This is a moderate pace hike, please sign up only if you can keep up with the group.
Distance: 12 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 4800 ft
Hike Time: 7-9 hours
Trail Condition: OK, but a few difficult spots
Hike Type: Out and Back
Directionsto the Trailhead:
Drive north on the 243 from Idyllwild a few miles to the San Jacinto State Park Entrance. Turn right (on Azalea Trail Rd) and follow the signs for Marion Mountain Campground & Trailhead.
Drive south on the 243 from Banning 19 miles to the turnout for San Jacinto State Park. Turn left (on Azalea Trail Rd) and follow the signs for Marion Mountain Campground & Trailhead.
Marion Mountain Trail is the shortest, the steepest and, in the opinion of some hikers, the most scenic ascent of San Jacinto Peak. It gains 2,400 feet in just 2.5 miles. The rest of the climb to the peak via Pacific Crest and Deer Springs trails is nearly as steep.
Signed Marion Mountain Trail begins what is briefly (0.2 mile) a mellow ascent through the piney woods. You'll soon pass a spur trail leading north down to Marion Mountain Campground and begin the vigorous ascent of the northwest flank of Marion Mountain.
A bit more than 1.25 miles up the trail, a sign informs hikers they've entered the Mt. San Jacinto State Park Wilderness. Like a window on the world you left behind, the trailside view briefly opens up to reveal Highway 243 snaking through the mountains far below and the murky flatlands of the Inland Empire to the north.
Almost immediately, it's back to the trees, interspersed with ferns and big boulders. That hammering you hear could be from a high altitude headache but is more likely the rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker working away high atop one of the many snags near the trail.
After what may seem like one of the longest 2.7-mile stretches of trail in the Southland, you'll come to a junction. It's not quite the perfect four-way intersection pictured on trail maps, but it's well signed. You'll first encounter Pacific Crest Trail (Deer Springs Trail) coming in from the right (south). Turn left and walk 50 feet to a second junction. Seven Pines Trail descends to the north, but you continue your climb east on the signed PCT.
After a 0.3-mile ascent on the very well engineered and maintained PCT, you'll pass gurgling Deer Springs. The modest springs-spawned creek forms part of the headwaters of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.
The ascent continues another 0.25 mile up the other side of the creek canyon and junctions Fuller Ridge Trail. Keep right, and keep switchbacking for another mile to Little Round Valley, where a small trail camp is located.
The trail curves east, still climbing, still switchbacking for another 1.3 miles and 800-foot elevation gain to San Jacinto Peak's summit ridge. A final 0.3-mile ascent via the summit trail leads past a stone mountaineers hut to the peak.
Enjoy the view John Muir described as "the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!"