Skyline Trail: Cactus to Clouds

HARD 180 reviews

Skyline Trail: Cactus to Clouds is a 28 mile lightly trafficked out and back 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.

DISTANCE
28.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
10091 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

snow

no dogs

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.

hiking
1 day ago

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5 days ago

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10 days ago

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14 days ago

This is by far the hike I am most proud of completing. I lost the Skyline Trail within a mile of Long Valley and spent an hour wandering around lost. I hiked overnight in August. Read as much as you can before the hike to prepare, and make sure you hike with others who are adequately prepared.

14 days ago

Started out @ 0600 got to the tram by 5.
This was a very intense trail, let it be known I carried over 30lbs when I started out.
Tip:
Go light bring at-least 4L of water. Start early to enjoy the sunrise and kick some a$$!

16 days ago

I wouldn't say it's best used from March to October. But I'd say in late fall (when it's no longer hot and just before snow falls) and early spring (when snow has mostly melted at the top and before the desert heat comes back).

hiking
18 days ago

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23 days ago

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24 days ago

hiking
26 days ago

Hiked this beast with 3 buddies on Veteran’s day this past weekend and wow what a humbling experience. This hike is as intense as it gets no joke. Went with an avid backpacker, an ex army paratrooper, my brother inlaw who hikes regularly and myself I exercise 3-5 x per week/hike regularly and we all agreed it was the toughest day challenge of our lives. We did half dome in June in a day and this was like hiking up to half dome twice and back down once. No training can prep you for this journey unless you spend all day training for iron man stuff. C2C is actually over 21 miles not 18 as stated here. It’s 10 miles from museum to Tram station (8000 feet elevation gain) and 5.5 more miles up to san Jacinto (2600 feet elevation gain) and 5.5 miles back to tram.

Once you are up a couple miles there is no turning back and you’ll be stuck in the desert until you climb to 8k feet elevation. The first couple miles are steep but you’re fresh and will put them down no problem. It doesn’t really get much easier going up through the desert and mile 8-10, after flat rock, you will be in for torture with the free for all steep grade scramble to the top. Once you hit the top of skyline trail you will feel like you just climbed through hell to heaven. The rest of the hike to San Jacinto was forgettable for me, pretty monotonous albeit with some solid views towards the top. Perhaps i was just over not sleeping for almost 40 hours and hiking for 15+.. Unbelievably hard to continue on that final stretch after the skyline trail battle and with the altitude but we made it.

Views are incredible starting at night watching the city lights and night club sounds slowly fade below you, watching the sun rise from 6k or so feet over the city and the Salton Sea was absolutely amazing i swear you could hear a pin drop it was fantastic, and the landscape changes as you go from desert to mountain were remarkable.

Advice: Go in a group, take 5L of water and refill at tram station, do not hike in summer unless you have a death wish or like stepping next to snakes at night or taking breaks on rocks that snakes hide under, take two meals/snacks/salt tablets/energy gels, bring clothes to accommodate the weather changes as it’s like 20-30 degrees cooler in long valley and up Mt san Jacinto (having sweat drenched shirts when hiking in the cold is no bueno). Hiking poles are an ABSOLUTE must too. This is an insane journey and a bucket list item for the insane like myself. Truly a day i will never forget the rest of my life. Be prepared and go kick some ass!

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

It's amazing but you better be prepared for a loooong hike. When you see and hear the tram it's NOT over , it goes another 2 hours so just know mentally to keep treating till it evens out. Worth it but very hard because of the elevation which makes breathing hard and it never stops going up! Bring enough water and food. Not good if you have bad knees or if you are in bad shape. Again, prepare!

hiking
1 month ago

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1 month ago

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1 month ago

There’s a reason why this is the 5th hardest day hike in the US. The first 8 miles are difficult, but definitely the last 2 miles before reaching the tram station take the life out of you, it has a very pronounced inclination and wears you out. After the tram station is really easy to go up since you only gain roughly 2000 ft elevation over 5.5 miles.
We started hiking at midnight and we enjoyed the cool night temperatures of palm springs and had breakfast while enjoying the sunrise from ~6000ft elevation. In general it has beautiful views and you can see how the vegetation changes with the altitude gain.
Bring a minimum of 6 lt of waters, plenty of snacks, protein bars, and 2 meals; also wear layers because the change in temperature between the base and the peak is pretty dramatic.

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike! And yes it's hard. The mileage from the museum parking to the tram is 15+ miles, not 11 as most sites say so be advised.

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1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

This trail will provide a memory that will last a life time. Completed in 1969 no GPS no rescue boxes, little water. only the will to complete. Thank God for a patch of snow to provide energy to make it. Be prepared and stay strong.