Museum Trail (Palm Springs)
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||2 miles (3.2 km)|
|Hike Time||1-2 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||920 feet (280m)|
|Highest Elevation||1,360 feet (415m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument|
Don’t let the short distance fool you; the Museum Trail in Palm Springs is a tough one. You’ll climb up a rocky and steep slope, covering almost 1000 vertical feet in about a mile. But at the top, you are rewarded with a picnic area that offers panoramic views of Palm Springs. The Museum Trail is also the beginning of the epic Cactus to Clouds hike, rated one of the hardest in the USA. So if you do this short hike, you’ll get a taste of what it’s like to do this grueling classic without all the distance and risk.
How to Get to the Museum Trail in Palm Springs
The trailhead and start of the hike are in the back of the Palm Springs Art Museum parking lot, but you cannot park in the museum lot for the hike. So instead, park along the street in a nice shaded spot. Use this trailhead address:
101 N Belardo Rd, Palm Springs, CA, 92262
Gear For the Hike
While the Museum Trail isn’t long, it is a challenging uphill. People do this in all kinds of clothing, but your best bet is light hiking gear or fitness clothes with good trail runners or hiking footwear. Bring at least 1L of water and sun protection. In the summer this trail can be deadly with high mid-day temperatures, so go at sunrise. In the cooler months, you can do this at any point of the day.
Joby GripTight Smartphone Flexible Tripod
Take your selfie stick game to the next level. Part of the fun of a hike is taking pictures, and a flexible JOBY smartphone tripod takes it to the next level. You can use it as a selfie stick, as a regular tripod, but more importantly, as a flexible tripod that can attach to tree branches and other objects. It’s not expensive, and it’s something you can use when not hiking too.
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Black Diamond Astro 250
It’s your biggest asset if you get lost. If something goes wrong and you get lost, sprain your ankle, or get delayed, you might be caught out after dark. And one of the top items that search and rescue departments recommend you carry is a light. Now smartphones have lights, but they drain the battery quickly. It’s better to invest in an expensive yet high-quality headlamp like the Black Diamond Astro 250. It takes AAA batteries, can last 200 hours, and has an emergency strobe. Carry it with you off the trail to use in emergencies as well.
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Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated January 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.
Palm Springs Museum Trail Map
Not only is this trail steep, but it also can be confusing. Years of hikers taking shortcuts and side trails to viewpoints has created a web of trails that can get confusing. The good news is that the local hikers have marked the official route with white blazes. The main idea is to follow the white blazes and you’re on the official trail to the top.
The other thing to note is that the trail is steep and rocky. Some people find trekking poles helpful, but I think it’s almost too steep for them. Just prepare to use your hands to climb up some rock areas. It’s not a technical scramble and there is nothing risky, it’s just really steep.
If it’s the summer, watch where you put your hands. Rattlesnakes will often sun themselves on hot rocks. They won’t actively attack you, but if you get in their space and threaten them, they can rattle and eventually bite—nothing to stress about, just something to be aware of.
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?
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 6. 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.
This is one of the steepest trails in the San Jacinto Mountains.Official Forest Service Website
Museum Trail Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
If you look at the trail map, you may be tempted to continue the Museum Trail up to the top of Mt San Jacinto (on the Skyline Trail). While I applaud your ambition, that’s a hike best left to experts at the right time of the year. Those who continue on have died on that trail, and it’s something that requires serious planning. If you do want to hit the summit, I recommend taking the tram up and then hiking to the summit from there. It’s still a challenging and beautiful hike, but lacks the environmental dangers that the Skyline Trail has.
Once you’ve had your fill of the viewpoint, go back down the way you came. Take your time down the steep and rocky path.
This guide last updated on January 11, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
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