With summer’s annual baking of the Coachella Valley, the best way to beat the desert heat is to to gain some elevation. Pine-studded Mount San Jacinto State Park nicely fits that bill.
Hikers can head to a granite rock outcropping that offers great views via a route that heads through the park.
The 6.6-mile round trip to Suicide Rock – consisting of the Deer Springs and the Suicide Rock trails – begins in Idyllwild. You’ll need to pace yourself as the trail gains 1,900 feet at mile-high altitudes. The hike requires a wilderness permit, which can be obtained for free and is self-issued at the ranger station off of Calif. Hwy. 243.
To reach the trailhead, from Palm Desert take Calif. Hwy. 74 north. Turn right/north onto Calif. 243 and drive through Idyllwild, stopping at the ranger station for the permit. After passing the road for the Idyllwild Nature Center, look for an unpaved parking lot on the road’s right/north. The lot is the trailhead. You will need an Adventure Pass to park.
The hike starts at 5,600 feet on Deer Springs Trail. Oak trees line the route, but you’ll soon pass through a grove of manzanita, bushes that boast stunning red bark.
At 0.25 miles, the trail officially enters the Mount San Jacinto State Park and State Wilderness. Dogs are not allowed in state wilderness area.
The sandy trail can be dusty if the area has gone a few days without rain. Plenty of small, harmless lizards can be seen sunning on the sand and rocks in open spots.
At 2.3 miles, the trail splits. Go right/northeast onto Suicide Rock Trail. The route has gained about 1300 feet elevation since the trailhead, and this is a good spot to rest.
In short order, the trail crosses the intermittent Marion Creek. If hiking in spring, snow melt will feed it and offer up a three-foot waterfall visible from the trail.
The trail dips before ascending to Suicide Rock. Watch for breaks in the trees that offers a fantastic view of Lily Rock which tops out at 7924 feet to the southeast.
At 2.5 miles, the trail enters the San Jacinto Wilderness portion of the San Bernardino National Forest. In addition to jurisdiction changes, you’ll also notice the trees changing to pines as entering subalpine elevations.
The trail finally reaches Suicide Rock at 3.3 miles. The outcropping tops out at 7528 feet.
If a fan of 1980s slasher films, Suicide Rock may look familiar to you. The outcropping played a vital role in the movie “Prey,” where it starred in the role of a Colorado mountain on which a group of campers is stalked and murdered.
The outcropping got its name from a legend in which a Native America princess and her lover, ordered to separate, instead committed suicide by jumping off the rock. There’s probably no truth to the story, though, as that legend is popular at a number of high points from California to the Midwest. It probably was appropriated for the rock in an effort to boost local tourism.
Though standing at the edge of Suicide Rock, imagining how the story might be true isn’t difficult. It’s a long, sharp drop down. Because of that, the outcropping with its 27 different walls is a popular rock climbing destination. More than 300 climbing routes have been identified on the rock wall.
Stay clear of the dangerous edges, though, and instead enjoy the impressive views. To the southeast is Strawberry Valley and Idyllwild below you. The peak on the other side of the valley is Lily Rock and beyond it Tahquitz Peak at 8721 feet. To the southwest is Bear Trap Canyon. Behind and above you to the north is Marion Mountain, peaking at 10,362 feet.
After taking in the sights, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
During summer, go early in the morning when Idyllwild’s temperatures are in the low 60s. By afternoon, temperatures will climb to the low 90s. Going down the hill in the late afternoon, however, does mean more shade.
Also, bring plenty of water. Though cooler than the valley floor, the mountainside still is fairly arid, and you’ll work up a sweat on the ascent.
- 05-with-27-different-walls-suicide-rock-is-popular-among-rock-climbers.: Rob Bignell
- Suicide Rock: Rob Bignell