Cactus to Clouds – Palm Springs to San Jacinto Peak

UPDATE: October 2008 Trip Report

Hike Details

Time: 4:00 AM at the Museum Trail in Palm Springs

Distance: ~ 22 miles (16 miles up, 6 miles down to tram)

Elevation Gain: ~ 11,000 ft

Gain / Mile: 680 ft / mile

Estimated Time: ~ 12-13 hrs

Terrain: Trail, Unmaintained Trail

Difficulty: 11/10


Since will be starting so early, it is a good idea to spend the night out in Palm Springs. Rachelle and I – and probably others – will be staying at the Palm Springs Motel 6.

Here are some GPS coordinates for the hike.

We will definitely be starting out in the dark. While there should be moonlight (just past a full moon), you should have at least a flashlight or headlamp (even better).

Hike Description

Well it’s time. This is the culmination of the big peak hiking season. After the success of the Iron Mountain hike, I think a bunch of people are ready for this. What is C2C? Well, according to this magazine it is the 5th hardest dayhike in the U.S. We start in Palm Springs – at the bottom of the mountain – and hike all the way up!

Most people take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up and hike up 3 miles to the top. We will only be taking the tram down. The elevation gain is a killer, but as those who hiked Iron Mountain know, not having to do the downhill is a major benefit. And once we descend from the peak to the tram, there is a restaurant where we can feast immediately.

One of the main difficulties with this hike is dealing with the weather. It is so hot in Palm Springs during the summer months that people so easily get dehydrated as it stays hot even at higher altitudes. If we waited until the winter, then the top several thousand of feet would be covered in snow and ice making successful summiting difficult and dangerous. So, it is generally accepted that October is one of the best times to try this hike. It should cool off enough to make the heat reasonable without snow.

I have not done this hike, but it is well-documented, and we will be well-prepared. For those attending, I’ll expect a group effort in preparation for this including logistics of 1) how to get there, 2) where will we stay, 3) nagivation with GPS, 4) water supplies, etc…

In a section below I will be providing links to information about this hike. I expect all who are attending to read this information, as well as let me know if they find out any more info.

Who is Ready?

Well if you’ve been on my hikes before, I think you understand the need to be strict on the requirements of who can do these hikes, as people often overestimate themselves (and some underestimate). We cannot have this problem on this hike! And based on recent successful summits, I don’t think we will.

The pace of this hike has a goal to summit in 10 hrs. This is a little over a 1,000 ft per hour. Who can do this pace? Well my specific prediction will be based on time to ascend the Original Baldy Trail

From Mt Baldy Village to Mt Baldy:

One way distance: 6 miles

One way elevation gain: 5600 ft

Cutoff Time: 4 hrs!

If you want to do this hike, you must be able to ascend Baldy from Baldy Village in 4 hrs or less. Keep in mind this is using an ideal pace with minimal breaks. I am choosing this hike as an example because it is of sufficient elevation gain to be predictive of the longer C2C hike.

One week prior, I will organize a hike, most likely up to Baldy – though it may be another hike – that will contain 6,000 ft of elevation gain, and those who want to try C2C must attend. If you can’t, I think John Quan might organize a hike 2 weeks prior of similar magnitude.

Several of you don’t need to worry about this, you know who you are. Everyone will only be allowed to RSVP “No” but indicate interest, and I will sign those up immediately that I can vouch for.

Otherwise, it’s time to ramp up the training! If you want to improve your time, you should start doing moderate to intense cardiovascular training 3 times a week. In 3-4 weeks, this will make a marked difference in your performance.

Message Board

To discuss this stuff as group (and for future hikes), I’ve create a simple message board. Please use it!


Read and Take the Quize

Sac Jacinto Hiking Forum

SummitPost Link

Hiking Member Tim’s Photos

The Skyline Trail

What to bring:

WATER! We will at least need water to carry up the first 8,500 ft. [4-6 L, depending on weight, is a good quantity for October]

The rest of the 10 essentials

A will of Iron!

Zé’s picture of San Jacinto from Gorgonio.

Getting There

We need to get to Palm Springs Friday night. More on logistics later.

Related posts:

Into the Brush - Ascending Monrovia Peak
Layman's Guide to Hiking - Part I: Breakfast
Double the Trouble - Skyline BACK to BACK

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 at 9:07 pm and is filed under Trail Information. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 Responses to “Cactus to Clouds – Palm Springs to San Jacinto Peak”

kris smith

kris smith July 6th, 2009 at 6:58 pm

have u heard of a midnight trip on sat 11 of july at midnight? been trainig hard hope its still going on


July 7th, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Sierra Club might be doing one then, you’d have to ask them…


Doug October 19th, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Sounds like a very challenging hike, especially to the summit. I’m thinking of doing this hike with some friends just up to the tram station. Can anyone let me know how rigorous that part would be compared to hiking Half Dome? Half Dome isn’t as steep but it takes longer since there isn’t a tram to get you back down!


