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South Ridge
  • South Ridge off Forest Route 5S11
  • Idyllwild, CA 92549

The South Ridge Trail, located near the charming village of Idyllwild, tests seasoned hikers with its steep upper switchbacks and rough terrain — but treats them to majestic views of the surrounding valleys. The 6.3-mile round-trip foray into the oak and pine forests of the San Jacinto Mountains already begins 6,498 feet above sea level and climbs another 2,636 feet into the alpine wilderness, some of which still shows burn damage from the 2018 Cranston Fire. Hikers (and their leashed pups!) will need a permit to proceed to the trail; pick yours up free of charge at the Idyllwild Ranger Station. The unpaved parking area near the trailhead can only be accessed by a harrowing dirt drive off of Saunders Meadow Road; if you don’t have four-wheel drive, it’s best to park on the paved road and walk the extra mile to the entry point (and be sure to ask about any possible storm damage at the ranger station). You’re about halfway to the top once you reach a plateau. From here, tackle the most arduous section of the route, which continues up to the historic lookout tower at Tahquitz Peak (the highest lookout in the San Bernardino National Forest and only one located inside a Wilderness Area). Enjoy the 360-degree views before returning to your car.

Total Distance: 6.3 miles

Level: Difficult

Hiking Features
  • Distance (mi): 6.3
  • Distance (km): 10.1
  • Difficulty Score: 24
  • Route Type: Out and back
  • Elevation at Trailhead: 6498
  • Elevation Gain (+): 2636
  • Elevation Loss (-): 2630
  • Net Elev +/- (ft): 2636
  • Net Elev +/- (m): 803
  • Minimum Elevation: 6491
  • Maximum Elevation: 8800
  • Elevation Change-lowest point to highest point ft: 2309
  • Parking Type: Unpaved lot
  • Location: San Jacinto Mountains
  • Sub-Location: Idyllwild/Garner Valley
  • Permit Required:
  • Historic Sites:
  • Fees:
  • 6 - 10 Miles:
Trail Length
  • 6 - 10 Miles:
South Ridge off Forest Route 5S11
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