Skyline Trail: Cactus to Clouds is a 19.8 mile heavily 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.

Length19.8 miElevation gain10,459 ftRoute typePoint to point
BackpackingCampingCross-country skiingHikingNature tripsRock climbingBird watchingrunningForestViewsWildflowersWildlifeRockyScrambleSnowOff trailNo dogs
Description
Waypoints (6)
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Getting There

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 8,000 feet from the desert to Long Valley, then joins with the main trail to gain another 2,600 feet to the summit. The good news is that you can take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway down the mountain! 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 is a very difficult hike and people have died or been injured while hiking here. Use caution and you will have a challenging but rewarding hike. 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. You will probably want to buy tram tickets in advance, or leave yourself ample time and be ready for a bit of a wait. There are snacks and drinks available while waiting for the tram. TRAMWAY INFO: https://pstramway.com/tickets/ Winter Hours (September 2 – May 23) Monday – Friday – First Tram up 10:00am Saturday, Sunday and Holidays – First Tram up 8:00am Daily – Last Tram up at 4:20 pm. Last Tram down at 6 pm. As of November 2020, the tram is leaving promptly at 6pm and they close half the gate to block incoming traffic to the tram but they leave the other half of the gate open for cars headed down from the tram. They also display on the electronic signs on the way up to the tram that the tram is closed. Summer Hours (May 24 – September 1) Monday – Thursday – First Tram up 10:00am Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Holidays – First Tram up 8:00am Sunday – Thursday – Last Tram up at 8:00pm, Last Tram down 9:45pm Friday & Saturday – Last Tram up 9:00pm and last Tram down at 10:30pm Cars depart at least every half hour. *Prices and Hours Of Operation Are Subject to Change Without Notice. Sorry, pets are not allowed. Children under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult of 21 years or older. Holiday Hours The first Tram up is at 8am on the following holidays: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day Weekend, President’s Day Weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, Independence Day, Labor Day Weekend, Thanksgiving Day Weekend, Christmas Week, and New Year’s Day.

To reach the trailhead from North Palm canyon Dr. in Palm Springs, go 0.2 mile west on Tahquitz Canyon Way, then turn right on Museum Rd. Park on the road and walk across the street to find the trailhead in the northwest corner of the museum parking lot. No water is available en-route.

Long Valley Ranger Station Mt. San Jacinto State Park (951) 659-2607 www.sanjac.statepark.org Palm Springs Aerial Tram (760) 325-1391 www.pstramway.com

-Start early like 2 or 3 am in cooler temp and to maximize daylight later. Have an adequate light source (headlamp w/ spare batteries) -Start w/ minimal warming layers at the bottom to avoid overheating and only add as the altitude and atmosphere demands. Wear good footwear (hiking boots) for there are many ankle twisting points along the way. -the trail is easily identifiable and easy to follow, the first mile or so has white spray painted dots every so often on the rocks identifying your path. Once you pass the white painted rock stating,"Long Valley 8 Miles" the paint indicators seem to stop but the trail is still easy to follow. Watch the trail....a lot of locals have etched shortcuts into the trail eliminating a lot of unnecessary switchbacks. However using the switchback shortcuts add double the gain for the distance needed to shortcut. where just sticking to the trail gives you the normal gradual gain but the unnecessary distance. Either way watch the trail at these points so you maintain your bearing and stay on course. -Bring water! those that are conditioned can move requiring less but those less conditioned will need more. I went through a gallon by 4500 feet. The only place to get more along the way is at the tram station another 4000 feet up!...... -Make no mistake, when you take your first step on this hike the mountain immediately throws it's elevation gain against you and doesn't really let off until around 4500 feet and even that is brief. This point is indicated as the furtherest distance traveled on this map. The first 10 miles your climbing 8,000 and you feel it in every step forward so be mentally prepared to get fatigued. -Constantly calculate your provisions (food, water) to assess how long you will be able to push. Along with this prior to stepping off ensure you know the sunrise and sunset times to include into your back planning. Weather is the other big issues, temperatures, wind, and lightning. ensure your packed for the elements and if you plan on crossing into the snow level that you have appropriate gear for you safety and freedom of movement. If you are ill equipped for the task or run out of provisions or feel at anytime your going to need to turn around, make sure you plan a drop dead time no matter where you are to turn around and descend. In a nutshell have a plan for the worst case scenario. -Bring a good partner to share the experience and help motivate you up the trail. -Most importantly, enjoy your climb and play it safe and smart.

