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Museum Trail Palm Springs
Palm Springs Hiking Trails

Museum Trail (Palm Springs)

  • 2 miles - Hard Effort
  • 1-2 Hours (Total)
  • 920 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 1,360 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

what does this mean?

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.

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

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

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.

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.
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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.

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Guides to Help You Navigate

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

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.

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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!).

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