Suicide Rock, Idyllwild, CA

Suicide Rock is a popular 7.5 mile moderate-to-strenuous hike/snowshoe in Idyllwild, CA. Elevation gain is approximately 1800 feet. The hike begins at Deer Springs trailhead along Highway 243, about a mile north of town. The trail is open year-round, with winter being a possibility for snowshoeing. Share in my experience of the trail this winter to start your own adventure.

Trail junction, with Lily Rock in the distance

Experience Suicide Rock In Winter

It did not take long before patches of snow started appearing on the hike up to the overlook at Suicide Rock. The rock named as local legend goes, for two Native American youths—a princess and her lover—who jumped off together because their love was forbidden. I wondered why and how someone, or several people, decided to call it that, instead of maybe something along the lines of: Lover’s Leap.

Nevertheless, my mind wandered less about that and more about the wonder of seeing mothers and dads and kids all out together on a beautiful, chilly morning in winter, getting the blood moving, so to speak. Along the way, many young people were having a good time. They were stopping and making snowballs to throw at each other and their parents, laughter rolling down the hillsides. Two troops of Cub Scouts were out and about in the sunshine, the 7-8 mile round trip hike with over a thousand feet of elevation gain being a classic Idyllwild walk in the mountains. Sure, some seemed a little disgruntled, but the echoes I was hearing from fellow scouts and scout leaders were positive and supportive.

Lily Rock and Tahquitz Peak, Idyllwild, CA

Hearing running water as I walked, the sounds of snow-fed streams were a highlight, for me. At the trail junction, it was worth it to stop and admire Lily Rock in the distance. I continued on, that running water sound pulling me in, causing me to stop a few times to simply listen. At one particular stream crossing, I pushed the pause button and stood still.

The sounds of nature, especially water tumbling down a mountain and wandering through the trees, are healers.

Up and up, the trail went, thus, I did too. Snow was more here-here-and-there than the occasional here-and-there down below, the altitude getting up closer to 7,000 feet. Two men with skis strapped to their backpacks were coming down the trail. Is there anywhere to ski up there, I thought. I did not ask, though, as they seemed to be having their moment together.

Two back-country skiers heading down the trail

Continuing on, the trail meandered and eventually went out into a less-treed area, moving into the clearing and vista point that is Suicide Rock. Before topping out, though, the trail was all snow and ice, with a few spots requiring steady footing, as I opted to not use my snowshoes. I was glad that I did bring my trekking poles. The extra security they provided kept things to a manageable walk-in-the-park experience.

Friends and families and lovers were hanging out, enjoying the winter’s day at 7,500 feet. Lily Rock across the way was a focal point. The higher snowy ridges offered a panoramic backdrop to gaze upon while eating trail snacks and having a drink.

Content in the experience, I started my way back down the trail. The snow and ice was a little more treacherous since I was going downhill. But again, the trekking poles were the difference-maker versus not having something to steady the way. It was mid-afternoon and people were still on their way up, some first-timers asking how much farther it was to the lookout.

San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild, CA

“You have another 5 minutes or so to go.”

“You have another 20 minutes or so to go.”

And so on and so forth until, “You still going up to Suicide Rock this afternoon?”

“Dunno. Is it far? We’re just out for a walk.” A family with no set plans walked up the trail, going beyond the turn-around point, for them, from last time. This time, together, they went a little higher.

Knowing so, as I went down, I felt uplifted.

Eat and Drink 411

Idyllwild Coffee Roasters/Higher Grounds Coffee Shop in the center of town has all you need to get your morning buzz going:

The Town Baker is a little hidden but seek it out for yummy food and a relaxed, easy-going start to the day, meaning do not go if you are on the clock. No website, but check out their reviews.

Beautiful manzanita is common along the Suicide Rock trail

Idyllwild Brew Pub has standard bar food to go with their very tasty beer. They also have a full bar (wine and liquor to go with the beer)

Idyll Awhile is a wine shop with a bar and tables inside, as well as outside on the patio. Stop in for a post-hike snack. There is often live music.

Additional Trail Info

To be on many of the trails above Idyllwild, you need a free day-use permit. Go to the US Forest Service office in the center of town to get it.

Camping is also available in the area.

About the author

James Murren

James Murren

James Murren is the author of 3 books and numerous outdoor adventure and travel articles. More of his writings are available at: https://jamesmurren.com/

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