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An Overview of Mount San Jacinto State Park

An Overview of Mount San Jacinto State Park

Explore one of Southern California's most beautiful mountainous environments in Mount San Jacinto State Park. Here's what you need to know. Team


4 min read

July 05, 2023

Situated in the heart of Southern California, Mount San Jacinto State Park offers a stark contrast to the surrounding desert and metropolitan areas. Its magnificent landscapes encompass over 14,000 acres of dense alpine forests, lush meadows, crystal-clear mountain streams, and a peak that soars 10,834 feet above sea level. Its main attraction is Mount San Jacinto itself, the second-highest peak in Southern California.

A Glimpse into the Past

The park has a rich history dating back thousands of years, being initially inhabited by the native Cahuilla people. They resided in the mountain valleys, living with the vibrant wildlife and diverse plant species. After the European settlers' arrival, the region saw an influx of logging and mining activities, but it was also during this time, in 1897, that Mount San Jacinto was designated a Forest Reserve to protect its resources.

The state park status came later in the 1930s as a part of the nationwide initiative by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC built the park's original structures, hiking trails, and the iconic stone picnic tables, many of which are still in use today. Over the years, the park has remained a beloved haven for nature enthusiasts who come to enjoy its remarkable biodiversity and tranquillity.

There's plenty of history to observe in this desert landmark state park.

When to Visit


Spring in Mount San Jacinto State Park is a time of renewal. As the winter snow melts away, the park's flora and fauna come alive. It's an ideal time for bird watching as migratory species return to the park. However, some trails might still be covered in snow, so it's always best to check conditions before planning your visit.


Summers at the park offer a welcome respite from the scorching heat of the surrounding desert. Temperatures are cooler at higher altitudes, making it perfect for hiking, camping, and picnicking. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which gives a stunning view of the park, operates throughout summer and is a must-visit.


Autumn transforms the park into a painter's palette, with leaves turning into hues of gold and red. It's a perfect time for photography and leisurely hikes. Wildlife viewing is also at its best during the fall, as animals prepare for the coming winter.


Winter brings a snowy blanket to Mount San Jacinto, turning it into a winter wonderland. The park is a popular destination for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers a unique opportunity to witness the snowy peak up close.

Those in Southern California that enjoy winter sports should look to Mount San Jacinto State Park as an option for a day trip.

Getting There and Fees

Mount San Jacinto State Park is accessible via Highway 243 for those driving from Idyllwild, or by the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for those coming from Palm Springs. Note that the tramway's operation depends on weather conditions.

There is an $10 per vehicle fee for day use of the park, which is collected at the entrance. For those planning to camp overnight, the fee ranges from $10 to $45 per night, depending on the campground. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has its own fee structure, separate from the park's fees. As of the latest update, round-trip tram tickets are $30.95 for adults, $18.95 for children ages 3-10, and $28.95 for seniors ages 65 and above.

If you plan on visiting several California state parks throughout the year, consider purchasing an annual pass. The "California Explorer" Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass is $195 and covers day-use admission for most parks.

Getting to Mount San Jacinto State Park isn't too difficult, leaving you more time to enjoy your trip.

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Top 5 Things to Do at Mount San Jacinto State Park

1. Hiking on the Park's Trails

Hiking is undoubtedly a top activity to indulge in at Mount San Jacinto State Park. The park boasts more than 50 miles of trails, ranging from easy nature walks to challenging climbs. The Mount San Jacinto Peak trail, a strenuous 11-mile round-trip hike, rewards those who reach the summit with a breathtaking panoramic view of the Southern California landscape.

2. Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers a spectacular journey from the hot desert floor to the cool alpine surroundings of Mount San Jacinto State Park. The 10-minute ride rotates 360 degrees, providing a picturesque view of the Chino Canyon and beyond. Once at the top, you can explore over 50 miles of hiking trails or simply enjoy a meal at the mountain station's restaurant while soaking in the vistas.

Experience Mount San Jacinto State Park from a new vantage point by taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

3. Picnicking Amidst Nature

The park provides several picnic areas, many of which were originally built by the CCC and offer a historic charm. Pack a lunch and head to Idyllwild Nature Center, or any of the park's day-use areas, to enjoy a meal amidst the beautiful surroundings of Mount San Jacinto State Park.

4. Camping Under the Stars

Mount San Jacinto State Park features two main campgrounds: the Idyllwild and Stone Creek campgrounds. Idyllwild is open year-round and is particularly popular among rock climbers, while Stone Creek, surrounded by towering pines and black oaks, is perfect for those seeking tranquility. Whether you prefer a tent, an RV, or a more primitive wilderness experience, camping under the starlit sky of Mount San Jacinto is an unforgettable experience.

5. Wildlife Viewing

The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including mule deer, foxes, mountain lions, and a plethora of bird species. Whether you're an amateur naturalist or an avid birdwatcher, Mount San Jacinto State Park provides ample opportunities for wildlife viewing. Remember to respect the animals' space and observe them from a safe distance.

Mount San Jacinto State Park offers an unparalleled natural retreat with its alpine landscapes, abundant wildlife, and a wide range of recreational activities. Whether you're seeking adventure, tranquility, or simply a break from the city's hustle and bustle, there's something for everyone at this remarkable state park. So pack your gear, lace up your boots, and come create your own memorable experience at Mount San Jacinto State Park.

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