is merging with AllTrails! Please click here to read more.

Black Mountain Trail

HARD 79 reviews

Black Mountain Trail is a 8.7 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Idyllwild-Pine Cove, California that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is best used from May until December. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 8.7 miles Elevation Gain: 2,775 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly


nature trips







Directions from Banning, CA: Travel southeast along Highway 243 into the Forest. The trailhead is located 1.3 miles south of the Vista Grande Fire Station. Trail begins on the uphill side of the road.

over grown
2 months ago

So many bugs! Granted it’s mid September and pretty hot, but the overview at the top was so worth it! There’s a tower you can climb up and the volunteer there today, Miles, was very friendly and had all sorts of hiking and nature tidbits to share.

washed out
6 months ago

Thu Jul 19 2018

Fantastic hike. I was looking for a physical challenge and this trail delivered. No need to repeat what everyone's already said, I just have a couple of things to add. 1. I used the in-app "Directions" arrow icon + Google Maps which took me directly to the trailhead via 243 S towards Idyllwild (from the Banning area). The only error was Google saying the trailhead was on my right/west-ish when it was actually on my left/east-ish but it otherwise, it was on point. All you can see from 243 is a dirt road heading kind of south-east up the mountain. There is a small sign saying street-legal vehicles only allowed. Follow the dirt road a few yards up to the parking lot. 2. I stopped to catch my breath at one point and heard a distinct rattle. As I instinctively jumped away I spotted a rattlesnake, rattles and all, about 2 feet away. It was the same grayish color as a lot of the sticks on the ground. I would never have known it was there had he not been so kind as to warn me!

Sat Jul 07 2018

July 4th 2018, great sunny day. Lot sof bugs. I didn't bring bug off :( got better up about half way. Hard but don't be scared, challenge yourself. I was able to reach the watch tower in about 2 hrs with a pack, weight only about 16 oz water and snacks. The way down is rough on the knees, take your time. I got off the trail twice on the way down. Could be just me, either way pay attention. Great views and photo ops if that's your thing at the top. Top has overnight camping for a fee. Clean, fun, steep, beautiful vegitation. Def would try again with a weighted pack!

Thu Jul 05 2018

Hard it is. Step and constant going up but worth it. Nice views. Has some nice shade areAs and seemed like nice afternoon. Breeze on and off to help.

Mon Apr 02 2018

i went on this hike with my two dogs enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful scenery. After 3.5 miles up a steep trail i reached the summit. I was relaxing with my dogs admiring the scenery along with another hiker I've met along the trail. when approached by a man and woman with too little dogs. my dogs of course curious ran up to the man and woman in a none aggressive manner ( remember this is a dog friendly trail) they begin hitting my dogs and screaming bloody murder even after I had my dogs on leashes still screaming. ruining my hike. all in all very beautiful hike.

Mon Mar 19 2018

Hiked 3/18/2018. Beautiful route, plenty of snow next to the trail near the summit, but the trail itself was totally clear. The trail lists 6.6 miles but only goes to where it meets the truck trail. Round trip to the summit is closer to 8 miles. Driving in, there are TWO signs for black mountain on Highway 243, one for the truck road to the summit and one for the trailhead. Be sure to follow the FIRST sign you pass when coming from Banning. The trailhead is an immediate dead end with the parking lot. Don’t make the mistake we did of driving up the truck trail. Searching for black mountain in Google Maps will take you up the truck road.

Sun Feb 25 2018

Wow, this was an incredible hike! Let me start out by saying that my husband and I do a lot of hiking and I would rate this one as hard, not moderate. The SUPER steep climbing starts right at the beginning of the trail and really doesn’t let up at all until you get to the top, which happens to be about 7500 feet of altitude. That being said, it was a beautiful hike and I would highly recommend this as long as you’re in pretty good shape! There was lots of snow during the second half of the hike, which made it a lot harder, but all the more rewarding when we got to the top. Our dog had the time of her life running around off leash the entire time (leashes aren’t required on this one) so that made us so happy. We were also really thankful we brought our hiking poles, not only because they was really helpful in the snow, but they were necessary for descending the steep terrain.

