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Hiking Idyllwild: Ernie Maxwell Trail

Hiking Idyllwild: Ernie Maxwell Trail

Sometimes you want to hike up a mountain to a peak, but other times a hike around the mountain is just as grand. This is what the Ernie Maxwell trail is.


I spent a few years living in Idyllwild as a very young child and this is the trail I remember hiking as a kid. It was easy enough for my brother and I to do as active 6 year olds, which gives you an idea of what this hike is like.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail, from Humber Park, in Idyllwild, California - the details:

  • Distance: 5 miles round trip - out and back

    • With an anticlimactic ending, any distance can be done on this trail - just turn around when you’ve walked enough.

  • Elevation Gain: 700 feet

    • We started from Humber Park which means hiking slightly downhill on the way out and up hill on the way back. This is not a peak trail, so mostly gradual up and down along the way. This is not a strenuous hike by any means.

  • Average time: 2-3 hours.

    • We spent about three hours on this trail, including a peaceful twenty minute break for lunch on a big rock off the trail.

  • Special features: While there aren’t really any epic views from this trail, there are a few things to note that you will see:

    • A lot of big boulders - one of my favorite features about the Idyllwild forest. These boulders can be covered in beautiful bright green moss. We hiked this the middle of January after a few days of rain and snow, so the colors were popping!

    • Peekaboo views of Suicide Rock, San Jacinto and Tahquitz Peak (Lily Rock).

    • There are at least three seasonal creek crossings, so be prepared for some rock hopping, especially just after rainfall.

    • Dog friendly! This is the only trail leaving from Humber Park that allows dogs so expect to come across them on your hike. If you have a pup and want to hike in the San Jacinto National Forest, this is a great trail for you!

We hiked this trail in January, during the government shutdown. Trying to avoid overcrowding at our nearby National Parks we chose to do a hike in the woods. This trail is at a National Forest trailhead however, so the gate was closed to most of the parking. If you plan to go on this hike, be prepared - Humber Park requires a National Forest Adventure Pass to park in the parking lot.

Idyllwild is a great little town, with a ton of hiking and camping and other adventures to enjoy. Per our tradition, we stopped in town on the way out and grabbed a delicious cheeseburger and a cold beer at the Lumber Mill. This town provides an amazing mountain getaway, and some great forests adventures!

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