OverviewSam Fink Peak is one of the more remote peaks in the San Jacinto Mountains and is named for the one of the Sierra Club's Hundred Peaks Section pioneers, R.S. "Sam" Fink. It lies on the eastern edge of the San Jacinto Mountains plateau as part of a connecting ridge with Tahquitz Peak and Red Tahquitz and is framed by Tahquitz Creek canyon to the north and Andreas Canyon to the south. The summit views of the northwest portion of the San Jacinto Mountains Desert Divide, Palm Springs and Coachella Valley to the east are simply spectacular.
The hike to Sam Fink Peak takes you through several eco-systems. The trail to Caramba Camp runs through mostly mixed conifer forest. From Caramba Camp to the Sam Fink saddle is mostly pine and scrub oak woodlands and from the saddle to the summit consists of chapparal and semi-desert flora. Deer sightings are common from Saddle Junction to Caramba Camp along with squirrels, chipmunks, lizards and the occasional falcon and hawk sightings.
Although Sam Fink Peak is unnamed on topographic maps it is part of enough federal and state protected areas that it will make your head spin! These areas include, but are not limited to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, the San Bernardino National Forest, the Santa Rosa Mountains National Scenic Area, Tahquitz National Game Preserve, San Jacinto Mountain State Game Refuge and the San Jacinto Wilderness.
Getting ThereFrom Points North:
Drive I-10 to Banning. Exit at 8th Street (SR 243). Note your odometer and go as follows:
At 0.2 mile, turn left.
At 0.7 mile, turn right on San Gorgonio Avenue.
At 1.4 miles, keep left on SR 243.
At 25.0 miles, Idyllwild Ranger Station (San Bernardino National Forest) on the left. Turn left on Pine Crest Avenue. Note your odometer and go as follows:
At 0.6 mile, intersection. Make a half right on South Circle Drive.
At 0.7 mile, Fern Valley Drive on the left with a sign "Humber Park". Turn left.
At 1.2 miles, fork. Keep left.
At 2.2 miles, trailhead on the left. This is the climbers trail for Suicide Rock. Keep straight.
At. 2.6 miles, Humber Park. Park here.
From Points South:
Drive SR 74 to Mountain Center. Turn north on SR 243. Note your odometer and go as follows:
At 4.5 miles, turn right on Pine Crest Avenue. Proceed as above to Humber Park.
Standard Route DescriptionThe Devils Slide Trail begins at the upper right corner of the parking lot. From this trailhead (6500'), hike up the trail 2.5 miles to Saddle Junction (8100'). At this point there are four trail choices.
Take the Caramba Trail marked with a sign "Laws Camp" and "Caramba Camp." Follow this trail for 0.6 miles to another trail junction and stay straight. Continue through Tahquitz Valley and Reeds Meadow for another 1.6 miles to Laws Junction (7400').
Turn right. The trail follows Tahquitz Creek for the next 2 miles to Caramba Camp (6600'). There are several ups and downs in this section as the trail goes in and out of several sub-drainages.
Cross Tahquitz creek at the south side of Caramba Camp. Follow a use trail which parallels Tahquitz Creek for about 100 yards and then heads steeply up the slope to the right to the overlook campsite. If you pass the sign warning of "Impassable Falls Ahead" you missed the turnoff heading up the slope.
Climb the slope of ~50' lower Sam Fink "West" using the obvious use trail in a southerly direction. The use trail become less obvious as it switchbacks up through open forest floor and stays just to the right (west) of the north ridge of Sam Fink "West". As you near the top of the ridge, the ducked use trail contours left (southeast) towards the saddle connecting Sam Fink "East" and "West".
Cross the 7200' saddle and follow the ducked trail to the summit. If you take a direct tack from the overlook campsite to the saddle as the Sierra Club HPS guide describes be ready for a bit of a bushwhack. The only unfortunate part of the hike to Sam Fink Peak is that it remains mostly hidden from view until you near the saddle. Total RT distance is approx. 15 miles with 4500' elevation gain (2600' out, 1900' back).
Red TapeSam Fink Peak lies within San Bernardino National Forest and wilderness permits are required under all circumstances. Permits are free and limited to 12 hikers. They may be obtained inside the Idyllwild Ranger Station just off SR 243 at 54270 Pine Crest Road or by the self-issue permit stand outside of the ranger station. Permits may be obtained in advance from:
San Jacinto Ranger District
P.O. Box 518
Idyllwild, CA 92549
Voice: (909) 382-2921
Fax: (951) 659-2107
Additionally a National Forest Adventure Pass is required to park at the Fuller Ridge Trailhead. These passes run $5 per day or $30 per year. Details on this pass and how to purchase online are located at the link above. You can also pick one up at these locations in Idyllwild, CA.
CampingThere are several backcountry camps in Mount San Jacinto State Park. If climbing Sam Fink Peak from Idyllwild, Laws Camp or Caramba Camp would be the most convenient places to pitch your tent, but there are no facilities at either of these camps. The more popular backcountry camps are at Round Valley and Tamarack Valley a few miles to the north but both require a permit.
When to ClimbSam Fink Peak can be climbed year round. Snow is common in winter and will linger on the shady sections of the trail. Temperatures can reach the 80's in summer but this is a heck of a lot better than the 100 degree plus temperatures in the surrounding valleys. Water is available in spring and early summer from Middle and Powderbox Springs along the Devils Slide Trail. It is also available at Laws and Caramba Camps or anywhere along Tahquitz Creek in the spring and into early summer. Tahquitz Creek is dry from late Summer through the winter. Ensure you prepare appropriately.
Current Weather in Idyllwild, California
EtymologyFrom HPS Summit Signatures
Peak 7339' is not named on the USGS or USFS maps. In 1999 the Hundred Peaks Section named this peak for R. S. (Sam) Fink, one of the original players of the hundred peaks "game" in the 1940's. Sam Fink was the second person (after Weldon Heald) to climb 100 peaks in southern California. He was the first to complete the HPS List, and was the first to complete it a second time. From the late 1960's until the mid 1970's Sam cleared a route from Red Tahquitz south over South Peak to Antsell Rock, known as the Sam Fink Trail. Today, the Pacific Crest Trail follows much of this route.
The Hundred Peaks Section's highest award, given annually, according to Section Bylaws -- made in recognition of distinguished overall service to the Section -- is named for Sam Fink.