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.
Altra Lone Peak 5
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 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. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.
Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated September 2021.
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?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.
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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