There’s nothing quite like the feeling of taking that last step after thousands of previous steps where you find yourself standing on peaks that touch the clouds.
Everything is visible from where you’re standing and the feeling of sheer accomplishment combines with a sense of just how small we actually are. And boy, do you feel small when you’re standing at the peak of San Jacinto.
There are many ways that you can get there, but one of the lesser-traveled ways is through Marion Mountain Trail. If you’re looking for a hike away from the crowds that accompany the more popular trails heading to San Jacinto peak, this one is for you!
Marion Mountain Overview
Marion Mountain is located near Jean Peak and San Jacinto Peak, which is the second highest peak in Southern California and a very popular destination for many mountain travelers.
Marion Mountain is sometimes used as a passageway to San Jacinto Peak; a considerably less crowded trail as compared to other trails that lead up to San Jacinto.
1. A Colorful Story
Quite interestingly enough, the names of Marion Mountain and Jean Peak come from a sort of love triangle. Edmund Perkins, who was a US Geological Survey topographer during the end of the 19th century, gave both those names to the beautiful, soaring mountains.
He named Marion Mountain after Marion Kelly who was working at the Indian Bureau near where Edmund Perkins was working at that time.
But Perkins met Jean Waters while mapping in Northern California and she also claimed his heart. Eventually, Jean Waters and Perkins got married, and he named Jean Peak after her.
Even though Marion didn’t get Perkins, she got a whole mountain named after her – which if you ask me is a pretty great deal.
2. Getting To Marion Mountain
There are a number of different ways you can get to Marion Mountain, but the easiest way is to take a tram from Palm Springs.
If you take the tram, from the I-10, take SR111 south, and turn right at the tramway sign. Continue the road until the end, purchase your ticket, and ride up. Then, follow the marked signs to San Jacinto trail from the tram station until you reach the saddle just below San Jacinto Peak.
If you’re driving from Los Angeles, head out to the I-10. Follow the I-10 until you reach the town of Banning, then exit on 8th street, which is also marked 243. Follow the signs to Idyllwild.
Then, from the San Diego area, drive up the I-15 until Hemet, and then drive east on the SR 74 until the Mountain Center. Finally, turn north on SR 243.
San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain Trail
The Marion Mountain Trail to San Jacinto Peak is a pretty tough hike, but it is the shortest route to the peak.
The trail has an elevation gain of 4,500 feet, with steep climbing for about 5.6 miles. The starting elevation of the trail is at 6,480 feet, so you need to get acclimated for this hike.
The trail starts at the road leading to, but just before Marion Mountain Campground. From the trailhead, hike until the junction of Deer Springs Trail, which has about 2.5 miles of pretty steep hills. Head north on Deer Springs Trail until you reach the junction of the Seven Pines Trail.
Continue on Deer Springs Trail to Little Round Valley. When you pass Little Round Valley, continue until you reach the junction where you will find the short trail leading to the summit. Follow it until high point!
Reaching San Jacinto through Marion Mountain Trail and the other trails will total to about 11.7 miles, so it is basically a whole day of hiking. It can take anywhere between 5 – 8 hours, depending on your level of experience (and fitness!)
Reminders & Some Things You Need To Know
Before heading out, there are a few things you need to know along with some reminders about the trail.
Marion Mountain Trail is a pretty tough hike, so it is recommended for very experienced adventurers. It rests at a pretty high elevation with a lot of steep hills and switchbacks, which can be difficult for beginner hikers.
2. Parking Pass and Permits
Parking at all trailheads (except Palm Springs Aerial Tramway) require a National Forest Adventure Pass, which you can buy at any Ranger Station or through local merchants. They cost costs $5 for a day or $30 annually.
If you hike often or at least plan to do it often, I suggest you purchase an annual pass instead, it will save you a lot of money in the long run.
You also need a permit to enter San Jacinto Wilderness and State Park, which is where Marion Mountain sits. You can get on from the Idyllwild Ranger Station that is just off SR 243 at 54270 Pine Crest Road. These permits are self-served.
Please note that group size is limited to 12 people only as to preserve the natural environment. For this reason, dogs are also not allowed on the trail. In the same sense, leave no trace – pack out what you pack in. Remember to always take care of the places you adventure to!
4. Camping Reminders
If you are camping, pitch your tent on a durable surface at least 200 feet away from other people, the trail, and water sources. Campfires are also not allowed, but you can use a portable gas stove.
If ever you are hiking during the winter, bring your winter gear. Crampons might be necessary during heavy snow, or else you won’t be able to reach the peak.
5. Don’t Forget The Water!
As usual, never forget to bring water! A hydration pack like the Camelbak M.U.L.E Hydration Pack might be helpful for you if you aren’t packing a lot of gear. If not, get a filtered water bottle instead, so you can get water from natural sources.
Go On Your Adventure!
If you think you’re prepared or ready for a next big challenge, go on and try the adventure that comes in the form of the Marion Mountain Trail. Be sure you take it all the way up to San Jacinto Peak so you don’t miss a beat.
Just remember to bring all of your essentials and plan ahead so you are well prepared!
What other trails do you want to visit? Let me know. If you have any stories to tell about your experiences at Marion Mountain Trail, I’d love to hear them as well, so drop it in the comments below!
If you want more information, you can call these information centers:
(909) 382-2921Mt. San Jacinto Park Ranger Station