Difficulty: Strenuous | Elevation Gain: 4,689 ft | Length: 11.4 miles roundtrip | Time: 8-9 Hours
This past weekend I hiked San Jacinto via the Marion Mountain Trail. It marks #5 of the Six Pack Peaks I have hiked this year! Since I’m training for Whitney, I passed on the tram route and opted for the more challenging Marion Mountain Trail that’s detailed in the SoCal Hiker’s blog. Quite a brutal climb at 11.4 miles with 4,689 ft gain! Fortunately the trail is shaded for the most part and my husband and I started early at 6AM to beat most of the heat. We soon discovered however, the trail really heats up to about 90 degrees on the descent down the mountain! My husband and I drank the entire 6.5 liters of water that we brought with us! I can’t stress enough to bring more water than you think you need on such a strenuous hike in hot summer weather.
The Marion Mountain Trail is remote and at times difficult to navigate. The trail itself is very steep and with no switch backs it feels like an endless climb! At times fallen tree limbs obstructed the trail, forcing us to traverse alternative routes. We backtracked a little but eventually found the trail again. This trail is also filled with bugs! Gnats and flies constantly swarmed our heads—the incessant buzzing in my ears nearly drove me insane. In short, bring bug spray! Once you get beyond the bugs and fallen tree limbs, the trail is quite beautiful. As you near the summit, there is a small stone hut outfitted with four small bunks—a nice place to rest if you plan on backpacking in and staying overnight.
After you pass the stone hut, a little bouldering is involved to reach the final summit. Luckily for us there weren’t very many other hikers so we virtually had the summit to ourselves. My husband and I spent about 45 minutes resting and taking in the 36o view. Of course, a photo with the sign is a must do!
Taking the SoCal Hiker’s advice we retraced our steps and descended the mountain the same way as we had climbed up it. Our trekking poles did come in handy, reliving stress from our knees as well as catching our fall on slippery pine needles! All in all it took us just under 9 hours to complete. Although a beautiful trail, it is quite challenging. It’s great training, but if you’re looking for a more leisurely hike I would advise taking the tram route!