Mount San Jacinto State Park in southern California is named for one of the most prominent and popular peaks in the area, a granite mountain towering 10,834 feet above Palm Springs. Every year, thousands of hikers and climbers make the trek to this 14,000-acre park to climb the peak and look down at the spectacular view of the valley below. This gorgeous park and its rugged terrain are situated along the Pacific Crest Trail, just two hours from Los Angeles and San Diego.
But this park offers much more than hiking and climbing. Take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a breathtaking view of the park and surrounding area. Enjoy a picnic while you soak in the serenity of the ancient stone formations surrounding you. Speaking of soaking, take a dip in the nearby hot springs of Pine Cove. Grab your camera and shoot some amazing wildlife with the impressive backdrop of a southwestern wilderness. Take in some history and visit the park's Summit Shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Summertime isn't the only time to visit this park though; winter visitors will find the perfect environment for cold weather sports such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Mount San Jacinto State Park offers two beautiful campgrounds located near the rustic town of Idyllwild. These year-round campgrounds can accommodate up to 24-foot RVs and trailers, and those looking for full-service hookups won't be disappointed, although primitive campsites are available as well. So, whether you're interested in reaching the peak or you just want to bask in the warm California sunshine, pack up the Airstream and make this your next RV destination.
Mount San Jacinto park is located just two hours southeast of Los Angeles and two hours north of San Diego, near the town of Idyllwild and just a short jaunt from Palm Springs. Because the park was designed to limit the intrusion on its wilderness features, roads and parking are limited. The main highway, 243, is a single-lane road, complete with hairpin turns and a steady, steep climb. For this reason, the campground's maximum RV length is 24 feet and most of the parking spaces are limited to campsites; however, there are a few pull-offs suitable for day-trippers.
Winter conditions in the park may require chains on vehicles in order to safely make the climb in elevation. Four-wheel drives are recommended, and even they will require that care be taken in wet or winter weather. You will find the dramatic landscape and the serenity of the park are worth the extra effort.
Stone Creek Campground offers 48 campsites, with 24 sites available for RVs or trailers. Twenty-two of the campsites are set aside for tent-only camping. Stone Creek can accommodate rigs up to 24 feet long, mainly because of the tight and winding roads within the park. No hookups are available at this campground, but a dump station is located nearby. Additionally, vault toilets and potable water is available within walking distance.
This campground enjoys shade from manzanita and pine trees and includes picnic tables and fire rings, as well as a food locker, for your use. Located near the popular Panorama Point Trail, this campground is an ideal place for those looking for a primitive camping experience. This site is open May through November only with reservations and opens up on a first-come, first-served basis during the off-season.
The well-known Idyllwild Campground is a frequent stop for travelers on the Pacific Crest Trail, and with only 31 developed campsites, you may want to make your reservations early. Nine of these sites are reserved for tents only, but the remaining sites can accommodate RVs up to 24 feet in length.
A few of the sites have full hookups, but several have 30-amp electric service only, and there is a dump station nearby. Generators are allowed but can only be run during the day to avoid noise pollution. Picnic tables and fire rings are included with each campsite for your convenience, and the campground does have a bathhouse with flush toilets and coin-operated showers within walking distance. The campground is nestled among pines, so some sites have shade. Pets are allowed on leashes but are not allowed in wilderness areas. This campground accepts reservations all year long.
If the campgrounds at the park don't have room for your big rig, try the Banning Stagecoach KOA, which offers lovely mountain views and is located near Idyllwild and Mount San Jacinto State Park. Able to take RVs up to 65 feet long, you'll be just a short drive from the park; however, you'll still have to buy a permit to use the park, and you may have trouble finding parking, depending on the time of year.
But there's no roughing it here as campsites come with cable and Wi-Fi. Not only that, but the campground has laundry facilities, a clubhouse, a heated pool, and a playground, as well as a convenience store. Pets are allowed. In fact, pet walking and pet sitting are also available.
Stone Creek Campground offers sites on a first-come, first-served basis during the off-season.
