If you’re in the Idyllwild area do yourself a favor and go on this hike. We were in Idyllwild to celebrate my birthday and it was definitely the highlight of the trip. Tahquitz Peak is an extremely prominent peak overlooking Idyllwild and features a fire lookout. You’re treated to expansive views of the Inland Empire, Santa Ana Mountains, and beyond.
There is one minor hurdle, you MUST obtain a free permit at the Idyllwild Ranger Station before beginning the hike. Just go to the desk grab a form fill it out and drop into the provided slot. We got an early afternoon start since we slept in (late drive) and needed to buy lunch supplies in town. There should be ample parking at Humber Park where the hike starts.
The hike starts in Humber Park via the Devils Slide Trail. This trail will climb quickly via switchbacks up the canyon climbing 1,700 feet in 2.5 miles. If you’re coming from sea level this may make the climb a bit harder as you adjust to the altitude. We were thrilled that this trail is dog friendly so Max could enjoy it with us. The plants gradually change as you climb from oak and manzanita to primarily a pine forest.
After your 2.5 miles of climbing you will reach Saddle Junction where there are numerous options on where to go. If we had more time and no dog we might have continued on to Mt. San Jacinto to the north. We took a quick break took off our boots and enjoyed the shade and cooler temperature up at 8000 ft. After enjoying our short break we laced up the boots and made the turn to the right (south) for Tahquitz Peak.
The trail remains just below the ridge for a very gentle climb towards the south. The views of the Coachella Valley are expansive. The trail flattens out and becomes very exposed and sunny as you reach Chinquapin Flat which has several trail use campsites. From here you are almost to the peak make a quick turn west on the access trail. The trail narrows and you begin to get views to the west and north overlooking Idyllwild. The trail becomes progressively rockier as you approach Tahquitz Peak. With one final push over a few boulder steps you arrive at the lookout.
The lookout is staffed in the summer season by volunteers who are very friendly. We asked if it was okay to bring up the dog and they invited him up. The panoramas from the balcony of the lookout are stunning. You are afforded a 360 degree view of the Inland Empire, San Bernadino, Idylwild, and Coachella Valley. Even with some moderate haze in the sky the views were spectacular.
Given our late start we didn’t linger long at the lookout and quickly retraced our steps back to Humber Park. Halfway down Devils Slide the sun set quickly and we were in the dark. Of course I had forgotten to charge my headlamp so we took it slow coming down this section. This hike was the highlight of our trip to Idyllwild and I recommend to anyone in the area looking for a moderate hike with killer views.
Distance: 8.6 miles
Elevation: 2800 feet