Monday, July 13, 2009

Mount San Jacinto

The second highest peak in Southern California can be reached by hiking a grueling 10 miles with an elevation gain of 8,000 feet, or it can be reached in 6 miles and about 2,500 feet. I decided on the latter which includes a really fun tram ride up Chino canyon.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the only one of it's kind with capacity for 80 people, and the capability to rotate so everyone has a view. The tram is a great jumping off point for hiking or camping, but is just a fun day trip in itself. Take the family up for lunch and a hike around one of the nature trails, or take a date for dinner at the top of the world. The Lookout Lounge at the top serves lunch, dinner and cocktails with "ride and dine" specials daily. There's even a gift shop and food court at the base with the Chino Valley and a small waterfall as the backdrop. So go, you'll like it, but dress wisely because the Inland Empire is hot!

I skipped 6,000 feet in elevation gain by taking the tram so the hike to the top was very pleasant. The trail meanders though the valley and then ends with some long, moderately graded switchbacks. The 360 degree view at the end is well worth the hike. Seeing the Salton Sea was my favorite part! This area is also a great place to backpack, with a few camps to choose from. I stayed at the Round Valley Camp in a very isolated site that was perfect for the solitude I was looking for.

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