OverviewMarion Mountain lies 0.8 miles south-southwest of Jean Peak, and 1.3 miles south-southwest of San Jacinto Peak, the second highest peak in southern California. Marion is one of two named high points on the ridge that forms the backbone of the San Jacinto Mountains, the other being Jean Peak.
Both Jean Peak and Marion Mountain are often climbed as part of a long day in which both peaks are climbed in combination with San Jacinto. But this isn't necessary. John Robinson describes a hike of Jean and Marion in his book San Bernardino Mountain Trails (hike #75) that eschews the highest summit (though it would only add about a half mile to the trip) in favor of its less often-climbed neighbors.
The name "Marion Mountain" has a colorful history. At the end of the nineteenth century a US Geological Survey topographer named Edmund Taylor Perkins named the mountain after Marion Kelly, who was working for the Indian Bureau at the nearby Morongo Valley Reservation while Perkins was in the area. Apparently, Ms. Kelly had a rival for Perkins' affection. Jean Waters of Plumas County, whom he had met while mapping in Northern California, also had a claim on his heart. He named Jean Peak in her honor. Perkins and Waters would later marry. While Marion Kelly didn't get her man, her name is still immortalized on USGS maps.
Marion Mountain provides the same sweeping vistas to the east and west as its higher neighbors to the north, with the exception of the view of the San Gorgonio Mountains to the north, which are hidden behind San Jacinto. But because it stands head and shoulder above everything to the south, the views in that direction are incomparable. Probably the best reason to climb Marion Mountain is the relative isolation. On a summer weekend day dozens of people may swarm the summit of San Jac, but quite a bit fewer will take the trouble to head off cross country (there are no trails to the summit) to tag Marion.
Getting ThereMarion Mountain shares all of the same approches as San Jacinto. The shortest and easiest approach is to take the tram from Palm Springs. From I-10 take SR111 south, then turn right at the tramway sign. Follow that road to its end, buy your ticket, and ride up. Follow the marked San Jacinto trail from the tram station all the way to the saddle just below San Jacinto Peak. Turn left (south) at the saddle and strike out cross country. Most people tag Jean Peak on the way.
Longer approaches from the west and south are accessible for SR243. From the Los Angeles area, drive east on your favorite freeway until you eventually merge with I-10. Follow I-10 to the town of Banning, then exit 8th street (also marked as 243) and follow the signs toward Idyllwild. From the San Diego area head up I-15 to Hemet, then head east on SR74 to Mountain Center, then turn north on SR243.
The Fuller Ridge/PCT trailhead is reached via Black Mountain Road. Turn off SR243 17 miles from Banning or about 8 miles from Idyllwild. Black Mountain Road is dirt, and may have some rough spots. Follow Black Mountain Road 8 miles to the Fuller Ridge Trail access road. Turn right. Parking as about 1/4 mile from the turn-off.
The Seven Pines trailhead is in Dark Canyon. Leave SR243 200 yards east of the Alandale ranger station (19 miles from Banning, 6 miles from Idyllwild) and head up Marion Mountain Road. Follow signs to Dark Canyon campground. Pass through the campground and continue on forest road 4S02 past the Azalea Trails Girl Scout camp to the signed trailhead.
Access to the Marion Mountain trailhead is the same as for Seven Pines, except once on Marion Mountain Road, follow signs to Marion Mountain campground. The trailhead is just before you reach the campground.
The Deer Springs trail is definitely one of the longest ways to get to Jean Peak. Just before entering Idyllwild from the north (or just after leaving it from the south) a sign on the east side of the road marks access to the Deer Springs trail. You can also park at the new Idyllwild County Park Visitor Center across teh street.
Finally, a southern approach from Humber Park in Idyllwild is possible. From the town of Idyllwild, take either North or South Circle Drive east to Fern Valley Road. Follow this to its end. The Devils Slide trailhead is clearly marked at the south end of the loop at the end of the road.
Red TapeAll parking at the trailheads, with the exception of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, require a National Forest Adventure Pass. These can be purchased at any of the Ranger Stations or from many local merchants for $5.00 a day or $30.00 for an annual pass.
Jean Peak lies within the San Jacinto State Park, the San Bernardino Naitonal FOrest, and San Jacinto Wilderness. A permit is required for entry into the San Jacinto Wilderness and State Park.
Permits are limited to 12 hikers. Permits may be obtained from the Idyllwild Ranger Station just off SR 243 at 54270 Pine Crest Road. There is a self-issue permit stand outside of the ranger station. Permits are also available from the Ranger Station located 1/4 mile beyond the Mountain Station at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. They may also be obtained in advance from:
San Jacinto Ranger District
P.O. Box 518
Idyllwild, CA 92549
Voice: (909) 382-2921
Fax: (951) 659-2107