Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike To Mt San Jacinto

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike To Mt San Jacinto

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike to Mt San Jacinto is a great way to bag Southern California's second highest peak without a huge effort. It's still a tough 11 mile hike, but nothing like climbing to Mt San Jacinto from Palm Springs or Idyllwild. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway cuts about 8,000 feet of climbing off the hike, and offers a nice base station where you can grab a beer and bite after your summit. A really fun and insanely beautiful hike.

Rating:
5 / 5
Distance:
11 miles (17.7 km)
Time:
5-6 hours
Difficulty:
Hard
Climbing:
3180 ft (969 m)
Trail Condition:
Marked Trail
Challenges:
Climbing, Crowds
People:
Crowded
Known For:
Incredible Mountain Peak
Best Time:
Any Time
Dogs:
No
Bathrooms:
Yes
Parking:
Fee
Hike Weather:

Planning for the Palm Springs Tram Hike

Palm Springs Tram Hike Trail Maps

Google Maps trailhead:
1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA, 92262, USA

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike location
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway trailhead is about 2 hours away from downtown LA and Orange County, and about 15 minutes outside of downtown Palm Springs.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike 3d map
What I find interesting about this 3d map is the drop off around the hike. Look how steep it is before the start at the tram, and off the face of the summit. You get to skip all that on this hike, but as you can see, there's still a fair amount of (gradual) climbing.
palm springs tram hike elevation
There's no getting around it, you have to climb on this one. The good news is that the trail isn't very steep, the bad news is that there are not many flat sections to catch your breath. The steepest section is the very end to the summit, but at the point you are so close you just grit your teeth and do it.

Interactive Map

Palm Springs Tram Hike Map Downloads

hiking map on garmin fenix 3

If you have GPS device (I use this one by Garmin and I love it) for your hike, load the GPX file below into your device to navigate the hike. For help on loading the GPX file, read this article on converting and transferring to a Garmin GPS.

Also, don't rely on electronics as your sole means of navigation. There's a basic printable PDF map below, and I strongly picking up a good topo map too.

View a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

Palm Springs Tram Hike Directions

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike To Mt San Jacinto

About the Hike

Turn by Turn Hike Directions

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Have fun on the tram ride to Mountain Station, soaking in all the climbing that you get to skip. If you want to do the hike from the desert floor, there’s the epic Cactus to Clouds hike for experienced hikers.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
When you get off the tram, go to the back of the station and find these stairs down.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
There’s a nice little interpretive film if you have the time. It’s right by the exit to go outside (down the stairs in the last shot).
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Make sure you check the board for any trail alerts or weather updates.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Head outside to the picnic benches on the station deck.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
You’ll see a sign for Mount San Jacinto State Park. Head down the concrete path to start the hike.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
The path down is steep and you will hate this at the end of the hike, so enjoy it now.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
When you get to the bottom of paved path, go straight through the trail junction.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
It’s worth checking out the hiking board for any trail updates. A nice trick is to take a picture of the trail map with your phone in case you need it later. And if you don’t have a signal up here (you might not), put your phone in flight mode to save the battery. When your phone is constantly looking for a signal, it will run the battery down quickly.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
The next stop is the ranger station where you need to fill out a free self-serve permit. This helps the rangers know if anyone is lost on the mountain after it all closes. The ranger station is just past that last sign.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
You’ll see signs letting you know about the permits as well. If you’re going past this ranger station, you need a permit. It’s not just for campers.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Head up onto the front deck of the ranger station. There are primitive bathrooms here and sometimes there is water from a spigot in the back of the station.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
The self-serve permit station is pretty straightforward.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Fill out the form and drop one copy in the box, taking the top copy with you.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
From there, keep hiking on the trail that passes the ranger station.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Soon after the station, there’s a big trail junction sign. Keep heading straight toward Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
The trail starts heading uphill.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
There are some up and down sections on the beginning of the hike where you can catch your breath.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
The trail makes a sharp left at the boulder. Head towards Round Valley, which is your first major landmark on the hike.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Follow the trail as it goes more consistently uphill.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Avoid the Round Valley Loop to the left and continue on the right toward Round Valley proper.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Just past that last junction there are some primitive toilets for the Round Valley campground. This is your last chance to go before the summit. The bathrooms are about 50 feet off the trail to the left.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Keep heading straight toward San Jacinto Peak.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
When you get to the Round Valley campground, follow the signs and hike to the left toward Wellmans Junction, your next stop.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
There might be water at the intersection, but it’s not reliable.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
The trail gets a bit steep as it goes up toward Wellmans Divide.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
After climbing for about a mile, you’ll start to see the sky and ridge at Wellmans Divide.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Enjoy the views from Wellmans Divide, then hike right.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
At Wellmans Junction, you’re going to head through to the right.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Here are the details on the sign at Wellmans Junction. You’re at 9700 feet, congrats! You’re following the trail toward San Jacinto Peak.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Here’s what the trail looks like right after that last junction.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
From here on out, you’re hiking uphill. Take your time, especially if you’re not used to the altitude. You’re getting less oxygen up here, and need to adjust your effort accordingly. If you have a headache or nausea, you might have altitude sickness, and need to stop or turn around. Read my rundown of altitude sickness signs and symptoms on my Mt Whitney hike page. It’s serious enough to kill people, and you need to treat it seriously if you have the symptoms.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
After a while the trees end and you’ll have incredible views to the east.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
After a long stretch on that last exposed section, the trail doubles back. Keep your eyes open for large rocks blocking the (straight) path.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
After the last turn, the views are incredible again.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
The trail winds to the right and into an area with trees. You’re almost there.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
At the trail junction, go straight.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Here’s the detail of that trail sign. Don’t mistake Little Round Valley for Round Valley on the way back. Two different places.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
The trail is well marked and keeps going up.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Soon you’ll see the refuge hut. This is the last little stretch.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Feel free to checkout the hut and leave any extra supplies you might have for hikers in danger. If the conditions are bad, you are free to take refuge in here. Also, some people leave their heavier packs outside of the hut and do the final stretch to the summit with lighter gear. It’s generally safe to leave a pack outside here.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Continue past the hut and head towards the summit.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
The trail turns into more of a scramble on this last stretch, splitting and coming back together a few times. Look for rock piles (cairns) to confirm your path.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Some sections are marked with stones on the side.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
As the trail gets steeper, it gets less defined. Look for stone piles and footprints to show you the right way. If you come to a dead end, just backtrack until you see the right way.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
OUCH! The last hundred feet are straight up.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
At last, the summit sign will come into view.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
YOU DID IT! Get your shots with the summit sign and pat yourself on the back.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
To the west you should see Orange, Riverside, and LA counties, and their (greener) fauna.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
To the east, you’ll see the Sonoran and Mojave (north) deserts, and their barren landscape.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Take your time to relax on the comfy rocks at the summit. Across the valley is southern California’s highest peak, San Gorgonio, which you can also hike to.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
After the summit, head back the way you came. Some of the trail signs have this handy tram marker if you don’t remember which way to turn as you descend.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
When you get back to the ranger station, drop your copy of the permit into the box to let the rangers know that you’ve safely completed the hike.

That’s it, you did it. Even though you had the tram, it’s still a very tough hike. Enjoy a bite or drink at the tram station and head back down the mountain.

Palm Springs Tram Hike Video

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A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.