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San Jacinto Deer Springs

Hike Mt San Jacinto Peak on the Deer Springs Trail

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions to Hike Mt San Jacinto Peak on the Deer Springs Trail
  • Permits and Parking in Idyllwild
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations for the Hike
Total Distance (?)19 miles (30.6 km)
Hike Time9-11 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Very Hard
Total Ascent (?)5,400 feet (1646m)
Highest Elevation10,834 feet (3302m)
Fees & PermitsFree Permit
Dogs AllowedNo
Alerts & Closures (?)San Bernardino National Forest
Park Phone909-382-2921
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The hike to Mt San Jacinto Peak on the Deer Springs Trail is one of the toughest and most beautiful hikes in Southern California. You’ll climb over 5000 feet on the ascent of San Jacinto Peak, hiking through old-growth pine forests until you crest the summit. On the way back down, we’ll hike the Wellman’s Cienega Trail, which hugs the mountainside, offers incredible views of Tahquitz Peak and Suicide Rock, and feels more like Yosemite than Southern California. You can tackle this underrated hike in one day or break it up overnight in Little Round Valley Campground.

Deer Springs & San Jacinto Permit

The first thing you need to do is get a free permit for the hike, which passes through San Jacinto Wilderness area of San Bernardino National Forest and Mt San Jacinto State Park Wilderness. One permit covers both areas. You can pick up the free permit at the kiosk in front of the San Jacinto Ranger Station in Idyllwild located at 

Idyllwild Ranger Station
The permits are in a kiosk outside of the station on the left, and are available 24/7.
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. For entry and exit trail, put “Deer Springs.”

Getting to the Deer Springs Trail

The trailhead is a few minutes up the road from the ranger station. Use this GPS address: Deer Springs Trail, Idyllwild, CA, 92549, USA.

Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 5
There’s a parking lot at the trailhead for about a dozen cars. If you get here at sunrise you’ll always find a spot. Later in the day it fills up. The shorter hike to Suicide Rock is popular and this lot serves that as well. When it’s busy some people park along the side of the road. Make sure you feel confident that you are parked in a legal spot before you do that though.

There are no bathrooms or water fills at the trailhead.

Parking passes are no longer needed at the trailhead.

Gear For the Hike

As you may have guessed by the distance and ascent, this is a hardcore hike in the backcountry, and you should prepare for it accordingly.

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.

Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.

Latest Price on Women’s Shoe
REI | Amazon

Latest Price on Men’s Shoe
REI | Amazon

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Latest Price
REI | Amazon

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

My October 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 keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 3
In the spring and early summer you can usually find some streams and water sources running. As always, I’d filter the water to make sure that you don’t get anything nasty.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 4
Unless you’ve done this hike before and are familiar with the conditions, I’d stay away if there is snow on the mountain, which can make the trail very hard to follow. If there is snow, you may need micro-spikes.

You would be remiss if you didn’t check the excellent San Jacinto Trail Report website before doing this hike. It’s an essential resource for trail, water, and weather conditions in the San Jacinto area.

Camping on This Hike

If you’d like to make this an overnight or multi-night trip, you have a few options.

All of these campgrounds fall within the state park jurisdiction and you can apply for permits here.

I’ve also seen people staying between Wellman Divide and Strawberry Junction at viewpoint camp, which I’ve marked on the map. This is not an official campground, but more of a locals and dispersed camping spot. It lies within the federal San Jacinto Wilderness area and is not governed by the state rules, which say that you must camp within a designated campground.

Deer Springs to San Jacinto Peak Trail Maps

Overall the trails that this hike takes are excellent. Junctions are well marked, and the inclusion of a PCT section means that you get a good amount of thru-hike traffic in the spring and fall. If you are looking at an Open Street Map (OSM) of the area, note that several minor use trails intersect the main trails listed. And when there is snow on the mountain, there are ‘winter detours’ that are different than the route described here. Again, given the difficulty and terrain, I’d avoid this hike in the snow unless you’ve done it before and feel confident in your navigation (and potentially mountaineering) skills during the winter.

Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 2
In the winter and spring there can be detours around obstacles such as downed trees and lingering snow and ice. The snow is usually gone by June.

Interactive Map

Click Here To View

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.

Gaiagps

How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Elevation Profile

Aside from a few minor undulations, you’re basically going uphill for 10 miles and then downhill for 10 miles. You have about 5000+ of climbing from the trailhead, which is at about 5620 feet.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 1
Be on the lookout for altitude sickness (AMS), which can affect those above 8000 feet. Here I have sausage fingers, but otherwise am okay. Please read the section on altitude sickness in my Mt Whitney guide to learn more about the symptoms to look for.

