hiking idyllwild

Immersed in Fall Colors: Hiking Idyllwild

Ascend Mount San Jacinto on Deer Springs Trail and enjoy one of the state park’s most popular paths.

Julie Pendray Hiking

hiking idyllwild
View Lily Rock and Tahquitz Peak from Suicide Rock above Idyllwild.

It’s easy to feel small trekking along Deer Springs Trail toward Suicide Rock. Hiking Idyllwild among towering ponderosa and coulter pines, you ascend to a rock plateau at 7,500 feet with a panoramic view of the town, Tahquitz Peak, and Lily Rock, where international rock-climbing ratings originated.

Here, legend tells us, a young Native American princess and her lover leapt to their deaths to avoid forced separation. But, this autumn, we’re reflecting on nature instead with a walk that borders a gurgling stream, strolling amid sunshine-dappled golden-oak leaves in refreshingly cool temperatures before the snow sets in.

This hike is one of the most popular on Mount San Jacinto, above Palm Springs, and it’s accessible any time of year. Deer Springs Trail begins a mile north of Idyllwild on Highway 243, just north of the Strawberry Creek Bunkhouse. There are vehicles on an unpaved patch on the east side of the road before the path meanders up into Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness as well as the San Bernardino National Forest.

Considered moderately strenuous because of its 2,000-foot elevation gain, the 6.6-mile hike takes 4 to 5 hours round trip. Patience during the somewhat-barren first half-mile rewards climbers with the beauty of manzanita and wildflowers further ahead. There’s bliss at the trail’s end viewpoint — silence, punctuated by woodpeckers tapping and a sprinkling of birdsong.

To hike Deer Springs Trail, obtain a free Wilderness Day Pass from the state park ranger station in Idyllwild. Dogs are not allowed on the trail. As with any mountain hike, check the weather forecast before you go, hydrate well, and carry water and a light jacket. People coming up from sea level on the day of the hike may experience light-headedness that can be alleviated with hydration and by taking slow, deep breaths.


Autumn colors greet hikers on Deer Springs Trail this time of year.

Mt. San Jacinto Ranger Station, 25905 Highway 243, on the northern outskirts of Idyllwild. 951-659-2607; https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sbnf/about-forest/districts/?cid=fsbdev7_007800