Mt. San Jacinto Tram-To-Summit Hike

Above: San Diego Trail Tramps on Mt. San Jacinto

Date:  Saturday, October 18th, 2014  7:00 AM - 5:00 PM
It usually takes about 2 hours to drive from either San Diego, or Los Angeles, to the Palm Springs Tram Valley Station. Some hikers may also consider staying overnite in Palm Springs Friday and/or Saturday nites and returning on Sunday. There are over 40 resorts (motels) in Palm Springs/Cathedral City to choose from! Most are quite reasonable. Just do a Google search for your preferences.

Consider sharing the cost of lodging with friends to help make it more affordable. Two of the closest, reasonable motels to downtown PS are the Comfort Inn (~$105+tx double occupancy) and Motel 6 (~$69+tx double occupancy) @ booking .com. So book early before they're gone.

Info. Websites:
Mt. San Jacinto State Park/California State Parks website
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway website
NOAA weather forecast for this area
Mt. San Jacinto State Park Brochure

Located 2 hrs. drive north of San Diego, next to Palm Springs. Lat/Long for PS Tram Lower Station: 33.8373420, -116.6138650 (Use as destination on Google Maps for directions.)

Traveling from San Diego, take Interstate 15 North, to Interstate 215 Northeast, to Highway 60 East, to Interstate 10 East. Mt. San Jacinto looms above, on the right. Exit Highway 111 to Palm Springs.  Travel 8 miles to the second signal and turn right at Tramway Road. The Valley Station is located approximately 4 miles up Tramway Road.

From Riverside, traveling eastbound on Interstate 10, exit Highway 111 to Palm Springs, travel 8 miles to the second signal and turn right at Tramway Road.  The Valley Station is located approximately 4 miles up Tramway Road.

For current weather conditions at the San Jacinto Wilderness State Park, CLICK HERE.

Hikers should arrive at the Valley Tram Station by 09:00-09:15 am, then take the 09:30 AM tram to the top, where the hike begins outside the back door of the Mountain Tram Station about 10 AM. Remember, there are fewer hours of daylight at this time of year, so give yourself plenty of time to complete the hike before dark. Also, be sure to bring flashlights/headlamps just in case...

The Mt. San Jacinto Summit Trail will take ~6+ hours roundtrip, plus a lunch break with a view. Be prepared with extra clothing for poossible windy conditions at the summit.

The Hike:
The hike from Long Valley to San Jacinto Peak is a moderate-to-strenuous, high-altitude trek of 11 miles round-trip, with a 2,318-foot elevation gain in hiking. We'll plan to have lunch on the way up, at Wellman Divide. Hiking time: ~5 hrs. (give yourself more time to adapt to the altitude) -incredible views!!! 

Understand that you are gaining 8000'+ in a very short time. Be prepared. Bring along aspirin, extra water, snacks, flashlight. Watch for signs of altitude sickness (headache, dizzyness, nausea). If you show signs of altitude sickness, descend immediatly and they should dissipate.

Mount San Jacinto Peak & State Park background information:
San Jacinto Peak, 10,834 feet, is the highest peak of the San Jacinto Mountains, and of Riverside County, California. It lies within Mount San Jacinto State Park. Naturalist John Muir wrote of San Jacinto Peak, "The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!"

San Jacinto Peak is one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the United States. It is ranked sixth among peaks in the 48 contiguous states. According to John W. Robinson and Bruce D. Risher, authors of The San Jacintos, "No Southern California hiker worth his salt would miss climbing 'San Jack' at least once."

The deeply weathered summit of Mount San Jacinto stands 10,834 feet above sea level, the highest point in the San Jacinto Range and second highest in Southern California. No more than a two hour drive from either Los Angeles or San Diego, the mountain's magnificent granite peaks, subalpine forests, and fern-bordered mountain meadows offer a unique opportunity to explore and enjoy a scenic, high-country wilderness area. The park offers two drive-in campgrounds near the town of Idyllwild.

Most of the park is a designated wilderness area enjoyed by hikers and backpackers, who may roam this vast and rugged 13,500-acre park, which boasts 4 mountain peaks above 10,000 feet. Wildlife abounds, including lizards, birds, deer and coyote. Within the Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness are 54 miles of hiking trails which should be sufficient to satisfy the appetite of the most avid outdoor enthusiast.  Trails range from the awe-inspiring five and one-half mile trek to the 10,834 foot peak of San Jacinto, to the just over one mile nature walk through picturesque Long Valley, located just behind the Tram's Mountain Station.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway:
Starting in Chino Canyon near Palm Springs, the tram takes passengers from Valley Station at 2,643 feet elevation to Mountain Station on the edge of the wilderness, elevation 8,516 feet. The Mountain Station features a restaurant, gift shop, snack bar, and the state park visitor center.

The tram operates year-round, except for a maintenance closure in August. Roundtrip fare is $23.95 per person. Seniors: $21.95 (62+). Hours of Operation: Cars depart at least every half hour from 10 a.m., Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. weekends and holiday periods. Last car up is 8 p.m. with the last car down at 9:45 p.m.

Recreational opportunities:
After a short walk from the tram station to Long Valley, there's a Ranger Station (You can also enter the hiking trail system from this point.), a picnic area with BBQ stoves and restrooms, a self-guiding nature trail, and the Desert View Trail, which offers panoramas of the Coachella Valley, plus several peaks over 10,000 feet in elevation. During winter months, cross-country skis and snowshoes may be available to rent at the nearby Winter Adventure Center, if they have enough snow. You may therefore have the option to X/C ski or snowshoe, rather than hike!

Emergency Shelter Hut near the summit of Mt. San Jacinto

Weather & survival gear:
Winter on Mt. San Jacinto is cold, with sudden severe snow activity and temperatures occasionally dropping near zero. Snow normally covers the wilderness from December through April. High winds and temperatures below zero are common.

Come well equipped and don't underestimate changing weather conditions whenever you enter a wilderness area. All hikers should carry the recommended "Ten Essentials" of survival.

Trail Tramps at Mt. San Jacinto State Park

Self-issued day-use permits for hiking beyond the Long Valley Ranger Station are required and can be obtained on the day of your trip by visiting the Long Valley Ranger Station itself, down the paved trail, behind the lodge at the top of the tram. (They are not required for hiking the Nature Trail or the Desert View Trail.) Maximum group numbers are limited to 15 people per group. Stay on trails. No smoking on trails (in campsites only). Dogs are prohibited in the state wilderness. Pack out all trash. No fires are allowed. Backpacking stoves are permitted.

To download a topo map (it's a 1.2 MB .pdf file) of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park, click here.