Landmarks on the Hike

LandmarkDistanceElevation
Trailhead05620
San Jacinto Park Sign0.55800
Suicide Rock Junction2.36900
Strawberry Junction3.88060
Fuller Ridge / PCT Turnoff68950
Little Round Valley7.59750
San Jacinto Peak9.210834
Wellman Divide119740
Wellman Cienga11.69270
Viewpoint Camp13.88380
Strawberry Junction14.88060

* Distances approxamate and can vary based on your GPS settings and performance.

3D Map

Mount San Jacinto Hike 3d map
The trail goes up and down Deer Springs Trail, does a loop to the summit, and then descends along scenic Wellman’s Divide. The route is set up to maximize great views.

Deer Springs to San Jacinto Peak Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 6
Look for the big trail leaving the east side of the parking area.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 7
At the top of the hill, make the left onto the wide dirt road.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 8
Continue up wide dirt road.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 10
There’s a big sign telling you that you’re entering the (free) permit area.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 9
And then you’ll see the trail narrow off to the right. Hike right and start climbing.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 11
In a few minutes of climbing you’ll get a nice break in the trees, offering the first view of many on this hike.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 12
And around 0.5 miles in you’ll see a big sign for San Jacinto State Park.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 13
Here’s a closeup of that sign. You’ll pass in and out of the state and federal areas at different points on the hike.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 14
The climb up to the Suicide Rock Junction is steep and rocky in places.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 15
And also features a few switchbacks.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 16
And has a rare flat section or two. All in all you’ll climb around 1200 feet before Suicide Rock junction.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 17
When you reach Suicide Rock junction, make the left and continue uphill.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 18
Here’s the trail sign there. About 7 miles go to until San Jacinto Peak.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 19
On your right at the junction you’ll get great views of Suicide Rock, a popular spot for rock climbing. There are about 300 climbing routes up the rock. The high peak in the background is Tahquitz Peak, which is also a great hike.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 20
You have about 1100 feet of climbing in 2 miles as you keep heading uphill on Deer Springs toward Strawberry Junction. The trail is similar to the lower portion but you’ll see more pines as you go up in altitude.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 21
As you approach Strawberry Junction the gradient mellows out.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 22
At Strawberry Junction, hike straight through. When we are finishing the loop about 11 miles later, we’ll be coming back out on the trail on the right.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 23
Here’s a closeup of the sign at Strawberry Junction. 5.5 miles to San Jacinto Peak.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 24
And now we’re officially heading northbound on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). There’s even a marker right after Strawberry Junction. Hopefully it won’t be stolen when you get here.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 25
The next few miles undulate, with a good amount of flat portions.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 27
In the sections that come out of the trees you’ll be able to catch some nice views.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 26
Even though there are flats, there still is a good amount of uphill as you continue on the PCT.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 28
At around 5.5 miles you’ll reach a nice viewpoint off to the left which is worth checking out before continuing.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 29
You’ll get views across Banning Pass to San Gorgonio Mountain, the highest peak in Southern California.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 30
When you reach the Marion Mountain Trail junction, go straight through.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 31
You’ll see these neat PCT northbound (nobo) and southbound (sobo) signs in the area now. Here’s one at that junction.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 32
And here’s the other trail sign at the Marion Mountain Trail junction. 3.2 miles to San Jacinto Peak.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 33
Shortly after the Marion Mountain Trail you’ll pass the junction for the Seven Pines Trail. Keep hiking straight.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 34
Between Seven Pines and the next junction at Fuller Ridge, the trail is easy to cruise on.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 35
There’s also a decent amount of water to be found on the stretch between Strawberry Junction and Little Round Valley. It’s good to refill along this stretch if you need to.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 36
At around 6 miles in, you’ll say goodbye to the PCT off to the left and keep going straight.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 37
Here’s the sign for that junction and the Fuller Ridge / PCT trail to the left. You’re at about 9200 feet now.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 38
Now you have to start working again, with a steep climb up through the scrub.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 39
There are some nice views to help ease the pain on these steep sections.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 40
Eventually the Deer Springs Trail heads back into the pines.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 41
At around 7 miles in you reach Little Round Valley Campground.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 42
Wind your way through the campground by going straight through. There are small use-trails around the camp, but the main trail goes toward the other side of the valley.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 43
The tent sites all have funky names.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 44
There’s a toilet here, the last one for about 7 miles.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 45
There’s also a seasonal ranger station if you have a problem.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 46
Hike straight through Little Round Valley to start the last stretch of climbing to the summit.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 47
The ridge above you is the destination. The combination of altitude and distance often make this last steep stretch of climbing tough. You have about 1100 feet to go.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 48
There are a decent amount of switchbacks to help ease the gradient.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 49
And towards the top you’ll start getting views through the trees.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 50
At the top, make the left turn at the junction to finish the last short stretch. At this point hikers from the tram and other routes will be joining in the climb.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 51
The trail between here and the shelter hut, the next stop, can be confusing. There are a lot of cutoffs and winding sections. Just follow the footprints and you should be okay.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 52
There’s definitely a main trail here, and if you look closely, you’ll be able to see it. Having my GPX file loaded into your GPS unit will also help.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 53
Look for the stone shelter up to the right, that’s our next stop.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 54
When you get to the shelter, it’s worth checking out. It was built in 1933s by the CCC using native stones, and was billed as “the higest building in Southern California” in the publicity for the wilderness area.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 55
From the hut you’ll get nice views of Toro Peak. At 8717 feet it’s the highest point in the Santa Rosa Mountains.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 56
The last short stretch to the summit is a (safe) scramble. In general, stay to the middle / right as you climb. Look to hikers descending for clues as to where to go next.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 57
Don’t be scared to go right over big slabs of granite.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 58
This last little stretch is intimidating for some people, but you should never be close to a steep drop off the side. It’s really just steep.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 64
And here you are, San Jacinto Peak! This is a very light crowd. If you get to the summit when the tram crowd is here, there is often a line to get pictures taken.

