Our Hike for Today:
For San Diego Trail Tramps who will be driving up from San Diego on Saturday morning (Dec. 13th). We'll meet in Palm Springs at the Tram's Valley Station lobby at 10:00-10:15 am, take the tram to the top by 11 am. Then we'll hike (or x/c ski / showshoe, depending on snowfall) the Desert View loop trail (counter-clockwise) for a couple of hours, including a lunch break with a view. Finally, we'll return to the lodge at the top for hot buttered rum and Christmas carols sung by one of the Palm Springs High School Choirs at 5 pm, and then take the tram back down to the base.
The Hike: From Mountain Station, walk down the paved pathway to the signed beginning of the trail to Desert View, which provides panoramas of the sub-peaks above and the desert below. Join the Nature Trail for a short distance, and soon get the first of a couple of great desert views. The view takes in Palm Springs, Tahquitz, and other palm-lined canyons of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, along with the basin and hills of the Coachella Valley. Continue on the Desert View Trail, which makes a full circle and junctions with the path back up to Mountain Station. 2 miles roundtrip at ~8400' altitude.
Mount San Jacinto State Park:
The deeply weathered summit of Mount San Jacinto stands 10,804 feet above sea level, the highest point in the San Jacinto Range and second highest in Southern California. No more than a two hour drive from either Los Angeles or San Diego, the mountain's magnificent granite peaks, subalpine forests, and fern-bordered mountain meadows offer a unique opportunity to explore and enjoy a scenic, high-country wilderness area. The park offers two drive-in campgrounds near the town of Idyllwild.
Most of the park is a designated wilderness area enjoyed by hikers and backpackers, who may roam this vast and rugged 13,500-acre park, which boasts 4 mountain peaks above 10,000 feet. Wildlife abounds, including lizards, birds, deer and coyote. Within the Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness are 54 miles of hiking trails which should be sufficient to satisfy the appetite of the most avid outdoor enthusiast. Trails range from the awe-inspiring five and one-half mile trek to the 10,834 foot peak of San Jacinto to the just over one mile nature walk through picturesque Long Valley, located just behind the Tram's Mountain Station.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway:
Starting in Chino Canyon near Palm Springs, the tram takes passengers from Valley Station at 2,643 feet elevation to Mountain Station on the edge of the wilderness, elevation 8,516 feet. The Mountain Station features a restaurant, gift shop, snack bar, and the state park visitor center.
In Long Valley, a short walk from the station, you will find the Long Valley Ranger Station, a picnic area with barbecue stoves and restrooms, a ski center, a self-guiding nature trail, and Desert View Trail which offers panoramas of the high country including several peaks over 10,000 feet in elevation. You can also enter the hiking trail system from this point.
The tram operates year-round, except for a maintenance closure in August. Roundtrip fare is $22.25 per person. Hours of Operation: Cars depart at least every half hour from 10 a.m., Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. weekends and holiday periods. Last car up is 8 p.m. with the last car down at 9:45 p.m.
Traveling from San Diego take Interstate 15 North to Interstate 215, North to Highway 60, East to Interstate 10 East. Exit Highway 111 to Palm Springs. Travel 8 miles to the second signal and turn right at Tramway Road. The Valley Station is located approximately 4 miles up Tramway Road.
From Riverside, traveling eastbound on Interstate 10 exit Highway 111 to Palm Springs, travel 8 miles to the second signal and turn right at Tramway Road. The Valley Station is located approximately 4 miles up Tramway Road.
After a short walk from the tram station to Long Valley, you will reach the Ranger Station, a picnic area with BBQ stoves and restrooms, an adventure center, a self-guiding nature trail, and the Desert View Trail, which offers panoramas of the Coachella Valley. Cross-country skis and snowshoes may be available to rent at the Winter Adventure Center up at the top, if they get enough snow by then. We may therefore have the option to X/C ski or snowshoe, rather than hike!
The hike that we'll plan to do is the Desert View Trail, right adjacent to the lodge at the top. We'll have until dusk (sunset is at 4:40 pm) to return to the Mountain Station Lodge. Then, the "civilized thing" to do would be to go into the cocktail lounge and have a goblet of Christmas Cheer while watching the sun set and the lights of Palm Springs come on below, before taking the tram back down to Valley Station. And if you're good boys, you might even get to sit on Santa's lap...
Weather & survival gear:
Winter on Mt. San Jacinto is cold, with sudden severe snow activity and temperatures occasionally dropping near zero. Snow normally covers the wilderness from December through April. High winds and temperatures below zero are common. Saturday, Dec. 13th, 2008, sunrise will be about 6:44 am, sunset will be at 4:40 pm.
For current weather conditions at the San Jacinto Wilderness State Park, CLICK HERE.
Come well equipped and don't underestimate changing weather conditions whenever you enter a wilderness area. All hikers should carry the recommended 11 essentials of survival: 1. Sun Protection (sunscreen & sunglasses), 2. Extra Clothing (shell garments and/or rain gear), 3. Extra Food & Water, 4. First Aid Kit, 5. Knife, 6. Waterproof matches or a good lighter, 7. fire tablets or a candle (to keep the fire going), 8. Map, 9. Compass, 10. Flashlight with extra bulb and batteries, 11. a Whistle (in case you get lost) A cell phone can be useful too, but reception is unpredictable in some areas.
Day-use permits for hiking are required and can be obtained on the day of your trip by visiting the Long Valley ranger station near the top of the tram. (They are not required for hiking the Nature Trail or the Desert View Trail.) Maximum group numbers are limited to 15 people per group. Stay on trails. No smoking on trails (in campsites only). Dogs are prohibited in the state wilderness. Pack out all trash. No fires are allowed. Backpacking stoves are permitted.
To download a topo map (it's a 1.2 MB .pdf file) of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park, click here.