October 23rd, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Skyline (Palm Springs to Tram) is definitely harder than Half Dome (but like you said not as long as its only the uphill).

For one thing, you simply have more elevation gain, (8000ft compared to 5000ft).

2) There is a significantly higher chance of dehydration – not only b/c its longer but because the hike is in the dessert – you simply need to pack a lot more water and electrolytes than on Half Dome. Also, there is no water sources until you get to the Tram.

3) There is no maintained “trail”, however it has gotten much use so it’s clear in most parts. But still, one could get lost during the beginning and end parts, so you need to bring a map with the trail (you can print out the map from my GPS coordinates from my trip report).

It’s certainly a challenging, but enjoyable hike. Just make sure you are prepared :)


Doug November 4th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Zé, thanks for the info. We want to do the hike from PS to the tram station when there won’t be snow or icy conditions, but our schedules aren’t free until Nov. 21. Do you think that date will most likely be too late to avoid snow and/or ice? Is it better to wait until spring (April or May) when the snow has melted?


November 5th, 2009 at 12:23 pm

well right now it’s okay, but who knows what weather will show up in the next 2 weeks. you should be able to keep up on the conditions by reading this forum


Doug November 6th, 2009 at 10:03 am

We’ve decided to wait until next spring after the snow has melted. If you have a group going then, perhaps our group of 3 could join up with you. In the meantime, we’ll be training on El Capitan to get ready (the mountain in Lakeside, San Diego County, not Yosemite!).

Bobo the Hobo

Bobo the Hobo January 18th, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Why don’t you bother to tell us the date of the hike?


January 20th, 2010 at 10:42 am

BOBO: the hike was in October 2008. This seems indicated in the url and at the end of the end of the entry. However I think it would be nice to post the date automatically at the beginning. John (the socalhikes guy) might know how to change that.


Scott April 12th, 2010 at 11:33 am

Excellent trip report, actually the best I have seen (and I have read alot).
Except one thing I cannot find…what day did you do this? I dont want to fight snow and ice…


Scott April 12th, 2010 at 11:45 am

Ah, I looked at the meetup – October 8th, got it, thanks !


Doug April 18th, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Hello again Ze, I’m wondering if you know of any upcoming planned hikes for the Skyline to Tram trail. My group wants to go May 15 if the ice has thawed by then. Any later than that seems like it might be too hot at the lower elevation. Since we haven’t done this hike before, it would be nice to hook up with others who are familiar with it.


April 20th, 2010 at 11:18 am

Hi Doug,

Hopefully the snow will be gone by then, but currently there is at least snow waist deep in the very upper portions. May not be much of a problem in a month, but who knows. I am not planning on heading up there until the fall.


Doug May 13th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

My group of 3 is going Saturday, May 15 (only up to the tram since it’ll be our 1st time on this trail). We hope to see tracks made by the earlier group doing C2C that day!


May 14th, 2010 at 11:17 am

good luck Doug! almost was gonna do it tomorrow, but decided on Iron mt. It will help to print out a topo map with the gps track overlayed and / or upload the gps track I had in the TR. This will help avoiding getting lost, especially the last 1000 ft where you have to turn up at Coffman’s Crag. There will still be a little snow and may make the use trail confusing to follow.


Doug May 19th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

We did the hike to the tram and it didn’t seem as bad as it was made out to be on all the websites we’d read! It was long & steep but we paced ourselves and didn’t rush (it took 9 hours). Seemed like Half Dome was a harder hike but maybe that’s due to being in better hiking shape now since we didn’t train as much before the Yosemite trip.

We probably could have done the hike in 8 hours if the weather had been cooler. The high was 98 degrees in Palm Springs. We got on the trail about 5:15am when it was 70 degrees which helped a lot.

The trail was easy to see and we didn’t feel at risk of getting lost.

We had to be cautious crossing the ice chutes on the north face of the mountain around 7800 ft. Fortunately, the chutes weren’t very wide since a lot of snow & ice has melted. But, it certainly required being careful and we were glad we had hiking poles!

We’re thinking of going back Memorial weekend to hike the tram to peak portion if the snow at that level has melted enough by then.

In November, we’re planning to do the entire C2C climb from the desert to the peak.

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