Thu Jan 25 2018

Part dirt road drive and part hike to the peak.

Sun Jan 07 2018

Fantastic views all the way up and it’s capped off at the water tower

Thu Nov 30 2017

Incline was challenging but overall a great hike. Great view at the top.

Tue Oct 31 2017

Man I loved this hike. I agree with Jesse Dunlap as far as this being on the more difficult side of moderate, but I wouldn't let that discourage anyone from attempting this hike. The amount of miles you're on the trail gaining elevation is what makes it strenuous, but the path is well structured with plenty of boulders to climb and stunning views of the Pacific and everything in between. The main reason I did this hike, however, was to see the sequoias! They were planted by the U.S. Forest Service back in 1974 after a fire destroyed the surrounding area. It's remarkable that they're still thriving to this day, and while they haven't had centuries to grow like their cousins up north, they're still impressive in their own right. They should appear about a mile into the trail. Keep in mind that there is poison oak and the flies can be annoying. Just be mindful and enjoy the hike!

Thu Oct 19 2017

This is more difficult than “moderate.” To actually arrive at the summit and fire tower, one must hike about half a mile extra uphill beyond the end of the trail as it is listed here. It is a great hike if you want to see few people. The trailhead is a quarter mile up a dirt road that runs almost parallel to the highway. There are lots of gnats on this trail even in late October!

Sat Oct 14 2017

Not sure if we misunderstood the directions or what, but we never found this trailhead. From the photos it appears to be at the Black Mountain campground, which apparently is 5 miles up a rutted dirt road. I had no idea about a dirt road based on the info here. GPS said we'd arrived about 5 minutes in, but there was nothing really there. We did venture up the road a good 15 minutes, but it had multiple turnoffs and no signage indicating which way to go so we turned around and went back. We love this area so it's a nice drive, luckily we don't live too far away so we may go back up another day to try it again.

Sun Jul 30 2017

Easy access to the PCT, absolutely stunning views of Palm Springs and Los Angeles, what's not to love about this trail??

Sun Jul 09 2017

I absolutely love this hike!! I bring my two dogs with me.. lots of shade and also lots of bugs. Bring bug spray, and extra water even some snacks. Definitely wanna hit it early! You always have a nice breeze, but the sun rays are super strong! There are several parts where the trail disappears, pay close attention. Many of them can mislead you. You'll reach a water tower, follow around it up to the fire tower. Take the bars up to the fire tower that you can actually go in. Amazing views!! You can literally see everything.. even Catilina Island on a clear day.

Sun Jul 02 2017

This hike is a butt kicker, literally! My legs were screaming by the end. I would call this more of a moderate/difficult hike due to the incline. But otherwise, it's very beautiful with good shade in the morning and no obstacles. The fire tower up on the top of black mountain was so worth it. You can see every mountain range of Southern California. I would advise to go as early as possible to avoid the heat this time of year. It was a bit brutal on the way back down. And bring lots of water! Also, an interesting fact. Keep your eyes open for trees you wouldn't expect to see in SoCal. The forestry dept planted some sequoias in this area in the 1970s. It's quite amazing that they actually have grown and survived!

Sat Jul 01 2017

We did this hike on a very hot day! Not much shade at times and a whole lot of bugs! Deceptively steep. No real summit and the "end" isn't well marked so you don't feel like you made it to they top. Lots of neat scenery changes as you get higher.

Thu Nov 10 2016

Hiked with my dog this morning. Well established trail, be prepared to climb and descend! The other reviews were right on, lots of shade, lots of bugs and varying terrain. Some sand, be careful of the rocks. Views are spectacular, bring lots of water. Parking is great, off the road up a little dirt trail. Enough for about 10 cars.

