The 275-mile section of the PCT from Idyllwild to Agua Dulce takes you over Mount San Jacinto, down into the desert, and then up and across the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain ranges just north of Los Angeles. If you're planning to hike this section, you may also want to explore some of the many nearby mountain peaks along the way.
This post describes the locations of eight mountain peaks and seven resupply towns as you'll encounter them hiking northbound along this section of the PCT. If you plan to summit all eight peaks, add 42 miles of hiking to your 275-mile section hike.
Before your hike, you should also check out Halfmile's PCT maps, trail notes, water report, and smartphone GPS app at www.pctmap.net. It's all free! (Note: When I refer to "PCT miles," I am referring to Halfmile's 2013 GPS miles.)
PCT mile 179.4. Idyllwild is a laid-back little mountain town that can be fun to hang out in, but you'll eventually need a 2.6 mile ride to the Humber Park trailhead. From the trailhead, hike another 2.6 miles up Devil's Slide Trail to Saddle Junction (PCT mile 179.4). Here's where you start hiking the PCT.
[Before venturing north from Saddle Junction, you can hike south along the PCT for 1.4 miles to PCT mile 178 and then go right (west) on South Ridge/ Tahquitz Peak Trail for 0.4 miles up Tahquitz Peak to the fire lookout. Peak elevation: 8,828 ft. The round trip back to Saddle Junction would total about 3.6 miles. Well worth the brief southbound, I think.]
PCT mile 185.7. North of Saddle Junction, at PCT mile 185.7, you can bag San Jacinto Peak with a 4.6 mile round trip off the PCT. Go right (northeast) on Deer Springs Trail and hike for 2 miles, past Little Round Valley Campground, to the San Jacinto Summit Trail. Go left and hike 0.3 miles to the summit. Peak elevation: 10,834 ft.
PCT mile 209.5. At Highway 10, you can resupply with a 4.5 mile hitch to the Cabazon PO (if you mailed ahead a food box) or an additional 6 miles into Banning for a market. If you're hiking in the spring, you could mail yourself a food box to Trail Angels Ziggy and the Bear (PCT mile 210.8), who live in a house just off the trail.
PCT mile 241.4. Here the trail crosses forest road 1N05. If you want to hike up San Gorgonio Mountain for a 20 mile round trip, go left (west) on this road for about a half mile, following the fork to the right to find Fish Creek Trailhead. Hike west along Fish Creek Trail for 6 miles, then take a sharp left onto Sky High Trail and hike 4 miles up San Gorgonio. In the spring, you should be able to find water within the first mile or two of Fish Creek Trail. Peak elevation: 11,503 ft.
PCT mile 271 (Approximate). To hike Gold Mountain, go left on the dirt road located about 3 trail miles west of Holcomb Valley Road (3N16). Walk about 1.5 miles to the summit. Do not follow the road down the mountain. At the ridge, walk left from the road toward a big pile of rocks, which is the summit. Round trip is about 3 miles. Peak elevation: 8,235 ft.
PCT mile 275. Van Dusen Canyon Road provides access to Big Bear City and Big Bear Lake, both of which are excellent resupply towns. Walk or hitch the 2.8 miles southeast down Van Dusen to Route 38. On Route 38, go right (west) toward Big Bear Lake or left (east) toward Big Bear City.
PCT mile 277.26. To hike Bertha Peak, continue west past Van Dusen Canyon Road for about 2.26 miles. (If you reach Cougar Crest Junction, you've gone almost a half mile too far.) At the Bertha Peak sign, go left (south) along the dirt road for about 0.75 miles up to the summit, where the radio towers are located. Round trip is 1.5 miles. Peak elevation: 8,201 ft.
PCT mile 280.79. Hike up the disused, two-track dirt road to your left (south), and veer left when you find yourself on a footpath. The footpath directs you up Delamar Mountain. There's a little bushwhacking involved, but the rocky summit is only about a half mile up from the PCT. Round trip is 1 mile. Peak elevation: 8,398 ft.
PCT mile 307.8. Just off the trail to the right is Deep Creek Hot Springs. Ok, this isn't a mountain peak or resupply town, but I had to mention it.
PCT mile 342. At Cajon Pass, you can top off your food at the convenience store, munch on McDonald's or Subway, and rent a room at the Best Western. Up the trail, Wrightwood is much better for resupply.
PCT mile 362.6. A trail to Mount Baldy (Mount San Antonio) is located 200 feet southwest. Mount Baldy is 3.9 miles south of the PCT. Round trip back to the PCT is about 8 miles. Peak elevation: 10,063 ft.
PCT mile 363.5 or 369.5. You can get to Wrightwood from mile 363.5 by hiking 3.6 miles along Acorn Trail or from mile 369.5 by hitching 5.5 miles east on Highway 2. Wrightwood has a PO, grocery store, restaurants, and motels.
PCT mile 378.2. Hiking along the PCT, you've practically summited Mount Baden-Powell anyway. Why not hike the 0.1 mile up the signed Summit Trail? Round trip 0.2 miles. Peak elevation: 9,399 ft.
PCT mile 444.3. You can top off your food in the very small campground shop, do laundry, shower, and camp at the Acton KOA.
PCT mile 454.5. There's a mid-sized grocery and a few restaurants in Agua Dulce. If you're hiking in the spring or early summer, you could mail yourself a food box to the Saufley's Hiker Heaven, trail angels who accept hiker packages and provide a beautiful place to spend the night.
There you go. Hike 275 of the 2,668 miles of the PCT and experience eight nearby peaks along the way.