South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak

MODERATE 60 reviews
#5 of 12 trails in

South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak is a 7.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Idyllwild, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

7.8 miles
3,057 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips



wild flowers


Note: You need a USFS permit to enter the National Wilderness. They are free and self issued from the USFS Station in Idyllwild. The trailhead is tricky to access, you must go up a harrowing dirt road off of Saunders Meadow Rd. to access the "Parking lot" as it is described on the map.

17 days ago

A group of friends and I completed this hike last weekend. I wanted to post some clarifying information about the access road! The worst part of the road is just past the gate where too many people have tried to get through and dug the road out to hell. We made it through (in low gear) in a small AWD SUV but our friends in a 2WD Rav4 did not. I would highly suggest just coaxing your AWD car or truck through slowly because the access road is very steep, mostly paved, and way better to do in a car than on foot!

19 days ago

Once you turn onto the dirt road there are spots to park right away or you can drive all the way to the actual walking trail, cutting this to 6.4mi round trip. We’ve hiked a lot in the Idyllwild area, including multiple routes to Taquitz and Saddle Junction. This route has the best views and the fewest people. The half-mile right before the peak is a moderate challenge and fairly exposed, but the rest is an easy grade with lots of shade. Concur with the “moderate” rating; our 7 and 9yo did the round trip without a problem (we’re active but we live at sea level). We saw one rattler (decent size, 4-ish feet and 10 buttons on the tail) which means there were a few more out there so stay aware. Overall, a fun half-day hike with rewards on the way and at the top.

1 month ago

Nice and difficult hike! Will get your legs hurting but the views and rocks are cool and the peak view is worth it. Have hiked this trail two times, it does get hot so bring a lot of water.

5 months ago

This is an awesome hike. The perfect length and elevation gain for an average to moderate hiker. I severely misgauged the weather and we met snow at the higher elevations. There were several patches of ice that served as a bit of an obstacle with trail shoes, albeit fun. We began at 2:00 and with MANY AREAS OF JUST HANGING OUT, we completed it in five hours. This can easily be done in 4. Yesterday, it needed gloves, warm socks and a beanie for comfort !! This is one of my favorite hikes by far. Also! You do NEED a four-wheel drive vehicle if you plan to park in the semi-designated spots. If you don’t, find parking in the residential area because it is rough driving terrain. The first mile can be done in your car on a half dirt/ half paved road. There is parking books in various spots along this road.

6 months ago

My favorite trail, so many beautiful views and fun rocks to climb.

7 months ago

This is a great hike! The switchbacks at the top are tough. Bring lots of water and snacks. We completed this hike in 4 hours, including 45 min of various resting breaks.

11 months ago

This is one of best hikes I've done in Southern California. It is well kept, well groomed and beautiful. Vistas at every turn and the fire lookout at the top was a great reward upon reaching the top.

This is a rigorous hike with a lot of exposure. Bring lots of water and make sure you are in good shape if you take on this hike. I would argue this could be classified as a hard rather than moderate, especially if it's hot. Be very careful if it's hot with your dog.

11 months ago

Beautiful views! Just hike it very early; the last section before the lookout is steep and sunny

11 months ago

Beautiful views! Just hike it very early; the last section before this lookout is steep and sunny

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Great views!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

This remains one of my favorite hikes! Vigorous, beautiful and can be accomplished 4 hrs - less if you have to. Those unfamiliar with this hike should note that the last mile or so to the top is the most vertical section of the trail, so mind your timing and pace.
With a predicted high of 95, hitting the trail @ 6 am meant shade and temp hovering arond 68, all the way to the top, due to the low angle of the sun. I wasn't, however, prepared for the MOSQUITOS! They weren't even noticable last time, but this time the entire lower trail section (1st 1.5 mi) was swarming with them! Had to bum some spray from the very nice ranger at the lookout, for the return trip. Thank you nice ranger lady. I've forgotten your name but not your warm smile and generousity. After reaching Tahquitz by 8, I decided to venture on to Saddle Junction. Devils Slide approach and Saddle Junction had much more traffic. I had gorgeous vistas and beautiful pines all to myself the entire length of South Ridge, including window rock, until the last .5 mi on the return. Can't say enough good things about this trail.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

This is the same trail as the South Ridge to Tahquitz Peak that is also listed. Great hike and great views.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The walk up the forest road is a bit disheartening but a good workout. The trail is well marked and has a rewarding finish with great side views down into the town and to Suicide Rock across the valley. Still quite a bit of snow especially above 7,500 ft. Waterproof shoes are must, microspikes/crampons are very helpful for the top half, poles/axe would have been added security but not needed.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

this is a awesome hike. I actually think is moderate to hard but well worth it! it's a winding since single track. we we think in December and once we got to top it started raining so we boogied down and as soon as we got to bottom it started snowing. gorgeous hike!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This is a great hike once you get to the trailhead. We did not realize that you can drive up the first mile to where the actual trail starts. It might be safest if you have a four-wheel-drive. The road is very windy and steep and has some big potholes as well.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Beautiful hike in Idyllwild!! The last mile of the road to the trailhead is unpaved. It's not too bad though since my Corolla was able to crawl to the parking lot (note "crawl" though....). You will need to get a free permit at the ranger station for this hike. This trail definitely is less crowded than starting from Humber Park, which means yay for more solitude! We did encounter a RATTLESNAKE on a bush that was on the side of the trail! It snapped at my dog (he wasn't bitten. Thank goodness!!) and rattled its tail so we quickly backed off to give it its own space. I did see a few dogs running off leash on the trail so it made me really nervous! I think my dog would have been bitten if I wasn't able to pull on his leash quick enough! This trail does require your dog to be on a leash, but of course this is not always being followed by everyone. In any case, enough with the rattlesnake talk. I would just be cautious. The climb to Tahquitz Peak is not too bad until the last mile or so. That's when the switchbacks start and you will feel the steepness. However, the view on this trail is SO SPECTACULAR that if you run out of breath, just turn around and enjoy the gorgeous scenery! I personally like this trail more than going through Devil's Slide from Humber Park. There is a fire lookout when you get to the peak. They are open on weekends so you can go in, sign your name on the registry and chat with the volunteers. The San Jacinto Wilderness is just absolutely stunning! Will definitely do this hike again.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Great hike with some beautiful scenery.

