Devil’s Slide Trail, San Jacinto Wilderness

Ah, the joys of a town surrounded by a state park / wilderness. On the second day of our stint in Idyllwild, we tackled the Devil’s Slide Trail in the San Jacinto Wilderness. Rather than doing the prescribed Willow Creek / Caramba loop at the top, we set off down the Pacific Crest Trail toward Tahquitz Peak, but snow covering the trail toward the end of the Tahquitz spur trail stymied us. With the skinny trail completely covered and slippery, and a steep drop-off one side, we went with the Better Safe Than Maimed option and turned around.

I used my AllTrails Pro subscription to download a map with the trail already marked and track our progress on my phone without a cellular connection to make sure we didn’t get off track. I lost cell reception before we even got to the trail, and California is not into trail markers. What gives, California? Give your Search & Rescue teams a break, keep hikers from accidentally getting lost.

We went on a Friday morning (yay vacation!) and only saw a few people on our way up. When we got onto the PCT, we frequently passed friendly through-hikers.

The trail is beautiful. After culling my photos, I still have 100! Granted, some of them are less picturesque documentation of the astounding amount of snow that was still on the trail at the end of May. Where we live, it had already been in the 90s with 300% humidity in May, so snow was borderline inconceivable.

At the beginning, we looked hiiiiiigh up at a lovely outcropping of rock that I christened The Jello Mold, for reasons that will be obvious from the photos. And then we climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and The Jello Mold grew ever closer, and then we were higher than it! California is amazing. (Dar says it’s Suicide Rock. Hey, we were on top of that yesterday!)

The terrain varies wildly! Tall pine forest on the way up transitioned to significantly sparser and rockier ground as we moved onto the PCT, and big boulders and low scrub appeared.

Total distance: 9.17 mi
Max elevation: 8652 ft
Min elevation: 6417 ft
Total climbing: 3891 ft
Total descent: -3891 ft
Average speed: 2.51 mi/h
Total Time: 06:07:58

Parking

There are two trailheads and multiple parking lots at Humber Park, where the Devil’s Slide Trail begins. Head to the upper lot, near the building and picnic table.

The Route

As you can see below, the mountain is steep. There are many switchbacks, and you gain elevation almost without realizing it (or maybe you don’t realize it because you’re staring at the ground, trudging while your glutes complain that they are already higher than the highest point in your home state and demand a contract renegotiation).

At first, The Jello Mold seems like a high up thing to admire from below.

The Jello Mold looms in the sky.

There are silly photo ops near the bottom.

Help me hold up the mountain!

The park service has thoughtfully pounded rebar into the ground in many spots to keep the trail from washing down the mountain.

Streams cross the trail several times.

There isĀ snow. In May. We are amazed. This first patch will soon be revealed to be a laughably small amount of snow.

The vistas are incredible.

Iiiiiiiincredible.

They make big rocks in this state, too.

The rocks are much bigger than Dar.

Hey, we caught up to The Jello Mold! When did that happen??

Holy crap, now we’re above The Jello Mold! This mountain is infinitely tall!

We paused for lunch at Saddle Junction. As a penguin, I immediately made for a spot in the shade, but it was chilly up there, and Dar soon abandoned me for a sun spot.

MORE SNOW!

So much snow that it will hold our poles up!

At Saddle Junction, we abandoned the hike we were theoretically doing and set out along the Pacific Crest Trail for Tahquitz Peak. The trees thinned out, leaving big areas of bare ground and rocks.



Hikers we met along the way told us the trail to the peak was still under pretty heavy snow cover, so we figured we’d go as far as felt safe. As we neared the point where the Tahquitz spur trail meets the PCT, the landscape changed again, introducing islands of low scrub brush.


The spur trail … was indeed covered in snow.

I don’t know about this. The snow is slanty and slippery, and there’s a lot of down.

The mountain about the trail was very rocky and steep.

The valley on the other side of the spur trail was very far away. But beautiful!

Does this capture why sliding off the trail seemed like a bad idea?

When the trail completely disappeared, we implemented Operation Don’t Die and retreated.

Back at the PCT junction, my backpack enjoyed a rest in the sun.



While I made like a lizard on a rock.


The descent was uneventful and equally lovely.





After yawning our way down the mountain, we made a beeline for Higher Grounds in Idyllwild for coffee. To my amusement, I got a blue crab mug … apparently Maryland follows you across the country like a stench you can’t quite scrub off.

Equipment

Backpack Camelbak Rim Runner hydration pack – I drank about two liters of water.
Navigation iPhone 6 with AllTrails Pro
Shoes HOKA ONE Stinson ATR 5 Trail-Running Shoe
I got blisters forming under the calluses on the outside of my big toes and the outside edge of the ball of my foot after a while. In the future, slather with Body Glide before and during the hike.
Socks Injinji Trail Midweight Mini Crew Toesocks
Poles Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
Food
  • stacks of sliced cucumber, pre-sliced cheese squares, and dry salami
  • mixed nuts
  • took clif bars, ate one

Food win! Veggie + protein without a carb wrapped around it is perfect.

Weather Beautiful and dry, high around 70 degrees.