ADVENTURE HIKES AND CANYONEERING© Christopher Earls Brennen
IN THE SOUTHWEST
Hike K19. San Jacinto Peak
- Hiking time: 5.5 hours
- Estimated hiking distance: 9.7 miles
- Elevation gain: 2410 feet
- USGS Topo Map: San Jacinto Peak
- Difficulties: Elevation Increase
This is a truly awesome hike and adventure, a trip into an alpine zone high above Palm Springs, California. It begins with a spectacular cable car trip in the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway that carries you up nearly 6000 ft over precipitous cliffs and crages to an upper station perches precariously on the edge of a huge cliff. If you intend to hike further to the summit of Mount San Jacinto you will need to catch the first car that leaves the canyon bottom at about 8 am. Since this is a very popular tourist attraction it is advisable to try and buy tickets ahead of time. It you do indeed make it to the summit it is probable that you will catch the last cable car down again that leaves about 4.00 pm.
View of San Jacinto Peak from valley below (1995)
The hike to the summit from the upper station is a beautiful experience and relatively straight forward. You are required to register your hiking plans at the Ranger Station just a short distance along the trail. Thereafter the trail is not usually crowded since most of those who venture up with the Cable Car do not venture past the Ranger Station. The trail proceeds from one alpine meadow to another before switchbacking up toward the summit of Mount San Jacinto. The last few yards to the rocky summit requires clambering over some rocks. Once there the views in all directions are awesome. but particulary to the north over the Gorgonio Pass and up to San Gorgonio Peak.
To drive to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, turn off Route 111 at 33.85820oN 116.55737oW (elevation 669 ft) just a short distance north of Palm Springs and drive west to the base station for the Tramway at 33.83690oN 116.61401oW (elevation 2615 ft) where there is extensive parking. It is a spectcular ride up nearly 6000 ft to the upper station at 33.81311oN 116.63863oW (elevation 8540 ft).
From the upper station at 33.81311oN 116.63863oW (elevation 8540 ft) proceed down the concrete walkway into Long Valley (33.81365oN 116.64072oW, elevation 8386 ft) where the winter snows may linger and follow the trail west fro about 0.4 miles to the Ranger Station at 33.81269oN 116.64370oW (elevation 8402 ft) where you need to self-register for the hike to the summit. From there you continue west through the alpine meadows on an easy hike to Round Valley (33.80303oN 116.65942oW, elevation 8963 ft) some 1.74 miles from the start. This is a large open meadow, a popular camping area.
From Round Valley you climb up switchbacks through the pine woods to Wellman Divide (33.79935oN 116.67457oW, elevation 9715 ft) some 2.92 miles from the start. Here there is a marvellous view to the south and west. The trail then turns northward and contours up the mountainside, passing below Jean Peak and eventually coming to a saddle and trail junction at 33.81210oN 116.67901oW and an elevation of 10561 ft, some 4.60 miles from the start. You take the left trail that passes a mountain hut at 33.81439oN 116.67856oW and an elevation of 10699 ft, some 4.79 miles from the start. Here you are just below the rocky summit and, clambering over rocks, you reach the summit of San Jacinto at 33.81473oN 116.67945oW, an elevation of 10794ft and 4.85 miles from the start. The view is awesome in all directions but particularly toward the north, down into the San Gorgonio Pass and across to San Gorgonio Peak just a little higher than San Jacinto.
On the summit of San Jacinto (1990)
You return the same way but it is worth taking time to look down into the steep Snow Creek chute that drops from the summit all the way down to the San Gorgonio Pass some 9000 ft below.
Last updated 4/1/02.
Christopher E. Brennen