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
Stay In Touch - - -

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).

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 2
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.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 3
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.

La Sportiva Spire

The La Sportiva Spire boots feel like comfortable sneakers but offer the protection of hiking boots. They’re great on everything from short hikes to longer hikes of 10+ miles. You don’t want to skimp on your feet.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Opsrey Stratos 24

I test a lot of gear, and for short to medium day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) are consistently the best. They’re lightweight, hold a hydration bladder to make drinking water easy, have lots of pockets to organize gear, and most importantly, are incredibly comfortable. Check out the reviews; they are impressive.
Reviews & Colors Here: Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) 

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

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 a 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

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.

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

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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.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 9
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.
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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).
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 17
Soon you’ll come to the last little stream crossing. Head over it and continue on the trail.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 18
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!
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 21
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.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 22
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.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 20
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.

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