Towering over the city of Palm Springs is the majestic San Jacinto Peak, the highest peak of the San Jacinto Mountains. At over 10,000 feet tall, the peak is ranked sixth in height amongst all peaks in the continental United States. Known as one of the “Three Saints”, San Jacinto Peak joins Mount San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino Mountains and Mount San Antonio in the San Gabriel Mountains as the three tallest mountain ranges in Southern California.
Hiking and Climbing San Jacinto
Hiking is a popular activity within San Jacinto State Park, and San Jacinto Peak is easily accessible by several trails throughout the area. The easiest way to access the high country wilderness full of granite peaks, dense forests and mountain meadows is by the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway from Valley Station. Another popular route is to take the Marion Mountain Trail near the town of Idyllwild. Other routes from Idyllwild include The Devil’s Slide, Deer Springs, Fuller Ridge, and Seven Pines trails. For those feeling quite adventurous, the peak can also be reached via the Cactus to Clouds trail from the Palm Springs Art Museum, although this is an arduous climb of over 10,000 feet.
Visitors who would like to test their skills in snow and ice climbing can reach the peak by way of the Snow Creek Route. This challenging route climbs directly up the north face with an elevation gain of 9,600 feet in less than 7 miles. It involves hiking over rough terrain with sustained climbing with crampons and a ice axe. This route is for serious climbers only, and there have been climbers who have been injured or have died while attempting this route to the peak.
Getting to San Jacinto
For those who would like to climb the peak by way of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, take I-10 eastbound until you reach CA 111. Turn right at the Tramway sign and drive to the end of the road. Pick up a wilderness permit from the ranger station before heading out on the tram.
To climb the Cactus to Clouds trails from the Palm Springs Art Museum, continue on CA 111 until you reach Palm Springs. CA 111 becomes Palm Canyon Drive. Turn right on W. Tahquitz Canyon Way to Museum Drive.
Climbers who wish to take the Snow Creek route will take CA 111 to Snow Creek Rd. There is a large turnout on the road at the Snow Creek Village sign where you will park to begin your journey.
Trails from Idyllwild take CA 243 south towards the town and follow signs to each trailhead.
All parking (except at the Tramway) require a National Forest Adventure Pass which can be purchased at any ranger station or from many local merchants. The pass is $5 a day or $30 for an annual pass. Permits are required to enter the San Jacinto Wilderness and State Park which can be purchased at the ranger station in Idyllwild at 25905 State Highway 243 or at the Mountain Station at the top of the Tramway.
Camping is allowed in the park by permit only, and there are many campgrounds located in and around Idyllwild.