If you are driving along Idyllwild National Forest Highway, it could be easy to pass right by the South Fork Trail. But, if you stop and hike this pawsome trail, your pooch will be woofin’ happy! You may even get a big sloppy kiss of appreciation.
The trail’s official name is South Fork Trail 2E17. Parking is on a turnout right off the highway. Once you’re parked, suited up with the backpack and your pup is leashed, make your way up the first incline. The trail cuts through shrubbery and past boulders as it climbs up to the ridge. As your pup is getting a leg workout on this half mile hill, they can gaze at Marion Mountain. From the ridgeline, the trail guides you through a pawsome combination of scrub oak, manzanitas, and wildflowers. You can see the South Fork of the San Jacinto River in the ravine below. That’s your final destination.
Eventually the trail passes through a grove of majestic Douglas firs before beginning the descent to the river. This part of the trail can be tricky; take care as you navigate the steep and rocky terrain. At the bottom of the hill, your pup is rewarded with the cool waters of the San Jacinto River. Oaks, cottonwoods, and willow provide ample shade at the river’s bottom. The current is dependent on rainfall and the time of year you go. If the water isn’t too high, let your pal splash around before heading back to the car.
Be sure to bring plenty of water for both you and your pooch. Since the majority of the trail is exposed, your furry friend won’t have shade to keep them cool. If your schedule allows, plan to hike South Fork Trail between November and May, when temperatures aren't soaring. Although a bit steep in a couple areas, this trail will make your dog one happy hiking hound!