Some Great Deals!! ➤ REI Cyberweek Sale

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike To Mt San Jacinto
Palm Springs Hiking Trails

Palm Springs Tram Hike to San Jacinto Peak

  • 11 miles - Hard Effort
  • 5-6 Hours (Total)
  • 2,620 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 10,834 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

what does this mean?

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.

In this Guide:
  • Video & Turn-by-Turn Directions to San Jacinto Peak
  • Planning Your Tram Ride
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations for the Hike
  • Camping On Mt San Jacinto

When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

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.

Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 4
There are several parking areas, and when you go through the pay station, they'll direct you to the appropriate lot that is open. Ideally you'll park in Lot A, which is closest to the tram station. If it's crowded, you'll be in a lower lot where you need to take a shuttle bus.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 1
Go upstairs at the tram station for departures.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 5
There's a large waiting room where you can buy tickets, use bathrooms, and visit a small gift shop. You can also buy tickets online before you arrive.

Planning Your Tram Ride

Palm Springs Tram
The tram ride to Mountain Station is a unique experience that can be freaky if you have a fear of heights. During the 10 minute ride you'll travel 2.5 miles and climb about 6000 feet. It took 15 years to build the tram and was marketed as "the eighth wonder of the world." Photo by Don Graham.

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.

Palm Springs Tram Mountain Station
The multi-level Mountain Station is jam packed with observation decks. Photo by Alan Light.

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.

Gear 2022 8

I waste my time with lousy hiking gear so you don't have to. Only the winners get onto my gear page. There's no fluff, sponsorships, or promotions. It's just gear I personally use, have tested, and recommend. Right now I'm liking my inReach Mini 2, Garmin Epix, and Lone Peak 6 shoes.
.
My November 2022 Top Gear Picks

HUUUGE!!! ➤REI Cyberweek Sale Including Big Discounts on Hiking Tech Like inReach / Garmin Watches

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

San Jacinto Tram Hike Sign
The trail is well-marked with signs along the whole route.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 3
And if you get confused on the way back, look for these "tramway" badges on the trail posts.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 2
The trail can be really rocky in places, but is always easy to follow.

Interactive Map

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

Free Nav Tools:  GaiaGPS - AllTrails (Pro Now 50% Off!)

Guides to Help You Navigate

Elevation Profile

San Jacinto Tram Hike Elevation
Here's the profile one-way to the summit. The first mile has some downhill and flat sections, but then you'll climb steadily up to the summit. The last little section to the peak has some easy scrambling.

3D Map

San Jacinto Tram Hike 3d Map
The tram does most of the work, bringing you up past the steep part of the mountain. From here, you'll wind up past Round Valley, then make a sharp turn at Wellman Divide, and then climb to the summit.

Landmarks on the Hike

LandmarkDistanceElevation
Mountain Station08516
Ranger Station0.48415
Round Valley2.59100
Wellman Divide3.39700
Summit5.510834

