Mt. San Jacinto: The Rooftop of Southern California
Located on the far eastern edge of the Los Angeles Basin, separating the interior valleys from the large, sprawling Coachella Valley, which houses such popular cities as Palm Springs and Indio, stands Mt. San Jacinto, a towering, jagged, and heavily-forested mountain peak that rises over two miles high. From its 10,804-foot summit, a spectacular panoramic view affords the hearty hiker or backpacker who is strong enough and resolute enough to climb "San Jack", a name the locals use to refer to Mt. San Jacinto.
Located in the San Jacinto Mountains and under the jurisdiction of the San Bernardino National Forest, Mt. San Jacinto is the highest mountain in the San Jacintos and the second highest mountain in Southern California. Known for its ruggedness and steepness, the northern face of Mt. San Jacinto is one of the steepest escarpments in the United States, plunging over 10,000 feet in less than five horizontal miles! In contrast, the western slopes of Mt. San Jacinto, which is home to the popular resort town of Idyllwild, are made up of rolling hills that get progressively higher and eventually culminate at the peak.
Due to its elevational profile, the climactic and vegetational extremes on Mt. San Jacinto are startling. It has been said that a hiker starting at the base of the mountain and hiking all the way up to its summit would encounter all of the climactic and vegetational changes one would experience on a cross country drive from northern Mexico to Canada! The lower slopes, which are hotter and drier, consist mainly of chaparral and various other forms of brush, slowly give way to a mixed coniferous forest which blankets the cooler middle elevations of the mountain, a dense forest environment consisting of various forms of pine, oak, and cedar.
Higher up, on the loftiest ridges and summits, the forest thins out and consists mainly of weather-beaten and resistant forms of pine and small, dense shrubbery that is common in cold, arctic environments. Sub-freezing temperatures are not uncommon on the summit of Mt. San Jacinto in the dead of Winter, while the lower slopes routinely reach triple digits on the hottest Summer days. Snowfall, which can reach depths of several feet on Mt. San Jacinto and many of the higher ridges and peaks, is a seldom visitor on many of the lower slopes and ridges.
For the adventurous hiker and backpacker, Mt. San Jacinto is a popular outdoor destination, attracting thousands of people every year who seek to "conquer" it's lofty summit. Located over two miles up in the sky, high above the smog and traffic and urban-generated madness of the lowlands, is the true rooftop of Southern California. There, on San Jacinto's wind-barren and craggy summit, a dizzying panoramic view awaits, a view that can extend for hundreds of miles. As the famed naturalist John Muir once said: "The view from Mt. San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere in the world."
And as a hiker who has made the trek to Mt. San Jacinto's summit once so far, I would have to agree with him!