The deeply weathered summit of Mount San Jacinto stands 10,834 feet above sea level, and is the second highest mountain range in Southern California. No more than a two hour drive from either Los Angeles or San Diego, the mountain's magnificent granite peaks, subalpine forests, and fern-bordered mountain meadows offer a unique opportunity to explore and enjoy a scenic, high-country wilderness area. The park offers two drive-in campgrounds near the town of Idyllwild. Most of the park is a designated wilderness area enjoyed by hikers and backpackers When you enter Mount San Jacinto State Park, you come into the heart of the wilderness, high in the San Jacinto Mountains. This 14,000-acre park can be reached via Highway 243 from Idyllwild or by tram from Palm Springs. Granite peaks, subalpine forests and mountain meadows offer the best opportunity to enjoy a primitive high-country experience south of the Sierra Nevada range. San Jacinto Peak - a giant, often snowcapped crag marked by great upthrusts of weathered granite - rises almost 11,000 feet above sea level. It is the highest peak in the San Jacinto Range and in the California State Park system, and the second-highest point in southern California. Several other peaks within the park are over 10,000 feet, and much of the rest of the park, standing at more than 6,000 feet in elevation, is cool and comfortable in the summer. From the Tramway Mountain Station, you can see Palm Springs, green with golf courses and agriculture made possible through irrigation of the Coachella Valley. The vistas from the park sweep into the desert beyond Palm Springs for more than a hundred miles, extending southeast to the Salton Sea and beyond into the Imperial Valley. The northeast face of the San Jacinto Range plunges down 9,000 feet in less than four miles, making it one of the steepest and most spectacular escarpments in North America. Starting in Chino Canyon near Palm Springs, the tram takes passengers from Valley Station at 2,643 feet elevation to Mountain Station on the edge of the wilderness, elevation 8,516 feet. The Mountain Station features a restaurant, gift shop, snack bar, and the state park visitor center. In Long Valley, a short walk from the station, you will find the Long Valley Ranger Station, a picnic area with barbecue stoves and restrooms, a ski center, a self-guiding nature trail, and Desert View Trail which offers panoramas of the high country including several peaks over 10,000 feet in elevation. You can also enter the hiking trail system from this point.
Hiked this today and it was fabulous! Yes, there is a bit of snow over the last mile and definitely in the saddle area but it wasn't icy more like soft and fall through in some places! Loved the views of Suicide Rock and Tahquitz Peak! We loved this hike. I will say that the ranger kind of discouraged us from hiking this as it would be icy but glad we did it!
Climbed it yesterday. (Mar 18), started at 10am which was probably too late with the heat, made it to Long Valley / tram area around 5pm (that was pushing hard). The 2-3 miles before Long Valley are covered in significant snow. I'm not sure I was on the correct trail, followed footprints which involved some serious scrambling, very steep ice/snow sections. Crampons are a must, along with good trekking poles and gloves.
Edit: I now realize I ascended Notch 1 rather than the correct trail. Be careful following the footprints and stick to your GPS.
If you are going on this trail as of march it is a wise idea to bring trekking poles and crampons, especially if you are trying to get to the PCT in saddle junction, which has about three feet of snow in many spots. This hike takes around three hours round trip and is probably the best hike in the area.
My new favorite hike in So Cal. This was my first trip up to this area and it reminded me of Yosemite. Be prepared for the altitude if you are a low land/beach front person like me. And don't forget to stop at the Ranger Station in Idylwood and get your permit, which is not only required, it is free!! I sat at the summit and watched the sunset and then the full moon rose about 40 minutes later. Great spot if you like to hike under the full moon.
Second trail I've hiked. Hiking to the top was a feat, steep climbs with some difficulty for amateur hikers. Once we got to the top though, it was a breathtaking view and immaculate weather. Also, all of the other hikers we bumped into along the way we're very cordial and attentive to what was going on. I'd definitely do it again!