Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||5.2 miles (8.4 km)|
|Hike Time||2-3 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||740 feet (226m)|
|Highest Elevation||6,420 feet (1957m)|
|Fees & Permits||None If Parked At Specified Trailhead|
|Park Website||Idyllwild Ranger Station|
|Stay In Touch||Newsletter - Instagram - YouTube - Facebook|
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?
- You don’t need a parking pass when you start on Tahquitz View Drive.
- You go uphill on the first half of the hike, and then it’s all downhill for the second half. This way you get the hard work done in the beginning and can enjoy the way back.
- There are bathrooms at the mid-way point in Humber Park.
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).
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.
Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here
Great for all hikes – short ones to 10+ miles Feels like a sneaker but protects like a hiking boot.
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.
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.
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.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
- You don’t need any permits to hike on this trail (unlike other hikes in the area where you need a day-use permit).
- The trail is named after the late Ernie Maxwell, a prominent Idyllwild resident, founder of the town paper, and local conservationist. Although Ernie passed in 1994, the trail got its name in 1988, so Ernie got to enjoy hiking his namesake quite a bit.
- The actual trail was built in 1959 as a way for horses to transit town without having to walk on the roads. Ernie got permission from the Forest Service and then convicts from Riverside County completed the work.
- Because of its elevation and shade, the trail offers a ton of biodiversity. Keep your eyes open for cedar, pine, and oak trees, stellar jays, white-headed woodpeckers, and a multitude of wildflowers.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 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
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.