- Location: San Jacinto Mountains near Idyllwild. From highway 243 in Idyllwild, south of the ranger station, go northeast on North Circle Drive. Go 0.7 miles to a four way intersection and take a right on South Circle Drive. After 0.1 miles, go left on Fern Valley Road. At 1.7 miles, pass the parking lot for the Ernie Maxwell Trail and continue 0.1 miles to Humber Park. A National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 for a day or $30 for a year) is required. Click here to purchase. A free San Jacinto Wilderness permit is also required and available from the ranger station. On weekends, a Devil’s Slide Trail permit may be required instead of the wilderness permit due to the trail’s heavy use.
- Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Idyllwild Ranger Station
- Distance: 10.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 2,900 feet
- Suggested time: 6 hours
- Difficulty Rating: R (Steepness, altitude, elevation gain, distance)
- Best season: May – October
- USGS topo map: “San Jacinto Peak”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles
- More information: here
- Rating: 10
Like its similarly named neighbor Tahquitz Peak, Red Tahquitz is one of the best hikes in the San Jacintos, if not all of So-Cal. In addition to providing great views of the mountains and desert, Red Tahquitz receives lighter traffic than Tahquitz and Suicide Rock. After you leave the Devil’s Slide trail, you’re not likely to have much company.
From Humber Park, take the Devil’s Slide Trail for the first 2.5 miles, as you would for Tahquitz Peak. The trail ascends steadily uphill, climbing 1,700 feet in 2.5 miles. Although the grade isn’t too tough, it’s definitely a workout, especially for those sensitive to altitude.
At Saddle Junction, where five different trails come together, take the second one from the right, signed for Tahquitz Valley. (The Pacific Crest Trail, on the far right, would be your route to Tahquitz Peak.) The next stretch of trail is more or less level, a nice change of pace after the virtually nonstop ascent from Humber. You travel through a pine forest and in 0.6 miles, you reach a four-way split. Head right, and soon you arrive at beautiful Tahquitz Valley. Here, green fields spread out before you, bordered by the pines. Tahquitz Peak towers above to the south.
You re-enter the woods, and at four miles from the start, you meet up with the Pacific Crest Trail. You head left, contouring around the north edge of Peak 8792, taking in great views of San Jacinto and its neighboring summits. After about three quarters of a mile on the P.C.T., look for a trail heading off to the right.
This push to the summit, while short, is very steep and rough in a few spots (you’ll have to climb over at least two fallen trees, as of this writing). However, the trail isn’t too hard to follow. You climb about 400 feet in half a mile, and soon you’ll see the red granite of the summit that gives the peak its name.
The summits of Tahquitz Peak and San Jacinto prevent the view from being a true 360, but it’s still quite impressive. You can see the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south east, including Toro Peak and Rabbit Peak; you can see the desert to the east; San Jacinto to the north, Tahquitz and Peak 8792 to the immediate west, and Garner Valley and Hemet Lake to the south. If the air is clear, you can see the Palomar Mountains of San Diego County and the Salton Sea.
After enjoying the view, return how you came. By adding three miles and 900 feet of elevation gain to the route, you can also visit Tahquitz Peak. However, many hikers will probably find Red Tahquitz to be a full day’s work.
Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.