Skyline Trail (Cactus to Clouds)

#4 of 16 trails in Mount San Jacinto State Park
Skyline Trail (Cactus to Clouds) is a 18.7 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Palm Springs, CA that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until October.

18.7 miles 9960 feet Point to Point
birding hiking nature trips trail running walking forest views wild flowers wildlife rocky scramble
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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. The total elevation gain is over 10,000 feet in 13.8 miles. 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. $12 for tram ride back down (as of July 2012).

Kristin Banks
1 day ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

Amazing hike! Start no later than 3am, and bring lots of food and water. Was an incredible adventure, and I'm so proud so say I've done it! If you want to continue to the peak the same day, start trail head at midnight. Have fun!!

Xochi Garcia
2 days ago

2 Completed1 Reviews

hard . incredible feat of endurance. followed around by hummingbirds who were very curious about us

Jon Peace
4 days ago

10 Completed5 Reviews

Most brutal I have done, but well worth it. The scent seems endless but rest assured, the break is when you reach the top of the tramway area around 8200'. From there you can relax and finish your ascent to 10,600'.

Ryan Visket
11 days ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

This trail has a different character than others. While the trail is a worthy adversary you'll be racing sunrise trying to get elevation before he morning sun begins to cook the east faces. The trail is maintained by locals and they do an excellent job.

Some things to keep in mind

Park in the free garage across the street from the art museum.
The trail head is located in the far right corner of the museum parking lot.
Plan on stepping off between 2-4 am
Get as much elevation as you can before the sun pops out.
Water water and more water.
The trail is marked by white spray paint dots on rocks at random intervals.

Michael Rutz
18 days ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

One of the most difficult trails I've done. Right from the start it's practically straight up for 5 miles. Levels off for a mile or so. Then steep again. The last mile and Half is straight up and quite the challenge. It snowed the night before so it was also wet and slippery. My advise to anyone wants to hike it. Make sure your in good shape and talk to someone who has done the hike before.

Karsten Poulsen
19 days ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

It was the hardest trail I ever tried.

Renee Duff
1 month ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

Loved it! Couldn't have asked for better weather.

Joseph Lomangino
1 month ago

9 Completed11 Reviews

Hardest trail I've ever hiked

Jimmy Casey
1 month ago

3 Completed3 Reviews

Amazing trail! As a reference for times:
Start at Art museum: 3:15 am
At tram 7:45 am, took 30 min break. Left 8:15
San Jacinto peak 10:45, stayed on top for 30 min. Left 11:15.
Back at tram 1:15 pm. Grabbed beers and burger at the restaurant.

I was booking it during this hike and glissaded a good bit back down from the snowy areas around the top. Look for the painted dots. Essentially staying on any well worn trail will get you to the tram. Still a fair amount of snow, though easily do able with poles or microspikes. I foolishly left my microspikes at home and it was a bit slippery at times on the snowpack. For people planning supplies, I had a 3L camelback, which I refilled at the tram. Used all of my water both times, and it was just enough. Ate about 1500 calories in snacks and would have appreciated a small bit more. It was very windy when I went up with wind advisory and 50mph gusts, though this seemed to be not the usual and known from the weather report.
My one caveat, beware of the trails above Long Valley. They are not marked and in the deeper snow areas, you can lose them for short stretches.
Also, big thanks to the kind folks who work at the tram, the nice cleaning man who let me in before it opened in the morning to refill water, and huge shout out to the woman in her 70's who does the Skyline from the museum to the tram weekly. I shared a cab with her back to the museum from the tram base. Don't let her routine completion fool you though, this is a tough hike.

Tamara Bournival
1 month ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

Toughest, highest, longest single day hike I've ever done! So rewarding to have checked this one off the bucket list!
We had heard that it was easy to get lost in the dark so decided to check out the early part of the trail the day before. So glad we did! After a few wrong turns we made it to the painted rock which is where the trail really starts. Next morning, we started at 4:30 am and had no trouble finding our way. We witnessed the most incredible sunrise on the way up and made it to the ranger's station in 5 1/2 hours flat. The last climb up to and past Coffman's Crag really kicked my butt! Took a half hour break to eat then continued on to the summit. Still quite a lot of snow along the trail but, thanks to our trekking poles, we managed fine without micro spikes. My legs were screaming at me every time we had to climb and I had to stop and rest quite often to catch my breath. Felt the altitude a few times (lightheaded and a little dizzy) but it passed after a few minutes. Reached the summit at about 1:45 and made it back in time to catch the 4:30 tram down. It was mind boggling to see what we had just climbed up!
Caught a cab to the museum and headed to In n Out for the best tasting, completely guilt-free, Animal-style cheeseburger I've ever had (according to my Polar, I burned over 5,000 calories in a single day!).
This is not a hike for the faint of heart but with a little conditioning and lots of willpower, it is doable and the views are totally worth it! Starting early in the morning will ensure that heat is not an issue but make sure to carry at least a gallon of water and pack layers to put on at the top (49F at the summit).
Good luck and god speed!

Justin Lesage
1 month ago

5 Completed6 Reviews

Trail to tram passible. Some snow around 7,000 feet but mostly off of the switch backs. I was able to make it to the tram Plateau from art museum in 4hrs22min. 71/2 more realistic for hiking. I forgot how steep the last 2,500 feet are.

Jonathanleo Fields
1 month ago

2 Completed1 Reviews

Coastal Pilot
2 months ago

7 Completed6 Reviews

Started at 3:00am and reached the Tram top at 1:30pm. A terrific hike, but take a lot of water. 6 liters was not enough.

Julian Laatsch
5 months ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

Alexandra Deguzman
5 months ago

34 Completed10 Reviews

It was hard but manageable. Started at midnight, got to the ranger station in 7.5 hours. Ate and chilled for a minute then took 3 hours to get to the Mount San Jacinto summit. I love the hike! Love the beautiful sunrise!

Chris Miramontes
6 months ago

34 Completed15 Reviews

We started this hike at 3am and arrived at the tram at 10am. (The last two miles before the tram are very hard) We arrived at the peak at 1pm and arrived back at tram at 4pm. Come prepared with plenty of water, energy packs, nutrition bars and warm clothes.

This was an awesome hike. I can't wait to do it again. If you have any questions you can reach me on Instagram @miramontesc

6 months ago

62 Completed4 Reviews

6 months ago

62 Completed4 Reviews

Kevin blasko
6 months ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

This was a butt-kicker. We started at 3:30am from the desert floor, and made it to the peak in about 10 hours. At the beginning, the trail was a little tough to follow with only headlamps in the darkness, but became obvious after the first 30-40 mins. We maintained a solid pace through the early morning and made it to the tram at 8500' in about 7 hours. Took a lunch break and moved on to the peak trail, which was promised to be a "cake walk" but still kicked our butts for the last 2 miles. Even in the cold temperatures, l went through 3L of water and 1L of coconut water, nearly running out on the way back to the tram. It got pretty snowy/icy above 9000'. Microspikes made it way less sketchy- felt bad for those without.

Bruce Wyrwitzke
6 months ago

3 Completed2 Reviews

Water, water, water. I figured 4L was enough on a somewhat cool day, but still ran out 30 min from the tram. Will be doing this one again.