Ready for a treasure-hunting adventure? Consider trying geocaching on your RV trip to Mount San Jacinto State Park. Geocaching, if you haven't tried it before, involves using coordinates to find an item hidden in a public place. Cachers enjoy snapping pictures and posting about their finds online to other enthusiasts. If you try it at this park, you can find coordinates by searching the park name and geocaching online. Make sure to save the coordinates, and when you find your hidden treasure, take a picture, and remember to put the item back exactly where you found it for the next hunter on the path. You can even create your own geocache and list it online, but take care not to damage the sensitive ecosystem where you hide the item.
The Nature Trail and anywhere along the Heritage Tour is a perfect setting for a picnic on a summer day in the park. Picnic tables are available in the campgrounds, but for an ideal picnic on your RV vacation, check out the gorgeous picnic areas at the summit of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Enjoy the use of BBQ grills, picnic tables, and full-service restrooms, all while experiencing the expansive views from the top of Mount San Jacinto. It's the perfect place to take a well-deserved break after hiking the summit or just taking it easy on your RV getaway.
After taking in the spectacular views from the rotating cabin of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, check out the Mountain Station where you can sit down for a nice meal in one of the two restaurants, peruse the gift shop, and learn some history of the area in the Visitor Center, all at 8,500 feet.
If you'd rather rough it, you can barbecue up your own lunch in the picnic area before hitting the self-guided nature trail or heading to the Desert View Trail, boasting panoramic mountain views. No one will blame you, though, for taking the tram back down if you just didn't get enough of the breathtaking scenery from above.
Hiking and climbing are where it's at in Mount San Jacinto State Park. Campers come from miles around to hike the wilderness trail and to climb Mount San Jacinto's almost 11,000-foot summit. The 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada, even passes through this area. With steep granite rock faces and a 9,000-foot escarpment in only four miles of hiking, even the most enthusiastic hikers will be challenged.
For less adventurous hikers, try the Panorama Point Trail Interpretive Audio Tour and learn about the surrounding nature. You will need a permit to hike or climb in the wilderness areas as the park authorities want to limit hikers and keep the solitude of the park intact, so plan early and reserve your spot or head to a ranger station for a day permit.
Want a break from the exertion of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on your winter visit to Mount San Jacinto? Take an easy hike or hop in the Jeep and take the Mount San Jacinto Heritage Tour, which consists of visiting the buildings and improvements made by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Step back in time as you explore the stone entrance pillars, the two restored camp stoves, the Warden's Residence, Stone Bridge, and the Nature Trail. This park is known for its commitment to keeping the original spirit of the Old West, and you'll enjoy a little trip to the past on your winter RV vacation.
If you enjoy the serenity of a quiet forest covered in snow, you may want to try cross-country skiing on your winter RV getaway. Take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to enjoy the breathtaking view from above of the park and the surrounding area. Then, check out the Winter Adventure Center, where you can rent gear and purchase a winter sports package to see nature up close. Strap on your skis and take the backcountry trails through an idyllic setting of unspoiled nature at its best.
Ready for some winter exercise while enjoying the serene beauty of a true wilderness preserve? Strap on your snowshoes and trek through Mount San Jacinto's hiking trails in the winter months. If you want to get off the beaten path, take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top, enjoying the view of the cliffs of Chino Canyon on the way up, and then step off into the winter adventure awaiting you.
If you didn't bring your own gear, don't worry. Head over to the Winter Adventure Center, where they'll set you up with a winter sports package that has everything you'll need for a day of cold weather fun. You'll be ready to rest up in the warm comfort of your RV at the end of a satisfying day of snowshoeing in the park.
Mount San Jacinto State Park prides itself on its wilderness environment and complex ecosystem, which hosts an astonishing variety of wildlife sure to please any young scientist or animal lover. With such an extensive and protected wilderness area, you can expect to spot species such as chickadees, red crossbills, white-headed woodpeckers, as well as birds of prey such as hawks, falcons, kites, vultures, and owls even in the winter months since this park is so far south.
Further ensuring the natural balance in the area, this park was designated as the Hidden Divide Natural Preserve, allowing for extra protection to this sensitive environment. The park is home to a thick forest of sugar pines, Jeffrey pines, and lodgepole pines, impressive to any nature enthusiast, so grab your camera and hook up the trailer for an off-season adventure.