Tahquitz Peak Via Devils Slide Trail

Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Hike Video
  • Getting Devil’s Slide Trail Permit
  • Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail Hike Trail Maps
  • How to Get to the Devil’s Slide Trail Trailhead
Distance8.5 miles (13.7 km)
Other Options 11.5 miles in optional loop
Hike Time3.5-4.5 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)2,350 feet (716m)
Highest Elevation8,846 feet (2696m)
Fees & PermitsParking Fee, Permit on Weekend
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park WebsiteSan Jacinto Ranger District
Park Phone909-382-2921
Stay In Touch - - -

The Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail hike is one of the most popular hikes in the San Jacinto area for a reason. The scenery and views are incredible, the trails are in excellent condition and are well-marked, and the summit includes a visit to the highest fire lookout in San Bernardino National Forest at 8,846 feet. Because of its popularity, there are times when you need to apply for a permit and other times that you don’t. I’ll explain it all in the guide.

How to Get to the Devil’s Slide Trail

The hike starts and ends in Humber Park, which is also where the start of the Devil’s Slide Trail is located. Humber Park is in the small town of Idyllwild, which is a nice spot for lunch or walking around after the hike. You’ll also have to stop at the ranger station to get your permit before starting the hike, but luckily it’s on the way to the trailhead (more later).

Use this address for Humber Park:
Humber Park, 24559 Fern Valley Rd, Idyllwild, CA 92549

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There are some road signs pointing the way on the streets between the ranger station and Humber Park. The windy backroads of Idyllwild can be tricky.
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You need a national parks pass or adventure pass to park at the trailhead.
Parking At Humber Park
Drive all the way through the park to the last (upper) parking area, just next to the bathrooms. It’s the closest to the trailhead. Parking can be hard to get later in the day.
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There are primitive bathrooms by the trailhead.

As always, I recommend leaving at sunrise to beat the crowds.

Devil’s Slide Trail Permit

Before you go anywhere on this hike, you’ll need to get a permit. The Devil’s Slide Trail is the most popular trail in this part of the park, so the park service sometimes controls access to it with a daily quota of 30 hikers. It can be very easy or slightly less easy depending on when you’re doing the hike.

Getting a Devil’s Slide Trail Quota Permit

If you do need a quota permit, here’s what you need to do:

OR if you want to plan in advance:

It might just be easier to do it on a weekday or outside of the summer months, right? If you can’t get a permit and you want to hike to the fire tower on a quota day, drive to the South Ridge Trailhead and hike up from there.

Rangers actively check quota permits at the Devil’s Slide Trailhead on summer weekends.

Getting a Free Day-Use Permit

The good news is that the ranger station is on the way to Humber Park, and if you just need a free day-use permit, you simply fill a form out at the kiosk in front of the entrance. The ranger station doesn’t need to be open to fill out a permit. You just fill out the form, sign it, and drop it in the box.

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The San Jacinto Ranger Station is easy to find; it’s in the middle of downtown Idyllwild and on the way to the trailhead.
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The self-service permit kiosk is right in front of the entrance. Fill out the day-use permit, put a copy in the box, and carry a copy with you.
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If you’re hiking the Devil’s Slide Trail on a summer weekend, you need a permit first, you can’t just fill one out here.

Gear for the Hike

This is a tough mountain hike even though it’s not long. In the summer it can be very hot, in the winter icy and cold. I bring 2L of water, 3L if it’s hot or if I’m doing the full loop option. There’s a decent amount of shade and only some very small spring crossings. If trekking poles help you on climbs and descents, they will come in handy on this hike.

If there are winter conditions, call the ranger station for a gut check on whether it’s okay without mountaineering gear. Sometimes there is enough snow up there that it’s not advisable to do the hike.

Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

Osprey Talon

Osprey Talon 33

My best lightweight pack for hikes between 3-10+ hours. I use mine with the 3L water bladder from Osprey.

Women’s Reviews

Men’s Reviews

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Garmin InReach Mini

You can text, SOS, and get weather in the backcountry where your cell phone doesn’t work. Literally a life-saver.

Lowest Prices

My In-Depth Review

La Sportiva Spire

La Sportiva Spire GTX

Modern materials mean you get the protection of a traditional hiking boot (waterproof, etc.) with feel of a sneaker.

Women’s Reviews

Men’s Reviews

Fenix 5x Hiking Nav

Garmin Fenix Map Watch

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.

Fenix Prices & Reviews

My In-Depth Review

Black Diamond Trekking Poles

Flash Carbon Trekking Poles

If you’re not using poles yet, you should be. This model takes a beating, is light, and is super comfortable.

See The Reviews

Socks Sock Liners

2-Layer Sock System

I use a light inner toe sock and then a top-quality outer sock to prevent blisters.

Injinji Sock Liners

Darn Tough Socks

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.

Tahquitz Peak Trail Maps

This route to Tahquitz Peak takes the Devil’s Slide Trail up to Saddle Junction, then follows a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and then branches off the PCT to the peak and fire tower. The entire trail is beautiful, and doing it as an out-and-back route is a good choice that jam-packed with scenery and views.

I also included an optional loop trail that takes you to the peak on the Devil’s Slide Trail, and then brings you back down on the South Ridge Trail to Idyllwild, and then up the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail to Humber Park. I’m a loop-trail kind of guy, and I generally do the hike this way.

I’ve included both options in the map below and in the GPX and printable maps.

