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).
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.
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.
Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.
If you’re hiking in the backcountry it makes sense to have a decent emergency kit and some basic gear to spend the night in a pinch.Full HikingGuy Gear List
* 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 REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Gaia GPS is a planning and navigation tool that you can use on your phone, tablet, and the web. I use it on my phone when I need to interact with the map and know where my position is on it. I use it at home on the computer to plan routes. You can overlay maps such as public lands to find out free places to camp. It’s a powerful tool.
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.