view from Mount San Jacinto Hike

Hike Mount San Jacinto From Idyllwild

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Video
  • San Jacinto From Idyllwild Trail Maps
  • How to Get a San Jacinto Hike Permit
Total Distance19.5 miles (31.4 km)
Hike Time10 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)5,480 feet (1670m)
Highest Elevation10,834 feet (3302m)
Fees & PermitsFree Permit & Parking Fee
Dogs AllowedNo
Alerts & Closures (?)San Jacinto Ranger District
Park Phone909-382-2921

There are a several routes to hike Mount San Jacinto. This route from Idyllwild is my favorite. The climb is not as steep as the other routes, you don’t need a special permit, and the views on the whole hike are spectacular. John Muir called the views from Mount San Jacinto the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth.  On a clear day, you can see from Catalina Island to Southern Utah. That’s because Mount San Jacinto, at 10,834 feet, is one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the USA, rising 10,000 feet above the San Gorgonio Pass below. This hike to San Jacinto includes a stretch on the famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) where you can channel your inner Reese Witherspoon. The hike is long, and you need a good level of fitness to do it.

If you just want to summit San Jacinto but don’t want to tackle a hike this far, try the San Jacinto Summit hike from the tram in Palm Springs. You can also split this hike into an overnight backpacking trip. Campgrounds on the route (described below) are first come, first serve. Pick up a camping permit at the ranger’s office. You also need a permit if you’re using a portable stove (or campfire).

Getting to the San Jacinto Trailhead In Idyllwild

Use this GPS address: Deer Springs Trail, Idyllwild, CA, 92549, USA.

You need a parking pass for the Deer Springs Trailhead parking. I use the affordable National Parks Pass, which gets me in every park, monument, and national forest. You can also use an (Southern California only) Adventure Pass, or buy a $5 day permit from the ranger’s office.

Getting a Hike Permit in Idyllwild

You need a permit for this hiking route, and it’s easy to get, there are no quotas (unlike other routes). Just pick up the permit at the San Jacinto Ranger Station, fill it out, and hike. You can get a permit after-hours, the permits are actually outside the station.

Address for San Jacinto Ranger Station:

Idyllwild Ranger Station
Before you start, visit the San Jacinto Ranger Station in the center of Idyllwild to get your free hiking permit. The permits are in a kiosk outside of the station (in front).
hiking permit
Fill out a normal permit for the Deer Springs Trail. Put the white copy in the box and the yellow copy in your pocket. A ranger might ask to see it on the trail.

Gear For the Hike

This is a long hike. Make sure you pack plenty of water, snacks, and layers for the summit in the cooler months. Remember to pace yourself, don’t start too fast. And don’t try this in the winter unless you’re positive you can handle potential extreme snow, ice, and sub-zero conditions. Call the ranger office if you’re in doubt.

If you want to check if there’s snow on your hike, read this guide.

Moab 2 Mall

The Best All-Around Hiking Footwear
For most hikers, a hiking shoe is the great choice, and the Moab 2 is a winner. The ventilation is great, they last forever, offer good protection, and have a solid grip. There are sizing options for everyone’s foot in this really comfortable and reliable shoe. This shoe is also a favorite of thru-hikers. The only downside is that they are a little heavy. If you are looking for something more aggressive or lighter, check out the bottom of my gear page.
Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
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 Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.


Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated April 2021.

My April 2021 Top Gear Picks

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.

Mount San Jacinto From Idyllwild Trail Maps

Click Here To View Map

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Fenix 6 Pro

How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.

Mount San Jacinto Hike 3d map
The trail goes up and down Deer Springs Trail, and does a loop to the summit, and then descends along the scenic Wellman Divide. The loop is setup to maximize the great views.
You hike uphill. For a long time. The good news is that the downhill is equally as long. It’s a long distance hike, so you have to pace yourself.

Mount San Jacinto From Idyllwild Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

