and call it a day. What you just accomplished will really hit home as the tram takes you back to Palm Springs. If you made it this far, congrats. Consider yourself hardcore.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.