Hiking Mt. San Jacinto

On Saturday July 18th, Ashley and I hiked to the Summit of Mt. San Jacinto which is situated at 10,834 feet above sea level. The hike to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto is one of the best hikes in all of Southern California and is a must do peak for any avid hiker. This was an especially fun hike for both Ashley and since this was the first hike that Ashley and I ever did together over 2 years ago. Hiking to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto is a spectacular hike that continually rewards you with amazing views as you travel through Mt. San Jacinto State Park. The summit of Mt. San Jacinto provides spectacular views of Southern California.

Directions to Trailhead: Ashley and I used the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to get up to the trailhead area of the San Jacinto Wilderness to hike to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto. To locate the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway look at this Map. The address for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is: One Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA. 92262. The Mountain Station where the tram drops you off has a restaurant, restrooms, and a nice little gift shop where you can pick up a trail map for your hike to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto. The trailhead for the hike to the top of Mt. San Jacinto starts at the Mountain Station where the tram lets you off. There is an area near the Long Valley Ranger Station to get your free wilderness permit which is required to do the hike. For a map of the hiking trails in the Mt. San Jacinto State Park click Here. For current pricing on the cost of tickets to use the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to get to the top click Here. When we went prices were approximately 23 dollars per adult.

Description of Hike: The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes you from the Valley Station located at 2,643 feet and drops you off at the Mountain Station which is located at 8,516 feet. The Mountain Station has a snack shop, restrooms, and several eating options, but this is the last bit of civilization you will see before entering the designated San Jacinto Wilderness, which is contained in Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Note that there are periodic maintenance closures of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway during the month of August, so call 1-760-325-1391 to find their schedule in August. There is no cost for parking or for a wilderness permit, those costs are all rolled into the amount charged for your tram ride to the Mountain Station.

The hike to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto is 11 miles roundtrip with about 2,300 feet of elevation gain. The hiking trail is well traveled and you will probably see others out hiking as this is a popular trail. A map of the trails in the Mt. San Jacinto State Park is available for sale at the Mountain Station and Ashley and I would recommend purchasing one. The hiking maps only cost 2 dollars when we went. The temperature on the mountain is much cooler than it is in the Palm Springs area. Palm Springs was about 115 degrees Fahrenheit while the summit of Mt. San Jacinto was in the upper 70's. We took the 10am tram to the Mountain Station and were hiking by 10:30am. We reached the summit of Mt. San Jacinto at about 2:15pm and at lunch while soaking in the spectacular views for a while. We made it back to the mountain station at 5:30pm. The whole hike with stops was about 7 hrs.

If you don't have time to hike to the peak, there are two smaller nature trails located close to the Mountain Station. There is a self-guided nature trail and the Desert View Trail which offers panoramas of the high country including several peaks over 10,000 feet in elevation. Maps for these trails are provided free of charge with your ticket to ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The hiking trail to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto is usually well maintained and usually well marked. This is an out and back hike along a dirt trail that is at times rocky and uneven.

Further Thoughts: The hike to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto is a must do hike for any Southern California hiker. It is a well traveled trail and you will see people while out on the trail. The views are absolutely spectacular and they start with your ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and only get better on the way to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto. Wellmans divide is a great place to stop before heading to the summit. It is located at about 9,700 ft. and has views of the wilderness to the south. The Mt. Jacinto State Park covers around 14,000 acres of wilderness and is located in between two portions of the San Bernardino National Forest Wilderness. Mt. San Jacinto State Park is truly a rugged area so be prepared with the proper gear when hiking here. Click Here to see the park brochure for Mt. San Jacinto State Park.

There is always a chance of seeing wildlife while hiking in Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Bears are occasionally found in the park, as well as deer, big horn sheep, the illusive mountain lion, and much more. Always be ready with your camera and be aware of your surroundings. Right below the summit of Mt. San Jacinto is the Mt. San Jacinto Peak Shelter that is worth checking out if you have the time. The cabin is located just before the scramble up to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto and can provide shelter for hikers in an emergency situation. From the summit of Mt. San Jacinto you can see Mt. San Gorgonio, Saddleback Mountain, Palomar Mountain, the Inland Empire, the Palm Springs area, and much much more. The views at the top of breathtaking as seen in the first picture of this post.

Make sure to obtain your free wilderness permit at the Long Valley Ranger Station located just outside the Mountain Station where the tram drops you off. Rangers will check that you have your permit while hiking the mountain and you don't want to be fined for not having a permit. The rangers we saw on the trail made sure that Ashley and I had ours. They have a permit system because the growing season is so short at this high of an altitude and there is a set number of people allowed on the trails in order to protect the Mt. San Jacinto State Park Wilderness.

