This Sunday I finished hike number 19/52 for the 52 Hike Challenge in 2015, and have now completed 214.3 of my goal of 1000 miles for this year. After hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to Mt. Baden Powell on Saturday, I decided to head south to Idyllwild for a summit attempt of Tahquitz Peak. The path for this peak starts on the Devils Slide Trail before meeting up with the PCT for a short while, and then breaking off towards the Tahquitz lookout. Tahquitz Peak is a 8846ft granite formation on the high western slope of the San Jacinto range. The name Tahquitz comes from the Soboba Indian tribe, as they named the peak after a spirit demon (read more here).
The hike to the summit of Tahquitz Peak via Devils Slide Trail begins in Idyllwild at the Humber Park parking lot. This parking area requires an adventure pass, and the hike requires a permit. We stopped by the ranger station in Idyllwild to pick one up before making our way to the parking lot. The Devils Slide Trail starts up as a series of switchbacks that gain pretty steeply. The morning temperatures were pretty cool, and a welcome relief from the high temperatures in the valley. This eastern face of Strawberry Canyon was holding on to quite a bit of snow and ice, which started about 1.5 miles in, and continued throughout the hike.
The first few miles of this hike are absolutely gorgeous, with pines, oaks, and chapparel around every switchback. The snow on the trail was shallow, soft, and free from slick ice, so it didn’t require micro-spikes or slow us down too much. After 2.4 miles of hiking we reached a saddle that acts as a junction for a few other trails. This is the part where we met up with the Pacific Crest Trail to continue on to Tahquitz Peak.
The snow started to get deeper as we continued on the PCT and made our way to Tahquitz Peak. There was so much snow in one section, that people had constructed igloos! This section of trail is a nice break for the legs, as the steep climb of Devils Slide trail levels out and winds through the forest.
Tahquitz Peak comes into sight at the final junction where you take a right hand turn to head towards the trail on the ridge. The trail runs just below the ridge and continues towards the lookout. This was the toughest section of hiking, as we had to posthole knee-deep for the last half mile. I carried Isla on my shoulder and Julia put Lilly in her backpack. From here, the views of the Strawberry Valley are nothing short of spectacular. A few hundred meters from the summit, the trail became impassable. There were no footsteps to be seen at this point, and the snow was so deep we had to stop, as we didn’t feel like pressing our luck. With a precipitous falloff happily waiting to meet a mistake, we stopped to evaluate the situation. Julia decided to stop there and wait with the dogs, while I climbed up along the ridge and began boulder hopping my way to the summit and fire look-out. The first few jumps were a bit tricky, as the ice surrounding each rock made things difficult. After I caught my first glimpse of the lookout, I knew I’d make it safely. I carefully picked my way to the summit and snapped a few photographs before returning to Julia and the dogs. The views from the Tahquitz Peak lookout are phenomenal. I would love to volunteer here sometime and spend the night.
The walk back to the trailhead was a pleasant once we moved past the postholing and deep snow. The temperature had risen quite nicely and the warm sun felt good on my back. Most importantly, Isla and Lilly finally looked tired. It took 16 miles of hiking this weekend, but they were finally looking ready for a nap.