Skyline Trail: Cactus to Clouds is a 7.8 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Palm Springs, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used 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.
Great view of the valley. Trail head is easy to access from downtown Palm Springs. Hike in the morning and have a great lunch or dinner that same day.
Beautiful trail, just did it again for the fourth time. This time early January, was quite snowy near the tram and just below Grubbs Notch so we stopped at the tram (9 miles from Ramon Rd trailhead in Palm Springs)and decended, plus there is not enough daylight in the winter to do the complete trail even if snow levels allow. Wild flowers in late March and early April are great. The last two miles before the tram are very steep and count on your progress slowing by half here. Wouldn't recommend for casual hikers.
I only went part way, great work out for the legs. a fun steep path that was dirt with rocks along the edges. great view. going to hike it further tomorrow.
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.