Idyllwild Again

Route 243 from Banning

This route into the San Jacinto Mountains does not disappoint.

We discover new trails off State Route 243. But today our plan is to drive to Humber Park and take the Scenic Trail.

I mean, what do you think of when you hear scenic  trail? For some reason Jeff and I think of a nature trail… an easy loop, short and sweet, maybe a mile or two.


Scenic is an appropriate adjective…

Suicide Rock…

Tahquitz Peak…

The mahogany colored bark of the Manzanita Trees mesmerizes us.

A look inside a fallen tree trunk…

After 50 minutes of oohing and aahing and stopping to take pictures we come to the twofold conclusion that this Scenic Trail is neither a loop or a short hike. Later, we find out that the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail is a 5.2 mile out and back trail that can continue for another 7.2 miles out and back after linking into the South Ridge Trail. We’re not tired but we decide to turn back anyway and return again another day soon.

A Scenic Route to Palm Springs

Via Idyllwild…

From San Jacinto’s Diamond Valley RV Resort to Idyllwild is only 25 miles away on Highway 74.

We first visited the artsy alpine village on Mt. San Jacinto in December of 2015. In April of 2017 we returned and hiked the Devil’s Slide Trail from Humber Park.

On Thanksgiving Day 2016 we took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up the San Jacinto Mountain.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway does not drop you off in Idyllwild unless you plan on hiking in. From the mountain station it’s about 7 miles to Humber Park and then about 3 miles more into Idyllwild.

In December 2017 we returned hoping to take a short hike but it was too cold. So we checked out a few shops and had a burger at the Lumber Mill Bar and Grill.

Messy and delicious!

Check out this Christmas decoration:

Today our destination is Palm Springs.

Now, Palm Springs is about an hour away from us. Ramona Blvd. and/or Ramona Expressway intersects with the 79 heading north to Beaumont where we take I-10 east.

Today, however,  we plan a day-trip by driving into Idyllwild and taking the Pines-to-Palms Highway into Palm Springs. We always wondered what it looked like if we just continued on 74 instead of turning left onto 243.

And today we find out. It’s a stretch of some 57 miles. We pass southeast  by Lake Hemet and through the Santa Rosa Indian Reservation where we head north into Palm Desert, Cathedral City, and Palm Springs on the 111.

The really dramatic scenery begins in the canyons approaching the desert cities. We pull in to a scenic view parking area overlooking the Coachella Valley.

We still have to meander through the winding ribbon of highway that appears below as a silver thread.

In the near future we plan on taking I-10 to Banning and driving up to Idyllwild taking State Route 243. Stay tuned!

Devil’s Slide Trail

 Mount San Jacinto

In December of 2015, Jeff and I first visited Idyllwild, the small town nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains within the San Bernardino National Forest, about 1 1/2 hours away from Lake Elsinore. At that time the most popular trail, Devil’s Slide, was accented  with ice and snow, too risky for us to hike in sneakers with 2 dogs. Besides, it was cold!

We finally return a year and 4 months later on a beautiful Saturday morning.

Humber Park is our destination. Our goal is to hike the Devil’s Slide Trail to Saddle Junction and back, 2.5 miles uphill and then 2.5 miles downhill.

Tahquitz Rock looms ahead as we approach Humber Park.

The parking spaces are all taken but we find an empty row to pull into, under the view of Suicide Rock.

It’s almost 10:00 AM. Backpackers with sleeping bags and poles emerge from parked cars. Day hikers with knapsacks and poles start up the trail. Rock climbers with helmets and gear and poles head to Tahquitz or Suicide Rocks or someplace closer.

Jeff and I begin to feel out of place, wondering what’s the big deal. Where are the backpackers heading to? What’s with the hiking poles? Do we need to carry food with us? How long can a 5 mile hike take?

We know a Forest Adventure Pass is required. Does our Interagency America the Beautiful Senior Pass qualify? We think so, but then we discover that we also need a permit to hike the Devil’s Slide Trail.

Yes, that’s us reflected above! We hem and haw and haw and hem and start the trail anyway, only to encounter yet another sign instructing us to stop going any further without a day permit. So, we get back into the car and look for the ranger station. Of course, the GPS on our phones no longer works because we are not receiving any cell phone service in the mountains. So we keep heading down and, just as service kicks in, we find the station and fill out a day use permit.

A half hour later we are back at Humber Park and there is only one space left to park the car. We are so eager to begin this hiking adventure that we only take light jackets and cell phones with us. What are we thinking? No water, no hats for sun protection! Obviously the increased altitude must have affected our common sense since the round trip trek takes us almost 3 1/2 hours. After the first quarter mile we are thirsty. By the time we reach Saddle Junction our pace has slowed considerably and our muscles ache. We are craving hydration! And we still have 2.5 miles to go to return to the car and our water supply. But, we live through it and learn a valuable lesson, or at least how stupid we are.

You might want to don a hat and grab a water bottle as I take you along the Devil’s Slide Trail.

It’s about 10:30 in the morning. Hikers and backpackers have to take Devil’s Slide to reach Saddle Junction to reach the Pacific Crest Trail, Tahquitz Peak, San Jacinto Peak, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and the overnight campground in the Chinquapin Flats area.

The picture below shows a backpacker entering the trailhead. (Yes, he has poles and is wearing a hat!)

I romanticize that he is headed onto the PCT because a pickup truck dropped him off and I overheard the driver wish him a safe journey.

The trail is beautiful and well maintained. The surrounding views are breathtaking. It’s not a steep climb but a long gradual upward slope with angular switchbacks.