Locals call the tram hikers “trammies.”

Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 62
The tallest point is on these two boulders.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 60
if you’re lucky, there will be a summit sign to pose with, but it does get stolen or lost occasionally. The USGS marker is always there though.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 59
There are a lot of boulders around the top if you want to escape the crowds.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 63
You’ll get incredible views into Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 61
And on a clear day you’ll see Saddleback Mountain (here), the highest point in Orange County, and also Mt Baldy, San Gorgonio, and the peaks in Joshua Tree National Park.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 65
When you’re done at the summit, hike back down to the last trail intersection.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 66
We came up Deer Springs on the right, to descend, go straight.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 67
Here’s the sign at that junction. We’re heading to Wellman Divide.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 68
You’ll twist around and start heading down the east side of the peak, with the Coachella Valley in front of you.

Be very careful on this descent. The uneven and rocky surface, combined with fatigue, has lead to many sprained ankles and rescue calls. It’s one of the busiest zones for rescues in the area.

Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 69
As you descend, keep your eyes open for the turn in the trail, back to the right. Going straight here will lead you back to the summit on a winter snow route.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 70
Now you have a long descent along the side of the mountain through the low scrub.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 71
There’s a section where you hike through the pines again.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 72
And then another section through the scrub.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 73
Look back to your left here for views of the tram station.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 74
When you get to the junction at Wellman Divide, hike to the right. Those going back to the tram will be hiking left here.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 75
Here’s a closeup of the sign at that junction. We’re heading to Wellman Cienga.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 76
Get ready for a scenic descent away from the tram crowds.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 77
The spectacular granite slab in front of you is Tahquitz Peak at 8,846 feet, which is home to a fire tower.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 78
The trail winds down switchbacks.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 79
At around 11.5 miles you’ll pass Wellman Cienga, which sometimes has water.

A ciénaga is a marsh formed by hillside springs.

Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 80
The descent mellows out and you can really cruise. And I just love this huge boulder.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 81
You’ll leave the state land and enter the San Jacinto Wilderness.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 82
And right after that last sign you’ll reach Annie’s Junction. Make the right to hike slightly uphill.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 83
Here’s the sign at that last junction. We’re heading back to the Deer Springs Trail in 2.3 miles.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 84
You have one little (last) uphill. Bear right at the top.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 85
And then there’s more miles of sweet downhill.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 86
From here you can see Suicide Rock on the right and Tahquitz Peak on the left. It feels more like Yosemite than Riverside County.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 87
There’s lots of cool granite boulders along the trail as well.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 88
This section of trail is probably the quietest on the whole hike, and is just as scenic as the rest.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 89
You’ll pass over Strawberry Cienga.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 90
And then bear right to continue past the unofficial viewpoint camp.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 91
The viewpoint is a nice place to take a break and enjoy the views.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 92
Re-enter the state park.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 93
And then pass Strawberry Junction Camp. There’s a toilet here if you need it.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 94
And soon you’ll be back at Strawberry Junction. Make the left to continue back to the start.
Mt San Jacinto Deer Springs Trail 95
From here you just descend the way you came up on the Deer Springs Trail until you get back to the parking lot. That’s the hike!

This guide last updated on October 9, 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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