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Cactus to Clouds, CA

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Guide 44 Triplogs  4 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CA > Big Bear - Jacinto
4.6 of 5 by 16
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 19.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 481 feet
Elevation Gain 10,328 feet
Accumulated Gain 10,795 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 12-15 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 73.78
Interest Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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19  2019-05-26 Pickles
4  2018-04-29 The_N
8  2016-10-29 Hiking_Fool
10  2015-10-24 chumley
12  2015-10-24 JuanJaimeiii
9  2015-10-24 sbkelley
4  2015-10-24 joebartels
18  2015-10-03 BiFrost
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Author Davis2001r6
author avatar Guides 6
Routes 39
Photos 887
Trips 214 map ( 2,190 miles )
Age 38 Male Gender
Location Suffolk, UK
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → 4 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  5:34am - 5:43pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
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Named place Nearby
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Skyline Trail
by Davis2001r6

Have you ever wanted a real challenge? If so, this is your hike. Cactus to 2 Clouds climbs from the Desert of Palm Springs, CA to the highpoint on Mt. San Jacinto, gaining over 10K feet in the process. The good part is you get to take a tram down from 8K feet.

The hike to the tram is difficult to say the least, gaining 8K feet in just 10 miles. It is also the most remote. The trail is east facing so you will have an early start to get up off the desert floor before sunrise. There is no water along this part of the trail and you may not see another person either. Don't even consider doing this hike in the middle of summer, if you do have the helicopter on speed dial. In winter mountaineering equipment will be required just to get to the tram, ice and crampons a must. People have fallen to their death a few miles below the tram trying to traverse the icy trail.

The hike begins in the city of Palm Springs. There are two trailheads, on at the back of a subdivision where Ramon Road dead ends and the other is the one in which I used starts at the Palm Springs Art Museum. The trail climbs steeply for the first few miles and is also the hardest part to follow with a maze of zig-zags and switchbacks. You will need an early start (3-4am) to get out of the lower section before sunrise. As you gain in elevation you get into more shrubbery and then lots of Manzanita. Even higher you're hiking through pine trees with some of the largest pine cones you will ever see. The trail is fairly easy to follow most of the way, it's gotten more use in recent years, there are white dots spray painted on many rocks for a good portion of the trail. Similar to what you may have seen on the Siphon Draw trail to Flat Iron. They light up nicely with a headlamp at night to steer you in the right direction. As for most hikes, if you think your off trail, just retrace your steps for a bit till you find the trail again.

From the tram to the summit of San Jacinto the trail is very clear and signed as well at all the junctions. Only near the very top it's just a bit of a scramble whichever way you would like. There is a summit house about 100 yards and down a bit from the Summit, some have been known to spend the night in there. Including one women last winter with a broken leg that had to make camp in there for 3 days until weather could clear to get rescuers up to her.

Mileage for the hike
Palm Springs to the tram - 10 miles one way. From the tram to the summit is another 5.5 miles one way, 11 miles roundtrip to get back to the tram. If you do the full Cactus to Clouds you're looking at a difficult 21 mile day.

There is no water for the first 10 miles on the trail. Once you reach the tram level there is water at the Long Valley Ranger Station, the outside faucet was turned off, so I just filled up from the bathroom sink. There is also water available at the tram, but that requires going up about 200 feet of ramp and steps to get up to it. Piped water is available 2 miles up from the Tram at the Round Valley Camp.

Is available above the tram at Round Valley. You need to get a Wilderness Permit Application from the State Park, it says to send it in at least 10 days before your trip but less than 8 weeks. Walk up permits may be available in the non peak seasons.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. It would be insane to attempt this entire hike without prior experience hiking.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2008-10-27 Davis2001r6
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent of 20 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Cactus to Clouds
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    A good day, but a tad bittersweet. Telescope Peak continues to prove elusive, but the power of water is something to behold in an area like Death Valley. After it became clear that hiking 18 miles to Shortys Well wasn't a great idea, we convened a meeting of the minds on the front porch of the Furnace Creek Inn. Part of what happened next was certainly my fault - upon kicking around ideas, I asked "how far away is Palm Springs?" Oops. Though my vote was officially for Mt Charleston (closer, and had done C2C a few times before), the coin said otherwise and off we went on what twisted and turned into a great adventure.

    Some things I learned: that last 2,000' to the tram always is a party that leaves your legs feeling as special as always. I love the first few thousand feet of this trail and the sunrises that hit around 5,000': always will. Five Hour Energy gives you the antithesis of wings, despite what others will tell you, and the summit is great when there's no wind. Great group and good laughs along the way. Did I say I was retired from C2C? Huh.
    Cactus to Clouds
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    We drove to Death Valley to hike Telescope from Shorty's Well. Perfect weather, perfect everything... except all roads to the holy land were flooded. We didn't bring a boat for Death Valley Lake. We discussed options and ultimately flipped a coin as midnight drew closer.

