Winter is coming late this year. This means that the trails in the high country of the San Jacinto Mountains are still open and passable even in December.
Last Saturday, a friend and I threw caution to the wind in the face of a storm rolling in off the Pacific and walked the route connecting Idyllwild with the Palm Springs Tram.
The route begins at the Humber Park Trailhead, just outside of Idyllwild, and continues up the Devil’s Slide Trail to the “saddle,” where trails diverge in many directions. The first couple of miles out of Idyllwild are a climb with no respite, but clear areas afford many commanding views across the valleys and out to the coast range and the ocean beyond. This is true a true highlight of Southern California.
From the saddle, we head past meadows and through pine forests along the Long Valley trail. It doesn’t take long in this narrow range before you are looking down at the desert on the east side of the escarpment and can see the shores of the Salton Sea.
Late in the journey, there is a long upward haul toward Hidden Lake Divide and then the descent begins to Round Valley and eventually to the tram.
All told, we were on the trail a scant 5 hours. Not bad for traversing a range. The tram is a treat for anyone who has not had the experience. And upon arrival, they have set up a restaurant and bar to reward you for your efforts. The ride down is free for hikers and of course you’ll need to have a shuttle vehicle at the bottom.
View from the Devil’s Slide of a storm rolling in off the Pacific.
View to the east. Hazy desert and the shores of the Salton Sea.
The arid, east side of the San Jacintos, with the storm that was chasing us east just making it over the ridge line.
The storm closing in, and making the wind howl as we neared the end of the trail.
The ride down the tram to the desert below.
After seeing how quickly this route could be traversed, I devised in my head a trip that would be perfect for a weekend getaway.
- Begin in Palm Springs and take the tram to the top.
- Walk the 8-ish miles to Humber Park trailhead in Idyllwild.
- Walk the couple of miles into town, or perhaps catch a ride from another hiker or climber.
- Get a room at a local hotel or bed and breakfast.
- Clean up and go out for a nice dinner.
- Retreat to the cabin to chill by the fire.
- Grab a nice breakfast in the morning before getting on the trail back to Palm Springs
- Perhaps take a different, longer route back – there are several to choose from.
- Arrive at the tram for a nice meal with a commanding view of the desert below.
- Grab a free ride down the tram and return to reality.
I’m going to keep that one in the back of my head for future reference.