By Dan Sanchez
Just a short two hour drive from Los Angles, the San Jacinto Wilderness is a getaway that offers high-country terrain and beauty that’s waiting to be explored. Located near Palm Springs, California, Mt. San Jacinto spires over the desert floor and at the top, can be up to One of the most popular trails is the hike to Mount San Jacinto Peak, that has an elevation of 10,834 ft. The hike is 11 miles and is moderate, but strenuous in some parts. You begin at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway where the ten minute ride takes you up 8,516 ft. into the San Jacinto wilderness. Tickets are just under $24 for adults and under $17 for children ages 3-12.
Once you exit the tram at the top, you take the walkway down to the Long Valley Ranger Station and take the Low Trail to Round Valley. The first two miles of the hike is deep in pine forest and can be a bit busy. Most of the local visitors like to take the short hike into Round Valley and return to enjoy a meal at the Peak’s Restaurant or Pines Cafe back at the tramway station.
It’s after you reach Long Valley that the hike begins to climb. As you approach Wellman Divide (9,720 ft) the hike becomes more strenuous. The steep ascent up the trail is beautiful but because the air is thinner here, some may have difficulty breathing. Taking a short rest is common and you’ll see plenty of hikers resting along the path. Once you reach Wellman’s Divide, the view is spectacular. It’s a great place to stop for lunch or a snack, before heading up to the summit. On cloudy days or if there’s a chance of rain or thunderstorms, the rangers do not permit hikers to visit the summit. But if the day is sunny and clear, the accent is only another 2.4 miles till you reach the base of the summit. Here you’ll see a stone cabin and you’ll have to scramble up about 100 yards to reach the peak.
After coming down from the peak, you can continue east on the Deer Springs Trail that hooks up to the Pacific Crest Trail. There are also numerous other trails in the area that, require a wilderness permit. The Mt. San Jacinto Peak hike is great during the summer to escape the heat, but it is also attainable in the winter and spring. Because of the high elevation, it’s recommended you wear good hiking boots or trail shoes with excellent traction. Many slips and falls cause injuries along this trail. The higher elevation also requires you drink more water and bring sun screen as you’ll be exposed at the higher points of the trail after Wellman’s Divide. For more information, contact the San Jacinto Ranger District at (909) 382-2921.