San Jacinto Peak
San Jacinto State Park and Peak offers 54 miles (86 kilometers) of hiking trails and awe-inspiring scenery, accessible from the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway’s Mountain Station. From the moment you step off the tramway, there are incredible views across the San Gorgonio Pass and Coachella Valley — and this is just the beginning.
For an easygoing stroll, take the Peak Trail to Round Valley, a four-mile (6.4-kilometer) round trip that reaches an elevation of 600 feet (183-meters). More serious hikers may want to try the 11-mile (17.5-kilometer) trek to the summit of San Jacinto Peak. Here, you’ll be rewarded with views that naturalist John Muir described as, “the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!”
Most routes head through jagged, rocky terrain, interspersed with splashes of color from monkey flowers, lupine, Indian paintbrush, and thick stands of evergreen trees. The trail is well-worn and marked. Emergency stations are situated around the peak’s summit, and park rangers look out for visitors’ safety. Wildlife is plentiful and mostly more afraid of you than you’ll be of it. But it’s worthwhile knowing what to do in the unusual situation of coming across a black bear or a rattlesnake.
During the busy summer season, the park offers six campgrounds with spaces rented out for a small fee. During the winter months, hit the snow; San Jacinto is renowned for its cross-country skiing. The Ski Center offers rental equipment and lessons.
Be aware that temperatures on the peak are considerably cooler than down in the valley. Come equipped with warm clothing and sturdy footwear, and climbing gear should you plan to tackle the steeper ascents.
The tramway journey from the Coachella Valley floor to the Mountain Station takes just over 10 minutes. There’s free parking at the Valley Station which is just over 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) north of downtown. If you’re feeling like a challenge, sign up for the more demanding Cactus to Clouds hike, which departs from the Palm Springs Art Museum. This hike is 10 miles (16 kilometers) long one way and climbs around 8000 feet (2400 meters), so it is definitely not for the faint hearted.