Tram to Mt San Jacinto Hike Directions

Stay in Touch: Monthly Email - New YouTube Videos - Instagram

Video Directions

Turn by Turn Hike Directions

Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 6
On the tram ride up notice all the climbing that you get to skip. If you want to hike to San Jacinto from Palm Springs, try the Cactus to Clouds hike, voted one of the hardest hikes in the USA by Backpacker Magazine and only for the very experienced hiker.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 7
Once you get to Mountain Station, take the stairs down and go outside.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 8
Start the hike by going down the paved path by the San Jacinto State Park sign.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 9
You'll wind down a steep paved path.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 10
At the bottom, pass the trail board and go straight through.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 11
You'll need to stop at the Long Valley Ranger Station and fill out a free permit.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 12
The permits help rangers keep track of who is out on the mountain. Fill out the permit, and then drop the blue copy in the box. Carry the white copy with you and return it to the mailbox at the bottom of the steps on your way back to the tram.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 13
Just past the ranger station, start the trail to the right.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 14
Here's a closeup of the sign at the junction. We're heading to San Jacinto Peak.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 15
The trail winds away from the crowds and is easy to follow.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 16
Hike right at the junction with the Willow Creek Trail (left).
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 17
Here's a closeup of the sign at the last junction.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 18
The trail rolls along through the pine trees and boulders.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 19
You'll cross two small bridges.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 20
And then there's a sharp turn left.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 21
And now you start the climbing. This section in the beginning can be rocky.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 22
At about 1.5 miles in, the climbing eases up and gets less rocky.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 23
At about 2 miles in you'll arrive at the junction with the Round Valley Loop. Stay right.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 24
Here's a closeup of the sign at the last junction. Also note that the distances are not quite accurate here.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 25
Hike straight through some of the campsite markers. There are new pit toilets here (right).
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 26
Keep hiking toward San Jacinto Peak.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 27
These markers are for tent sites at Round Valley.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 28
At about 2.5 miles in, you'll reach the junction at Round Valley Campground. Make the hard left at the sign.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 30
There's water just to the right of the junction. The water is not always running, and you need to treat it with a water filter before drinking.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 29
Here's a closeup of the sign at Round Valley.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 31
As you pass Round Valley, you'll see some rusty artifacts on your right, including a stove, all brought here by the California Conservation Corps in the 1930s and 40s to build a ranger station.. The stove allegedly marks the spot where the burro who carried it all the way up here died.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 32
Keep climbing up through the pines.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 33
And at about 0.8 miles past Round Valley, you'll reach Wellman Divide. Bear right.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 34
You'll reach a group of boulders with epic views to the south. It's a great place for a snack before the final ascent on the summit.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 35
You'll be able to see lots of high peaks south, toward San Diego, including the highest point in San Diego County, Hot Springs Mountain, and the second-highest point, Cuyamaca Peak.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 36
The trail junction is to the right of the boulders. Continue heading uphill toward San Jacinto Peak.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 37
Here's the trail sign at Wellman Junction.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 38
The trail climbs through the trees.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 39
And then pops out into the scrub, allowing you to have an unobstructed view for miles.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 40
To your right is the distinct Cornell Peak, named by a USGS geologist in 1897 because it reminded him of McGraw Tower at his alma mater of Cornell University.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 41
You have another short stretch through pines and massive granite boulders.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 42
And then pop back out into the low scrub. This section of trail can get rocky.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 43
When you approach the trees, look for the trail to cut back to the left. It can get confusing - there is a smaller trail straight that is often used in the winter when this whole area is covered in snow.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 44
Keep heading back uphill. In front of you is Jean Peak.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 45
At the ridge the trail heads into the trees.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 46
And then you'll find a junction where you want to hike straight to continue for the last stretch to the summit.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 47
Here's the sign from that junction. Again, don't confuse Round Valley with Little Round Valley on the way back.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 48
Continue uphill. The trail can split and join back together in places where folks take shortcuts.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Soon you'll see the refuge hut, built in 1933 by the CCC and billed as “the highest building in Southern California.”
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
Feel free to check out 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, but rodents and crows can try to get in if you have food.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 50
When you pass the refuge, there are a few trails, and multiple options to get to the top. Whichever way you go, you'll have to do some light scrambling to ascend. It's nothing dangerous or on an edge. If you find yourself in that situation, you are in the wrong place. I find that heading right offers an easy path to follow.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 51
Just past the hut the path winds around to the left.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 53
And then you start climbing up the rocks and boulders to the top.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 54
Soon the trees will end you'll see the top.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike
There's usually a summit marker there.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 59
And a few USGS benchmarks.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 56
Directly north is Mount San Gorgonio.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 55
To the northwest is Angeles National Forest and Mt Baldy.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 57
And to the west is Saddleback Mountain.
Palm Springs Tram To San Jacinto Directions Update 58
And down the mountain is Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

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.

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.

Related Guides

Popular Guides

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).

Don't Miss Out

  • Monthly(ish) Email Newsletter - A list of new guides and important info for hikers.
  • YouTube - Subscribe for new video notifications. The best way to get notified every time a new guide goes up.
  • Instagram - I occasionally share pretty pictures from my hikes, broadcast live from the trail, and let you know about new guides.