Tahquitz Valley

Tahquitz Valley lies nestled beneath Tahquitz Peak in a relatively flat area of the San Jacinto Mountains. This area showcases the meadows, mixed-conifer forests, and granite boulders that make so many hikers liken the San Jacintos to the Sierra Nevadas. It’s relatively easy to tack on Tahquitz Peak, provided the view is clear enough to merit the extra work.

Distance: 9.4 Miles (2.2 on the PCT)
Elevation Gained: 2,300′
Difficulty: Moderately Strennuous
Time: 4:30
Critters: Squirrels, hawks, ravens

Get there like this.

Note: You’ll need an Adventure Pass to park.

Also note: You’ll need to fill out a wilderness permit at the Ranger Station. You don’t have to talk to anybody or wait in lines. All you have to do is fill the permit out, drop it into the box, and go hike. They use it to track who is in the park.

Three to four days ago, Point Mugu State Park, one of my favorite hiking areas, essentially burnt down. During those days, Southern California experienced record highs, Santa Ana wind conditions, and humidity in the single digits. If you had told me on Friday that I would be hiking in the snow on Monday, I would have believed it would be too good to be true.

The storm that’s been lounging around Southern California for the last three days brought a respectable amount of rain for a May storm, with between .5″ and 1.5″ falling throughout Southern California. Sure, it won’t do enough to correct the paucity of rain through March and April, but it was a welcome relief from what has been a hot, dry Spring. Instead of the hot, dry trudge up the Devil’s Slide Trail, I had light snow falling on me from start to finish.

My original goal was to climb Tahquitz Peak, and then circle back through the valley to take advantage of some relatively flat mountain hiking. My initial concern was the report of possible thunderstorms, which would make climbing Tahquitz Peak a foolhardy endeavor. I suppose most people would think climbing mountains in the snow is a foolhardy endeavor, but at least there was no danger of being struck by lightning. You know how people say things like, “Your odds of winning the lottery is about the same as getting struck by lightning?” Not true when it comes to mountain thunderstorms. Perhaps I should try playing the lottery on a mountain to increase my odds, though.

I knew that it was likely to stay cloudy until later in the day. As I had arrived at Humber Park at 6:20 am, I knew that I was not likely to be around until noon or 1pm, when the storm was finally expected to clear. I decided to do the reverse of what I intended, instead opting to loop around Tahquitz Valley and then see which way the wind blew when I got near Tahquitz. Turns out that the wind blew mostly in my face.

In spite of not bagging Tahquitz Peak, this was an outstanding hike due to the tranquil forest and meadows at Tahquitz Valley. Throw snow into any hike (unless I’m unprepared), and it is likely to be awesome, but the scenery here more than made up for the disappointment of not accomplishing what I came to do. I know that I’ll be coming here again in June for an overnight backpacking trip, so I may just as well grab Tahquitz on the way back from backpacking near San Jacinto summit.

Thank you, Spring, for having one last gasp of precipitation before the long, dry, and hot summer rolls in.

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