Skyline Trail (Cactus to Clouds) is a 18.8 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Palm Springs, CA that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until October.
The Cactus to Clouds Trail from Palm Springs to San Jacinto Peak has the greatest elevation gain of any trail in the United States. Also known as the Skyline Trail, it climbs 8000 feet from the desert to Long Valley, then joins with the main trail to gain another 2600 feet to the summit. The Cactus to Clouds hike is long. You start on the desert floor and climb to 10,804 feet. You gain over 8,000 feet in the first 12 miles and much of this is hiking in dry arid desert conditions. This trail is nearly always completed by returning from the peak to the upper station of the Aerial Tramway and taking it back into Palm Springs. Please note that there is a fee for using the tram.
Well it isn't easy, that's for sure. Start early, bring water and a headlamp, and be prepared for huge temperature swings. This is an epic hike and typically and all day affair. The combination of length and elevation gain in this hike make it a real will tester. There are harder hikes, but this one is up there.
I did this hike with my gf on 11/11/16. We did a bit of the hike the day before, up to 1400 ft, which helped get our bearings straight. We left from the museum trail head at 2:15am. We took plenty of water (6L each) and I drank 4.5 L by the time we reached the tram/ranger station (11:45am) (we both refilled there). The final ascent to the summit isn't bad at all (as far as steepness/grade is concerned); but after the long day, we were a bit beat. We left the ranger station at 12:30pm and got to the summit at 3:30pm. We didn't stay at the summit long, just long enough to take 5-10 photos. We reached the tram/ranger station at 6pm. It was a very strenuous and long day, but the overall experience and sense of accomplish upon reaching the summit = well worth the effort. I would recommend buying souvenirs from the shop upon first arriving to the tram/ranger station...as the shop closes at approx 5pm. All in all, this is a great hike. Make sure you are training to do this, or at least are in great shape. It's not a hike to underestimate. Supplies: GPS watch, headlamps, hiking poles, electrolytes, Gu, Turkey jerky, PB&J sandwich, mad water in a camelback. Make sure you have food that you can eat while up there. I tend not to like large heavy meals while hiking, and tend to get fuel from things like Gu and jersey etc...as opposed to a hoagie. Find what works for you.
I hiked this as my first hike/climb in California. It was not too hard but then again I do hike at least twice a week. We started at midnight and finished at 7pm . You gotta be prepared for a long day but just know this is a great trail, great views throughout the way, great workout too. Bring enough water to take you all the way to the ranger station at about 8,000 elevation by the tram station. At ranger station you can refill your water and you may want to buy your souvenirs too. I made the mistake of not buying and wanted to wait until after my return from Summit if Mt San Jacinto. The store was closed by the time we got back, they close at 5'sh. Bring a good camera too. There's amazing views at the top.
Like others have said, this hike is no joke. I wouldn't attempt it unless you've prepared significantly for it - i.e., you have been hiking for months and are fit. It took us around 17 hours (much longer than expected) because we had different levels of physical fitness in our group.
My takeaways from this hike:
- it's take mental toughness to get through some long stretches of the skyline trail, mainly between mile 5 and Long Valley, but the sense of accomplishment when you summit is SO worth it!
- even if it's not hot, you will sweat a lot. Consider that when deciding which layers to take with you. I had to take my shirt off to at certain times because I was shivering from the wind hitting my soaked shirt. The hottest it got when we did this hike this past week was around 75 degrees, but considering how much physical exertion this hike requires, chances are you'll be sweating a lot.
- pack electrolytes because you'll be losing much salt from the sweating.
- I went through a gallon of water for the skyline portion of the trail, then about a half gallon more after Long Valley (refilled at the ranger station)
- it's better to overestimate how long it'll take you that way you do not chance missing the tram. We had to take more breaks than expected because it took some in our group to get used to the altitude.
- the trail back to the tram from the peak can be a bit easy to get off of, pay extra attention especially if you're returning at night.
This hike was definitely a bucket list type of hike for me and only recommend it for those who are absolutely committed to it and have some serious motivation to do it.
I completed a partial recon hike during daylight hours just to become familiar with the trail prior to hiking it on the 23rd. I stepped off at about 0700, it was already almost 80 degrees. I hiked up 4 miles just a bit short of the 4300ft marker. I had a map that showed distances to specific markers on the trail. I found that none of the distances on the map matched my GPS. For example, Rescue 1 is marked as being 2.1 miles. My GPS had it at 2.6. Based on the time it took to get to it, I am inclined to say that the GPS has the correct distance. It got hot really quickly and the heat (up 95) took its toll during my 8 mile out and back. There were more people on the trail than I expected. Most of them just hiking in a short distance, and others doing some trail running. Neither going up to the top. If you attempt to hike this make certain you are prepared and you start early. We are starting at 0315, next week.
