Distance: 8.6 Miles | Elevation Gain: 2800 Ft
We started our drive at 5:30am, catching the pinkish-purplish hues of morning sky as we sped along the winding mountain road into Idyllwild from Banning. We never really consider hiking in the San Jacinto area due to the State Park's tight restrictions on canine companions but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this gem of a trail stayed within the bounds of the dog friendly San Jacinto Wilderness.
The first stretch of the trail offers some amazing views of Lily Rock and Tahquitz Peak looming high above. It's one of those hikes where you can clearly see your destination from the bottom, which can be equally awe-inspiring and intimidating. The trail continues upwards gradually, making it a fairly pleasant trek despite some occasional icy sections. Soon, views of Suicide Rock on the opposite ridge emerges. With the moon still shining bright in the morning sky and the receding shadow of Tahquitz slowly revealing the valley below, it was truly a glorious sight.
At Saddle Junction, Devil's Slide intersects with a network of other trails within both San Jacinto Wilderness and San Jacinto State Park, including the famous Pacific Crest Trail.
The section of the trail along the north face right before the summit was my absolute favorite. We climbed along a narrow, snow-covered path that curved across a steep and exposed slope with an amazing view of the valley below and Mount San Jacinto to the right. If the hike up to Mount San Jacinto looks anything like this, I now understand why so many call it their favorite of the Six Pack of Peaks.
We reached the historic Tahquitz Peak fire lookout at 8,846 ft and had it to ourselves! Built in 1937, it undergoes continuous restoration using only hand tools as power tools, even cordless ones, are prohibited in the wilderness area. We sadly discovered upon arrival that dogs were not allowed on the tower so Hoku, being a good boy, waited patiently for us at the bottom of the stairs. (Poor kid.) After a few quick photos, we rejoined him to explore the surrounding boulders and take in a view that seemed to stretch on forever. Apparently, you can even see all the way to Catalina Island on a crystal clear day.
Tahquitz Peak could very well be our new favorite hike. Well worth the early morning wake up call and the hour and a half drive to get there. Gotta hand it to you, San Jacinto Wilderness, you really are as stunning as they say.