Hike: Mt San Jacinto State Park, Palm Springs

I have no idea where to start. There are so many things that fascinate me about Mt San Jacinto State Park. Let’s start with how to get there:

Hike up the mountain

I hear you say “What?!” And, no, I didn’t get there this way. You can start this hike with the North Lykken Trail right there in Palm Springs. It connects to the Cactus to Clouds Trail, which is a hiking trail with the highest elevation gain (over 10,000 feet) in the US. Most hikers using this route start very early in the morning, around 2 or 3am.

Drive up to Idyllwild

Take Highway 243 from Idyllwild. It will take you to the state park. I haven’t tried this yet, so let me know how this route goes. I hear Idyllwild is beautiful.

Take the PalmΒ Springs Aerial Tramway

This is how I got here. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway starts at Valley Station (2,643 feet elevation) and travels to Mountain Station (8,516 feet elevation). The journey takes about 10 minutes over 2.5 miles in rotating tram cars. The views over the cliffs of Chino Canyon and Coachella Valley are breathtaking. Note that the tramway is usually closed for maintenance for a couple of weeks in September each year.

You don’t have to venture far away from the Mountain Station to get beautiful views over the desert and all the way to Joshua Tree National Park.

view from mt san jacinto mountain sttaion

The hiking trails start from the Ranger Station. There is a moderate 4-mile trail, the Round Valley Loop Trail, with breathtaking views that I can highly recommend. It’s a loop trail that will guarantee some amazing views with about 700 feet of elevation gain. A slightly shorter trail starts at the same point, the Desert View Trail, which is about 1.5 miles also with spectacular views over the desert.

If you are planning to do a day-long wilderness hike, remember to get a day-hike permit from the Ranger Station. You will also need a permit if you go camping.

What I love most about Mt San Jacinto State Park is the contrast to the desert. If you go up there in the summer, when the valley feels like boiling at around 115F, the mountain air is crisp and clear and you get a nice break from the heat.

If you go up between November and April you can expect snow, which for us Southern Californians is somewhat of a mystery.

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Round Valley Loop Hike Details

Hike: Loop

Length: about 4 miles with 700 feet elevation gain

Start: Ranger Station just down from the aerial tramway’s Mountain Station

When to go: Throughout the year. Bring more water in the summer and be aware of the snow in the winter

Don’t forget: Plenty of water, sunscreen, a hat, your camera

 

Desert View Hike Details

Hike: Loop

Length: about 1.5 miles

Start: Ranger Station just down from the aerial tramway’s Mountain Station

When to go: Throughout the year. Bring more water in the summer and be aware of the snow in the winter

Don’t forget: Plenty of water, sunscreen, a hat, your camera

 

You can pick up trail maps at the visitor center at the tramway Mountain Station and at the Ranger Station.

 

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12 Comments

    1. Thanks for your comment. If you haven’t been hiking, I suggest start with a short hike in a beautiful area. You will probably look forward to longer hikes soon.

  1. Great pictures and post! I don’t live near there but love the scenery, and as someone who loves to hike, I need to put this on my list of places to visit someday.