From Los Angeles take I-10 east to CA 111. Take CA 111 into the town of Palm Springs where CA 111 turns into Plam Canyon Drive. Make a right onto W. Tahquitz Canyon Way to Museum Drive. The trailhead is located at the Palm Springs Desert Museum at 101Museum Drive. Also the trail can be reached by continuing on Palm Canyon Drive and making a right onto W. Ramon Road and following it to the end. Unless you are returning to the trailhead you will need to arrange a car shuttle or leave your vehicle at the Palm Springs Aerial Tram and take a taxi to the trailhead. Most people who hike this trail take the aerial tram down the mountain. If you do plan on hiking back to the trailhead it will be a 35 mile day. If not, your hike will be 23 miles.
The Cactus to Clouds hike is long. You start on the desert floor and climb to 10,804 feet. You gain over 8,000 feet in the first 12 miles and much of this is hiking in dry aird desert conditions. The total elevation gain is 10,400 feet in 17.5 miles. An early start is suggested if you intend on making the last tram down.
From the very first step you start gaining elevation - non stop. After a mile you come across a rock painted with a note saying, "No water on trail until Round Valley Ranger Station, 8 miles, 10 hours." New information from the State Park Rangers suggest it is 11 miles and not 8. After 12 hard miles you reach Long Valley. This is where the upper tram station is as well as the State Park Ranger Station where you will need to obtain a permit for the rest of your hike. From the Ranger Station simply follow the signs to the summit. In 5.5 miles you will have reached your goal and probably will be exhusted. Return to Long Valley and the upper tram station for the ride down. Note: See info about tram ride down in the MISCELLANEOUS SECTION below. As of November 2010 the cost to ride the tram down is $12.00.
An alternate route down could be taking the Delvi's Slide trail down to Idyllwild. This is about 8 miles, making the total hike 25.5 miles.
Anyway you look at it, this is an extreme hike not to be taken lightly. It is a toughie!
Lots and lots of water and energy food. Headlamp or flashlight for the early start.
Contrary to popular belief or to any information that suggests that the tram ride down is free.....it is not. Lena Zimmerschied, Public Relations Assistant for the Palm Springs Ariel Tramway, in fact confirms that the one-way price for the ride down after your hike is $12.00.
The last tram down is at 9:45 PM nightly.
The parking lots open at 6:30 AM. So if you plan on parking a car for a shuttle after the hike you will need to do it the night before if you are starting very early.