Cactus to Clouds (C2C)

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Cactus to Clouds (C2C)

Please join the waitlist.

If I know your capabilities are at the level required to safely reach the upper tram station I will add you. For those of you new to me, please message me through Meetup with your hiking experience.


Please, only advanced intermediate hikers and above. No plus ones please, I need to know who’s on the hike.

We will not attempt this hike unless the forecast high temperature for Palm Springs stays in the low 90’s or lower on the day of the hike.

Important! You can no longer park in the Art Museum parking lot!!!

The Stats

Rating: 9.8/10 Very Strenuous. Seriously!!!

Distance: 20 miles

Elevation Gain: 11,500ft (maybe more – the Skyline trail portion has descending sections which you must make up in elevation gain and everybody’s numbers are different.)

Duration: 12-14 hours

Trail: Unmaintained trail (the Skyline trail) until reaching Long Valley and the upper Tram station. Maintained trail to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto.

Headlamps will be required due to the 3:00am start.


Hike from Palm Springs to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto and return to descend via the Aerial Tramway.

It is suggested you consider spending the afternoon and night before the hike in or near Palm Springs and the night after.

Contrary to popular belief the ride down is not free, you must purchase a one way tram ticket

We will group together and take taxis back to the museum at the end of the hike.

Threat of thunderstorms will cancel this hike. I will make this call in consultation with selected members of the group.

Route Description

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 10 miles and much of this is hiking in dry arid desert conditions. The total elevation gain is 11,400 feet in 14.5 miles to the summit. An early start is suggested if you intend on making the last tram down.

From the very first step you start gaining elevation – non stop. After a mile you come across a rock painted with a note saying, “No water on trail until Round Valley Ranger Station, 8 miles, 10 hours.” New information from the State Park Rangers suggest it is 11 miles and not 8. After 12 hard miles you reach Long Valley. This is where the upper tram station is as well as the State Park ( Ranger Station where you will need to obtain a permit ( for the rest of your hike. From the Ranger Station simply follow the signs to the summit. In 5.5 miles you will have reached your goal and probably will be exhausted. Return to Long Valley and the upper tram station for the ride down.

Additional Notes and Information



Wear: You will go from “light chill,” to “hot,” to “scorching,” to “cool,” to “windy,” to “freezing” in a span of hours. Convertible pants, light shirt, removable top layers, gloves, hat.

Time, Altitude, and Temperature:
Understanding the relationship between time, altitude, and temperature is the absolute key to a successful hike. The first 1/2 of the hike is a race against the sun (think of Vin Diesel in “The Chronicles of Riddick,” but without running) . Rules of thumb:
1. Every 1000′ of elevation gain the temperature drops by about 4F.
2. Every hour from sunrise to 1PM, the temperature increases by about 4F (thereafter, it stays the same until sundown).
3. An average C2C hiker can comfortably gain 1000′ per hour.
Loosely speaking, this means you should be able to keep temperature constant by gaining 1000′ every hour. While this rule is the absolute basis of the hike plan, due to important additional factors, you will still see some major temperature swings:
* When the trail does not gain altitude fast enough, the sun will catch up on you.
* Your own body heats up as you hike.
* The angle of the sun makes a huge difference. For the most part, it is unfavorable (direct sun with little shadow in the low, hot section; shallow angle and mostly shadowed in the high, cold section).
* After 1PM, temperature stop rising with time, but continue to drop with altitude gain; meaning you will cool down.

Hike plan for first timers (This applies to all of us for this hike):
(This plan works almost year round, but the peak may be inaccessible during/after a winter storms)

