Trail of the Week: Cactus to Clouds, Palm Springs, California

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Our Trail of the Week feature is made possible through a partnership with Trail Run Project, a crowd-sourced collaboration by and for the running community. Thanks to Jeremy Francis for mapping and describing this route.

Ready for an epic challenge?

This section of the Cactus to Clouds trail covers the distance between the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Aerial Tramway station along the ridge. It starts on the desert floor in Palm Springs, Calif. and climbs 10,000 feet in just 14 miles, finishing high up on Mt. San Jacinto. The Palm Springs Aerial Tram can take you back down.

A few tips:

  • There is no reliable water along the trail.
  • There can be extreme weather changes between the desert floor and the subalpine mountain ridge line. The lower trail has recorded temperatures as high as 110 F while the summit can drop to -10 F in winter. It is recommended you start early in the morning, well before sunrise. 3-5 a.m. is a typical start time.
  • This route requires commitment. Once past the halfway point, it is more difficult to turn around than to push forward.
  • This trail is extremely exposed and dangerously hot in the summer.

The Data

Miles: 14.4

Runnable: 67 percent

Average Grade: 14 percent

Max Grade: 109 percent

Total Ascent: 10,444 feet

Total Descent: -172 feet

Highest Elevation: 10,751 feet

For a closer look, check out the interactive map, data, photos and virtual run simulator courtesy of Trail Run Project: