Mt. San Jacinto via Deer Springs Trail

snow covered mountain, but needed a training hike

*Originally hiked: April 17-18, 2021

In March earlier this year, we got permits to hike the John Muir Trail in June.  It was time to train and the only way to do so, was to hit as many hard hikes locally as we can over the weekends.  Our first 10,000 peak to hit was San Jacinto Peak.

Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
San Jacinto State Park 19.10 miles 5,234 feet Out-and-back, loop

Mount San Jacinto sits at 10,834 feet above Palm Springs.  There is a rather strenuous hike that one could do called Cactus to Clouds from Palm Springs (desert floor) to the summit, climbing 10,700 feet.  This trail doesn’t have any water sources until 8,500 feet once almost hitting the Mountain Station of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  Respect the climb and make sure you are ready for it.  Read more about my hike in November 2016 here: Cactus to Clouds.

Mount San Jacinto State Park Website

Vlog on YouTube

Permits, Directions & Weather

*permit is required to hike and backpack overnight in the Mount San Jacinto State Wilderness.

Permits:  It is very simple to get a permit for day hiking as there is no quota for these.  There are several places you can fill out the form including: State Park Headquarters in Idyllwild, Long Valley Ranger Station and Stone Creek Campground.  Once you fill out make sure you keep a copy of your permit at all times while hiking.

As for backcountry permits, since this is a popular place, you will need to plan ahead as the established wilderness area campgrounds fill up pretty quickly.  To apply for the permit you can find the permit on the Mount San Jacinto State Park website; fill out the Wilderness Permit Application online and submit by mail with $5.00/person.  Check or money order only, no cash.  Don’t forget when sending the permit to include a self-addressed stamped envelope for you to receive you approved permit.

*Note: no dogs allowed in the wilderness.

Directions: The trailhead we started at – Deer Springs Trailhead.  We picked up our permits at the San Jacinto Ranger Station in Idyllwild since we didn’t apply in advance and knew this wouldn’t be an issue as it was dead of winter. The park entrance is N on the 243 about 0.8 miles from the Ranger Station.


Since this trail is a 5,000 foot climb, you will definitely experience different types of weather varying from 80 to 30 degrees easily during the winter.  Make sure you check the weather and plan packing appropriately.

Idyllwild ~ 5,318 feet

San Jacinto Peak ~10,500 feet

Maps, Books and Gear Recommendations

Hike Stats

Day 1

Day 2


It was time to get serious about our training for the John Muir Trail. First of 3 big mountains in Southern California were to be tackled, Mount San Jacinto to begin with.  Since no doggies are allowed, we dropped puppy off at my sisters house early around 5:00am. Before you head up, you need to make sure you pick up your permit or have it. In our case since it was off season we headed to Idyllwild just a mile passed the trailhead where we were to begin. Filled out a self issued overnight wilderness permit at the headquarters, as the time we arrived the office was closed.

We began at Deer Springs Trailhead which took about 5 minutes to drive from the ranger station.  There is no warm up for this hike, it goes straight uphill from the beginning; hence using this as a training hike.

The weather difference from where we started and where we ended up was almost a 50 degree difference. On the way up I passed by a group and there was a girl that had a cardboard sign of Mt. San Jacinto Peak on it and I just randomly blurted out that was a good idea.  She then followed with are you headed up there?  Do you want to take it?  And proceeded to give it to me.  I thanked her, put it on my pack and trotted on.  Cool moment 🙂

Reaching camps

Once we got up to Round Valley, the camp spots were mostly covered in snow and didn’t look inviting.  Instead, we skirted straight up to get close to the summit.  It got very cold and windy and we decided that we would just get up in the morning the next day to summit without our full packs for sunrise.   When we made the decision we had our eyes on a small open area no ice/snow that was perfect to put up our tent.  There was no water source the entire way other than fresh snow, hence the reason we situated ourselves near a big patch or more.

To have water to make dinner and water for the night and the next morning we had to melt the snow in our jetboil.  Weather was coming in and we quickly put all of our belongings we could on while we took care of our camp tasks, but especially melting snow for water.  Dinner was Peak Refuels Beef Pasta Marinara, first time trying it and it did not disappoint.  We obviously went into the tent to have our dinner after having enough of wind and it starting snowing lightly.

The night was restless and very windy, very hard to sleep; 5am we had enough, got up packed up everything headed straight for the summit and back down.  It wasn’t the most pleasant at the summit due to the wind and cold, but a few tears later from my eyes because of this we dashed down to our backpacks to scamper down to our car.

The way back down

We took a different route back to be able to make this trip a loop.  I honestly think I liked this route better, not because there was more snow, but the views that were granted to us by the landscape that was many many many years older than us.  I particularly enjoyed that we got to hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail and being able to see some new camp areas I would have never known in the area if I didn’t hike it.  It was quieter as well on this part of the trail, which obviously if you know me it’s non unusually odd for me to appreciate.

After a couple hours into the trail down back to the car, a coffee was in order of course with the usual hot chocolate mix that we routinely have on the trail.  I might of snuck in some Peak Refuel Breakfast Skillet during our break for some energy.

The trail down honestly sucked; I’ve been having an issue with my knee in the past and the downhill/mileage brought that issue up again.  Needless to say, the hike down took a little bit longer than downhills should take; not much longer I’ll keep telling myself – but I was ecstatic to get to the car.

I hope you enjoyed this write up and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to write comments below.

Happy Adventures! Annette

Check out others who have written about Mt. San Jacinto

Before I picked this hike, I went ahead and tried to figure out the hardest longest routes.  Aside from doing Cactus to Clouds which I did in May of 2016, this seemed like a really good option as a training hike for the John Muir Trail.  I took a look at these few sites for inspiration.  Enjoy!

Modern Hiker: Mount San Jacinto via Deer Springs

Hiking Guy: Hike Mt. San Jacinto Peak on the Deer Springs Trail

another option for a hike: Hikespeak: San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain Trail


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