Exploring Mt. San Jacinto, Southern California’s Second Highest Mountain
Standing 10,804 feet above sea level, Mt. San Jacinto is a formidable backdrop to the Southern California landscape. A popular destination for hikers, backpackers, and campers, Mt. San Jacinto offers an unspoiled wilderness experience in close proximity to one of the largest urban centers in the world.
Mt. San Jacinto, the second-highest mountain in all of Southern California, is a towering, majestic peak located on the eastern fringes of the great Los Angeles Basin. Separating the inland valleys and suburbs of Riverside and Hemet from the dry, hot, parched desert areas of Palm Springs and Palm Desert, Mt. San Jacinto is a formidable backdrop to the Southern California landscape.
Standing 10,804 feet above sea level, Mt. San Jacinto is the highest mountain in the San Jacinto Mountains and the highest mountain in the entire Peninsular Mountain Range, a series of mountains that stretches from Mt. San Jacinto in the north, all the way to the tip of Baja California! Accessible only by way of a few strenuous and long hiking trails, Mt. San Jacinto retains its rural and “uncivilized” nature. While the lower slopes of the mountain are penetrated by a series of road and highways, houses and small towns, Mt. San Jacinto is left untouched in its virgin state.
A popular destination with many outdoors enthusiasts – hikers, campers, rock climbers, and sightseers – Mt. San Jacinto is an alluring location for those strong enough and healthy enough to make the long trek to its summit. The shortest route to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto, nicknamed “San Jack” by many locals, is via the Marion Mountain Trail. This trail qualifies as a “no-nonsense” trail that doesn't waste any time gaining elevation. The one-way distance to the top of San Jacinto via this trail is roughly 5 ½ miles; and those miles are tough miles! The majority of those miles are the kind that leaves your heart thumping, your throat screaming, and your legs begging for mercy! But at the top of the summit, a summit that was once labeled as being “the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on earth” by none other than John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club and noted naturalist, the view of the surrounding landscape is well worth the work.
On a clear day, when the winds are blowing and the sky is swept clean of Southern California smog, it's often possible to make out the distant Pacific Ocean to the west, the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains to the north, and the low-lying ridges and mountain passes that mark the southern California border with Mexico and Arizona. Up here, standing atop Mt. San Jacinto's 10,000-foot-plus summit, with nothing but the wind in your face and the cool, crisp smell of elevation, the rest of the world seems a minor footnote; a distant nuisance in some far-away land that has no effect or reach on you as you sit guarded, suspended, and engulfed by the lofty heights of Mt. San Jacinto!