This column was originally published in the Town Crier on March 6, 1984. The “Scenic Trail” would later be renamed the “Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail” after the efforts of County Supervisor Kay Ceniceros. 

In honor of our 75th year of covering “Almost All the News — Part of the Time,” we will periodically reprint the work featured on our pages throughout the years.

Scenic Trail opened in 1959
Cutting the ribbon at the dedication ceremony for the Scenic Trail in June 1959 was “Miss Teenager.” She was assisted by the late County Supervisor Fred McCall.
 Town Crier archives

By Ernie Maxwell

The local Scenic Trail is a good example of the importance of doing something right the first time. Built in 1959, the trail adjacent to Idyllwild remains in good condition despite the fact that there has been little maintenance.

Constructed by inmates of the county road camp who worked under the supervision of Bill Stephenson of the Forest Service, the riding and hiking route bypasses traffic from Humber Park to the point on South Ridge.

It emerges on a dirt road identified as Tahquitz View Drive. Originally, the path crossed the road and came into town, but this portion was sealed off when homes were built along the route.

Much credit must go to the late Howard Loy, a retired state highway engineer who was assigned the job of securing rights-of-way. As a director of the Izaak Walton League, he worked for months to lay out Scenic Trail free of charge.

Because Riverside County’s park system was then under the road department, Howard knew how to go about developing rights-of-way. The workers were in the road camp. The county provided about $1,000 for dynamite. 

Morale ran high among the inmates. They were working outdoors on a useful project. Some of them were experienced in blasting and rock work. Forest Service standards prevailed.

This material is being aired because there have been instances when Riverside County believed it had no responsibility for Scenic Trail. However, somewhere in the archives are the right-of-way data and a bill for the dynamite, charged to the county.

Not long after the dedication a parks director, now deceased, argued that maintenance was not a county responsibility. He was present when “Miss Teenager” cut the ribbon in a ceremony at Humber Park. Also present was the late county supervisor, Fred McCall.

Scenic Trail was initiated after some of us encountered problems with horses in town. As more streets were paved, traffic increased and there were greater risks for horses and those riding them.

I was active in the project because of several harrowing experiences with pack horses coming into town from the Devil’s Slide Trail. At the Strawberry Creek crossing in Fern Valley, the animals were so anxious to reach the Idyllwild Stables that they fanned out across the pavement.

Today, most horses ridden in the back country are trailered to Humber Park, but in walking the Scenic Trails recently, I note an increase in riding use.

The trail has withstood many hard winters and plenty of runoff, but the heavy rocks that mark the path are mainly in place. There is also greater foot traffic on Scenic Trail, because it was well built and gives us a wilderness experience within sight of many rooftops.