Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
10,875.00 ft (3,314.70 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
30.80 mi (49.57 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Known as one of the greatest trail runs in Southern California, Cactus to Clouds to Cactus is an epic adventure. This route is known for its steep climbs and extreme elevation changes (as suggested by its title). Starting in Palm Springs, California at an elevation of 465 feet, it rises up to San Jacinto Peak at 10,834 feet! The route features incredible biodiversity, expansive views, and a summit to the second highest peak in Southern California. C2C2C is a strenuous route that is a popular challenge amongst endurance athletes, especially ultra trail runners. 

C2C2C has an overall elevation gain of approximately 10,400 feet, most of which occurs within the first 16 miles, making it one of the steepest trails with the most drastic elevation increases in the nation! However, reaching the summit is only half of the battle. After an exhausting climb, visitors must prepare themselves for a long, steep descent back to the start.  

DIRECTIONS

The trailhead is located behind the Palm Spring Art Museum and street parking is available in the area. The route follows the Skyline Trial for 11 miles and 7,900 feet from the desert to Long Valley. The trail passes by a ranger station (which sometimes allows runners and hikers to obtain potable water) and then continues to ascend another 2,400 feet to reach San Jacinto Peak. From the peak, retrace your steps all the way back down to the parking area where you began. 

PERMITS

Permits are required for overnight and day use in San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness. Day-use is free and overnight camping permits are $5.00. More information about permits can be found at https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=636 and  https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/636/files/DPR409.pdf

WATER

Visitors must bring plenty of water. The Skyline Trail is hot, exposed and dry. Water may be available above the Skyline Trail but it is always good to check in with the rangers in advance. 

SEASONS

This route is best completed in the spring or fall months when the weather is mild. Summer can bring extreme temperatures, especially in the lower elevations and the winter usually requires experience with snow and ice travel. 

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS

  • Identify your exit points and know your limits. The route is steep both up and down.

  • Make sure you bring the right gear. In most cases, it takes all day to complete this route. Bring clothes that will keep you comfortable in a variety of temperatures.

  • The majority of people start and finish their run in the dark, so a headlamp is highly recommended. 

ALTERNATE ROUTE

Cactus to Clouds (C2C) is a route that makes it up to the top of Mount San Jacinto and then heads back down to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway station and takes the tram down. This is a 16-mile variation that cuts out a majority of the descent. 

Palm Springs Tramway Information: https://pstramway.com/

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Biodiversity. Bragging Rights. Mountain Summit.

Cons

Extremely strenuous. Lack of water.

Trailhead Elevation

467.00 ft (142.34 m)

Highest point

10,834.00 ft (3,302.20 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Wildlife
Big vistas
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

Yes

Permit self-issue on site

No

Location

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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