Devil’s Slide Trail to Tahquitz Fire Lookout
Probably the second most popular trail in the San Jacinto Mountains is Devil’s Slide. Not normally ones to hit the crowded trails, this one promised decent views and moderate elevation gain. There was also an opportunity to reach the Tahquitz Peak Fire Tower from the other direction. Last month we did South Ridge to the tower, a calf burning stroll with its’ toughest leg in the last 1/4 mile. Snow and ice prevented us from going farther to the PCT junction on that trip.
Located not far from Idyllwild, the trail starts in Humber Park, which was little more than several parking lots. Finding a spot later in the day is hard to do, so get there early on the weekends. The view of Tahquitz Rock (Lily Rock) is the dominant landmark from the trailhead and urges you to climb the summit. The trail is well maintained (and travelled) slowly gaining elevation over the course of 2.5 miles to Saddle Junction. The views of Suicide Rock and the surrounding area are primo.
Today, we would hike with a friend who we promised to treat to a more challenging hike than the previous mild 10 miler on the PCT in the Mt Laguna area. Our objective today was the fire tower on the same ridge as Lily Rock. For many people, this trail is a great way to get to San Jacinto Peak without feeling you’ve cheated. On the way up, the trail was double wide, and alternates between that and single track. We crossed a few vernal streams on the way, one with decent flow. It will probably be gone by mid summer. There are many places to pull off the trail and do some bouldering. Each one promises a different angle of Lily Rock and the valleys below.
The junction is a good place for a break and many will eat their lunch and head back down. We decided to continue on to Tahquitz Fire Lookout through the Chinquapin Flat. It was like a leisurely stroll through an alpine forest and happens to be part of the PCT. A few up/downs, but a nice change up. Within a mile, there are remnants of a PCT marker post with a faint trail that breaks off to the right. We scrambled a bit and emerged into one of the best views in the San Jacintos. Lily Rock was in clear view as well as Suicide Rock. The fire tower was to our left. Our friend made his way out to an outcropping which provided some great photo ops. Once again, getting off the beaten path provided amazing vistas.
After hanging out a bit, we got back on the trail and the PCT breaks off about another 1/4 mile to the left. We continued on to the tower. Remnants of snow drifts encroached the trail. Here, it is single path and a steep drop off to the canyon below. I can see why the rangers closed this section last month. Laden with snow/ice, it would have been treacherous. We deposited some water bottles in the snow bank, hoping for some cool water on the way back. We would only run across 6 or so people on the trail since the junction. If you want to encounter fewer people, start later in the day. The views from the tower were limited today as the heat and haze obstructed the western vistas. To the east, a bit clearer into the desert.
The trip down was easy and fast. We stopped at the stream with the waterfall and let the cool water flow over our heads. Due to the crowd factor, this trail is best hiked during the week (Mon-Fri) in early spring.
I encourage you to get out and explore my friends. The Lord has made an awesome creation.