Weather and trail update 20th October 2021

[UPDATE 22nd October: an energetic early season storm is expected for the afternoon of Monday 25th. Forecast models vary regarding precipitation amounts, but several inches of snow are likely in the high country, accompanied by near-record wind speeds, with widespread light rainfall (0.5in) below 8000ft.]

Following three minor storm systems in the San Jacinto mountains between 5th and 11th October, we had further stormy weather on Monday 18th. An elevated marine layer on the western side of the mountain range was driven upslope by a very strong West wind, which I measured gusting to 40mph at San Jacinto Peak. There was occasional very light drizzle in Idyllwild, and as we descended the PCT in late morning, at about 8900ft just north of Saddle Junction a few snowflakes were falling (but not settling). The top of the cloud cover was at about 9000ft elevation, and the high country was clear and sunny all day, although cool in the stiff wind. Altogether a perfect morning for a brisk hike.

The minor storm on 11th October was, by just one day, the earliest I have recorded measurable snowfall in the San Jacinto high country in autumn, following an even lighter dusting overnight on 12th October 2018. Within a day, rapid melting meant that there was no snow remaining on the trail system, although today (a week later) a few tiny patches of snow remain in very sheltered locations. Spikes are not currently required anywhere in the high country. This advice may change after a storm expected next Monday 25th.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

Full fire restrictions remain (for now) in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in the State Park wilderness. Despite the rainfall and cooler temperatures, fire risk remains very high.

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, several Black Bears remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb), uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here.

Water conditions in the high country remain poor, although there have been brief improvements in flow immediately after storms. The current status of many key springs and creeks is unchanged from the earlier Report available here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information.

WEATHER Temperatures have been, and will continue, on something of a rollercoaster ride in October. After frigid conditions on 18th-19th, rapidly rising temperatures to another brief period of warmth above seasonal norms on 20th-22nd will then give way to cooler-than-average conditions starting on 23rd. The last few days of October will again be warmer than average for the month. There is moderate precipitation forecast for Monday 25th October, with light snowfall expected above about 8000ft.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 18th October 2021 at 0845 the air temperature was 25.3°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 0.8°F (-17°C), 55% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 39.7 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 15th October 2021 at 0915 the air temperature was 39.4°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 26.7°F (-3°C), 13% relative humidity, and a steady NE wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 19.9 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 12th October 2021 at 0855 the air temperature was 16.8°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.3°F (-20°C), 45% relative humidity, and a gusty NNE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 19.3 mph.

Tahquitz Peak and Tahquitz Rock as seen from the PCT just after sunrise on 18th October 2021. An elevated marine layer was being pushed by a west wind that I recorded gusting to 40mph at San Jacinto Peak.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Water conditions remain challenging despite recent autumnal weather, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in an earlier Report. To date, temperatures have not been low enough to freeze springs in the high country.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park have moved quickly to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, hikers may encounter new and additional hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a CCC crew in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June prior to the rockslide removal work. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June.

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year by myself and others, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned use trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed between February 2019 and early October 2021. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

Jean Peak and Marion Mountain as seen from San Jacinto Peak, 18th October 2021. A sea of cloud at about 8000ft is visible behind the high country, with cloud also rising up the west flank of Marion Mountain.

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Deer Springs Trail at its junction with the southern end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8970ft elevation), early morning on Tuesday 12th October 2021. About 0.25in of graupel snow fell on 11th, but within a day or so it had completely melted from the trail system, and no traction devices are currently required.

Snow storm update 13th October 2021

The San Jacinto mountains were treated to a brief but energetic storm system on Monday 11th October that produced a very light dusting of graupel snow in the high country, plus large hail in Idyllwild. My video discussion of the storm from San Jacinto Peak on the morning of the 12th is available here. There was 0.25in depth of snow everywhere above about 8500ft, with drifting (mainly in the trails) to 0.5in above 9700ft. Melting was rapid and widespread during my descent on the Peak Trail and PCT late morning on 12th.

This is – by just one day – the earliest I have recorded measurable snowfall in the San Jacinto high country in autumn, following an even lighter dusting overnight on 12th October 2018.

Unusually for October, this was actually our third storm in a week. Minor storm systems produced rainfall across the San Jacinto mountains on Tuesday 5th and on Friday 8th, with 0.38in and 0.49in of rain recorded at 5500ft elevation in Idyllwild, respectively. Hoping for the first snow of the season I overnighted in the high country on 7th-8th, but only recorded rain with a little brief sleet, totaling an estimated 0.5in at San Jacinto Peak.

Full fire restrictions remain (for now) in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in the State Park wilderness. Despite the rainfall and cooler temperatures, fire risk remains very high.

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, several Black Bears remain in the San Jacinto mountains. Earlier reports this summer were from Seven Pines Trail and near Saddle Junction on Willow Creek Trail. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb), uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here. This was a different individual, based on colour pattern and size, than one I saw on Devil’s Slide Trail in August 2020.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak below).

Water conditions in the high country remain poor, although there have been brief improvements in flow immediately after storms. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described in the previous Report available here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year.

WEATHER Temperatures well below seasonal at the beginning of this week are forecast to rise to around, or even slightly above, seasonal for October from 16th onwards. There is currently no additional precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 12th October 2021 at 0855 the air temperature was 16.8°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.3°F (-20°C), 45% relative humidity, and a gusty NNE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 19.3 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 10th October 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 39.4°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.2°F (0°C), 33% relative humidity, and a light due N wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.9 mph.