1. Start way BEFORE SUNRISE. (Use flashlights.)
2. You should reach the picnic tables, ~1000′ up, in ~45 minutes. If it takes you more than 1 hour, you are not ready for this hike. TURN AROUND NOW! (going further and then turning around is a VERY BAD IDEA, you will be walking into an oven). For an alternative, easier, day hike, take the Tram up and hike to the peak and back.
3. Take a short break at the picnic table, catch your breath, and layer down, but keep moving.
4. From 1000′ to 4000′, the trail cooperates. With the sun still low in the sky, you will catch some shadows, and you can gain altitude fast enough to “match the sun.” The outside temperature will stay about constant, but your body will heat up from hiking. Enjoy the fresh morning views, but keep moving; breaks now will cost you later.
5. From 4000′ to 6000′, the trail goes through a seemingly endless chain of ups and downs. This is when the sun will really gain on you. To make matters worst, sun angle is at its worst with almost no shadows. Expect some scorching. There is really no turning back now, below you is the oven.
6. A perfect rest stop is “Table Rock,” ~6000′: A distinctive rock in a dry creek bed. The race with the sun is now over, you won; from now on, there is no real hurry. Eat lunch, take a nap, relax.
7. From 6000′ to 7200′, the trail is steep, but fine after the break.
8. From 7200′ to 7600′, you will be traversing a long valley with minimal elevation gain. If ice-covered, you will not see the trail. The key to avoid getting lost is to aim for the “Potato” — a massive freestanding rock column astride the Tram line. DO NOT START YOUR CLIMB TO THE TOP BEFORE YOU *REACH* THE POTATO. If you do, you will hit cliffs and have to turn around.
9. Once you reach the Potato, turn left and head straight up — expect to do some scrambling. This section is super-steep.
10. You will reach the well-developed Long Valley section at 8600′
11. It’s a pleasant, flat, developed ~1 mile hike to the Tram station.
12. You can refill your water tanks, buy new sandwiches, and rest at the temperature controlled Tram station.
13. It’s an easy, well-marked 6-miles (each way), 2000′ gain to the peak and back to the Tram station.
14. Tram down, taxi back to car (the Mountain Station will call a taxi for you if you ask, so they’ll be there when you reach the bottom).

PLEASE – Know your limits and abilities. Bring snacks and drink plenty of liquids when hiking. Check weather conditions and dress accordingly and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Watching out for poison oak, snakes, ticks, uneven footing, spectacular views, beautiful fauna all while interacting with awesome (usually) fellow hikers can be extremely hazardous, rewarding and fun.


Rating a hike is subjective, meaning the difficulty of a hike will be in direct relation to how often you hike and the type of hike you prefer. Keep in mind that any hike can have the following: un-even hiking surfaces, various obstructions, water and/or water crossings or bouldering and/or rock hopping. A great hike will have all of these!

1 – A long walk

2 – 4 mile hike w/little elevation gain

3 – 5 mile hike w/up to1000 ft. elevation gain

4 – 5+ mile hike w/up to1500 ft. elevation gain (heart rate increases at times)

5 – 7+ mile hike w/over 1500 ft. elevation gain (heart rate increasing even more at times)

6 – 7+ mile hike w/over 2000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be trying to remember how to perform CPR)

7 – 5+ mile hike w/over 2000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be muttering expletives to yourself)

8 – 10+ mile hike w/over 3500 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be angry with the hike leader)

9 – 10+ mile hike w/over 5000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be thinking of reporting the hike leader to the authorities)

10 – Use your imagination

Class 3 Scrambling: Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands at times to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of boulders, steepness and extreme terrain. Some Class 3 routes have ropes in place for assistance.



I am a volunteer (i.e. not liable for the group). Safety is a priority for everyone in the group. Think of this as hiking with a group of friends.

Outdoor sports and other events we plan can be inherently dangerous and accidents may happen. By participating in any posted event, you’re taking responsibility for your own safety and well-being. The Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup Group and its organizers are not trained leaders and we do not confirm the qualifications of any of its members to lead or participate in trips. All participants take full responsibility for their own actions. If you choose to sign up for any Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup events, you are releasing the Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup Group and it’s organizers from all liability in case of possible injuries as stated in paragraph 6.2 of the Meetup “Terms of Service” located on the bottom of the Meetup website. Your personal safety depends on your own judgment and experience.

Don’t mess with that tater! Got it?!!!

November 09 2019


Date: November 9, 2019
Time: 3:00 am - 7:00 pm
Hike Categories:
Website: Visit Event Website


Palm Springs Art Museum

101 North Museum Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92262 US

+ Google Map


Website: Visit Organizer Website


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