Mount San Jacinto Hike parking
There’s parking at the Deer Spring trailhead, and another small lot a few hundred feet up the road. Leave early, it’s a long hike and the lot fills quickly.
Mount San Jacinto Hike trail
A wide trail leads up from the parking area.
Deer Springs Trail
After a few hundred feet, make the left onto Deer Springs Trail.
sign on Deer Springs Trail
At the start of Deer Springs Trail, you’ll see a sign saying that you need a permit. The permit that you filled out at the ranger station is good for both Mount San Jacinto State Park and San Jacinto National Forest.
Mount San Jacinto Hike climbs
The trail gently climbs up switchbacks for the first few miles.
California State WIlderness sign
At about 0.7 miles, there’s another California State WIlderness sign.
Mount San Jacinto Hike side trail
As you climb, there are side trails to the right offering views. Make sure you stay on the main trail and continue climbing. Generally side trails are ‘cordoned off’ with a stick, log, or row of stones.
Mount San Jacinto Hike side trail
There’s a side trail to the right that goes to Suicide Rock. It’s easy to miss. Give the detour a skip and continue to hike left on the Deer Springs Trail towards Strawberry Junction.
Strawberry Junction
At about 4 miles, you’ll reach Strawberry Junction. Continue straight through this intersection and continue on Deer Springs Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail sign
You’re officially on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This sign post needs a little TLC, but you’ll notice a few of these as you continue on the PCT sections of the hike.
Mount San Jacinto Hike trail
This section of the trail is pretty level as it goes around the side of Marion Mountain.
Mount San Jacinto Hike views
The views are great on this section. It’s a great place for a pitstop and a snack.
Mount San Jacinto Hike junction
There are a few quick junctions in a row now. At about 6 miles, stay right at Deer Springs.
Mount San Jacinto Hike junction
A few minutes later, another junction, stay right toward San Jacinto Peak.
Mount San Jacinto Hike trail sign
Here’s a closeup of that last trail sign. The trails on this hike area really well marked. When in doubt, check the signs.
Mount San Jacinto Hike junction
Shortly you come to the last intersection for a while. At 6.6 miles, say goodbye to the PCT and keep hiking to the right.
Mount San Jacinto Hike views
You’re going to start climbing again. The views will open up to the west, revealing the peaks in Orange County and LA. The double bump in the back is Santiago Peak and Modjeska Peak.
Little Round Valley Campground
At around 8 miles, you reach Little Round Valley Campground. Keep hiking straight through.
Little Round Valley Campground
Little Round Valley Campground has some fun signs and sculptures. If you want to split the hike up into two days, get a camping permit before you leave and camp here. There are quotas on camping permits, so call ahead.
There’s a porta-potty here if you need to go to the bathroom.
Mount San Jacinto Hike trail sign
A trail milage sign marks the end of the campground. Keep going straight and start climbing again toward San Jacinto peak.
Mount San Jacinto Hike switchbacks
A series of switchbacks climb up the last major section of Mount San Jacinto.
Mount San Jacinto Hike turn
Whew! At about 9.6 miles, you’re on the ridge. Make the left for the last 0.3 mile scramble to the peak.
Mount San Jacinto Hike trail
Follow the trail up to the end of the line. The trail is not well defined here, it splits and comes together quite a bit. Just keep heading up.
emergency hiker hut
Soon the emergency hiker hut comes into view, head over to it for a look.
emergency hiker hut
The hut has 4 bunks and is free to use for hikers in an emergency. If you have any extra supplies, leave them here for those in need.
emergency hiker hut sign
The hut was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps under Roosevelt’s New Deal plan.
Mount San Jacinto Hike boulders
Okay, back to climbing. Follow the boulders and cairns toward the top. Again, there are several routes up.
Mount San Jacinto Hike boulders
Tackle the last few boulders to get to San Jacinto peak.
cris hazzard with Mount San Jacinto sign
If the sign is here, get a picture with it. Visitors have stolen it in the past.
Mount San Jacinto Hike views
The views to the east are of Palm Springs, the Sonoran Desert, Joshua Tree National Park, and the Mojave Desert to the north of the mountains in the distance.
Mount San Jacinto Hike views
To the north and west, you have views of Mount San Gorgonio, the San Bernardino mountains, Angeles National Forest, LA, Orange County, and the Inland Empire.
cris hazzard on Mount San Jacinto
Grab a few selfies and some food to fuel up for the trip back to Idyllwild.
Mount San Jacinto Hike trail junction
Head back down the boulders, past the hut, and continue to the trail junction. Instead of turning right (the way you came up), go straight. This route is the way back to the tramway. You will see a lot of day hikers who took the tram up on this stretch. Embrace your inner macho knowing that you hiked about twice as far as them without the aid of the tram.
Wellman Divide Trail
Enjoy your descent as the Wellman Divide Trail heads down the mountain.
views of Palm Springs
I routed the hike in this direction so that you can enjoy the great views of Palm Springs and the desert on your way down. Soak it all in.
Mount San Jacinto Hike trail junction
After about 12.1 miles, hike to the right at the junction and continue on Wellmans Divide Trail, towards Saddle Junction. The hike will get a lot quieter as the day hikers from the tram head left at this junction.
Mount San Jacinto Hike views
Spectacular views as the trail easily descends back toward Idyllwild.
Jacinto National Wilderness sign
Another border crossing, this time back into San Jacinto National Wilderness.
Mount San Jacinto Hike sign
Shortly after re-entering San Jacinto National Wilderness, hike to the right on the trail to Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs. You are back on the PCT.
Mount San Jacinto Hike sign
A closeup of the trail sign in the last image, showing you all the options. Don’t go toward Idyllwild, you want to go back to the Deer Springs trail.
Mount San Jacinto Hike views
Continue hiking downhill. The views are incredible.
Mount San Jacinto Hike trail
The trail continues downward for 2.3 miles to Strawberry Junction.
pine cones on trail
You might see some little drumstick shaped objects on the trail. Those aren’t chicken wings, they’re pine cones that have been eaten by squirrels.
Mount San Jacinto Hike camping area
At around 15 miles the trail turns and follows a nice flat area on the ridge that offers some nice backcountry camping opportunities.
 San Jacinto State Park sign
At around 15.4 miles, you’re back in San Jacinto State Park Wilderness.
Strawberry Junction Campground
At about 15.7 miles, you go through Strawberry Junction Campground. There are bathrooms here (note the porta-potty in the background).
Strawberry Junction
Hike through the campground and you’re back at Strawberry Junction. Make the left and hike back down Deer Springs Trail toward the trailhead in idyllwild and your car. This view is the back of the sign, the way you approach the intersection.
end of Mount San Jacinto Hike
About 19.5 miles later, you’re back! Pat yourself on the back, that was a long and tough hike. You deserve as many beers and burgers as you want tonight.

This guide last updated on February 1, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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