Hike Mt San Jacinto Peak on the Deer Springs Trail
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||19 miles (30.6 km)|
|Hike Time||9-11 Hours (Total)|
|Difficulty (?)||Very Hard|
|Total Ascent (?)||5,400 feet (1646m)|
|Highest Elevation||10,834 feet (3302m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free Permit|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||San Bernardino National Forest|
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
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.
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.
- The weather and temperature on the summit is often about 20F below what it is at the trailhead, if not less. The summit is known for being windy. Bring layers for changing conditions.
- Even though the start of the hike is at 5000+ feet, it can get very hot in Idyllwild during the summer, with temperatures in the 90F range.
- Water is generally plentiful when the snow melts in spring, and then it mostly dries up in the summer. I marked water fills on the interactive map below, but if conditions are dry, don’t count on them being any good. When temperatures are not very hot I can get by with 3L of water. When it’s hot and there’s nowhere to refill, I’ll generally carry 3L and then another 1.5L water bottle.
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.
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 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.
REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.
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.
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.
- You can hike about 7.5 miles to Little Round Valley, overnight, and then continue the loop. This is what most people do.
- You can camp at Strawberry Junction Camp, just off of Strawberry Junction.
- You can camp at Round Valley, which is off this hike route a short distance, on the other side of San Jacinto Peak, toward the tram.
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.
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.
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.
Landmarks on the Hike
|San Jacinto Park Sign||0.5||5800|
|Suicide Rock Junction||2.3||6900|
|Fuller Ridge / PCT Turnoff||6||8950|
|Little Round Valley||7.5||9750|
|San Jacinto Peak||9.2||10834|
* Distances approxamate and can vary based on your GPS settings and performance.
Deer Springs to San Jacinto Peak Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Locals call the tram hikers “trammies.”
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.
A ciénaga is a marsh formed by hillside springs.
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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