San Jacinto Peak Loop Trail

HARD 49 reviews

San Jacinto Peak Loop Trail is a 16.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Idyllwild, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October.

DISTANCE
16.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
5,219 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

snow

no dogs

Starting from the town of Idyllwild, this trail is ideal as either a long single day out and back, or a two day with overnight camping. Little Round Valley sits just below the summit, which makes a great spot to camp before a morning summit. As an alteration, take the eastern trail back down which crosses Wellman's Divide and then loops back to Strawberry Junction, making for a longer overall hike. While there is strong elevation gain and snow/ice in the colder months, this trail is very manageable, and great strength training for bigger climbs. Also shares a few miles with the PCT, be sure to say hello to the springtime thru-hikers! **Please note campsites, such as Little Round Valley, require a permit. These fill up fast in the summer so call ahead for availability. To request and obtain a permit, applications must be submitted 10-14 days in advance by mail. If you haven't done so, permits can also be obtained as a walk-in from the State Park Office in Idyllwild, but this is not a guarantee of availability.**

hiking
25 days ago

I hiked this as an overnight backpacking trip on April 28th-29th in 2018. It was BY FAR the hardest hike I have ever done. I had a permit for camping at little round valley, and parked at Deer Springs trailhead with no issues.

I left Deer Springs trailhead at 8:40am, later than I intended to start and I got one of the last two parking spots. The start of the trail was a bit hard to follow, I was able to navigate only because I read this blog post about it: https://hikingguy.com/hiking-trails/best-la-hikes/hike-mount-san-jacinto-from-idyllwild/
On Deer springs trail I hardly saw any other hikers, two individual women and a dad with his son hiking suicide rock. At 11:00 am I met the junction with the PCT and I continued hiking. I saw a few PCT through hiking groups, but it was not crowded (you could go 30-45 minutes before seeing another group of people).

I brought my sawyer squeeze to filter water and had 2L carrying capacity. Check the PCT water report before going: https://pctwater.com/
I found there to be plenty of water until 1.5miles or so before Little Round Valley. It was dry above that, though you could find patches of snow and melt them for water (which I did).
While filtering water I ran into a group of three ladies. They were trying to make it to Round Valley and it was already 2pm, and they were struggling, so I invited them to stay with me at Little Round Valley. At 3pm we made it to little round valley and set up camp at the Thunder View site. (map here: https://www.msjnha.org/images/campsites.jpg). One of the ladies in the group stayed at the campsite while three of us summit ed. It took two and a half hours, and was SO HARD to summit, even though we left our packs at camp. We lost the trail for a solid 15-20 minutes on the way up. It was VERY windy on the summit and the sign on top was stolen. We talked to other hikers up top which was the best part of the trip.

The Thunder View campsite was quite remote and EXTREMELY windy. You are sitting on the edge of the mountain, and the wind just rushes up the side and all around the campsite. I had a complete mental breakdown trying to sleep alone in the winds and had to jump in a tent with one of the other hikers I met. I was worried my tent would blow away without me in it and at 2am I put a bunch of rocks on my tent. I slept maybe for an hour total as the wind was howling constantly with gusts that would shake the tent silly. Looking back I would have broken the rules and not camped near the designated site post, but closer to the trail where it was not directly on the side of the mountain. It was clear that other hikers were doing that based on old fire pits found and clear campsites formed, and I never saw a ranger or anyone checking any sort of permit.

In the morning things were clear again. We decided not to do this trail as a loop (which required going back up towards the summit), and instead just went down the way we came. We left Little Round Valley at 9am and returned to the Deer Springs trail head at 3pm. We were going slow and were a bit disappointed, as the good views are on the other side of the mountain.

I am very lucky to have found a group of ladies that helped me out, and that I could help out. I WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO THIS ALONE/WITHOUT THEM. The mountain is unforgiving and I will never attempt hiking something like it alone again. My backpacking stove also would not light at the altitude of the campground and I relied on a lighter another hiker had to boil water. I took two sick days from work once I got home in order to recover. I was so nervous hiking that I physically could not eat nearly the entire time I was on the mountain, and was so drained I could hardly function for those two sick days. Shockingly I would try this again, on the condition that I stay at a different campsite, and I would go with a group. I went to see the views and never made it to that side of the mountain.

hiking
27 days ago

One of the best peak views around. Beautiful views of Palm springs and Idyllwild coming down from the peak. Signs claimed about 10 miles up so the estimated 16.6 on alltrails seems a bit low. Very narrow at parts with spiky plants so pants are a good option! The descent was really hot with not a lot of shade until back to Deer Spring trailhead.

backpacking
1 month ago

Backpacked 3 days 2 nights, 6/1 - 6/3. Had a great time but it was really challenging and longer than expected. We got permits to camp in Tamarack Valley which was further off the loop trail than anticipated. Thought we’d do ~18-20mi & 5000ft but ended up doing 26+ and 6500ft. Also the AllTrails Topo map shows a trail from Tamarack to the main peak trail, but beware this trail is unmaintained and quite hard to follow at times. Got scratched up by overgrown brush and had to rely heavily on GPS. Overall AllTrails maps were pretty unreliable in the Tamarack area.

The water situation is pretty dismal. Strawberry Cienega was a trickle on par with a fridge water dispenser. The next Cienega (Wellman?) was more substantial but difficult to collect from, a bunch of trickling streams running down a rock face. The last water source we saw was the spigot at Round Valley. Also a trickle. Purification recommended for all water sources. Pretty sure I drank 3-4L or more.