Monday, June 27, 2016

First time up this trail to the Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout. Excellent trail with some very long and challenging switchbacks. This hike is listed as 8.4; however, after reaching the Lookout Tower and visiting with the ranger for a while (3.66 miles) I headed ENE to where the South Ridge Trail meets the PCT and the Chinquapin Flats (.5 miles). My total hiking distance was 8.18 miles

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A group of 4 of us hiked up to the lookout tower as one of our training hikes in preparation for Half Dome in 2 months. We were somewhat confused as to where to start the trail. We ended up parking on Taquitz View Dr and hiking up the Forest Route 5S11. However many people drove up the forest route and there is parking at the trail head for South Ridge Trail. It was 8.95 miles from where we parked and is probably about 7-7.5 files round trip from the trail head. The forest route is a very rutted and steep dirt road, so be prepared if desiring to drive up that. South Ridge Trail is very nice. It is constantly uphill, really no up and down along the way. And as others have said the last mile or so gets pretty steep. My tracking app told me the grade was 15-25% along this portion. It is worth it though, the 360 degree views from the top are wonderful. Great hike!

Friday, May 06, 2016

I adored this trail! Loved taking detours to sit up on the banks of boulders as we made our way up! Climbed through Window Rock up and back. Sat in the hole for a breezy lunch. Luckily no one else came bay. Bonus for me were the Manzanita bushes in full bloom, never have seen them flower before and one the way down came across a small grove of Snow Flowers (Snow Plants) popping up out of the underbrush! The trail was great...views from both sides. The dirt road in I wasn't prepared for! My new Honda HRV came through with flying colors however!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Beautiful trail - steep at the peak. Saw 5 other hikers. Wonderful views on both sides of the trail, Idllywild on one side and Hemet Lake on the other. Good rock formations.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Very good trail. Pretty brutal at the end

Monday, November 30, 2015

Excellent trail. Hiked this yesterday with family, great experience. Except for the switchbacks approaching the fire lookout at the end (last mile), trail was graded well. Did not feel as though it was very strenuous, although elevation gain from trailhead is approximately 2000 feet. There was a lot more snow than expected, especially at the higher elevations. There was also a lot of ice on the switchbacks at the end, so getting down was tricky. The fire lookout (elev. 8828 ft.) has great views, although be forewarned, the wood planks on the balcony were iced over and I almost slipped a few times. However, it is a nice area to eat lunch or a snack. All in all, a great experience, especially since it never snows in San Diego.

Note: You need a USFS permit to enter the National Wilderness. They are free and self issued from the USFS Station in Idyllwild. Dogs are allowed on this trail - we brought ours along. The trailhead is tricky to access, you must go up a harrowing dirt road off of Saunders Meadow Rd. to access the "Parking lot" as it is described on the map.

Have fun!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Great trail, bring plenty of water. There isn't a lot of shade once you get towards the top and in the heat the steep terrain get's rough. It's a great trail and has great views. At the top there is a fire watch tower. Great views from the perch.

Friday, February 07, 2014

This is by far my new favorite trail in Idyllwild. A perfect trail to start in the morning and finish up before lunch. The grade was not too steep at all, it was a gradual climb and I did not feel drained by the end of the hike. The views were some of the best in the area in my opinion (and I have been on most of the hikes in the area). I will say one thing though: I was expecting a little snow on this trail since I went in the middle of winter. But I was not expecting the ice. Be wary of this if you are taking this hike where there is the potential for snow: it was very dangerous and slippery ice so I would recommend the proper gear or else you might not be able to complete the hike. Overall though, I would do this hike again in a heartbeat.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I live down by the 243 and saunders meadow's rd and have been over night backpacking up on southridge I have been hauling around 25lb's backpack its over 1000' climb to the trailhead from my place and I have been going a bit farther each time camping out 200' from the trail then hiking to the lookout at the top in the morning there seems to be only 3 or 4 nice flat spots to camp that are 200 from trail and it can be a bit windy if you pick one thats not behind a rock also southridge is a dry trail no streams so bring pleanty of h20 if spending the night. The trail itself is in great shape and just the last mile is steep. I love it I keep my backpack loaded and if I feel like it I throw it on walk out my front door mostly around 4pm hike up to the trailhead and find a place to camp. It's a great training tool for some longer trips I am working towards.

Monday, February 14, 2011

This was my first time hiking in Idyllwild and I was really glad we chose this trail. It was absolutely beautiful every step of the way. We took the South Ridge trail to the Tahquitz lookout tower and back. Great day hike and one heck of a workout (wake up call). It was a bit chilly early in the morning, but once the sun came out we found ourselves quickly taking off layers. The temperarure was perfect the rest of the day. There were times we had to cross patches of ice and snow that weren't to bad on the way up, but coming down were very slippery, so be careful. It took us a little while to find the road the trailhead was located on. Some of the signs in Idyllwild are hard to spot or can only be seen from a certain direction. Then we found the road was closed, so we had to walk a good distance to the actual trailhead. I definately will do this trail again in the future and would recommend it.

18 days ago

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