Marion Mountain Campground


Marion Mountain Campground

05.31.12

From the issue Pitch Hits

Marion Magnitude

Men In Black 3 wasn’t the only big opening on Memorial Day Weekend. Marion Mountain Campground in the San Jacinto Mountains kicked off its summer camping season—at 6,200 feet! Surrounded by boulder-strewn peaks, this tranquil 24-site retreat near Idyllwild is set in a forest of tall sugar pines. Reaching it requires navigating a windy road that many RVs avoid. Rather than the rumble of big engines, you're more likely to hear the distinct chorus of the yellow-rumped warbler and the Steller’s jay headlining a birdsong, with acoustics courtesy of nearby woodpeckers. Set up your tent on a spongy bed of pine needles and take a short stroll. The campground is home to the snow plant, which grows only at this high elevation and is identified by its red spires. Golden Eagles also make appearances in these parts—keep a keen eye out! When the afternoon starts to slip away, scurry up the hillside behind site 9, where a pile of boulders offers prime seating to watch the sun set over Dark Canyon. The mountains fade into navy while the sky illuminates in rose and yellow hues. As the moon begins its night climb, bust out marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers. S’mores go better with altitude.

TIP: Marion Mount Campground is 4,600 feet below the summit of Mount San Jacinto, the second highest point in Southern California at 10,834 feet. You can reach this peak via an epic 12-mile (round-trip) hike on Marion Mountain Trail, which begins near the campground. Godspeed.

Take I-10 to Banning, exit on Hwy. 243 and drive 20 miles south into the mountains. Turn left on Azalea Trails Rd. and follow signs for another 1.5 miles to the campground (map). Sites are $10 per night and may be reserved online (with an additional $9 reservation fee). There are metal fire rings with grills and a picnic table at each site, plus potable water and vault toilets. Dog-friendly! 

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