    Sleep is over rated so we set off for San Jacinto to hit up C2C. Everyone except CHUMS has tackled this beast multiple times. He was our shuttle driver. With a shuttle no longer needed he joined in and knocked it out!

    Absolutely perfect weather. Slightly crowded above Mountain Station. The disappointment of Death Valley caviar dreams was tough. In the end I think we all enjoyed Jacinto.

    One nice area of yellow trees near Mountain Station.
    Cactus to Clouds
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I asked JJ if he was interested in a Mazzie Peak, Ord two for one. He called my Mazzie, Ord Peak special and raised me a Cactus to Clouds. He told me we would leave at midnight, with minimal to no sleep, drive straight through, hit the trail at four and then tackle perhaps the most AEG one can get in a hike in the U.S. I said you had me at minimal to no sleep. I also thought what a great way to celebrate the birthday of the greatest country in the world.

    We hit the trail at four on the dot. We quickly caught another group of hikers and passed them like they were standing still. As it turns out they were not standing still, but probably a little in over their heads and just moving very slowly. We later learned that a ranger had to bring them water down to 7000 feet as we were finishing. Probably ten hours on the trail for them by that point and they were still 1000 feet below the tram.

    Ok back to the hike. The ease at which JJ flew up that mountain, made me feel like I did not even belong on this hike! Nevertheless, I was able to plug my way up the hill to some respectable splits 4:40 to the skyline and under seven to the summit. We had a good time on the summit, old glory was a hit, we chatted and joked with several of the hikers on the way dow and spread as much Fourth of July spirit as we could.

    The tram was bumping and the ride down was pretty cool; a great way to finish the day. After the tram it was a quick taxi ride back to the museum and some Del Taco of course. Got away with another sub four dollar lunch and that is always reason for celebration.

    A big thanks to JJ for driving and setting up probably one of my sure to be all time favorite day hikes.

    Finally, all I can say is hike California it rocks! ;)
    Cactus to Clouds
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    What a beast. Met up with Juan Jaime last night at midnight and we sped across the desert to Palm Springs. Made great time and hit the trail at 10 minutes to 4:00. About 80 degrees at the start and we were able to beat the heat the whole way up.

    Trail starts out fairly steep at the beginning, mellows out a bit then just gets progressively steeper a few miles below the tram station. Don't know if it's the time of year, but the sun just seemed to be right on top of me the whole way, not much in the way of shade. Plus I would have killed to have at least a little bit of a breeze.

    Met Juan at the ranger station, permit in hand and we continued up the next section. Compared to the first part of the climb, it was welcome relief. About half as steep as the first section. Made it to the top, hung out for about 15 minutes and started the journey down. Everything fell in place on the way down, bought our tram ticket just as they were boarding and had the taxi arrive minutes after walking off the tram.

    If I did the hike again I would change a couple of things. Look into getting a hotel close the hike, getting 3 hours of sleep plus driving had me suffering at points. Bring the lightest backpack that I can get away with, may do it with my Nathan trail running vest. You can fill up with water at the ranger station. Still do the hike with trail running shoes, glad I left my hiking boots at home.
    Cactus to Clouds
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Scott summed it up well in his post and pictures, i'm just glad to have gotten that little irritated feeling out of the back of my mind of thinking I never really did this mountain because I took the tram down the first time. :) It was a great day overall, couldn't have asked for anything better.
    Cactus to Clouds
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This was the fourth - and likely final - time up the Skyline Trail, but what a way to finish! Ken had concocted the idea of eschewing the tram on the descent and just returning to the car the old-fashioned way: hiking back down the Skyline instead of riding the tram. Now that was a new twist, and I couldn't resist the challenge.

    My friend Eric joined us, and the three of us left the Museum around 4:00 a.m. Plenty of other groups heading up ahead of us, which was a little surprising given the forecast (40% chance of snow up high with 40 mph winds...that never appeared). I set a steady pace as we made our way up. Made it to the tram in 5 hrs, had a quick break at the ranger station, and then Ken led us on his promised Short Cut. This route left the main trail right where the Tamarack Valley drainage and just follows this up to the forested plateau above. It's steeper than the trail to Long Valley, but saves some distance and avoids the longs switchbacks to and past Wellsmans Divide. Very nice in here, too, with scattered campsites, nice meadows, and plenty of deer browsing. Soon enough, we met the main trail again on the oak-covered slope right beneath the summit, and 7 hours after leaving Palm Springs, we stood on top and enjoyed some brews out of the wind.

