- Home - Hiking Trails - Hiking LA Hike Mount San Jacinto From Idyllwild
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. To hike Mount San Jacinto from Idyllwild, you'll need a good level of fitness, it's a tough one.
19.5 miles (31.4 km)
5080 ft (1548 m)
Climbing, Crowds, Boulder Scramble
Quiet except for at summit
Mount San Jacinto Hike Trail Maps
Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
Deer Springs Trail, Idyllwild, CA, 92549, USA
The Deer Springs Trailhead is about 2:15 east of downtown Los Angeles, and 1 hour from Palm Springs. The hike starts in Idyllwild, a cozy mountain resort. It's not a bad idea to stay overnight here since it's a long hike. There are hotels and campgrounds in the area.
The trail goes up and down Deer Springs Trail, and does a loop on the far part of the hike. The loop is setup to maximize the good views.
You hike uphill. For a long time. The good news is that the downhill is equally as long. It's a long distance, so you have to pace yourself.
Interactive Map Mount San Jacinto Hike Map Downloads Gear for the Mount San Jacinto Hike The best hydration daypack out there. The CamelBak Fourteener has been perfect on hikes of all distances (including Mt Whitney and Cactus to Clouds). It's light, has plenty of room for super-food snacks, extra layers, hiking gear, and comes with a 3 liter water bladder. I also like the raised sweat pads on the back that keep your back dry. It's the perfect blend of high-tech, durability, and simplicity. I've got hundreds of hours on it and still love it. CamelBak Fourteener Reviews My favorite hiking boot of all time. The La Sportiva Synthesis (for men and women) are waterproof, super-light, have incredible grip, and won a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award ( my review here). I've gone through a lot of boots and these are my favorite. They feel like comfortable sneakers with the protection of hiking boots. La Sportiva Hiking Boot Reviews Don't hike without this in your backpack. It's a GPS emergency beacon and can save your life ( more on that here). On the trail, you're often out of cell phone range, and even something as simple as a twisted ankle could become a life and death situation. This beacon works where cell phones don't and is the size of a fist. Just press a button and help is on the way. Your life is worth every penny. ACR GPS Beacon Reviews For my complete gear list and survival kit contents, please check out my post on the modern hiking essentials here. I'd also recommend taking a quick look at the Every day they mark down great quality hiking gear, fitness gear, and clothing. Pick up an inexpensive lifetime REI Outlet site. REI Membership for an extra 10% off. Mount San Jacinto Hike Video Mount San Jacinto Hike Directions What to Expect MountSan Jacinto (10,834 feet) is one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the USA, rising 10,000 feet above the San Gorgonio Pass below. There are a several routes to hike Mount San Jacinto. This route is my favorite. The climb is not as steep as the others, you don’t need a special permit, and the views are spectacular. This hike includes a stretch on the famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) where you can channel your inner Reese Witherspoon. 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. 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. You can also make this hike 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 permit for this hiking route, and it’s easy to get, there are no quotas. Just pick up the permit at the ranger station, fill it out, and hike. Detailed directions below. You need a parking pass. 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. Turn by Turn Directions Before you start, visit the Idyllwild Ranger Station in the center of town to get your free 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. There’s parking at the Deer Spring trailhead, and another small lot a few hundred feet up the road. Leave early, it’s a long hike and the lot fills quickly. A wide trail leads up from the parking area. After a few hundred feet, make the left onto Deer Springs Trail. At the start of Deer Springs Trail, you’ll see a sign saying that you need a permit. The permit that you filled out at the ranger station is good for both Mount San Jacinto State Park and San Jacinto National Forest. The trail gently climbs up switchbacks for the first few miles. At about 0.7 miles, there’s another California State WIlderness sign. As you climb, there are side trails to the right offering views. Make sure you stay on the main trail and continue climbing. Generally side trails are ‘cordoned off’ with a stick, log, or row of stones. There’s a side trail to the right that goes to Suicide Rock. It’s easy to miss. Give the detour a skip and continue to hike left on the Deer Springs Trail towards Strawberry Junction. At about 4 miles, you’ll reach Strawberry Junction. Continue straight through this intersection and continue on Deer Springs Trail. You’re officially