San Jacinto Peak is the highest peak in the San Jacinto mountain range at 10,834 feet of elevation; and the second tallest mountain in Southern California. It is also the sixth most topographically prominent peak in the contiguous United States.In the past, San Jacinto was known to the Cahuilla Native Americans as Aya Kaich, meaning an area with smooth cliffs. To them, the mountain was the home to Dakush, the meteor and legendary founder of their tribe. Today, San Jacinto is known to hikers and mountaineers as one of the “Three Saints”, a term that refers to the three tallest mountain ranges in Southern California – the San Jacinto Range, the San Gabriel Range, and the San Bernadino Range. The other mountain members of the Three Saints are Mount San Antonio, and Mount San Gorgonio. The mountain has also been popular with modern explorers and conservationists, including John Muir, who stated, “The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth”. The mountain is also a popular destination due to its proximity to Southern California, and has multiple points of access on both its Eastern flank (Palm Springs) and its Western Side (Idyllwild).
Out of all the continental United States, Southern California offers some of the greatest variety in terrain. What it does not offer on occasion on certain trails is serenity, and solitude. While popular trails face heavy traffic nation-wide, popular trails in Southern California sometimes resemble a human version of the region’s congested roadways. Despite these problems, hikers of all skill levels in the region – especially in 2016 – know where to go and when to go to avoid crowds, thanks in part to the internet, and thanks in part to a greater interest in hiking generally. One of the routes in the region that has always been popular has been the Aerial Tramway to San Jacinto summit, due in part to the moderate distance (11.5 miles roundtrip), moderate elevation gain (2,190 feet), unique aerial tram ride experience, and possibility of summitting one of Southern California’s highest mountains (unofficially now known as the “Six Pack of Peaks”).
One of the best places to hike in Southern California is Mount San Jacinto State Park, in part because there are a number of great routes up Southern California’s second highest mountain; and in part because the park offers a number of great hiking opportunities for all skill levels. One of the more moderate hikes that doesn’t involve summiting the mountain, but provides great views and solitude is Deer Springs Trail to Strawberry Junction.
One of the things most people don’t realize about Southern California is that while we do have beaches and deserts, we also have mountains – and those mountains have a number of great spots for hiking. Idyllwild, California, is a small mountain town that is close to both Los Angeles, and San Diego; it is located on the Western side of Mount San Jacinto, and can be utilized as a jumping off point to climb the mountain; and is also a great spot to go day hiking in or around the city year-round. While I love climbing San Jacinto, and have done so many times, it is a strenuous climb, and is one that is not for everyone. Fortunately, in this case, you don’t have to be a climber to get a great view of Idyllwild, and the surrounding portions of San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto – Santa Rosa National Monument as these views can be seen from the best day hike in the area, Suicide Rock.