Click To View Map

Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

How Will You Navigate the Hike?

I recommend using a combination of paper maps, GPS, and a guide to navigate the hike. If you are tempted to just use a smartphone, please don’t. You’ll often loose cell phone reception on the trail. At the very least, print out a paper map and this guide. Better yet, check out the navigation section on my gear picks page to see the latest and greatest that I’m using. There’s even a special discount on GaiaGPS premium for HikingGuy users.

See The Nav Gear I Use

Tahquitz Peak Hike Elevation
It’s pretty much a straight shot to the peak, with the beginning a little steeper than the second half.
Tahquitz Peak Loop 3d Map
The (red) Devil’s Slide Trail winds up to Saddle Junction, then makes its way to the peak. If you take the optional (purple) South Ridge Trail back, you’ll do a nice loop that brings you back to Humber Park.

There’s also this handy park service trail map that lays out the trails nicely.

Hike Briefing

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As you approach the peak, you’ll see evidence of the 2018 Cranston Fire, which was started by an arsonist.

Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail Directions

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Video Directions

FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.

New Guide Notifications
 
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Turn by Turn Directions

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The Devil’s Slide Trail trailhead is easy to spot at the far end of the parking lot. Make sure you read any notices on the board.
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Shortly after the start, you’ll pass the San Jacinto Wilderness sign which is a popular photo spot.
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And shortly after that another sign reminding you to make smart choices in this wilderness area.
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And then you go up. And you go up some more. The trail is definitely uphill, but has switchbacks and is a manageable climb.
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Soon you’ll have nice views of Tahquitz Rock / Lily Rock, the popular rock climbing spot. You’ll also be able to see west to Temecula and the Palomar Mountains. If you see a white dome in the distance, it’s the Palomar Observatory.
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Keep hiking up the 2.5 miles of Devil’s Slide Trail. The views are great and there are a ton of places to stop, catch your breath, and soak it all in.
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The trail will ease up a bit as you approach Saddle Junction. At the junction you’re going to make the hard right onto the PCT.
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Once you turn at the junction, take the trail all the way to the right, which is the PCT. There are trails in a few directions at Saddle Junction. The junction is well marked, but people steal signs, so who knows what you’ll see.
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This part of the climb on the PCT is uphill but not as tough as the Devil’s Slide Trail, with rolling sections through mountain pine trees.
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The trees thin out and you hike up a little more. You’ll have views into the Coachella Valley to the left.
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When you reach this junction at Chinquapin Flat, you’re going to make the hard right and leave the PCT.
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Here’s a closeup of the sign at that junction (facing backward from the direction of your travel). Again, you’re leaving the PCT and making the hard right toward Tahquitz Peak.
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Once you make the right, head over the ridge. There are smaller side trails in the area where folks have camped at Chinquapin Flat.
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After that little ridge the main trail is easy to spot straight ahead.
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This portion of the trail is spectacular with Marion Mountain and San Jacinto in the distance.
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When you come to the trail leading off to the left, take it to continue up to the fire tower.
Tahqutiz Summit Route
Here’s the turn to the summit. If you continue on the loop option, you follow the purple arrow after the summit.
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Here’s a closeup of the sign at that junction.
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Head a short way up the trail to the fire tower.
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Ta-da! There it is, the Tahquitz Peak fire tower.
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You can climb up the stairs (5 at a time) and take in the views and the interior. If there’s a volunteer there, they’ll also (generally) say hello and answer any questions that you might have. In this picture you can see where the Cranston Fire ended on the ridge (fire damage on right).
Tahquitz Peak Fire Station Nterior
Here’s what the interior of the fire tower looks like. Cozy!
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Once you’ve had your fill of the summit, you can go back down the way you came, or continue on the loop hike.

Optional Loop Hike on South Ridge Trail

If you don’t want to go back down the way you came up, follow these directions for the full loop, which adds another 3 miles and an hour or so to the hike.

Full Loop Elevation
The optional loop descends on the South Ridge Trail, then has a gradual uphill on the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail at the end.
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When you get back to the junction where you climbed to the fire tower, make the left turn towards Idyllwild.
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The South Ridge Trail descends for a while on some switchbacks.
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Eventually the trail levels out on a ridge for a short stretch.
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There’s a minor uphill after a flat area where you can see evidence of some camping.
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And then you continue to descend toward Idyllwild.
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At the end of the descent you’ll come to a dirt road. Head straight on the dirt road, Forest Road 5S17. There are some parking areas on the left.
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You’ll follow the dirt road as it heads downhill toward the streets of Idyllwild.
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There are some spurs coming into the main road. Just go down following the main road.
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There are also several yellow-post camping sites on the left and right as you go down. Continue on the main road. If you’d like to camp for free, these yellow-post sites are available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
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When you get to Tahquitz View Drive, make the right and hike for a few minutes on the street.
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After a short while you’ll reach the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail off to the right. Look for the sign and the trail, then hike up above the road.
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You’ll see a sign at the start of the Ernie Maxwell Trail.
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The Ernie Maxwell Trail is easy to follow, pleasant, and nice and shady. The climb is gradual and mellow, lasting about 2.6 miles to Humber Park.
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Toward the end of the trail, avoid the “climber’s route” to the right and continue straight.
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Eventually you’ll emerge back at the lower parking lot at Humber Park. Walk back to your car and that’s the loop!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.