26 July 2013

Hiking on San Jacinto Wilderness

July 2013

Spent 4th of July weekend on high mountains by riding on a mountain bike and hiking.

Under two hours distance from San Diego were San Jacinto mountains, its wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail. Highest peak was above 3000 meters (above 10 000 ft). The whole area was within a San Bernardino National Forest.

Drove to a small hippie town called Idyllwild. Called as a hidden treasure of Southern California, it laid on 1600 meters above sea level, aka 'a mile high'.

Idyllwild town was practically few streets with wooden cottages along them, surrounded by massive pine and cedar trees. Really awesome place. Lily Rock with Tahquitz mountains were its landmark which you could see from the town. East side of high mountains was a desert with a legendary city of Palm Springs.

Dedicated day one for mountain biking. Started riding from Hurkey Creek Park, near Lake Hemet. A singletrack trail rised first kilometers passing Keen Camp Summit from where it started to descend towards a meadow.  San Jacinto mountains were on east. After the meadow the trail continued ascending towards Idyllwild.

Next took a trail to May Valley.  Breathing became heavier, searching for a smaller gear from the bike became a constant habit. After the peak the trail descended to Saunders Meadow. Cute cottages were hided behind high pine trees.

When returning back, met some real cowboys and cowgirls, cool!  Riding on singletrack trails was really enjoyable.

Day two was about conquering Mount San Jacinto peak, reaching above 3000m level. Hiking on wilderness area required preregistering on a local Ranger office. In addition to that, the first trail where I was planning to start conquering trip required a signed permission from the Ranger. So, first thing in the morning was to rush into Ranger's office and get a stamped permission. Done it in good time. Then drove to Humber Park where to start hiking.

A Devil's Slide Trail lead up to Saddle Junction where Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crossed other trails. Met some other blokes and continued with them via PCT towards Wellman Divide.

Trails split again, while PCT trail continued towards north, we headed via another trail to north east. Condition of the trails were really good, not so much erosion on them. Steady ascending all the time, no steep sections, few flat ones though. After Miller Peak arrived finally at San Jacinto Peak. A sign showed 10834 ft. Awesome!

Looking scenery from the peak one could see Palm Springs and a desert on east and San Bernardino mountains on north.  Enjoyed scenery a while and then descended via the same trails back to Idyllwild. Altogether about 26km, worth every meter. Tom Harrison's waterproof map was a good company.

What to remember from the weekend?  At least huge old trees, awesome mountains, singletrack biking trails, cosy PCT hiking trails, Idyllwild town like a hidden jewel with friendly people, fresh mountain air and nature itself.  Recommended.


Two weeks after my visit learnt that massive wild fires have caught the same area. Until now nearly 30 000 acres of wild mountain area had burnt down, doing really big damage there. Really sad.


San Jacinto mountains

Early morning sunlight on a PCT


Suicide Rock, better known for rock climbing

Something sharp hit my pants all the way, took a while until I noticed why

Quite a surprise in the middle of a forest, fancy ferns

A pine tree

Old mummy

An amber feather, wonder whose?

Massive trees along the PCT

Into open space

A view towards South Peak

Rocky road

Like out of space with pine trees

Tahquitz mountains

San Jacinto Hiker's Cabin

A view from San Jacinto peak towards Big Bear Lake

Free open seats

Tahquitz mountains and Lily Rock

Cut by nature

Quite a size, didn't mean a shoe

Copyright by Garmin


  1. Looks like a nice area and the photos are great, as expected. The elevation graph is cool when it looks like a mountain. How's the tempeture there?

    1. Thanks! Yes it was a nice area IMO, too.

      Garmin Connect tool shows y-axis in better scale when you've selected ft/mi units (more visual and not too flat like with metric units).

      There was a heatwave in the whole SoCal region during that time, in Idyllwild town was +30C, but high on the mountains was something above +20C (short sleeve temp all the way). A bit too hot for mountain biking though.