Skyline Trail
Ah, the infamous, hike-at-your-own-risk Skyline Cross Country Ridge Route, also known as Cactus-to-Clouds, a 10-mile hike that has over 8500 feet of elevation again—one that passes through four climatic zones. It’s classified as one of the most extreme “day hikes” in the United States, and although it’s a fairly well-established and easy-to-follow trail, save for a few sections, it’s not officially recognized by the BLM or California Department of Forestry, organizations that frown upon those who hike Skyline. In fact, BLM agents and forest rangers and other law enforcement agencies strongly discourage its use, because dozens of hikers have been rescued, and some have even died, on Skyline. Those who have died or who have been rescued on the trail have lacked some of the ten hiking essentials—items that can save your life, so don’t forget to bring them. My hiking philosophy is: it’s better to bring something that you don’t need, than to need something that you don’t bring. And even if the potentially life-saving essentials slow you down a bit, that’s a small price to pay in the event that you actually have to use them.

You can pick up the trail from two points: either at the end of Roman Road (the N> Lykken Trail) or at end the Palm Springs Desert Museum’s parking lot (the PS Museum Trail). Both trails intersect near a set of picnic tables, where most people turn back, and for good reason. Once there, you’ll want to proceed West, provided you have the fortitude to successfully hike Skyline.

The scenery on Skyline is mesmerizing, and despite its reputation for having the sharpest escarpment in the U.S., the trail has quite a few ups and downs, especially near the saddles. It's quite an experience to start a hike in the middle of a dry, dusty, rock-strewn desert, one peppered with prickly bushes and scalpel-sharp barrel cacti, and finish it by trudging through shin-deep snow in an Alpine environment where the air is crisp and cold and the snow-covered ground glistens in the sun’s amber rays.
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