Skyline Trail: Cactus to Clouds

HARD 124 reviews

Skyline Trail: Cactus to Clouds is a 18.7 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.

DISTANCE
18.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
10889 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Point to Point

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

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
7 days ago

hiking
10 days ago

Did this on Aug 5 2017. Started at 1:30 am. Did it as a C2C2C that is from museum to San Jacinto peak and back to museum. It was hot when I started (90F) and hot when I returned (105F). Note that at the start once you are up 3 miles or about 3000 ft the temperatures are nice. I consumed about 6L water (electrolyte enhanced with Mg/Ca/K/Na + lime juice) the whole R/T. While coming down the last 5 miles are hot but bearable as there was some breeze and the mountain offers some shade. I did buy a perfume bottle for a dollar from the dollar store, filled it with water and used it as a mister - worked great for the last 5 miles on the way back.

Amazing , tough but worth it. Prepare for it

18 days ago

Absolutely incredible feat. Hardest thing I've ever done, and maybe my proudest accomplishment.

I'm a desert local and would warn you, though -- take the heat seriously! The high in Palm Springs was 95 the day we hiked, plus we started at 4am, and I was still near the upper limit of how hot I'd want to be. Pack more water and than you think you need. But if you're in shape and prepared, give it a shot. You'll be glad you did.

2 months ago

very nice run out of water by the bench. I'll conquered the summit by November.

2 months ago

DO NOT TRY THIS HIKE UNLESS YOU ARE IN BALLER SHAPE! If you can't comfortably run a marathon or jog all of mt baldy, this is dangerous and is not with the helicopter rescue. Also, do not do this hike during the day. The heat will melt you and make it miserable.

My experience: got to the museum around 5pm, left immediately. It was 111 degrees when we started. Had about 40 lbs on me, about 6 liters of water, snacks, some other random stuff. Around 8 pm it cooled down and became awesome. The moonlight guided us the entire way. Managed to slam the first 8,000 ft of elevation gain by about 1am. The trail is easy to follow. It was 33 degrees up there, and windy. Took a little nap at the ranger station, and at 3am cruised up to the peak. Watched sunrise from the summit, words can't explain! There is a reason John Muir calls the 'the most spectacular view god gave to man', and he calls everyone out from the grave by saying 'you aren't a mountaineer if you haven't done the cactus to clouds trail...'. You really can't appreciate this hike unless you start from the bottom. It was incredible watching the lights of Palm Springs slowly fade into the distance while grinding through the night. My feet got some gnarly blisters but beyond that our legs were pretty happy so we did the entire hike back down. Total distance, over 35 miles, total net elevation gain, nearly 25,000 ft according to my watch. Took about 17 hours of hiking, plus a nap and a nap at the peak. I didn't take any breaks going up or down and I suggest you don't either, keep your momentum going.

Result: a special accomplishment and sense of pride knowing you did the 'hardest/most elevation gain day hike in America'. And some gnarly blisters. Body feels great though. Being 21 kicks ass sometimes.

Advice: DO NOT try to do cactus to clouds to cactus if you aren't into suffering a little. Take the tram down and enjoy. Also if you do take the tram down, arrange some ride from the tram to the museum. Also, don't be a Judas and raid the emergency boxes... don't even try this if you're gonna rely upon those boxes. Carry your own water and suck it up if you get thirsty. Thirsty is not an emergency. Also, again, DO THIS OVERNIGHT. It's amazing! And protect your skin. 6 liters of water should be enough just hydrate before. And no matter what, you're gonna blister, so suck up the pain and smile, and enjoy a badass hike. And leave your phone at home, pictures won't do it justice and you can't enjoy the summit without doing the hike so just be free and off the grid and enjoy.

Good luck!

2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

Cactus to Clouds will undoubtedly be the most difficult trail that most day hikers will ever undertake. The relentless vertical gain cannot be fully appreciated until it's attempted. The crux of this hike will be from around Rescue 2 to the tram, where you've already climbed about the equivalent of a vertical mile, but are still around 3,000 feet below the tram. Rest and food can be had at the tram, but if you don't succumb to the temptation of riding it down and calling it a day, you're still nearly 2,000 ft short of your goal, and you're feeling the altitude now. Descending that same vertical back down to the tram after summiting will reiterate how challenging descents can really be when you're tired.

There is no way to prepare for C2C beyond doing hikes of equal vertical, which are few and far between. It easily rivals Whitney in a Day, and many will debate which reigns supreme. Anyone who doesn't do serious daily vertical as a matter of routine will struggle heavily with this hike, that's a promise. Nothing from the bottom to the tram is particularly pretty, other than the city lights, and climbing San Jacinto from Idyllwild or from the top of the tram after riding it are far more sensible and enjoyable experiences. Nonetheless, of you want to claim that you've undertaken the most difficult day hike in America, you'll need to complete this and Whitney in a Day to have a leg to stand on. Although standing up after either will not be guaranteed.

2 months ago

This Is The Best Hike Ever...45 Minutes At The Peak "Definitely Worth It" I Love This Trail...( make sure to have a compass, map, flash light, protein bars and plenty of water) one more thing LISTEN TO THE RANGER

hiking
3 months ago

Difficult, and not just because the vert, but also because the training dayhikes, like, Telescope, Iron, Grand Canyon, Villager and others, were far, FAR, more beautiful and rewarding. Just goes to show you that the path to a goal is more valuable than the goal itself. I can't recommend. Yes, there were some flowering Yucca and a few other flowers, but in general, it was just a relentless, beige, hot, exposed death slog. Started around midnight. consumed 4 liters of H2O. If you must, get a nice poolside resort after, and have breakfast at L'Atelier Cafe.

hiking
3 months ago

Completed but barely made it back for last tram. Make sure you start early enough.

3 months ago

3 months ago

3 months ago

hiking
3 months ago

This trail is best done when it's cooler outside. You'll go through a fair amount of water, you're pretty exposed for most of the hike, and there are no bailout points. This is not a hike for the summer months.
The weather is quite different from the valley floor. If there's a chance of snow up top, you'll want to be pretty familiar with the trail. It covers quickly and it's easy to get disoriented. If there's enough snow/ice, you'll need a minimum of crampons to complete the hike.

3 months ago

hiking
3 months ago

hiking
3 months ago

Great trail. I chose it for the challenge but was surprised by the beauty. Animals and plants galore. Quit at Wellman's Divide but will be back

3 months ago

Grueling AND rewarding!