    The descent took a toll, but was actually a nice way to end the day. Watching the moon rise over the Coachella Valley as we descended through the desert was great, and soon after, we could hear the parties and club music from as high up as 3000': a funny juxtaposition with our haggardness in the last hour. Off to Village Pub we went for food and brews!
    Cactus to Clouds
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I planned on doing this hike for Memorial Day weekend to end the spring season with a bang, then a few personal problems arose and it looked like I wasn't going to head on out here. Thursday night I made up my mind to go anyway and try to clear my head while doing something great I haven't done before. This is an amazing hike for sure, started in the dark, saw a great sunrise, worked up a sweat, and met some good people along the way.

    The hike up was great and it wasn't until the 6000ft mark my legs started to notice the elevation gain. From this point to the tram it is a steep beast that I actually enjoyed while taking in the views of the mountain while maintaining a nonstop pace. I arrived at the Ranger Station in just over 4 hours, got my permit and then put it into cruise control for the last push on up to the summit. The summit views are fantastic and the slight breeze made it a perfect setting to enjoy a brew and get some sun. On the way down I looked in the hut and then made my way to the tram for a brew at the bar and enjoyed being a tourist for an hour taking in the views from around the tram station. I almost talked myself into hiking back down but wanted to ride the tram for that once in a lifetime things to do. It was okay, but I think i'll do the hike down next time I go back out here for this one. It was great to get away and finally tackle this mountain, now I can prepare myself for the summer fun I want to have which involves getting wet every weekend I go out. ;)
    Cactus to Clouds
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    i was really looking forward to this and it exceeded my expectations.

    the route is incredible and although i've done my share of cactus to clouds type of hikes in the catalinas and such, this one just had a different feel to it. the lower desert section is really awesome, especially early in the day with the sun just starting to light up the various rugged ridges and geography crashing down from up high. i was really enjoying it down there. started grinding pretty hard from about 5000 to 8000 foot level but the views just kept getting better. jj was flying, john and i just kept chugging along

    met back up with jj at the tram station. had a dr pepper and a smile and continued on..felt iffy out of the gates but started feeling better as i went. this upper stretch is beyond words and i could not get enough. finally made it up to the cabin then the summit and took a nice break. it was breezy and cool up top...just perfect.

    uneventful hike down (thankfully) then the super cool tram ride down, erasing in about 15 minutes what took us a little under 5 hours to achieve.

    what a great hike and what a great day! thanks guys i couldn't have had a better time. :y:

    i'm with jj, i would definitely do this one again
    Cactus to Clouds
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Great hike! Challenging and beautiful. I have been wanting to do this one for a couple years. I don't do well in altitude, so I knew the top third of the hike would be tough for me. It was.

    The hike starts out winding up to gain a rideline not too far above you. Seems like you never really make it up to the never ending ridge above until you top out at the tram hours later. Nick and I made it up to the tram in 4:45 where JJ had been waiting for us for quite a while. JJ would have done this entire hike in under 7 hours by himself. :o

    We took a break in the cafeteria before starting up to the summit of San Jacinto. I got slower as we went up in altitude. Felt nauseated and winded. JJ and Nick were nice enough to wait for me a few times. We passed about five groups who were hiking up from the tram, so I guess slow is relative. This part of the hike is stunning. Huge trees, great views, fresh crisp air.

    Before too long we made it to the cabin and the summit just above. Very cool! Took a break, had a sandwich, checked out the cabin, and headed back down to the tram. By the time we descended to the tram I was feeling a little better.

    The tram ride down is fun. The scenery is spectacular. We caught a cab back to JJ's car at the museum, had some lunch, then hit the road back to Az. Awesome trip! Always good hiking with John and Nick. You guys rock. Thanks for driving John. :)
    Cactus to Clouds
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Spectacular, relentless route. Day was warm but not too hot, only a couple small patches of snow left. One-way tram ride down is $12, taxi back to the museum is $25. The taxi driver does a lot of shuttles, he said that the hardcores are doing the climb to the tram in under 3 hours (took me 6).

    Note: Ramon Road starts at the new Bob Hope Drive interchange. If there are any freeway signs for Ramon Road, I must have missed them.

    Permit $$
    Special Use

    Permits are required for any hiking above the tram level. There is no fee or entry limit, they are available at the Long Valley Ranger Station next to the tram. Check with the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for tram fees. I believe a one way ticket cost about $11.

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    Take I-10 West to Palm Springs, CA. Exit at Ramon Rd and turn left (West), go 8 miles to Palm Canyon Drive and turn Right. The second street is Tahquitz Way, turn left on it. Head 2 blocks and park on Museum Drive, do not park in the Museums Parking lot.
    page created by joebartels on Oct 26 2008 11:46 pm
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