Ernie Maxwell Trail Featured
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Los Angeles Hikes

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike

  • 5.2 miles - Easy Effort
  • 2-3 Hours (Total)
  • 740 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 6,420 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

Tucked into the foothills around Idyllwild, the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail offers backcountry beauty without heading into the big mountains. This family-friendly hike is easy to follow, has a gentle climb, and offers lots of shade. Even though you're right next to a residential area, you'll feel like you're miles away as you hike through the forest.

In this Guide:
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Hike Video
  • Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Maps
  • How to Get to Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail

People need trails like this one. Experienced hikers and backpackers can take off on the Devil’s Slide Trail, but the family or individual looking for a pleasant little outing will prefer the Ernie Maxwell. It’s a good introduction to the San Jacinto Mountains. - Ernie Maxwell

Where Is The Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail?

Okay, to start, there are two ends of the Ernie Maxwell Trail, one end is on Tahquitz View Drive in Idyllwild, the other is in Humber Park. Most guides will recommend that you start in Humber Park, but I recommend starting on Tahquitz View Drive. Why?

So in this guide, we're starting on Tahquitz View Drive, and you can use this trailhead address:
54980 Tahquitz View Dr, Idyllwild, CA 92549

This is a private address, please respect the local residents and their space. Don't knock on the door, park in a driveway, leave trash, block a driveway, or otherwise do something stupid.

There is free parking along the side of the road. Park snug against the side (see the pictures below).

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The trail goes up from the street, seen here above the Jeep. You can see how close to park to the side of the road.
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Here's a view up the road from the trailhead where there's more parking.

If there's no street parking, you can always get a parking pass at the ranger station, drive to Humber Park, and do the hike in reverse. If you have a National Parks Pass, you can use that at Humber Park.

Gear For the Hike

You don't need any special hiking gear for the Ernie Maxwell Trail, it's great for beginners. If you don't have hiking gear, fitness clothes will work fine. It's a shady hike but bringing a big water bottle is a good idea since you might sweat a little bit on the uphill.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.


Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2If you are out of cellphone range the Mini 2 will reliably allow you to hit SOS via satellite. You can see my review here.
Gear Hoka Speedgoat 5
HOKA Speedgoat 5These are a great balance of comfort and performance. The high stack height leaves my feet feeling great after a hike.

Check out the complete list here.

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Maps

The nice thing about the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail is that it's a straight shot. There are some little side trails, which I'll show you below, but otherwise you're hiking up to the end of the trail in Humber Park, then back down to where you parked.

There are other guides that incorrectly state the elevation gain at 300 feet. It's more like 740 but the good news is that the climbs are gentle.

Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 3d Map
The Ernie Maxwell Trail winds its way beneath the high peaks of San Jacinto Wilderness.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike Elevation
This elevation profile makes the hike look way tougher than it is, but gives you an idea the uphill. There's a nice flat portion in the middle of the hike where you can recover if the beginning was tough for you.

Hike Brief

Wild Sweetpea On Ernie Maxwell Trail
The Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail is known for its outstanding biodiversity. Keep your eyes open for plants like this wild sweet pea.

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Directions

Walk the trails, enjoy the fresh air. And get to know these mountains. The mountains need more friends. - Ernie Maxwell

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Start the hike on the southern terminus of the trail by hiking up from Tahquitz View Drive.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 5
A nice big sign marks the start of the trail.
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The trail starts climbing gently and you get some great views of Suicide Rock to the north. The rock, a popular climbing spot, got its name from the story of a Native American princess and her lover who, after being ordered to separate, instead committed suicide by jumping off the rock. It's believed the story was made up in the early 1900s to attract visitors.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 7
The trail soon gets shaded, allowing you to stay cool on the gentle uphill slopes. The trail passes by lots of enormous granite boulders in its 2.6 miles.
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When the shade does disappear, you're rewarded with great views. As you head north you'll get glimpses of Suicide Rock, Marion Mountain, and the San Jacinto Wilderness.
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The trail twists back to cross small springs, streams, and drainages at various points. Most of these drain into Strawberry Creek, which gets stocked with rainbow trout further downstream in Idyllwild.
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This shot gives you a good idea of how the uphill is. You'll know that you're walking uphill, but you're not climbing a mountain.
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Avoid the side trail down into the neighborhood to the left and go straight on the main trail.
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A flat section in the middle of the hike allows you to enjoy the views of Marion Mountain through the pines, oaks, and cedars.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 13
Another small stream crossing. You don't need trekking poles our waterproof boots; you can just hop across if there's any water flowing.
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More great views of Suicide Rock! From this angle you can see why it's popular with rock climbers. In fact, this area is where modern American rock climbing first gained popularity in the 1930s.
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail 15
Avoid the steep trail up the hill and go straight.
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Eventually you'll reach this post on the right which marks the start of the Climber's Trail. Stay to the left on the Ernie Maxwell Trail.
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Here's a closeup of the sign. This trail heads to the area where climbers can ascend Tahquitz Rock (also known as Lily Rock).
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Soon you'll come to the last little stream crossing. Head over it and continue on the trail.
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This is what the stream crossing looks like. It's very easy to cross, you don't need to get wet.
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Soon you'll reach the end of the trail at Humber Park. Once you come out at the pavement, you're in the park!
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If you make the right when you get off the trail, you can walk to the top of the parking lot where there are some more views, picnic benches, and bathrooms.
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Look up for great views of Lily Rock, another popular rock climbing destination.
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At the top parking lot you'll find bathrooms.
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When you're done at Humber Park, simply head back down the same trail that you came up. You get a nice downhill hike as a reward! And the views are different too. A win-win.

Need More Info?

  • Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.
  • When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.