The trail starts behind the Palm Springs Art Museum. To reach the trailhead from North Palm canyon Dr. in Palm Springs, go 0.2 mile west on Tahquitz Canyon Way, then turn right on Museum Rd.

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Reviews (706)
Photos (2,873)
Recordings (571)
Completed (1,388)
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Christopher Pitchford
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJanuary 23, 2021
Hiking

Watch your ankles. Uphill and rocky.

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Peter Edmonston
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 23, 2021
Hiking

Beautiful hike, pretty cold above 4000’

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michael larson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 1, 2021
Hiking
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Violeta Seidell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 30, 2020
Hiking

Rugged, fun trail with quick elevation climb, wonderful views of Palm Springs the whole time. Walked 30 minutes to two beautiful rock formations with great views, then looped around back to trail back down.

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Matthew Redfern
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 26, 2020
Hiking

This hike is no joke! You get to 2500 elevation at around 3 miles and you’ve already worked so hard! Will do this again just better prepared for the steady incline that never ends haha

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Vic Hanson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarDecember 19, 2020
Hiking
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thibault Dauprat
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 19, 2020
Hiking
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Brian Mascarenas
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 13, 2020
Hiking

Tram is closed December 12, 2020. Didn’t realize that until I drove all the way from San Diego at midnight. Hopefully I can do this hike next year.

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Ania Bilski
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 13, 2020
Hiking

Amazing trail! Just a heads up, tram is NO longer running as of 12/12!

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Cindy Yang
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Hiking
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Arnold Benitez
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Hiking

Insane and fun

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Eligio Damas
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 12, 2020
Hiking
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Caroline Corcoran
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 2, 2020
Hiking

Just a reminder that the tram is only open Thursday through Monday and closed Tuesday and Wednesday. I ran into folks 5.5 miles up that were planning on summiting the peak and taking the tram down. They had no idea the tram was closed today.

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Rox Kassinger
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 2, 2020

Started at 6:00am, got to the tram station in 6hrs 40 minutes. Took 4L of water. Weather was cool but gloves, long sleeves and a vest was plenty. There was snow on the trail near the top. Not too much but enough to take pause and be cautious. No crowds at the top. Went up Saturday morning. Check tram hours, they’re a bit different due to covid.

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Mare Johnson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 29, 2020
Hiking

Great day! Was a touch crowned at the end toward the trail head but fantastic none the less.

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Joel Brettingen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 29, 2020
Hiking

Hiked on Saturday, November 28, 2020. Left at 310am. Long Valley at 930am. Summit at 1:05pm. Finished at 345pm. Carried a little under 6 liters of water and did not need to refill. I wore gloves and was glad I had them...fingers got cold after snack breaks. Traverse to San Jacinto State Park from Flat Rock is no joke! The 6 miles from the ranger station to the summit is made far more difficult by the previous 8,000 feet just hiked. Wellman Divide was probably the warmest point on the trail today. Microspikes super helpful on the descent from the summit to the tram. I’m gassed. Epic hike!

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Randy Feldman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 28, 2020
HikingGreat!IcyRocky

Amazing hike! Quite steep through much of the hike, challenging but do-able. Didn't have time to complete the ascent from the Long Valley Ranger Station to the peak as the tram closes early, but made it to the tram/ranger station in about 7 hours with stops. Some patchy areas of snow/ice along the trail, mainly the last 2 miles before the ranger station. Had microspikes but didn't end up using them as the trails were certainly passable without, but would have been a touch easier if I had stopped and put them on. I had 4L of water and used ~1/2 of it as it was not overly dry or hot. Started around 4:30am; would have made it to the top with time to catch the tram if I had left ~1/2 hour earlier. Highly recommend this hike but be sure you're in decent shape!

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Jen Ch
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 28, 2020
HikingGreat!Icy

Wonderful hike. This was our 2nd time doing cactus to tram/clouds. First time was October 25 when there was no snow. We started at 3am and it was perfect weather. We turned back at the tram because we were afraid we would miss the last tram down at 6pm. This time we started at 1am day after Thanksgiving. There was snow and ice on the traverse section. I recommend microspikes for that portion. At the tram, we enjoyed an hour rest eating packaged sandwiches and soup at the patio. I later regretted that because I think my body turned its energies to digesting rather than hiking. There was ice starting at the Round Valley portion and I recommend microspikes. My friend did not wear them and slipped 12 times or so. We made it up to Wellman's Divide but decided to turn back because we were afraid we would miss the 6pm tram down. We hope to do this again when there are longer tram hours. It was memorable and pretty safe even with a 1am start. The downloaded alltrails map was indispensable. No mountain lions. Just be careful of the icy portions especially on the traverse.