on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This sign post needs a little TLC, but you’ll notice a few of these as you continue on the PCT sections of the hike. This section of the trail is pretty level as it goes around the side of Marion Mountain. The views are great on this section. It’s a great place for a pitstop and a snack. There are a few quick junctions in a row now. At about 6 miles, stay right at Deer Springs. A few minutes later, another junction, stay right toward San Jacinto Peak. Here’s a closeup of that last trail sign. The trails on this hike area really well marked. When in doubt, check the signs. Shortly you come to the last intersection for a while. At 6.6 miles, say goodbye to the PCT and keep hiking to the right. You’re going to start climbing again. The views will open up to the west, revealing the peaks in Orange County and LA. The double bump in the back is Santiago Peak and Modjeska Peak. At around 8 miles, you reach Little Round Valley Campground. Keep hiking straight through. Little Round Valley Campground has some fun signs and sculptures. If you want to split the hike up into two days, get a camping permit before you leave and camp here. There are quotas on camping permits, so call ahead. There’s a porta-potty here if you need to go to the bathroom. A trail milage sign marks the end of the campground. Keep going straight and start climbing again toward San Jacinto peak. A series of switchbacks climb up the last major section of Mount San Jacinto. Whew! At about 9.6 miles, you’re on the ridge. Make the left for the last 0.3 mile scramble to the peak. Follow the trail up to the end of the line. The trail is not well defined here, it splits and comes together quite a bit. Just keep heading up. Soon the emergency hiker hut comes into view, head over to it for a look. The hut has 4 bunks and is free to use for hikers in an emergency. If you have any extra supplies, leave them here for those in need. The hut was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps under Roosevelt’s New Deal plan. Okay, back to climbing. Follow the boulders and cairns toward the top. Again, there are several routes up. Tackle the last few boulders to get to San Jacinto peak. If the sign is here, get a picture with it. Visitors have stolen it in the past. The views to the east are of Palm Springs, the Sonoran Desert, Joshua Tree National Park, and the Mojave Desert to the north of the mountains in the distance. To the north and west, you have views of Mount San Gorgonio, the San Bernardino mountains, Angeles National Forest, LA, Orange County, and the Inland Empire. Grab a few selfies and some food to fuel up for the trip back to Idyllwild. Head back down the boulders, past the hut, and continue to the trail junction. Instead of turning right (the way you came up), go straight. This route is the way back to the tramway. You will see a lot of day hikers who took the tram up on this stretch. Embrace your inner macho knowing that you hiked about twice as far as them without the aid of the tram. Enjoy your descent as the Wellman Divide Trail heads down the mountain. I routed the hike in this direction so that you can enjoy the great views of Palm Springs and the desert on your way down. Soak it all in. After about 12.1 miles, hike to the right at the junction and continue on Wellmans Divide Trail, towards Saddle Junction. The hike will get a lot quieter as the day hikers from the tram head left at this junction. Spectacular views as the trail easily descends back toward Idyllwild. Another border crossing, this time back into San Jacinto National Wilderness. Shortly after re-entering San Jacinto National Wilderness, hike to the right on the trail to Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs. You are back on the PCT. A closeup of the trail sign in the last image, showing you all the options. Don’t go toward Idyllwild, you want to go back to the Deer Springs trail. Continue hiking downhill. The views are incredible. The trail continues downward for 2.3 miles to Strawberry Junction. You might see some little drumstick shaped objects on the trail. Those aren’t chicken wings, they’re pine cones that have been eaten by squirrels. At around 15 miles the trail turns and follows a nice flat area on the ridge that offers some nice backcountry camping opportunities. At around 15.4 miles, you’re back in San Jacinto State Park Wilderness. At about 15.7 miles, you go through Strawberry Junction Campground. There are bathrooms here (note the porta-potty in the background). Hike through the campground and you’re back at Strawberry Junction. Make the left and hike back down Deer Springs Trail to the trailhead and your car. About 19.5 miles later, you’re back! Pat yourself on the back, that was a long and tough hike. You deserve as many beers and burgers as you want tonight. An easy way to give back is to simply pick up any trash you see on the trail. A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
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