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Birding · Commonly Backpacked · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Permits are required but are available for free at the ranger station near the mountaintop Tram Terminal.
This easy-to-moderate loop takes visitors through the Round Valley area of Mt. San Jacinto State Park between the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and Mt. San Jacinto itself. The trail passes through pine forest and meadows with ample opportunities to spot wildlife and view the surrounding peaks.
Need to Know
- Access to this trail comes from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway; tickets cost $25 at the time of writing and the ride up itself is quite the experience and definitely worth it (those with a fear of heights might disagree!). The mountaintop terminal has many amenities including a cafe and gift shops.
- Permits are required on this hike, but are available for free at the ranger station at the start of the hike.
- This is a high altitude area. Be aware of the signs of altitude sickness and how to address it.
- The weather can change dramatically at this altitude. Pack appropriate clothing for any conditions and always carry the Ten Essentials when hiking in the wilderness.
- The Tram and State Park are open year-round, however, hiking in this area during winter months is recommended only for experienced winter hikers/mountaineers due to possible heavy snow and harsh conditions.
This hike is best accessed from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (which is an experience in itself). From the mountaintop tram terminal, descend the paved switchbacks to the trailhead and the Long Valley Ranger Station. You'll need to acquire a (free) day-use permit here before proceeding further. This is also the last place for reliable water before entering the wilderness area.
From the ranger station, take the Round Valley Trail to the right. The trail follows a seasonal creek while also ascending through some light rocky areas. After approximately 2 miles, hikers will reach the marked junction at Round Valley. Take the High Trail
to the left to continue the loop (continuing straight on the Round Valley Trail from this point will take hikers up Mt. San Jacinto).
The High Trail
travels back to the east along the southern edge of the valley. The forest opens up a bit on this section to provide great views of Mt. San Jacinto and its neighboring peaks. After approximately 1 mile, hikers will arrive at the marked junction for the Willow Creek Trail
. Turn left at this junction and follow the Willow Creek Trail
north as it descends back into the valley through meadows and pine trees with a few rocky sections.
After about another mile, the trail will bring you back to the Long Valley Ranger Station. (Don't forget to turn in your return permit!) Head east from the ranger station and back up the concrete switchbacks to the Tram Terminal.
Flora & Fauna
Many different species of pine trees, scrub oak, and ferns can be seen growing in the forest around the trail. Reptiles, birds such as woodpeckers and eagles, and mammals such as deer and bighorn sheep are all commonly seen in the area. A lucky hiker might even spot a bobcat or mountain lion. Black bears are rare but not unheard of in the area.
History & Background
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a local landmark with an interesting history that can be learned about at the mountaintop terminal.
Nearby Mt. San Jacinto is the second tallest peak in Southern California!
Shared By: Ryan Dunn