Webster Trail (first mile)
- Location: San Bernardino National Forest, northwest of Idyllwild. From Highway 243 (22 miles south of Banning, 3 miles north of Idyllwild) head west on Pine Cove Road (look for the gas station on the corner.) Follow Pine Cove Road 0.7 mile, during which it becomes dirt. Make a sharp left on McGovern and go 0.2 mile. Turn left on Red Hill Road (unsigned) and follow it downhill 1.3 miles. High clearance vehicles are best, but most cars should be able to make it with caution. The trail head will be in a small dirt lot on the right. The coordinates are N 33 45.105, W 116 45.542.
- Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/San Jacinto Ranger District
- Distance: 2 miles
- Elevation gain: 650 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: Year round
- Dogs: Allowed
- Cell phone reception: None
- Water: None
- Restrooms: None
- Camping/backpacking: Dispersed/remote camping is allowed in this area. Click here for more information.
- More information: here and here
- Rating: 7
The Webster Trail descends the western slope of the San Jacinto Mountains, dropping 1,800 feet to arrive at the north fork of the San Jacinto River. However, due to the trail’s light usage and remote location, it receives little to no maintenance. As a result, the trail becomes harder and harder to follow near the bottom and progressively overgrown, requiring bushwhacking beyond which many hikers are likely willing to do. Those who venture to the trail’s lowest reaches will need to conserve strength for the steep climb back up, especially on warm days. Because of these conditions, I recommend the first mile of this trail, which is almost entirely shaded, as a year-round day hike that provides solitude and a good workout.
From the information board, follow the trail west into a thick forest of black oaks and pines. At 0.1 mile, the trail drops to a clearing. Here you reach the first of several unsigned and potentially confusing junctions. The Webster Trail branches off to the right (ignore the single-track that bends south) and briefly climbs to a ridge before continuing its western descent. At 0.3 mile, stay straight as another single-track branches off to the right. You descend through a tunnel of oaks. At 0.4 mile, you will see a pair of wooden posts on your left. The trail appears to continue straight at this point, but the actual Webster Trail branches off to the right. It heads briefly north before making a sharp left turn and continuing west, passing over a giant fallen oak, the victim of borers. Though faint at times, the trail is not difficult to follow as it descends through the Jeffrey pines, incense cedars and oaks.
At 0.6 mile, you begin a series of tight switchbacks. At one mile, just before the trail crosses a stream bed and leaves the woodland, you reach a small clearing with a large boulder. This secluded spot is a good turnaround point, especially on warm days. Those who want to venture farther will be rewarded with some panoramic views of the Hemet Valley and the Palomar Mountains, but the terrain also becomes more challenging and the trail less easy to follow, so plan accordingly.
The Webster Trail was named for rancher David Webster, who used it as a route for his cattle in the late 19th century. Helen Hunt Jackson based one of the characters in her novel “Ramona” off of Webster.
Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
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.