Cactus to Clouds Hiking Guide

Maps, Photos, GPS, & Details

Mt. San Jacinto Message Board


Skyline in a Nutshell: 4 Things to Know

1. Hiking to the top of the Tram is an 8,000-foot climb over 11 miles of rocky terrain commonly known as the "Skyline trail." To prepare for this, it is strongly recommended that you do a 5,000-foot climb about two weeks prior, preferably in a climate similar to Palm Springs. One week may not be enough time to fully recover. A 2,000-foot climb is too short of a workout and does not provide enough conditioning.

2. Dehydration and heat exhaustion play a role in many of the rescues on Skyline, and people frequently underestimate the amount of water required. In 2009, two hikers died while attempting Skyline in the heat. This hike normally takes about one gallon of water in moderate temperatures. Even in the winter time, a lightweight person generally needs a minimum 64 fl. oz. (half-gallon) to stay hydrated. In the summer time, a heavier person might need 3 gallons, kept in the freezer the night before. Carbohydrates are necessary to avoid low blood sugar, and salt is important for preventing muscle cramps.

3. Icy conditions can be very dangerous. In January of 2004, a very experienced hiker (professional outdoor guide) fell to his death because he slipped down an ice chute. Even marines have been rescued on Skyline because they did not bring alpine climbing equipment. In the winter and spring, the upper section can have snow and ice shaded by the trees, sometimes even if you can't see it from the desert below. Crampons and ice axe may be necessary, and it's very important to practice using them first. Because the icy section includes a right traverse, it is recommended that you practice holding the ice axe with your left hand while walking and also doing a left-handed self-arrest. Conditions vary from year-to-year and sometimes there are day-to-day changes due to weather.

4. People get lost on the upper section, especially if it's dark or if there's snow on the ground. Even in the winter, it's a good idea to start in the morning for this very reason. For first-time hikers, it's a good idea to go with somebody who has done this before.

Coffman's Crag from a distance.  Photo by Rosa Leon. Coffman's Crag, as seen from the edge of the cliff.  Photo by Rosa Leon.
If you get lost... Look for this big rock.
Before the cliff, turn left and go uphill.

These 4 points are the most important things to remember. After a small quiz, you can access the photos, maps, and GPS data on a different web page. This quiz is easy but requires reading and understanding this introduction. If you browsed this page very quickly, you may need to come back and read it again in order to pass the quiz. Sorry if this seems a little annoying, but I don't want to give out a bunch of information to someone unless they understand the risks involved. You might actually enjoy this quiz...

Take the Skyline Quiz
Access to Maps, Photos, GPS data, and more Details

This web site is not affiliated with any agency. Attempt Skyline at your own risk. The author doesn't know everything, and this site does not discuss everything that can possibly happen on Mt. San Jacinto. Please do a basic reality check whenever using any of the resources or information on this site or elsewhere. Aside from all of that, have fun! It's usually very enjoyable and scenic.


Web site created by Perry Scanlon.