Hiking trails at the top of the Palm Springs Tram

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Hiking trails at the top of the Palm Springs Tram

Postby DrSteve » Mon Jul 17, 2006 12:44 pm

OK. I am planning a trip to Idyllwild, for a 3 day archeological trip with a group of Boy Scouts from Orange County. The boys get to the campground on Saturday, and the archeological part of the outing does not start until Sunday night. That leaves me with 15 boys, and a day and a half with nothing for them to do!

I was thinking of taking them to the top of the Palm Springs tram and do a day hike, perhaps on Sunday morning. It should be a lot cooler up there, and a nice distraction from the "boredom" and the heat.

I don't think we want to go "all the way" to the top, but I was thinking of a hike to Round Valley, and perhaps beyond to Wellmans Divide. Is this or do-able (I don't see why not).

Any help or suggestions from you "pros"? Other than at the start of the trail, is there any drinking water? I presume at this time there is plenty of water in the creeks. Any place along the hike where we can all take a dip in the water?

Thanks. :lol: :roll: :lol:
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Postby Pilgrim » Mon Jul 17, 2006 2:07 pm

Since you are in Idyllwild, you might consider a hike up to the Tahquitz fire lookout instead. Though you'd need an early morning start (say no latter then 8am) since it is a pretty exposed trail. The view from the lookout is good and the lookout itself is interesting from a historical perspective. Even when I had let myself get totally out of shape and weighed 217lbs., I found that hike very doable if you set an easy pace. Plus hikes like that are what helped me to lose all that weight.

The Trip up to the peak from the TRAM is also not a difficult hike if you take it easy and get an early start. Just remind your scouts to breathe more deeply then they normally would due to the altitude. Since I ran into a large group of girl scouts who easy did the peak over Memorial Day weekend despite all their whinning (this comment was from the husband of their leader), it would be embarrassing for your boys to not be up for the challenge. However, the hike to Wellmen's Divide can be done very quick (Its only about 600 ft of elevation climb to there from the TRAM). There isn't much point in going above there unless you are doing the peak since its nothing but exposed switchbacks until you get up near the top.
Whatever you decide on, remember to bring lots of water.
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Postby robpollard » Mon Jul 17, 2006 6:02 pm

I would think that if the boys are all active and reasonably fit, a day hike from the tram is not out of the question. My boys 10 and 12 went from Round Valley to the peak and back to the tram easily in one day. I would echo Pilgrim's advice to get an early start though. A fun side trip with a bunch of scouts is Miller Peak, right off the San Jac trail, since it has the plaque with the scout oath on the summit block, and a short fun little climb at the top.
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Postby TR4ABrad » Mon Jul 17, 2006 7:07 pm

Another consideration beside the signifcant drive down and up the mountain from Idyllwild around to the tram is the actual cost of using it. $21.95 per adult (13 and over), $14.95 for anyone 12 and under. That makes for a pretty expensive short hike if you have to be back in the evening.

I would consider any of the Idyllwild trailheads. I am not familiar with all of them but a trip up the Devils Slide is challenging but rewarding. Tahquitz Valley and the Peak are outstanding.

You didn't mention the age and experience of your troop members. Do they have the experience and equipment for a significant day hike or have they mostly car camped? Do they have experience with the altitude (6300 ft to almost 9000 ft at Tahquitz Peak)?

Your First Class and above scouts should have the training and skills to complete a moderate hike. Anything below that, leave at camp to do advancement with one of your ASM's. Don't forget 2 Deep Leadership for any of the event! Use the Hike as a reward and incentive for your scouts to advance in rank.

If you want something real simple as a training hike then use the Ernie Maxwell Trail at Humber Park. It's about 4 miles round trip and could be a good test. This trail can be hot but is mostly shaded.

Why am I suggesting some deep thought and planning...been there, done that!