1 month ago

Endurance test. Definitely exhausting.

hiking
1 month ago

I completed this hike today, 5/27/18. A great day overall, the views along the way and from the top are amazing!
I think that the indicated 16.6 miles is in question, my total for the hike was 18.74 miles using the Apple Gen 3 Watch's GPS functionality. There are significantly more plot points in the GPX file that I exported from the watch than from the GPX file that can be downloaded for this route here. I opened the watch's GPX file in Garmin Basecamp, cleaned up any ancillary data from places where I paused for a breather (the GPS track can roam on those occasions) and was left with a distance of 18.2 miles.

hiking
1 month ago

Great all day hike. Saw a last trickle of water near round valley and at Wellman’s Cienega. Lots of elevation gain, but gradual, as this is a long one. Per Fitbit this was 19.8 miles.

hiking
6 months ago

***One of the best hikes that I've ever done, consistent climbs with gorgeous views and pristine natural beauty. We summited the Deer Springs Peak, which is a total of 12.4 miles from the parking lot (round trip). Just 2 important tips:
*The parking lot sign says Deer Springs Trail, don't get confused, it's the same as San Jacinto Trail, they coincide after a few miles.
*A permit is required (as per signage) on the trail, which is free and can be acquired at the Ranger Station which is a mile down the road on your left hand side right after you pass Idyllwild's downtown square ish.
Overall, a must do hike, I'm eager to see how it looks in the spring

hiking
6 months ago

What a wonderful hike. Beautiful trees. A perfect workout. Enjoyed every step that we took. According to the app, it would take almost 8 miles to get to the peak, we sere 2,5 miles in when we saw the sign saying we have 7,5 miles more to get to the top. A bit frustrated but we continued for another 4 miles and we got to deer spring summit and we rested for about 45-50 mins than head back. It took us 5:27 hrs to do the hike. We even saw a lot of snow which was amazing. Later we found out you can actually camp at the top. Btw, at first you’ll the sign for deer spring, don’t get confused. You’re on the right path. 20 miles of beautiful nature, amazing weather and scenery.

hiking
6 months ago

I was on the trail in mid October 2017. Great hike with some of the best views. Got to the trailhead at 6:30am and finished at 6:45pm. That includes some photo op breaks and a nap at the peak.

6 months ago

Great views

6 months ago

Great views

7 months ago

Great trail beautiful longer trail was certainly difficult, but whoever said 17.7 is incorrect my gps was reading 19.8 when done so more realistically it’s 20 miles, but still great trail highly recommend

hiking
7 months ago

I decided on this route for my San Jacinto summit rather than the usual Marion Mountain route. I was just interested in a little bit longer of a day hike.

If you've already hiked some of the "advanced" trails in the San Gabes and San Bernardinos, then this trail won't offer much additional challenge EXCEPT for the short scramble at the top. Its quite comparable to San Bernardino and San Gorgonio in terms of difficulty. Nothing is ridiculously steep, slippery or otherwise "unpleasant". The trail is well marked and easy to follow, even with all the various junctions.

Doing the trail clockwise, the panoramic views from the trail head to the summit aren't anything to write home about. Its all about being in the forest and the forest is BEAUTIFUL. There are small windows here and there that hint at the what is to come, but you will not get your real reward until the summit.

The view at the summit is incredible. If you move around the various boulders, you can see just about anything you want from up there. Do not limit yourself and your view to just the sign/survey marker areas. Move around.

The return leg continues with the panoramic views. You will have something amazing to look at from the summit back to the Deer Creek Trail junction. The descent is somewhat gentle and it didn't beat up my knees at all.

9 months ago

Pretty tough hike. First backpacking overnight hike.

9 months ago

TOUGH! Be wary of elevation gain. It’s no joke. Great hike and great views. Completely worth the pain! Check with rangers about available water. In October there was a stream only at Little deer springs.

hiking
10 months ago

I would give this a 5 star if it was not for the rather boring 3,8 mile part from Deer Springs Trailhead to the PCT. I descended from the peak on the eastern route, and it was beautiful, the views all the way back to Strawberry junction were amazing! Many cool people along the route!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Great hike, beautiful views. Lots of water on the little round valley side.

hiking
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Easily the most beautiful views I've ever seen on a hike. The difficulty of this trail lies just in how long it is, and how the climb is so consistent. This hike took me 10+ hours to finish. But the views are well worth it. Highly recommended. Bring lots of water.

hiking
Monday, May 29, 2017

Love this trail. I used it as one of my prep hikes for Mt. Whitney. There's a lot of different scenery to see on this path and possibly some nice snow drifts still sitting on the north side of the mountain. I'm thinking of doing it again next weekend.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Loved this hike. It took us all day but the view was amazing and worth the trip. Can't wait to do it again.

hiking
Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Had a phenomenal hike here this past weekend with a group of friends. We based out of Idyllwild Campground, which was great to not be driving to and from Idyllwild the morning of/after our hike. The first day we gained Little Round Valley campsite in around 5 hours. Plenty of time to cook dinner and catch the sunset. Nighttime was very cold, be prepared for high winds and cold temperatures, especially in spring/winter months. We camped at site #1, which fortunately had lots of bare ground, which we gladly shared with other campers who found the other sites covered in snow.

The next morning hiked the remaining 1.5 miles to the summit. Beautiful cloudless conditions, and great views of Gorgonio. Descended to LRV to pack up camp and descend to Idyllwild. Total time down was about 4 hours, it's a very forgiving descent, and you can really cover ground quickly here, especially once past the snow.

Technically not very challenging, beyond the unrelenting climb/descent. While we did encounter snow, crampons were not necessary at the time we did. Under colder/wetter conditions, I would highly recommend them however. Deer Spring, about a mile before Little Round Valley was flowing well, and can be used to filter and resupply water if needed.

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12 hours ago

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