A sublime spectacle
Mount San Jacinto (10,834') has over 8,300 feet of topographic prominence, making it the 6th most prominent peak in the continental U.S. Mount San Jacinto is perhaps best known for being the destination for the iconic Cactus-to-Clouds hike.
This route to Mount San Jacinto from the Deer Springs Trailead is up the west side of the mountain and is much more scenic and much less crowded than the popular route to the peak from the east side via the Mountain Station of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Most people going to the summit ride the tram up from Palm Springs to the upper tramway station (which is at 8,500' in elevation), and from there hike 11 miles round trip to Mount San Jacinto.
Naturalist John Muir wrote of San Jacinto Peak: "The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!" While that description may smack of hyperbole, the views at the summit are awesome, as are those along the journey to the summit.
From the trailhead parking lot, travel upward on a wide dirt trail until you come to the Deer Springs Trail. There are several trail junctions that you will encounter on the Deer Springs Trail, so it is a good idea to have a GPS track and/or a good trail map while hiking on the trail.
After a couple of miles there will be a side trail to the right that goes to Suicide Rock; continue on the Deer Springs Trail. After a couple of more miles you will come to Strawberry Junction. There is a nice rock outcropping here that has some nice views, so some hikers may wish to stop and check it out.
Continue straight at Strawberry Junction to stay on the Deer Springs Trail. At Strawberry Junction the Deer Springs Trail becomes part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Continuing on the trail, there are several junctions in succession that branch off to other trails: Marion Mountain Trail; Seven Pines Trail; and Fuller Ridge. These all branch to the left, so take the right fork at the junctions to stay on the Deer Springs Trail. At the Fuller Ridge junction, the PCT branches off toward Fuller Ridge, so you'll say goodbye to the PCT at that point.
A mile or so past the Fuller Ridge junction you'll come to Little Round Valley, which has camping sites, a stream, and a couple of restrooms. If you are looking to take a quick break, this is a good place to do it. The trail steepens a bit past this point, and in another mile you will come to a junction with the Mount San Jacinto Peak Trail. At this point you will be 0.3 miles below the summit. From here take the Peak Trail up to the summit. There will be a bit of rock scrambling just below the summit, but there is no exposure involved.
To complete the hike you could simply reverse course and retrace your steps back to the trailhead. An alternative is to do a lollipop loop by first following the Peak Trail to the left once you come to the Peak Trail-Deer Springs Trail junction that is 0.3 miles below the summit. Follow the Peak Trail to Wellman Divide; then take the Wellman Cienega Trail to Saddle Junction, and then take theStrawberry Cienega Trail to Strawberry Junction. Once at Strawberry Junction, take a left on the Deer Springs Trail and follow it back to the trailhead.
Danger Will Robinson
The Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness is home to the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake. This rattlesnake has a neurotoxic venom, which is more life-threatening than the hemotoxic venom of most Arizona rattlesnakes. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes aren't unusually aggressive, so there is no need to be unduly alarmed while hiking in the area. Nonetheless, hikers should be aware that these snakes may be present along the trails.
There are a number of seasonal creeks and springs along the Deer Springs Trail. There is a creek at Little Round Valley which seems to be perennial; some springs may run year round also. If you are camping in the area, it would be best to check with the San Jacinto Ranger Station about availability of filterable water.
No potable water is available on the hike.
Dayhikers will need to obtain a San Jacinto Wilderness Day Use Permit in order to hike in the San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness. The good news is that the permits are free and there is no quota system in place, so the permits are available for the asking. Permits can be obtained at the San Jacinto Ranger Station (54270 Pine Crest Ave, Idyllwild, CA 92549), which is about a mile from the trailhead. If you are there after hours just fill out the permit information at a kiosk in front of the Ranger Station -- drop the white copy in a slot at the kiosk and keep the yellow copy for yourself.
There is a group size limit of 12 hikers. Only one permit is needed for a group.
Parking is free at the trailhead. The parking area is a bit small, but cars are allowed to parallel park on both sides of the road.
There are 2 campgrounds along the Deer Springs Trail, one at Strawberry Junction and the other at Little Round Valley. Permits are needed to camp and there is a cost involved. It is best to get a permit in advance of the date that you are camping -- check with the San Jacinto Ranger Station for details.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
This is a moderately difficult hike.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.