I'd planned on spending this past weekend in the Grand Canyon with a group of friends, but had to cancel because of a scheduling conflict that required me to be in town Saturday. So, I made last minute plans to run the Cactus to Clouds route solo on Sunday. It turned out to be a beautiful day, and a great experience.
Cactus to Clouds starts in the parking lot of the Desert Museum in Palms Springs. The trail head feels a bit like Platform 9 3/4, a portal to a magical realm hiding in plain view in a public space. I started around 6:20 am, just before sunrise. I saw a few sets of headlamps above me on the trail, hikers who had started before me.
|The Sign Marking the Start of the Skyline Ridge Trail|
|Palm Springs Just Before Sunrise|
About four miles in, the trail becomes harder to follow, with lots of intersecting shortcuts. Fortunately, they all seem lead to the same place, and it is difficult to get lost.
The majority Skyline Ridge Trail offers views over the desert, much like the photo above. The trail enters the forest in the final mile or so, and becomes steep again for the final climb into Long Valley, the location of the upper tram terminal.
|Near the top of the Skyline Ridge Trail|
|Entry to Long Valley, Top of the Skyline Ridge Trail|
I exhausted my hydration pack just as I entered Long Valley, perfect timing. I filled up at the Ranger Station, got some advice from a friendly ranger and had a quick lunch before heading for the summit of San Jacinto.
|2.3 Miles from the Top|
The five and a half miles from the Long Valley to the Summit are much more runnable, although the final approach to the actual Summit requires some bouldering.
I ran down almost the entire way from the Summit to the tram station, grabbed a quick beer at the bar and then took the tram down back to Palm Springs.