San Jacinto Peak via Humber Park/Marion Mountain Trail Traverse

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

  • Locations: (South): Humber Park, Idyllwild. From the ranger station (54270 Pine Crest Avenue, Idyllwild) – where you will have to stop to pick up a free permit for the Devil’s Slide Trail – head north on Pine Crest for 0.6 mile. Make a slight right onto South Circle Drive and quickly turn left on to Fern Valley Road. At this point, you will see signs directing you to Humber Park. Follow Fern Valley Road for 1.9 mile to Humber Park. (West): Marion Mountain Trailhead. From Highway 243, 18 miles southeast of Banning and 5 miles north of downtown Idyllwild, head northeast on forest road 4S02, signed for the campgrounds (if you are coming from the north, it will be just past the fire station.) At the first junction in 0.3 mile, turn left and follow the road another 1.1 miles, following signs for the Marion Mountain campground. Before you reach it, you will see the Marion Mountain trail head on the right. Park in a dirt lot on the left side of the road. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking at Humber Park. Click here to purchase. Note: if the ranger station is closed, you can still fill out a self-serve permit at the kiosk. Devil’s Slide permits are usually available, but can be difficult to get on busy summer weekends. If you are hiking San Jacinto as an out-and-back via the Marion Mountain trail, you just need a regular San Jacinto Wilderness permit, also free and available at the ranger station.
  • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest (San Jacinto Ranger District)/Mt. San Jacinto State Park
  • Distance: 14 miles
  • Elevation gain: 4,500 feet (4,600 feet elevation loss) when traveled south to west
  • Difficulty Rating: NC-17 (Elevation gain, altitude, distance)
  • Suggested time: 10 hours
  • Best season: May-October
  • Recommended gear: Hiking poles; long sleeves and pants; headlamps for a possible night time descent
  • Dogs: Not allowed (leashed dogs are allowed on the Devil’s Slide Trail, the first 2.5 miles of this route)
  • Cell phone reception: None for most of the route (there may be intermittent reception above Wellman Divide, on the summit and on the lower portion of the Marion Mountain Trail). The nearest reliable cell phone reception is in Idyllwild.
  • Water: There is usually running water at Wellman Cienega and at a spring on the Deer Springs Trail above the P.C.T. junction that can be treated. For day hiking, it may be easier to just carry extra water (at least one gallon).
  • Restrooms: Available at Humber Park; vault and chemical toilets available at Little Round Valley on the descent (see description).
  • Camping/backpacking: The descent travels through Little Round Valley, a popular camp ground in Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Campfires are not allowed here. For more information about camping in Little Round Valley, call the park office at 951-659-2607. There are a few spots in the San Bernardino National Forest portion of the route that could be makeshift campsites (although camping is not allowed at Saddle Junction). For information about dispersed camping in the San Bernardino National Forest, click here.
  • More information: Description of an out and back hike from Humber Park here and here; via the Marion Mountain trail here, here, here and here;
  • Rating: 10

Updated October 2018

There aren’t many point to point hikes featured on this site, due to the logistical challenges involved with setting up a shuttle. However, this one-way ascent and descent of San Jacinto Peak is worth making the extra effort to set up one car at the Marion Mountain trailhead and then driving to Humber Park, about 9 miles away. By ascending from Humber Park and descending to the west via the Deer Springs and Marion Mountain trails, you get to experience a bigger variety of the outstanding scenery San Jacinto Peak has to offer. Hiked south to west as described here makes for a slightly easier ascent and a westward facing descent, providing sunset views. If you are unable to set up a shuttle or contact a ride-sharing service to bring you back to the starting point (cell phone reception is questionable for most of this route), you can hike to San Jacinto as a straight out-and-back from either Humber Park or the Marion Mountain trailhead.

