This 19.4-mile loop requires keen navigation skills. Knock it off in a long day or take it slow, like our map contributor, and earmark 3-to-4 days for scenic reststops, lovely campsites, and some “me” time.
Late start? No worries. From the top of the tram, the first night’s camp is 2.4 miles in at Round Valley Campsite (marked as point WPT004 below).
Climb nearly 2,000 feet and string together two summits. This 5.1-mile section breaks north at Wellman Divide and climbs 1.2 miles to a short off-trail spur to Miller Peak. (10,400 ft.). Backtrack to main trail, and get ready: the next peak (San Jacinto Peak, 10,880 ft.) is less than a mile away and includes another off-trail pursuit. From the second peak, it’s back to the main trail and onto Little Round Valley Campground.
This 7-mile stretch travels mostly downhill and links up to the Pacific Crest Trail. Retrace your steps from Day 2, skipping the detours to San Jacinto Peak and Miller Peak. Turn right at Wellman Divide and continue west 1 mile to the Pacific Crest Trail. Veer left onto the PCT, and continue 1.8 miles to Saddle Junction—a large 5-way intersection. Leave the PCT and hike east towards Willow Creek. Turn south just before WPT016 and climb ridgeline for 600-feet to camp three.
The final 4.2 miles offers impressive views of the Mojave Desert shimmering nearly 6,500-feet below. From camp, rejoin the main trail and turn right, continuing 2.3 miles to WPT019. Turn right and head to Desert View Overlook. Head back to WPT019, turn right, go 1.7 miles back to the tram.
Camp Permits: Book camping permits from Mount San Jactinto State Wilderness for nights 1 and 2 (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=636). Night 3 requires a Forest Service permit for the Desert View region. (951) 659-2117.
Mapped By Peter Rives
Trailhead: From Palm Springs, head west on E Tahquitz Canyon Way and turn right onto N Sunrise Way. Head 1.5 miles, and turn left at E Vista Chino way. Continue 1.1 miles, turning right at N Palm Canyon Dr. In 1.1 mile, turn left at Tramway Rd. and head 3.8 miles to Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Ride the tram up into San Jacinto State Park to the trailhead.