Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||8.5 miles (13.7 km)|
|Other Options||11.5 miles in optional loop|
|Hike Time||3.5-4.5 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||2,350 feet (716m)|
|Highest Elevation||8,846 feet (2696m)|
|Fees & Permits||Parking Fee, Permit on Weekend|
|Park Website||San Jacinto Ranger District|
|Stay In Touch||Newsletter - Instagram - YouTube - Facebook|
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
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.
- If you’re hiking on a weekend between Memorial and Labor days, there is a quota in effect for the Devil’s Slide Trail, and you need to secure a specific Devil’s Slide Trail (quota) permit with the rangers.
- If you’re hiking any other time, you just fill out a free day-use permit in front of the ranger station and put it in the box. There are no quotas and no need to check with the rangers.
Getting a Devil’s Slide Trail Quota Permit
If you do need a quota permit, here’s what you need to do:
- Just show up at the ranger station the day that you want to hike and see if there are any slots open.
OR if you want to plan in advance:
- Call the San Jacinto ranger station in Idyllwild and ask if there is space available on the day you want to hike. They allow a portion of the quota to be booked in advance.
- They will give you instructions on how to get your permit, but the process goes like this:
- Fill out the permit PDF and fax it to the ranger station (yea, I know…), then they fax it back to you
- Or you can send it in with snail mail and they’ll send a permit back to you
- You bring the permit on your hike
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.
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.
I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: Women – Men
On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.
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 Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.
I’m a big fan of GPS watches (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar. I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here
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.
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.
Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail Hike Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
There’s also this handy park service trail map that lays out the trails nicely.
- There is some debate about how to correctly pronounce Tahquitz, but most folks just say TA-KWITZ
- According to Native Soboba tradition, Tahquitz is a demon who lives in the peak and is better left undisturbed. There’s a whole legend about Tahquitz that you can read here.
- Tahquitz is featured in the Louis L’Amour novel The Lonesome Gods: An Epic Novel of the California Desert.
- The fire lookout on the summit was built in 1937 and is not only the highest lookout in the San Bernardino National Forest, but also the forest’s longest continuously operated one. Volunteers man the tower looking for forest fires in the surrounding San Jacinto range. Because no power tools are allowed in the forest (not even battery-powered ones), all improvements and fixes on the tower must be done with hand tools.
- You might see evidence of the massive Cranston Fire on the hike, which was started by an arsonist and stopped at Tahquitz Peak and the fire tower.
- It can get confusing, but there are two peaks which are called Tahquitz, Tahquitz Rock and Tahquitz Peak. Tahquitz Rock is also known as Lily Rock and is the smaller peak between the trailhead and the tower. Tahquitz Peak is where the fire tower is.
- The high granite walls in the area became popular with early rock-climbers, and the Yosemite Decimal System of grading climbs was refined on the faces of Tahquitz. Note that there is no rock climbing or scrambling on this hike, just easy to follow trails.
Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail Directions
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FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.
Turn by Turn Directions
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.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.