Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hiking San Jacinto Peak via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs is known as a haven of rest, relaxation and recreation. Located just far enough outside of Los Angeles to be an accessible anytime retreat, Palm Springs is also a great mecca for hiking. In fact, hiking to San Jacinto Peak via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway involves some of the best hiking anywhere in California.
San Jacinto Peak in the distance, seen from Palm Springs, Coachella Valley
The next time you find yourself in Palm Springs, take a break from the spa to find a different type of tranquility, the kind that comes from pushing your body to new limits in the cathedral of nature. The San Jacinto Peak hike offers breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley, the Transverse Mountains north of LA and the Los Angeles Basin - and on a clear day you can see all the way to Catalina and the Channel Islands!

This is a moderate to strenuous hike, but it is non-technical enough that families and fitness enthusiasts will love it even if they are not typically avid hikers. In short, I recommend this hike to anyone interested in doing a hike with true payoff.

Family fitness AND fun near San Jacinto Peak, view of LA Basin
Here are the quick stats for hiking San Jacinto Peak via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway:

Trailhead: 8,000 feet above Palm Springs - Take the tram to the Mountain Terminal and make your way down the switchback sidewalk to the Long Valley Ranger Station.
Distance: 11.5 miles, out-and-back
Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,600/2,600
Map: Available at the San Jacinto State Wilderness ranger Hut, .3 miles from the Mountain Terminal. You'll need to stop here to get a free wilderness permit. The rangers also sell more detailed guides to the flora and fauna of the mountain wilderness, which makes the hike more educational and fun, especially if you're hiking with kids.
Hiking Time: It took me 7.5 hours round trip, but I'm a gawker and take a slow to moderate pace. I'm told it can be done in about 6 hours. First tram up is 8 a.m. on the weekends and 10 weekdays. Plan to go early.
Best Times to Hike: June to October are the best bet, although May and November may be good, too, depending on seasonal snowfall. Plan to take the first tram up so you will have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous (requires some scrambling up boulders to the summit)

Beautiful white boulders and lodgepole pines en route to San Jacinto Peak
For more information about this hike, check out Jerry Schad's "101 Hikes in Southern California", published by Wilderness Press. He calls this hike "San Jacinto Peak (The Easy Way)". And for a bunch of pictures and thoughts from my recent trek to San Jacinto Peak, check out my blog Man of Merit.

Need help finding SoCal trail heads? Check out these great resources
If you have questions about this hike, please feel free to ask in the comment section below. Also, follow @myfitlife2day and ready my other blogs, MyFitLife2Day and Man of Merit. I am also on HubPages at brianschwarz.hubpages.com.

Happy hiking!