Mount San Jacinto State Park

A cool experience with 6 to 10 mile hikes
Trek into the wilderness and sleep in the backcountry
Ideal for first-timers

Scrambling and summiting granite peaks in San Jacinto State Park

Scrambling and summiting granite peaks in San Jacinto State Park

Scrambling and summiting granite peaks in San Jacinto State Park

Scrambling and summiting granite peaks in San Jacinto State Park

Scrambling and summiting granite peaks in San Jacinto State Park

Designed by Yvonne Leow

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Last updated
March 8, 2022

Trip · 3-day backpacking trip

For · Friends and first-time backpackers

Vibe · Moderate and fun

Distance  · 10 miles with 2,933 feet of elevation gain

Permits · Yep, apply for a $5 wilderness permit at Round Valley campground

Drive · 2.5 hours from LA

Ideal dates · May to June or September or October

Pets · Not allowed in the park

Mount San Jacinto State Park has 54 miles of hiking trails, prominent peaks, like Mt. San Jacinto Peak (10,804 ft), the second highest mountain in SoCal, two campgrounds and four backcountry wilderness camps: Round Valley, Tamarack Valley, Little Round Valley, and Strawberry Junction. Unlike other treks, you can ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up most of the mountain! A tram ticket costs $27 per adult, and it's a 15-minute ride to get to ~8,000 feet. Backpacking in Mount San Jacinto State Park just got a little easier :)

Official State Park Website

Water Sources and Trail Conditions

Directions to Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Main image credit: Christopher Khoi Tran

Stuff to know

  • A wilderness permit is required for all overnight trips. You can snail mail your permit request by submitting it at least two weeks to up to two months ahead, or you can walk up to the Idyllwild Ranger Station to pick up a permit the day of.
  • Backcountry camping is only allowed in four designed wilderness camps: Round Valley Tamarack Valley, Little Round Valley, and Strawberry Junction
  • You can use gas backpacking stoves, but open campfires aren't allowed
  • You'll be camping at high altitude so drink plenty of water and take time hiking along the trails. Watch out for altitude sickness symptoms like dizziness, dehydration, headaches, and nausea.
  • Parking at Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is $10 per car or RV. Coachella Valley residents can park for free! Check their hours of operations to make sure you time the ride with your trip!
  • San Jacinto Trail Report is a project by Jon, a local resident, who voluntarily provides the latest trail and water conditions in the San Jacinto Mountains. Thank him by donating to his site!
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San Jacinto Mountains
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Itinerary

Day One

Sherman's Deli and Bakery
Sherman's Deli and Bakery. Credit: Yelp

Leave LA by 10 AM and grab lunch at Sherman's Deli and Bakery

  • Diners love their french dip and pastrami sandwiches
  • Located at 401 East Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs
  • Open everyday from 8 AM to 9 PM
  • ​Last pit stop · Shell - 50876 Seminole Drive in Cabazon

Park at Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

  • Trams leave every half hour. Buy a tram ticket and enjoy the view!

Hike from Upper Terminal Mountain Station to Round Valley

  • It's a two mile trek to Round Valley wilderness campground
  • Make camp and settle in for the night

If you're feeling ambitious, scramble up Cornell Peak

  • It's a one-mile road trip hike from Round Valley to Tamarack Valley
  • Once you reach a trail junction at the Tamarack Valley sign, follow the trail on the left and hike north through the campsites onto the steep slopes of the peak visible straight ahead.
  • Head slightly to the right of the apparent summit area, passing rock barriers generally on the east side until you find the main ridge line.
  • It's a bit of a class two scramble to the top. Enjoy the views at the summit!

Return to camp and cook up dinner

Car to camp: 2 miles - 535 feet of elevation gain - 3 hours

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is one of the largest and longest single-lift passenger tramways in the world! It carries you up 2.5 miles.

Day Two

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Cook up brekkie and prep for a day hike to San Jacinto Peak

  • Pack sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, at least 2 liters of water, snacks, and lunch
  • It's a 5.8 mile round-trip hike, with 1,683 feet of elevation, to the top of San Jacinto Peak
  • Take Round Valley Trail to Peak Trail. Prepare for a steep climb, but you'll be rewarded with stunning views.
  • Enjoy your lunch at the summit!

Clean up, rest, and relax back at camp

  • Chillax, cook up dinner, and enjoy your last night in Mount San Jacinto State Park!
The Cahuilla tribe once used this area for seasonal hunting. Their trails still cross the mountain, and bedrock mortars can be seen in the park

Day Three

Round Valley Trail
Round Valley Trail. Credit: AllTrails

Break camp and head back to Upper Terminal Mountain Station

  • Practice Leave No Trace and check your campsite for any litter
  • Take the High Trail to Willow Creek Trail, a 2 mile hike, back to the tram
  • Trams leave every half hour and the last tram down is 8 or 9 PM, depending on whether it's a weekday or weekend, respectively

Head home!

Car to camp: 2 miles - 653 feet of elevation gain - 2 hours

The northeast face of the San Jacinto Range plunges down 9,000 feet in less than four miles. It's the steepest and most spectacular slopes in North America.

Packing List

Essential Items
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Clothing
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Personal Stuff
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Camp Kitchen
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Shared Gear
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Recommended gear

Essential Items

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