Fri Sep 23 2016

Nature's stairmaster! Definitely challenging at the beginning and at the switchbacks towards the end! I hiked it with my dog and really enjoyed most of it(minus the areas infested with bugs) Pay attention because we lost the trail a couple of times, but were easily able to get back on track. Be prepared with plenty of water for you and your dog and bring a snack to enjoy at the top! Happy hiking:) PS-GPS clocked us at 9.75 miles and 2600 foot incline.

Sun Jul 03 2016

There is a ton of shade, and pretty much everywhere you stop to look there is a great view behind you. I would rate this as being difficult, as the trail is pretty relentlessly uphill. It's pretty dusty most of the way and slippery in some places. The small parking lot is easy to miss, as its up a little dirt driveway on the hill. We were coming from the Idyllwild direction so the driveway was in the right and took an awkward hairpin maneuver to get to on a blind corner. I would suggest either coming from Banning, or if you're coming from Idyllwild, pass the trail at first and make a u-turn at a safer place to approach with the driveway on the left. It looks like there was another way in at one time but it looks overgrown.

Mon Feb 29 2016

Ill start by saying it was a satisfying hike though incomplete. My wife and I, novice hikers, found this trail to be as described by others as Moderate-Difficult. I call it "challenging". We were unable to finish the hike because of some snow caps that covered the trail, making it difficult to find the trail. Several other groups of hikers were in the same predicament returning unfinished at the very end (we were all so close!). I spoke to a guy who claimed he hiked all the way to the lookout station in the past. Some of the maps are vague to wether or not the trail truly does go all the way up or if they stop short and we were unable to verify this ourselves. Maybe we reached the end and it doesn't finish but that would be weird since your so close to the lookout tower. The trail is well laid out for the most part. A small area of blown down trees covered some of the trail midway but nothing impassable. Its very steep going up and doesn't stop until your at the top. The first mile feels the worst and it does "level off" though, it never really does. Your mind and body will be happy for how "level" it feels later in the hike. ;) There are no water sources, its very dry right now. Bring plenty of water for you and your pets! There is adequate canopy and shade for dogs, which are allowed. Parking is free (no adventure pass required) at the time of our visit. Check with the forrest service for current conditions. The description above says its closed Jan-May but this may be conditional. Currently it was open (check FS website for current trail closures). The entire trip took us 5 hrs with a stop for lunch midway. The first 4 hrs of the hike were all uphill. This including a lengthy lunch stop. Upon turning back, it took only 1 hour to hike down the hill just to give you an idea of how steep it is. Again, we are novice hikers so it may be shorter for some. All in all, Its a pretty quiet trail. Ran into about a 14 people on a very pleasant Sunday. Id hazard to say that maybe 10 made it to the end. The last 4 I saw were starting the trail at 4pm and were ill equipped to go all the way, I suspect they turned around quickly.

Sun Aug 16 2015

just an update to me last post. the rangers map rates this trail as strenuous. I knew my legs weren't deceiving me. lol. Great hike but pace yourself.

Sat Aug 08 2015

wow, what a trail. today's hike was excellent. However, I would not rate it moderate; I would lean more towards difficult. hiked mt baldy two months ago and I found this more difficult. impressive views. take bug spray. take your walking sticks too. go for it and have fun- we did.

Mon Aug 03 2015

Nice hike! Not an easy climb, but there was plenty of shade! We did the hike with our three dogs so we had to take a couple long water breaks, so we made it up in a little under 3 hours. The views at the top (and on the way up) were spectacular!

Sun Jul 05 2015

No way this hike should be rated as easy. Moderate-Difficult best. The first half mile breaks you in; thereafter, it's a steady climb to the lookout point. It's manned by the forest service from May to November. The views up there and throughout are amazing. It does run hot in June/July. Next time we'll try May. Insects are a pain. This 8 mile hike to the lookout point will make you earn your stripes. Loved it!

Load More