During the summer months, be on the lookout for thunderstorms that occasionally develop in this section of the San Bernardino National Forest and the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. The best season to do this hike is the late spring, summer, and early fall as during the wintertime this peak becomes snow covered. Only experienced and properly equipped hikers should attempt the climb to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto when there is snow present. Current weather conditions at the Mountain Station can be found Here. There are also several wilderness campsites available to backpackers who would like to camp and hike for multiple days in Mt. San Jacinto State Park. The Round Valley Camp is located near the alpine meadows  area which is a cool area to see while hiking to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto. The bottom-line is Ashley and I both highly recommend this hike as a must do hike in Southern California.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 2,300 ft. (Moderate - Strenuous), Distance: 11 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate - Strenuous), Note: be on the watch for Altitude sickness since the height of Mt. San Jacinto is 10,834 ft.

Time to Complete Hike: 6.5 - 8 hours.


July 10, 2007

July 20, 2009 (This Post)

View Mt. San Jacinto in a larger map


  1. Great post about Mt. San Jacinto. This is one of my favorite hikes too. Besides the aerial tram, another good way to climb the mountain is the approach from Deer Springs Trail (TH in Idyllwild). You connect to the Pacific Crest Trail for a bit, then onward through Little Round Valley to the peak. I recommend coming down via Strawberry Cienga - you'll enjoy awesome views of Tahquitz Peak. The picture on my twitter page @hikinglady is from that trail! :)

  2. Thanks for the insight on the Deer Springs Trail, next time we go we will have to hike to the summit that way.

  3. Very nice post. I am thinking of hiking this again (did this last year but couldn't finish because I was so sick with altitude sickness and had to come back down)...
    and to think I wanted to do everest...ha!

  4. Jenny I am with you on the Altitude Sickness, the first time Ashley and I went up I had a pounding headache on the way back down. Gotta watch out for that altitude sickness. Good luck on the next trip!

  5. Did this hike on Saturday, 7/23 and loved it!! Started out taking the 8am tram up and reached the summit in 3.5 hours...there were a few other hikers out at that time but I saw the majority headed up when I was on the way down. Came down in 2.5 hours. This hike is great for a leg/butt workout and it gives you some great views! I did have a sense of accomplishment when I finished this hike. I must mention that I did have some slight discomfort getting used to breathing differences in the altitude but that went away after the two or so hours. Just be smart and listen to YOUR body and you will enjoy this hike!!

  6. I just stumbled across your blog and love it. We love this hike also. Like you the hike to San Jacinto was our fist major hike. And just yesterday we hiked to the top and got married. A truly magical place.

    Doria & Steve

    1. Congratulations on getting married on the mountain! My partner and I are looking to get married there next year, but the only information I can find is having the wedding in the tramway station, whereas we'd like a small ceremony in the wilderness if we can. I'd love to get some info from you as to how you get a permit for it. Any help greatly appreciated! Phil

    2. Hey! Doria and steve!! I hiked mt san jacinto for the first time this weekend! I'd love to show you a picutre I took that I think you would love to see!
      Please email me claudia4smiles@gmail.com

  7. Doria & Steve,

    Congratulations on your marriage! I can only imagine how beautiful it was on top of the mountain. How many people did you have with you for the ceremony? That is pretty cool that you two got married at Mt. San Jacinto, the location of your first major hike together. If you would like, we are more than willing to post a picture and a little statement announcing the celebration of your marriage. Congratulations again!

    Brian & Ashley

  8. Cool blog! I just wanted to echo what Hiking Lady said years ago...I've done multiple 4 day backpacks in the area and every time I've started in Idyllwild and looped back via the Strawberry Cienega trail. This stretch of the loop is unbelievably beautiful especially in early Summer when there is plenty of green around the Cienega. Highly recommended!!!

  9. Hi there. Just found your blog. Great write-ups! Do you happen to know of anyone looking to do Cactus to Clouds soon?

    1. Shawn, we don't but you can always ask the people on our Facebook page.

  10. Dear Ashley and Brian,

    Great write-up.

    Have one question for you. You said "Mt. San Jacinto State Park is truly a rugged area so be prepared with the proper gear when hiking here."...

    We are thinking about the hike in this month. Have little experience with mountain hiking. What do we need other than good shoes, drinking water, layered clothing and hiking maps? A wooden stick !?


    1. Jigish, those items are all great. In addition to those items make sure to check out our hiking survival necessities list for your consideration http://abhiking.blogspot.com/2009/07/hiking-survival-necessities.html

      Have fun on the hike!

  11. Hi Brian and Ashley!

    My friend and I are going to attempt to reach the summit, but we're a little concerned with altitude sickness, especially the quick gain from the aerial tram to the Mountain Station. We live essentially at sea level and have never hiked anything nearly as high in elevation. Do you have any tips or experiences regarding altitude sickness that could help us?

    Thank you!

    1. If you are concerned about the possibility of altitude sickness, or have experienced it in the past, we would recommend a couple of training hikes at some mid level elevation before doing this hike. In our experience, training hikes are the best way to condition your body to the thinner air.


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