- Between the San Bernardino Mountains and the Santa Rosa Mountains
- 10,834 feet at highest feet
The San Jacinto Mountains have long been a paradise for plants and animals unable to stand the intense heat of the desert below. These are not desert peaks - they're filled with forests and ferns and all sorts of sheltering greenery. Cool in temperature and scenic in landscape, the San Jacintos are popular with hikers and backpackers. A portion of the Pacific Crest Trail is here, even.
They're also popular with rock-climbers. Tahquitz Rock (or Lily Rock) is a legendary rock face high up on the mountain range's western face - Suicide Rock is another, just across the valley.
The San Jacintos are a short mountain range, stretching only thirty miles from the San Bernardino Mountains, but they're home to Southern California's second highest peak - San Jacinto Peak, at 10,864 feet, which is its own park - Mount San Jacinto State Park. If scaling this and other high peaks from the point of Palm Springs' low elevation seems intimidating, there is a short cut. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ferries hikers from the a station in the valley to Mountain Station, 8,516 feet up, almost directly on top of an access point to San Jacinto's many trails. A fee is involved.
Alternatively, you can use tiny community Idyllwild as your base of operations. At an elevation of 5,300 feet, it's not so high up as Mountain Station, but easily accessible by road and very close to Tahquitz Rock.