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Peacebro .
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarNovember 27, 2020
Hiking
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Jalon Howard
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Hiking
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Camillia Brieno
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 22, 2020
HikingGreat!IcySnow

Right now is a great time to do the hike. I completed it solo today, but there were plenty of people on the trail so i didn’t feel too alone. Started at 4:10am, reached rangers station at 9:30, then took 15 minutes to refill water and fill out the permit. The water hose is in the back of the station. From there, I reached the peak at 11:55 am. The trail is mostly covered in snow, and the ranger asked if I had microspikes, but I never actually took them out of my pack. My trail runners and hiking pole were sufficient. I’m not encouraging trying to hike it all without microspikes, but it’s definitely possible to do the hike without them. A few slippery and icy patches, but not bad. It took me two hours to get down from the summit to the tram station. I took bear spray because I had read about the mountain lion, but I never saw it and no one on the trail said anything about seeing one. So hopefully it won’t be a threat for any other hikers.

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Josh Jones
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 21, 2020
Hiking

Completed hike on Nov. 18. Took us 14 hours; started at 3am, ranger station at 10am, peak at 2 and tram at 5 (keep in mind that last tram is supposed to leave at 5:15pm). You can pay for one way tickets at the gift store at the mountain tram station -- no need to reserve a time. There was a fair amount of mountain lion scat at around 3000 ft but no siting like the other reviewer the previous week had (but we saw a tarantula!). Snow siting at 6000 ft but actual walking on snow started at around 6500 ft. After 7000 feet as it becomes steeper it was sketchy walking on the ice/snow in places. We got by without crampons and used our trekking poles to stabilize ourselves. After the ranger station, there is snow coverage over much of the trail but because it's not as steep in most places it's do-able without crampons/spikes (although theyd still have come in handy in a couple places -- I'd actually recommend the low profile spikes compared to the chain style crampons as low profile spikes would make transitioning back and forth between the snow sections and dirt sections easier). Temperature was perfect. 59 degrees when we started at 3am, warmed as the sun came out and then back down to 54 degrees at the peak. I brought 4 liters of water and refilled at the ranger station, ended up drinking 7 liters total. The tram ride down in the dark seeing the glistening valley below was a treat. Also, important note, promptly at 6pm they close half the gate to block incoming traffic to the tram but they leave the other half of the gate open for cars headed down from the tram. They also display on the electronic signs on the way up to the tram that the tram is closed. We learned the hard way that this is understandably confusing to Uber/lyft drivers. It makes them think they can't enter the road up to the tram and thus they cancel the ride. So you may want to call/text your Uber/lyft driver and let them know that the tram center is still open and they can simply enter through the open part of the gate (on the left hand side of the road) if you are calling an Uber/lyft after 530/6pm. Also, also, we didn't get cell service at the tram center so we had to log onto the tram center's wifi in order to call an Uber/lyft so may need to do the same!

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Elson Ao
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 20, 2020
Hiking
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Irving Zambrano
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 18, 2020
Running

Are one way tickets to the bottom available on site or can one only buy online tickets?

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Kyle Bergstresser
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 17, 2020
HikingSnow

We hiked C2C on Friday with a group of 4. Started at 4:15am and with a quick pace made it to Long Valley at 10:30am. Snow cover starts above Flat Rock at 6k ft and covers many of the more dangerous sections so it slowed us down considerably. Weather was perfect... 50’s & low 60’s so we needed much less liquids (4-5L) than when we did the full C2C2C back in June (started with 8L). Potable water is available at the ranger station in Long Valley - I refilled 3L for the 10mi round trip to the peak and back. Above the ranger station the snow trail is now completely tracked out to San Jacinto peak, but will probably be going through freeze thaw cycles so micro spikes can be helpful. We used the spikes on the way down so we could confidently keep a quick pace, jogging occasionally. Yes, you can buy 1-way tram tickets at the top station and they don’t appear to limit availability of the 1-way-down even though they’re selling the round trip tickets at 25% capacity. Download the all-trails map and the gps is very accurate to keep you on trail. There are many shortcuts that can cut off some switchbacks to save time on Skyline trail. I had cell service up to Long Valley fairly consistently except for a few dead spots. No cell service in and above Long Valley. Suggest you bring a small cell backup battery.

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