Here are some pictures on the way up.

What do you notice about the mountainside to the right and left of the path? It’s just one big slope. I imagine myself slipping down the slide, so I try not to look.

The trail does not disappoint. Around every bend there is something more beautiful to discover.

We cross several small streams trickling from the rocks. There’s a small pool of crystal clear water that looks inviting. We could just scoop our hands into it and take a drink. But we play the caution card. Later a tiny waterfall delivers its precious liquid like a garden hose.

Again, we overthink and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

We have lost our sense of how far we have hiked and how much further we have to go to reach Saddle Junction. Tired and oh so thirsty, Jeff suggests that at 12:00 Noon we turn back. But we both know we will feel disappointed and defeated if we don’t reach our goal.

So, as we begin to encounter day hikers coming down, we start to ask them how much further to Saddle Junction. The first group we ask is a multi-aged family group. They tell us it’s a good hour away. Silently, Jeff and I are both skeptical and we keep going. Soon, we meet a younger party of tall, thin men. They inform us that we are only about 30 minutes away. Finally, we stop here.

We consider going back.

A middle-aged man and his daughter are coming down the trail. I remember them from the first time we approached the trail without a permit. “How much further?” “Not too far,” they reply, and then his phone rings. Surprised, he answers it. We never do find out how far “not far” is. (At least he had service! An hour later my son called me and I didn’t know that until we were heading back to Lake Elsinore.)

And then a trio of young women with backpacks and poles and hats and water, whom we recognize from the trailhead parking lot, cheerfully approaches. “Are we almost there?” “Fifteen minutes,” they reply.

Jeff and I pick ourselves up, shake off the screaming leg muscles, ignore our parched throats, and continue.

Ten minutes later, we arrive! There are signs on trees all over the place.

According to, Tahquitz Peak is a more strenuous 1.5 mile hike beyond Saddle Junction. And according to, Chinquapin Flats is a camping area between Saddle Junction and Tahquitz Peak.

To the left is the trail leading to San Jacinto Peak, a 16 mile out and back hike from the Humber Park trailhead in Idyllwild. (

We recognize the Long Valley Trail name from our trip on Thanksgiving Day 2016 up the mountain on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. I vaguely recall that Idyllwild was about 7 miles away.

Our trio of women arrive just ahead of us and welcome us with a chorus of, “You made it!” They settle down and have lunch.

We sit and rest.

Jeff posts his picture on Facebook.

Thirsty, tired, and with aching and rubbery muscles, we head back.

One foot in front of the other… Each step closer…

For awhile I focus on the rocks…

And beautiful views…

We pass through the waters from the streams again. Too tired to stop and scoop up a handful to quench our thirst, we convince ourselves that we should just keep walking.

At last, I hear car doors slamming and the trailhead looms into sight. We rush to our car and guzzle down water.

An hour and fifteen minutes later we are in Lake Elsinore just outside of Canyon Lake. We’re hungry so we pull into the drive-through for In-N-Out Burger. (Supposedly this is THE fast food burger joint of Southern California, with secret online menu offerings that range from loaded cholesterol to lettuce wrapped non-burgers.) We opt for a hamburger meal combo and a cheeseburger meal combo. They both include fries and a soft drink. We sit in the parking lot and stuff our faces.

Fifteen minutes later we are back at Lake Elsinore Marina. We are tired and our calves talk back to us with each aching step. Next time we will bring water and wear hats!

Car Trippin’… Idyllwild

image Got a good reason!

Although we wanted to avoid the cold and snow this winter, Jeff was excited to see some of the mountain tops surrounding Lake Elsinore turning white. So, following the suggestion of Tim O’Connell for a nice day trip and wanting to see snow, Jeff suggests we take a ride to Idyllwild.


Set among tall pines and fragrant cedars, the town of Idyllwild is tucked away in the San Jacinto Mountains.


This small mountain resort offers horseback riding, hiking, and rock climbing, but no skiing. The popular Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks attract rookies and seasoned climbers alike.

Tahquitz Rock aka Lily Rock

Tahquitz Rock
aka Lily Rock


Suicide Rock

Suicide Rock

There are several trails that can accommodate people who are other-abled or who prefer a less rugged experience. The Devils Slide Trail branches off with a trail leading to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway known as the back door to Idyllwild.



Of course for those who just want a relaxing retreat there are cabins, restaurants, galleries, and boutique shopping. Art, music, and theatre thrive in this nestled hamlet.

We visited here in late December so the Tramway was closed, the Devils Slide Trail was icy and slippery, we weren’t prepared to hike anyway, and we had our dogs with us.

Some History:

The Cahuilla Indians originally inhabited this area in the summers to escape the heat of the desert. Later, shepherds brought their flocks here to graze. In the 1880s homesteaders, the Domenigoni family, stayed here. George and Sarah Hannah built a summer camp in 1889. In the 1890s a toll road from Hemet opened Idyllwild to settlement, logging, and tourism. A sanitarium for tuberculosis patients was built in 1901. The late 1960s and early 1970s brought an influx of hippies to the area. Timothy Leary owned a ranch nearby.

Other Tidbits of Info:

  • Idyllwild was first known as Strawberry Valley for the wild strawberries that grew along the creek.
  • Kid Galahad, the movie starring Elvis Presley, was filmed here.
  • The TV show, Bonanza, used a local ranch as a stand-in for the Ponderosa.
  • Several actors have owned homes here including: Barbara Hershey, Doris Day, Michael J. Fox, Sean Connery, and Dolly Parton.