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.
My Goto Hiking Footwear: La Sportiva Wildcat
If you hike a lot or just want the best (but not the most durable) hiking footwear, the Wildcat trail runner is your best move. It’s fast and light on trails, the sole gives me good grip off-trail or scrambling, and they dry quickly.
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Best Budget Day Pack: REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack
Bang for the buck, you can’t go wrong with this pack. It’s super-lightweight and big enough to carry everything for a day hike, including a water bladder. Every year REI improves this pack and after a few years, it’s really solid in every way. I pack mine in a carry-on when I travel to do hikes on trips. And if you’re into ultralight backpacking, this is also a solid choice.
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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.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated January 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 offset website expenses. 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.
Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map
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). You can also use most smartphones. Check out my navigation recommendations and resources on my top gear picks page for options at all budget levels.
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.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.