Museum Trail Palm Springs

Museum Trail (Palm Springs)

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Museum Trail in Palm Springs
  • Trailhead Address and Parking Info
  • Insider Tips and Gear Recommendations for the Hike
Total Distance (?)2 miles (3.2 km)
Hike Time1-2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)920 feet (280m)
Highest Elevation1,360 feet (415m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedNo
Alerts & Closures (?)Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument
Park Phone760-862-9984

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

Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 2
There’s a good amount of free street parking in the shade. You can also park in the garage next to this area, but there is a 4 hour limit and I’ve heard of break-ins, so I just park on the street without a problem.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 3
From the parking area, just walk across the parking lot at the art museum to find the start of the Museum Trail.

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.

Lone Peak 5

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 ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

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.

My September 2021 Top Gear Picks

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.

Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 1
Look for white blazes like this on the rocks. If you see two blazes together, it usually indicates a sharp turn. There are also white arrows and Xs to help you on the way up the Museum Trail.

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.

Click Here To View

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.

Fenix 6 Pro

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.

Elevation Profile

Museum Trail Palm Springs Elevation
You’ll be going straight uphill for most of the hike, with a small dip down in the middle.

This is one of the steepest trails in the San Jacinto Mountains.Official Forest Service Website

3d Map

Museum Trail Palm Springs 3d
From this 3d map you can get an idea of the steepness. The trail basically goes straight up the spine of the mountain to the picnic bench vista point.

Museum Trail Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 4
The trailhead is easy to spot in the back of the art museum parking lot.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 5
You’ll see signs mentioning the Skyline trail at the start too. The Skyline Trail climbs up to where the Palm Springs Tram takes you, and is a very tough trail for experts.

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.

Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 6
Right from the gun, the trail is steep and rocky.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 7
Make the quick right. There are private property signs at the very beginning to keep you in the right place.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 8
Cross the driveway and continue up the trail.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 9
And again, the trail is steep and rocky. Get used to it, you have about a mile of this.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 10
So the key to the Museum Trail is following the white blazes. It takes a little getting used to, but once you do, you’ll be spotting them automatically.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 11
Keep looking for white blazes as you climb. In some sections there won’t be as many, but if you haven’t seen a white blaze in about 5 minutes, you’re probably not on the official trail.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 12
It’s steep, so make sure you take breaks, turn around, and enjoy the view. That’s O’Donnell Golf Club immediately below.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 13
When you get to this intersection, bear to the left to take the less difficult route up the climb.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 14
Follow the white blazes uphill.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 15
Make the hard right at the trail sign.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 16
Even the “easy” route is tough, continue uphill.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 17
Look for the white arrow and markers to continue right.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 18
And soon after that you have a little downhill section at the trail winds around the spine of the hill.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 19
Continue straight, avoiding trails down to the right.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 20
Continue around the left side of the hill, avoiding the downhill trails to the right. No more downhill for you until the end!
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 22
Again you’re back to the steep, rocky path blazed with white dots. In some spots the trail breaks apart and comes back together. Try to take the path marked with white blazes all the time to minimize your impact.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 23
As you climb, the views of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley really open up.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 24
When the trail starts to level out, stay straight. There are small trails to overlooks to the left that you can visit if you’d like.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 25
Continue to the saddle and you’ll spot the picnic benches in front of you.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 26
This is it, have a seat and enjoy the views!
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 27
There are benches in the back too.
Museum Trail Palm Springs Directions 28
If you’re doing this hike to prepare for Cactus to Clouds, the bench on the far left with the cairn is the Skyline Trail.

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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