Palm Springs Tram Hike to San Jacinto Peak
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||11 miles (17.7 km)|
|Hike Time||5-6 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||2,620 feet (799m)|
|Highest Elevation||10,834 feet (3302m)|
|Fees & Permits||Tram Fee & Free Permit|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Mount San Jacinto State Park|
|Weather & Forecast||Latest Conditions|
|Stay Safe||Copy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.|
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike to Mt San Jacinto is a great way to bag Southern California’s second-highest peak without putting in a considerable effort. It’s still a challenging 11-mile hike, but it’s nothing like climbing Mt San Jacinto from Palm Springs or Idyllwild; taking the Palm Springs tram cuts about 6,000 feet of climbing off the hike. The summit of Mt San Jacinto is one of my favorites because it straddles the line between Coastal California and the Sonoran Desert, allowing you to see the transition between the two ecosystems, and on a clear day, from Catalina Island to Mt Charleston, just outside of Las Vegas. It’s a fun and insanely beautiful hike.
Getting to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The journey starts at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway base station, where you take the tram 5873ft up to Mountain Station, the start of the hike. The tram station is about 15 minutes west of downtown Palm Springs off the main road. The address for the tram is:
1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262.
There is a fee to park your car at the tram station.
Planning Your Tram Ride
Half of the fun is taking the tram from the bottom up to Mountain Station, which sits at 8,516 feet. The tram is the world’s largest rotating aerial tramway, starting in the Sonoran desert and ending in an alpine zone. During the ride, the floor slowly turns, allowing everyone to share the best views. And the tram crosses over five towers, with the car experiencing a small swing after going over them. Wind can also make the cars sway. The Swiss-built tram is regularly maintained and inspected, and has a great safety track record, but it can be intense for those with a fear of heights.
The tram schedule, parking fees, and ticket costs change, so I recommend going right to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway website to get all the details.
Once at the top, in Mountain Station, you are at a tourist attraction. There are restaurants, viewpoints, gift shops, bathrooms, and interpretive displays. It’s a fun place, built in the mid-century modern style that Palm Springs is famous for. I recommend budgeting some time in after your hike to grab a bite and enjoy it.
When you plan your visit, try to take the first tram up in the morning to avoid the crowds. The tram and this hike can get very busy. Also, look at the schedule and see when the last tram down leaves. If you miss this, you’ll be sleeping on the floor at Mountain Station.
Gear for the Hike to Mt San Jacinto
Don’t let the fact that you take a tram for a few thousand feet fool you, this is a high-altitude mountain hike and you should be prepared. I always have the 10 essentials, at least 2L of water, snacks, and plenty of layers. If you like to use trekking poles, bring them too.
Some folks feel the attitude. There’s not much you can do aside from keeping hydrated and taking your time. If you start to feel nauseous or get a headache, it’s time to head back down. And if you’re not comfortable hiking 11 miles at lower altitudes, it won’t be any easier here.
In the summer, the summit will be about 30 degrees F cooler than Palm Springs, making for a nice temperate hike. In the winter, the summit can be covered in snow and ice. And in just about every season it will be windy at the summit. Before you do the hike, check the summit weather and prepare for those conditions. If there is snow, and you have experience hiking in it, the trail is doable with micro-spikes and sometimes snowshoes.
The San Jacinto Trail Report is excellent for getting current trail conditions to the summit, as is calling the Long Valley Ranger Station.
Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
Altra Lone Peak 6
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Terraventure 3 or Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2022.
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 a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Camping On Mt San Jacinto
If you want to overnight on the mountain, your best bet is grabbing a backcountry permit and staying at one of the 19 primitive sites at Round Valley, which is along the hike route. Round Valley (not to be confused with Little Round Valley, which is on the other side of the mountain) has primitive campsites, vault toilets, water, and a seasonal ranger station. Camp at Round Valley, and then summit early in the morning before the first tram (and potential crowds) arrive. If Round Valley is full, try Tamarack Valley Campground, right next to it.
Trail Maps & Signs
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Landmarks on the Hike
Tram to Mt San Jacinto Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Hike Directions
From the top, just head back down the way you came. Watch your footing on the rocky trail. It’s easy to trip when it’s rocky.
This guide last updated on April 21, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.