Hurkey Creek Park
- Location: San Jacinto Mountains, southeast of Idyllwild and Mountain Center. The park entrance is on the north side of Highway 74, 22 miles east of Hemet, 3.4 miles east of the junction with Highway 243 and 9 miles west of the junction with Highway 371. Once inside the park, pay the day use fee (as of this writing: $6 per adult, $3 per child and $2 per dog, up to three). Follow the signs for campsite 128. There are a few parking spots located next to this campsite, by the restrooms.
- Agency: Riverside County Park and Open Space District
- Distance: 1.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 150 feet
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: March – June; September – November
- Dogs: Allowed on leash
- Cell phone reception: Weak
- Water: Tap water available at trail head restrooms; none available on the trail
- Restrooms: Full service restrooms at trail head
- Camping/backpacking: Campsites available at Hurkey Creek Park. No backpacking options.
- More information: Hurkey Creek Park homepage here; Map My Hike report (slightly longer trip including other park trails) here
- Rating: 7
Located between Idyllwild and Garner Valley, Hurkey Creek Park is known mainly as a camping destination, often used by visitors to nearby Lake Hemet. However, it is also the home of this beautiful little hike that takes in views of the Desert Divide, Thomas Mountain and more. Unfortunately, as of this writing, only a short out and back section is open (before the Mountain Fire of 2013, the trails from Hurkey Creek Park led deeper into the San Bernardino National Forest, allowing for many possible routes of all lengths). The good news is that the 0.8 mile from the campground to the point of closure offers a lot of great eye candy, making it an enjoyable side trip for vacationers at Lake Hemet or day hikers in the area for longer trips. The day use fees at Hurkey Creek Park can add up quickly for families (visitors are charged per person, not per vehicle), especially for such a short hike, but have you checked out the prices at Disneyland lately?
From the parking area near site 128, continue on the paved road for a few dozen yards. At site 130, pass through a gate and begin hiking on a dirt road. Almost immediately you cross a single-track trail which loops around the hills above the campground. Continue north, passing signs indicating the closure ahead. The trail parallels Hurkey Creek (usually dry by summer) and heads north toward the impressive south slopes of the Desert Divide peaks such as Red Tahquitz, Apache Peak and Antsell Rock. At this elevation (4,400 feet), there is an interesting mix of desert and mountain flora including Coulter and Pinyon Pines, manzanita, buckwheat bushes and small pockets of oak chaparral.
At 0.8 mile from the start, you reach the closure point. A rock beneath a pine makes for a nice place to sit and enjoy views of Thomas Mountain to the southeast. A use trail leads to a jumble of granite boulders which you can climb for an even better view of the area. After enjoying the wide vistas and solitude, retrace your steps back to the campground. There are a few other trails circling the perimeter of the park that allow for additional exploration.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.