Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Hike Video
  • Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Maps
  • How to Get to Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail
Distance5.2 miles (8.4 km)
Hike Time2-3 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)740 feet (226m)
Highest Elevation6,420 feet (1957m)
Fees & PermitsNone If Parked At Specified Trailhead
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park WebsiteIdyllwild Ranger Station
Park Phone 909-382-2921
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Tucked into the foothills around Idyllwild, the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail offers backcountry beauty without heading into the big mountains. This family-friendly hike is easy to follow, has a gentle climb, and offers lots of shade. Even though you’re right next to a residential area, you’ll feel like you’re miles away as you hike through the forest.

People need trails like this one. Experienced hikers and backpackers can take off on the Devil’s Slide Trail, but the family or individual looking for a pleasant little outing will prefer the Ernie Maxwell. It’s a good introduction to the San Jacinto Mountains. – Ernie Maxwell

Where Is The Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail?

Okay, to start, there are two ends of the Ernie Maxwell Trail, one end is on Tahquitz View Drive in Idyllwild, the other is in Humber Park. Most guides will recommend that you start in Humber Park, but I recommend starting on Tahquitz View Drive. Why?

So in this guide, we’re starting on Tahquitz View Drive, and you can use this trailhead address:
54980 Tahquitz View Dr, Idyllwild, CA 92549

This is a private address, please respect the local residents and their space. Don’t knock on the door, park in a driveway, leave trash, block a driveway, or otherwise do something stupid.

There is free parking along the side of the road. Park snug against the side (see the pictures below).

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The trail goes up from the street, seen here above the Jeep. You can see how close to park to the side of the road.
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Here’s a view up the road from the trailhead where there’s more parking.

If there’s no street parking, you can always get a parking pass at the ranger station, drive to Humber Park, and do the hike in reverse. If you have a National Parks Pass, you can use that at Humber Park.

Gear For the Hike

You don’t need any special hiking gear for the Ernie Maxwell Trail, it’s great for beginners. If you don’t have hiking gear, fitness clothes will work fine. It’s a shady hike but bringing a big water bottle is a good idea since you might sweat a little bit on the uphill.

FYI Up to $50 back automatically at REI Outlet Until 9/23

Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

La Sportiva Spire

High-Tech Hybrid Shoes

Great for all hikes – short ones to 10+ miles Feels like a sneaker but protects like a hiking boot.

Women’s Reviews

Men’s Reviews

Rei Flash 22

The Best Low-Cost, High-Quality Pack

This is a super-light and comfortable backpack that can hold everything you need on a hike, including a hydration bladder. It also works great as a general backpack or carry-on.

See Colors & Prices

Fenix 5x Hiking Nav

Garmin Fenix Map Watch

This thing does everything: maps, GPX tracks, compass, barometer, altitude, heart rate, blood oxygen, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, and the list goes on. I keep a GPX route on the watch so I can quickly glance down and make sure I’m in the right place.

Fenix Prices & Reviews

My In-Depth Review

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Maps

The nice thing about the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail is that it’s a straight shot. There are some little side trails, which I’ll show you below, but otherwise you’re hiking up to the end of the trail in Humber Park, then back down to where you parked.

There are other guides that incorrectly state the elevation gain at 300 feet. It’s more like 740 but the good news is that the climbs are gentle.

Click To View Map

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

How Will You Navigate the Hike?

I recommend using a combination of paper maps, GPS, and a guide to navigate the hike. If you are tempted to just use a smartphone, please don’t. You’ll often loose cell phone reception on the trail. At the very least, print out a paper map and this guide. Better yet, check out the navigation section on my gear picks page to see the latest and greatest that I’m using. There’s even a special discount on GaiaGPS premium for HikingGuy users.

See The Nav Gear I Use

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 3d Map
The Ernie Maxwell Trail winds its way beneath the high peaks of San Jacinto Wilderness.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike Elevation
This elevation profile makes the hike look way tougher than it is, but gives you an idea the uphill. There’s a nice flat portion in the middle of the hike where you can recover if the beginning was tough for you.

Hike Brief

Wild Sweetpea On Ernie Maxwell Trail
The Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail is known for its outstanding biodiversity. Keep your eyes open for plants like this wild sweet pea.

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Directions

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Video Directions

FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.

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Turn by Turn Directions

Walk the trails, enjoy the fresh air. And get to know these mountains. The mountains need more friends. – Ernie Maxwell

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 4
Start the hike on the southern terminus of the trail by hiking up from Tahquitz View Drive.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 5
A nice big sign marks the start of the trail.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 6
The trail starts climbing gently and you get some great views of Suicide Rock to the north. The rock, a popular climbing spot, got its name from the story of a Native American princess and her lover who, after being ordered to separate, instead committed suicide by jumping off the rock. It’s believed the story was made up in the early 1900s to attract visitors.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 7
The trail soon gets shaded, allowing you to stay cool on the gentle uphill slopes. The trail passes by lots of enormous granite boulders in its 2.6 miles.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 8
When the shade does disappear, you’re rewarded with great views. As you head north you’ll get glimpses of Suicide Rock, Marion Mountain, and the San Jacinto Wilderness.
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The trail twists back to cross small springs, streams, and drainages at various points. Most of these drain into Strawberry Creek, which gets stocked with rainbow trout further downstream in Idyllwild.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 10
This shot gives you a good idea of how the uphill is. You’ll know that you’re walking uphill, but you’re not climbing a mountain.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 11
Avoid the side trail down into the neighborhood to the left and go straight on the main trail.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 12
A flat section in the middle of the hike allows you to enjoy the views of Marion Mountain through the pines, oaks, and cedars.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 13
Another small stream crossing. You don’t need trekking poles our waterproof boots; you can just hop across if there’s any water flowing.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 14
More great views of Suicide Rock! From this angle you can see why it’s popular with rock climbers. In fact, this area is where modern American rock climbing first gained popularity in the 1930s.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 15
Avoid the steep trail up the hill and go straight.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 16
Eventually you’ll reach this post on the right which marks the start of the Climber’s Trail. Stay to the left on the Ernie Maxwell Trail.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 1
Here’s a closeup of the sign. This trail heads to the area where climbers can ascend Tahquitz Rock (also known as Lily Rock).
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Soon you’ll come to the last little stream crossing. Head over it and continue on the trail.
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This is what the stream crossing looks like. It’s very easy to cross, you don’t need to get wet.
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Soon you’ll reach the end of the trail at Humber Park. Once you come out at the pavement, you’re in the park!
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If you make the right when you get off the trail, you can walk to the top of the parking lot where there are some more views, picnic benches, and bathrooms.
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Look up for great views of Lily Rock, another popular rock climbing destination.
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At the top parking lot you’ll find bathrooms.
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When you’re done at Humber Park, simply head back down the same trail that you came up. You get a nice downhill hike as a reward! And the views are different too. A win-win.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.