The hike starts with a 2.5 mile ascent on the popular Devil’s Slide Trail which climbs steadily, picking up 1,600 feet en route to Saddle Junction. Highlights on the way include views of Suicide Rock, Lily/Tahquitz Rock and farther out, Old Saddleback towering above the Riverside/Corona area. The vegetation is a mix of pines, cedars and black oaks. At Saddle Junction, head north on the Pacific Crest Trail. As the P.C.T. climbs steadily through the pines, picking up almost 1,000 feet in 1.5 miles (expect to start feeling the effects of the altitude here), the views to the south are dominated by Tahquitz Peak. If you look carefully you can spot the lookout tower on the summit.

A slight descent brings you to a junction (4.1 miles from the start) where the Pacific Crest Trail branches off to the west. Continue north, now on the Wellman Trail, whose dominant feature is Wellman Cienega, a sloping meadow irrigated by a pair of springs. The trees open up to the east, enabling views of the Coachella Valley and the Santa Rosa Mountains.

After 1.2 miles (750 vertical feet) of climbing, you reach Wellman Divide, where you may be joined by hikers coming up from the tram. Continue north, enjoying more views of the mountain’s eastern slope as it drops off to the desert. Cornell Peak, with its characteristic pyramid shape and Round Valley are prominent in the foreground. The trail soon reaches a saddle just below the summit where a short but steep climb, which soon becomes a rock scramble, brings you to the top.

After enjoying the iconic views from San Jacinto Peak – the San Gabriels to the northwest, San Gorgonio to the north, the Coachella Valley to the east, the Santa Rosas and lower peaks of the San Jacintos to the southeast and south, the Palomars and Cuyamacas to the south and the Santa Anas to the southwest – begin your descent retracing your steps back to the saddle. Continue west along the Deer Springs Trail which drops to Little Round Valley, about one thousand feet below the summit (1.3 miles). From here the trail continues its descent along the west face of the mountain, passing through a meadow with views to the west (the trail becomes overgrown in spots; though not difficult to follow, expect scratches if you are not wearing long pants). At 1.4 miles below Little Round Valley, you reach another junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Bear left (the right fork is the northbound P.C.T. to Fuller Ridge) and continue your descent. The next half mile, during which the P.C.T. overlaps the Deer Springs Trail, is smooth and well graded as it weaves through an attractive stand of pines and cedars.

At the next junction, the Seven Pines Trail heads off to the right and almost immediately after is the Marion Mountain Trail, which is noted for its persistently steep grade. In addition to sunset views to the west, the trail features impressive pines, cedars and firs and for its many large granite boulders. As you drop sharply back down to the campground, losing 2,300 feet in the final 2.5 miles of the hike, you will be glad you are not ascending this trail – although the difficulty of descending on tired legs should not be underestimated, especially since it will likely be getting dark at this point. Be careful of tree roots, loose stretches of trail and as you get closer to the campground, a thin water pipe that runs alongside the trail.

About half a mile before the campground you reach a junction with a trail from the left (part of the Stone Creek Loop). Continue your descent, finally reaching the bottom of the Marion Mountain Trail, 6.5 miles below the summit and 14 miles from your starting point.

If you are unable to set up a shuttle, you can still do an out-and-back hike either from Humber Park (15 mile round trip, 4,600 feet of elevation gain) or via the Marion Mountain campground (12 mile round trip, 4,500 feet of elevation gain). Another option is a challenging 18-mile “balloon” loop – descending via the Deer Springs trail, as described below, and continuing along the Pacific Crest Trail to Strawberry Junction, then following it east back to the junction with the Wellman Trail and retracing your steps to Saddle Junction and then Humber Park. This route is about 18 miles with 5,800 feet of elevation gain.

Humber Park, Idyllwild, CA
Morning sun at Humber Park
Pacific Crest Trail, Idyllwild, CA
View from the Pacific Crest Trail above Saddle Junction
San Jacinto Peak, CA
Climbing toward Wellman Divide
San Jacinto Peak, CA
Looking east from below Wellman Divide
San Jacinto Peak, CA
Desert view, San Jacinto Peak
San Jacinto Peak, CA
Southeast view from San Jacinto Peak
Marion Mountain Trail, San Jacinto Mountains, CA
Dusk on the Marion Mountain Trail
Marion Mountain Trail
Last light on the Marion Mountain Trail

Text and photography copyright 2018 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s