From the desert floor of Palm Springs, to San Jacinto Peak
Aaron Flynn, pretending to run down a trail for a sweet photo capture.
On Thursday November 2nd 2017, I had reached out to Ultra Runners Aaron Flynn and Vincent Lopez about sharing a few miles that weekend. Southern California's late October heat wave was followed with cooler weather and some heavy anticipation. We spent a few days watching weather forecasts and leaning toward one trail or another before deciding on the infamous Cactus to Clouds trail. The route consisted of climbing from the desert floor of Palm Springs to the top of San Jacinto Peak and back down to the Aerial Tramway, where most people purchase a lift ticket to descend via the tram and shuttle back to their car. The Cactus 2 Clouds trail includes roughly 18 miles with 10,800 feet of vertical gain. Our plan was to complete the route and bypass the tram/shuttle entirely. A route called called "Cactus to Clouds to Cactus" (more commonly abbreviated as C2C2C) As the day approached, four other runners would join our collective and a party would be had.
There are a handful of cross country hikes here in California's vast wilderness that push the limits of the word "adventure" for several reasons. They are extremely remote locations that most people will never have the pleasure of seeing. A consequence of their isolated location is that rescue is highly unlikely in the case of an emergency.
That being said, it is the responsibility of the few that are capable of reaching these locations to practice safety when traveling to these places.
- Double and triple check your supplies (especially water).
- Check weather conditions the morning of your hike before you lose cell service.
- Always be aware of your surroundings.
- Understand the importance of creating an outdoor itinerary.
- Create a plan in the event of your disappearance.
- Use the Leave No Trace principles.
TRVRS Outdoors is all for encouraging new and exciting adventures, but part of the adventure is doing adequate research ahead of time to assure a safe and fun trip which is why we've decided to document these back country hikes. Stay safe!
Palm Springs Art Museum Trailhead (500 ft)
Jeff Allen, climbing a thumb.
Long Valley Ranger Station (8,500 ft)
Lani Elise is all smiles...she must be faking it.
San Jacinto Peak (10,836 ft)
Icy pines made for some incredible views atop San Jacinto Peak.
We had reached Mount San Jacinto at 1:15 PM after moving for about 6.5 hours. The trees near the peak were covered in ice and and fast moving clouds surrounded us for the majority of the climb. We regrouped again for a celebratory summit photo and made for the famous hut to get out of the cold air. After loading up on calories, we made some estimates on completion time and hoped to finish before sunset. Everything was going smoothly until we reached the Skyline trail. The steep descent combined with large oddly placed boulders and cactus made catching a groove impossible. Besides running, I constantly needed to move around obstacles, and focus on each awkward leap toward another granite surface.
Back to the desert floor.
Vincent Lopez cruisin' down the Skyline Trail.
Vince and I had pushed hard to get to the bottom before sunset, but our plans would be foiled by the terrain and our jello like legs. We had reached the Museum at 6:30 PM after running 28 miles with 11,100 feet of vertical gain. Knowing that we had made enough space between ourselves and the rest of the group, we made moves for Bevmo to pick up a bottle of coke and two large bags of chips since we had no intention of sharing. We made it back just in time to meet the rest of our group as they rolled down the mountain with different stories of hurt. One of which was Jeff Allen, who missed a trail junction in the dark, and exited the mountain through a neighbors back yard instilling some 1.5 bonus miles. We said our goodbyes and congratulated each other on accomplishing something we were all excited to never do again.
Crew from left to right: Vincent Lopez, Ricardo Soria Jr, Jeff Allen, Aaron Flynn, Sawna Guadarrama, Lani Elise, & Andreas Attai.
Total Elevation (feet): 11,100 ft
Completion Time: 11 hours
- Steep class 1 trail (with option for scrambling) from desert floor to Long Valley.
- Many veins and off shoots from main trail which could cause navigation issues especially since most people will start (or finish) in the dark.
- Class 1 maintained trail from Long Valley to the Peak.
Cactus 2 Clouds 2 Cactus (out-and-back) - GPX FILE
Please be aware that distance, route and overall elevation gain may vary. We kinda just went for it. A few small scrambles took place within the first few miles that could definitely be avoided.