Good Luck,

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Postby DrSteve » Mon Jul 17, 2006 8:15 pm

Thanks for the input. All the boys (or most of the boys) have quite a bit of hiking experience and many have been to Mt. Whitney. All of the boys, in my opinion, would not have any problems going hiking to the peak. However having said that, this hike is more of a distraction and an a partial excape from the expected heat. I am more interested in gettting the boys away from the campground, and doing SOMETHING, rather than they just sit around and get bored and in trouble. The cost, I don't think, will be a problem.

They will be allowed to sleep in a bit, something they rarely do on any outing, on Sunday morning, and they need to be back in camp to eat dinner and start the campfire instruction from the archeology team by Sunday night. I think this might be a good distraction for a short day trip, and something I don't think most of the boys have experienced. I have lived in S. Cal since 1979, and I have never taken the tram to the top. If we had an extra day, I think a hike to the top would be fun.

Does anyone know if there is any drinking water, from the start of the hike to Wellmans divide. I have read there is a drinking spot in Round Valley somewhere. Can anyone confirm this? Any spots along the way to go swimming!?

Thanks for all your help.
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Postby Pilgrim » Wed Jul 19, 2006 12:29 pm

You can get water from the Tram station. Or you can get it at Round Valley; there is spring water from a pipe right off the trail. However, you may need to treat the water first with a filter (a sign nearby says treat all water while other people say they drink it straight with no problem).

No swimming anywhere, especially this time of year. Well there is place where it might be possible but the state park has removed it from their maps to protect it from over use. I think the federal maps still show it, but I think I might be violating the board rules if I mention its name and location.

To make your hike a bit longer, you might consider returning by the slightly longer trails that head toward Willow creek jct before looping back.
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Postby Perry » Wed Jul 19, 2006 1:15 pm

The state park is planning to close that area to everyone and actually issue citations to anybody who enters the area. This hasn't happened yet, but it's a future plan in the works. Maybe if people stop bringing large groups there, then they won't close it to everyone...
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Postby Guest » Thu Jul 20, 2006 10:54 am

I remember John Robinsons 80's era edition of his San Bernadino book saying the state park wanted people to avoid that area and I did for 15 years. Two years ago I finally got tired of avoiding it since it seemed like the state park would never officially open it again. If they really want to protect the area, they should reroute the trail that passes near it so that it becomes a real cross country adventure to get to which would discourage the causal hiker. Its too easy to stumble across it even by accident. The first time I visited it, I didn't even bother to use my map, I quessed when I was near it and how to get to it. It was far too easy.

The "special" area

Postby Snowhiker » Thu Jul 20, 2006 7:17 pm

A friend and I were hiking into the "special" area as a state park ranger was exiting. He showed us a very fragrant plant that he said ONLY grows right here, no other place in the world. I don't know if he was correct as I forgot the name of the plant before I could looked it up. He told us to watch our step so we would not crush the fragile plants but didn't give us one bit of grief for being "off trail". This was maybe 8-9 years ago so maybe things have changed.

Newer maps do NOT show the area. The area used to be relatively unknown, but enough people now know about the area that when I would visit on weekends there would usually be 1-3 other people in the area. I love visiting the area in winter when it's covered in snow. Very scenic, no people, and almost zero chance of damaging the fragile area.

People that have visited the San Jacinto mountains for a long while know what/where we are talking about. I don't tell anybody about it while in the forest as it could easily become overrun with people and be destroyed forever.
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Postby zippetydude » Thu Jul 20, 2006 8:12 pm

You guys are killing me here. I don't know about the area you're talking about, but now the curiosity is gonna keep me up nights! :shock:

I don't suppose I could ask you where it is, because I, like you, don't want any fragile area trampled. Although I don't trample and I travel alone, one more set of feet is probably the last thing the area would need. Still, if I'm doing the 22 mile loop (and I may check that out this weekend) I will now be roaming with curious, attentive eyes for "the area". That name reminds me of a mountain biking trail out of Fawnskin called "Area 51".

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for tormenting me. :?

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