Cactus to Clouds, CA • Hike

Cactus to Clouds, CA

Guide 49 Triplogs Mine 0 4 Topics
4.6 of 5 
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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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9  2022-06-20 jacobemerick
49  2022-05-14 ddgrunning
11  2021-06-25 jacobemerick
12  2019-10-26 Walworthjordyn
19  2019-05-26 Pickles
4  2018-04-29 The_N
8  2016-10-29 Hiking_Fool
10  2015-10-24 chumley
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author avatar Guides 6
Routes 40
Photos 887
Trips 214 map ( 2,190 miles )
Age 41 Male Gender
Location Bordeaux, France
Associated Areas
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Big Bear - Jacinto Region
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Preferred Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → 4 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:51am - 5:01pm
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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 strenuous, 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 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, one at the back of a subdivision where Ramon Road dead ends, and the other is the one I used; it starts at the Palm Springs Art Museum. The trail climbs steeply for the first few miles and is also the most challenging part to follow with a maze of zig-zags and switchbacks. You will need an early start (3-4 am) 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 reasonably easy to follow most of the way. It's gotten more use in recent years, and 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, retrace your steps for a bit till you find the trail again.

From the tram to the summit of San Jacinto, the trail is obvious and signed 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 woman last winter with a broken leg that had to make camp in there for three days until the 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 in 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.

     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.

    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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