Hiking to the San Jacinto Summit from the Tram

About a year ago a couple friends and I set out to hike to the San Jacinto Summit from where the tram lets out. Without much research we went into it thinking this would be a pretty simple hike as the tram drops you off at 8500 feet and the summit is only 10500; however, this hike is actually pretty difficult, but it is rewarding to finish and provides stunning views. The hike itself comes out to be around 15 miles round trip, that plus the already high elevation is what makes the hike difficult. Not know what we were getting into we set out early in the morning paid our 25 bucks to ride the tram and started our journey to the summit, read on for the full review.

tram up to san jacinto

The summit ride is a beautiful and highly recommended trip. It takes you from the barren desert below to the forest above, complete with trees, meadows and small streams. The sheer contrast is worth the price of admission and where the tram lets of there is a store and even a restaurant if you simply want to ride up and enjoy the views. If you are heading for the summit this is where the trail starts and it ushers in what is in store for you.

may the peace of the wilderness sign

From the first step this hike is full of beautiful views and lush landscapes. We saw people having a picnic in one of the meadows, trying to boulder some of the rocks and even wading in the streams. This beauty helps to take your mind off the long trail that is ahead of you and gives you a lot of unique places where you can stop and rest before heading on.

small waterfall on san jacinto

After a couple hours of walking we made it out of the forest area and started the summit push, right before the elevation starts to increase on you there is a nice vista point that has lots of rocks you can relax on and that help give you an appreciation for what you have accomplished so far. IF it is a clear day you can see many of the neighboring summits from this location as well as the vast expanse of the desert below.

Break on the way to san jacinto summit

After this short stop the next push is the toughest. The elevation rises a lot and if you have not hiked in elevations over 10,000 feet before it is very difficult to fully catch your breathe. All of this adds to the difficulty but also adds to the accomplishment you feel when you make it to the summit. You pass many switchbacks, before seeing a little ranger station that means you are right below the summit. If you head around to the front side there are a lot of rocks that you can climb on that make it look like you are suspended out on a ledge. In actuality it is a drop but not as insane as it looks.

summit of san jacinto

From there you can climb over similar boulders for about 50 feet before reaching the actual summit of the mountain. We took at least 25 minutes to relax and take in the views and many people were up there doing the same thing. While this hike is only 15 miles it feels like a huge accomplishment when you see the views that you are presented with.

crew at the san jacinto summit

view from the summit of san jacinto

Just remember when you make it to the summit you still have a good 7 mile walk to get back. Some people think that the hike is over, but you have to push your body to put in another 7 miles of walking. I wouldn’t recommend doing this hike from the summit if you are not at least somewhat prepared for it. It is possible, but you will have a lot more fun if you put some time in at the gym before heading out to accomplish it. It really is amazing to be able to live in Southern California, where one day you can kayak at the beach, the next you can get a hot dog at Pinks and still the next you can climb the summit of San Jacinto.

Sunset over san jacinto

Let me know if you have done this summit or any of the other neighboring ones. I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Check out the map and get directions


Center map

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About JoshMc

Thanks for checking out the blog, I am happy to be sharing my adventures with you! You can get to know me by reading my about me, which includes a video and additional information on the site, myself and my full disclosure. Also, follow along on Twitter here or read all of my posts on this blog here.

  • Tara Ruark

    Absolutely loved this hike! And I do agree with you that it does seem easy because of the tram however the trail is up, up and more up the whole way. Definitely want to start in the morning all the reees provide a lot of cooling shade. When we came down in the afternoon we noticed rhe trail itself was hot causing our already hot feet to burn a little more. It is a must if you are in the area. Take lots of water and a nice lunch to enjoy at the top. We went in the middle of July on a Tuesday and there were still lots of people. Enjoy it we definitely did! Plan on doing it again next year!

    P.s. we are not professional hikers we just love outdoor exercising and this definitely did it! We also saw/meet a man the once weighed 560lbs and all he does is hike now. He is healthy and a little over 200lbs. He was an inspiration!

    • Thanks for the comment and the update about your hike! I agree, this is not an easy feat so congrats on completing it!

  • Melissa

    Hi! I’m planning on hiking to the summit in mid-May. Question – do you have to do anything “special” before doing this hike, like get permit or register somewhere, etc? Also, in Mid May, should the snow be gone by then?
    I just love your blog – I’m using it as a resource to plan my 16-day vacation in S. California (so I might have more comments to follow as I continue to plan)

    • There is some information on grabbing a permit at this link http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=636 As far as the snow, there may be some still up there at that time, however, with the dry year we have had I doubt it would have much impact on the trail at all. It is always good to check with the ranger before attempting the hike though. Thanks for the comment and the kind words about the blog, I hope it helps you have a fantastic trip!

  • Andra, I used to follow your adventures as well! Thanks for leaving a comment and for telling me of your CA adventures. I checked them out and it looked great! Let me know if you are in CA again and have any questions on anything. I look forward to following along again on your blog!

  • Denny Manning
  • Denny Manning

    The elevation was no joke. I did fine up until the bottom bolders right where the pe https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b8530dda5823dfea2be6504b0ce640cbc1992c10392fae8d6fc76077e20e0dad.jpg ak was. i made it though

    • Nice work, that is awesome! I haven’t done this hike in a long time but I really want to do it again!

  • Gary Dorame

    I haven’t been to the summit since about 1971. We actually rode the tram down three times before we rode it up. haha Winter of course. Want a story? The first time we climbed the north face we had cotton sleeping bags, bacon and eggs, canned goods, no crampons, etc. It took us 5 days. But it was really fun. After that we had everything we needed and did it in a long day. Happy climbing.