What an awesome challenge! You must be in shape and experienced before attempting this hike. If you have never hiked this trail before, I strongly recommend doing a daylight pre-hike first. I hike the first four miles up the week before our Sunday hike, just so I could become a little familiar with the trail prior to starting off in the dark at 0315 Sunday. It is pretty easy to get turned around on the trail. Especially in the dark. Our starting weather was perfect. About 70/75 degrees. The temps went up a little, but by the time we were at 6000ft, we had easily beaten the heat of the desert and the temps started going down. When we made it to the peak it was raining, the winds were about 30/35mph and the temps were around 35 degrees with the wind chill factor. Make sure you have a map and compass, and a GPS tracking device. There were about three or four other groups doing C2C today as well. We played leap frog with one of them most of the way up. I took 6 liters of water and was down to my last half liter when we finished. I also used electrolyte tablets twice during the hike.
If you are up for a challenging hike this is a good one. I really enjoined it, great views.
If you like a challenge hike and would like a good workout then this day hike is for you. Two friends and I hiked the C2C2C. The tram was down for maintenance until the end of September so we did the complete 30-31 miles up to the peak and back down the same route and had a great time. As others have mentioned:
1. Be physically prepared. If you plan to take the tram down then it is less risky but if no tram, it is going to be a long day. We started at 3:20AM, and made it back to the museum at about 7:15 PM, just as the sun came down. We purposely waited and timed the sun so we end the day at sunset to avoid the heat as much as possible. I have done multiple same day 10,000 ft climb and descents the past month before attempting this hike and did a Mt Rainier summit several days before our hike. All I am saying is to complete something similar before doing this hike.
2. Have plenty of water. Minimum of 4 liters but 5 to be safe. You can always stash them for others if you don't use them.
3. Have GPS. You can go off trail in the dark if you don't have GPS. Though trails are easy to find during the day but at night it's harder, especially when others have created many small paths that goes off to the side of the trails over the years. Many of the side trails you will discover during day lights they are good short cuts to the switchbacks.
4.If you do this along have a PLB. You will lose cellular phone signals along the way up. You will get signal at SJ peak.
5. Have fun!
Good challenging hike. Steady uphill all the way to the tram. This is a good training hike for Mt Whitney and Rim2Rim2Rim Grand Canyon.
Fully understand what you are attempting here. This is not for beginners and quite difficult. Prepare for possible significant temperature changes from bottom to top and extremely steep grades throughout. This hike affords little respite from the relentless trek to the summit. If you make it to the tram the rest of the hike seems like cake. I went thru 6 liters of water on this hike in mid June. The views are not spectacular for the difficulty of the hike but if you leave early enough you catch a beautiful Palm Springs all lit up.
Sorry, but this wasn't the hardest hike I've ever done and the scenery was most certainly not the highlight. It's just a trudge uphill with views of Palm Springs, and I don't like cities. Once we got to the mountain part of the hike, I was much happier. The cactus-to-crowds portion is just something you do to say you've done it.
Amazing hike! Start no later than 3am, and bring lots of food and water. Was an incredible adventure, and I'm so proud so say I've done it! If you want to continue to the peak the same day, start trail head at midnight. Have fun!!
hard . incredible feat of endurance. followed around by hummingbirds who were very curious about us
Most brutal I have done, but well worth it. The scent seems endless but rest assured, the break is when you reach the top of the tramway area around 8200'. From there you can relax and finish your ascent to 10,600'.
This trail has a different character than others. While the trail is a worthy adversary you'll be racing sunrise trying to get elevation before he morning sun begins to cook the east faces. The trail is maintained by locals and they do an excellent job.
Some things to keep in mind
Park in the free garage across the street from the art museum.
The trail head is located in the far right corner of the museum parking lot.
Plan on stepping off between 2-4 am
Get as much elevation as you can before the sun pops out.
Water water and more water.
The trail is marked by white spray paint dots on rocks at random intervals.
One of the most difficult trails I've done. Right from the start it's practically straight up for 5 miles. Levels off for a mile or so. Then steep again. The last mile and Half is straight up and quite the challenge. It snowed the night before so it was also wet and slippery. My advise to anyone wants to hike it. Make sure your in good shape and talk to someone who has done the hike before.
It was the hardest trail I ever tried.
Loved it! Couldn't have asked for better weather.