Deer Springs Trail at its junction with the southern end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8970ft elevation), early morning 12th October 2021. About 0.25in of graupel fell overnight.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Water conditions remain a concern despite recent autumnal weather, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in last week’s Report. To date, temperatures have not been low enough to freeze springs in the high country.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park have moved quickly to remove these hazards. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, it is likely that hikers may encounter new and additional hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, about 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a CCC crew in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June prior to the rockslide removal work. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June.

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year by myself and others, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned use trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

Sunset as seen from San Jacinto Peak, 7th October 2021, immediately prior to a minor overnight rain storm. Black Mountain and Fuller Ridge are in the foreground.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Wellman’s Cienega north spring, with extensive but melting icicles, late morning 12th October 2021.

Trail update 6th October 2021

[UPDATE 8th October 2021: another minor storm system this morning produced 0.49in rain at 5550ft in Idyllwild. Hoping for the first snow of the season I overnighted in the high country, but it fell only as rain with a little brief sleet, totaling an estimated 0.5in at San Jacinto Peak.]

A very pleasant (and much-needed) late season monsoonal storm system produced rainfall across the San Jacinto mountains in two separate events on Tuesday 5th October, with 0.38in (9.7mm) recorded at 5500ft elevation in Idyllwild. Additionally, several days of steady Santa Ana winds either side of the turn of the month has dramatically improved air quality across the San Jacinto mountains and the wider region (see photos below).

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has been closed since 7th September for annual maintenance and is not due to reopen until Monday 11th October. See their website for details.

Full fire restrictions remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in the State Park wilderness. Despite cooler temperatures, fire risk remains extreme.

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, several Black Bears remain in the San Jacinto mountains. Earlier reports this summer were from Seven Pines Trail and near Saddle Junction on Willow Creek Trail. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb), uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here. This was a different individual, based on colour pattern and size, than one I saw on Devil’s Slide Trail in August 2020.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures around freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak below). In this season, such temperatures could well be accompanied by rain or snow (depending on elevation).

Water conditions in the high country remain poor, although there may be brief improvements in flow immediately after rain. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year.

First icicles of the season (on the right) at Wellman’s Cienega north spring, 9300ft elevation, on 1st October 2021.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be below or near seasonal for October. There is the possibility of light precipitation on the morning of Friday 8th October, and again overnight on 11th-12th October. In both cases there is a chance of a light dusting of snow above 10,000ft (a dusting was visible above 11,000ft on Mt. San Gorgonio on 5th October). The latest video discussion from NWS San Diego describes the forthcoming week of weather.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 4th October 2021 at 0820 the air temperature was 42.8°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 36.8°F (3°C), 39% relative humidity, and a light SSW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 8.1 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 1st October 2021 at 0905 the air temperature was 38.2°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 29.7°F (-2°C), 24% relative humidity, and a moderate NNE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 10.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C). This the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed on 19th August 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park have moved quickly to remove these hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, about 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a CCC crew in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June prior to the rockslide removal work. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June.

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year by myself and others, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned use trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is now flowing only intermittently and is no longer reliable. There is occasional flow (at about 0.2L/min) but without further precipitation input, this source should no longer be relied upon. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (the flow remains good for filtering, but is the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing, but very gently, further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – dried up in early July.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail but is now functionally dry where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow remarkably well. I rework the tiny pool at least once every week when I pass by and there is just sufficient depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when the creek is dry across the trail, small but invaluable fresh pools remain just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Air quality in the high country before (below) and after (above) a Santa Ana wind event. Above, Jean Peak and Marion Mountain as seen from San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 1st October 2021, and below, the same view evening of 27th September.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Weather and water update 29th September 2021

[UPDATE 1st October 2021: three days of steady Santa Ana winds have dramatically improved air quality across the San Jacinto mountains and the wider region. This morning from San Jacinto Peak visibility was the best it has been in a couple of months, with just a narrow band of smoke visible at about 11,000ft elevation far to the west.]

In recent days temperatures have pleasantly dropped to near, or even below, seasonal averages, following about four months of nearly continuous well-above-average heat. This change is being accompanied by strengthening and shifting Santa Ana winds and a drop in humidity. Air quality has been variable but often poor for several weeks with smoke reaching us from fires hundreds of miles to the north. Stronger, shifting winds improved conditions somewhat today, but on 27th the smoke was the thickest I have seen in the San Jacinto high country without a fire burning nearby (see photo below).

The San Bernardino National Forest and the wilderness of Mount San Jacinto State Park reopened on Thursday 23rd September following a widespread closure related to fire conditions. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has been closed since 7th September for annual maintenance and is not due to reopen until 11th October (note revised later date for reopening). See their website for details.

Full fire restrictions remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in the State Park wilderness. Despite cooler temperatures, fire risk remains extreme.

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, at least two Black Bears remain in the San Jacinto mountains. Earlier reports this summer were from Seven Pines Trail and near Saddle Junction on Willow Creek Trail. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb), uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here. This was certainly a different individual, based on colour pattern and size, than one I saw on Devil’s Slide Trail in August 2020.

Hikers should now be prepared for temperatures close to freezing in the high country, and potentially below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak below).

Water conditions in the high country are poor and continue to deteriorate slowly. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year.

Belated “sunrise” as seen from San Jacinto Peak, 28th September 2021, with multiple thick layers of smoke below 12,000ft elevation across the Coachella Valley and San Jacinto high country.

WEATHER Temperatures are generally forecast to be around seasonal and pleasantly autumnal, other than the first few days of October which will be above average for that month. From 2nd October almost every day is forecast to be partly or mostly cloudy, although currently there is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

The latest video discussion from NWS San Diego describes the forthcoming week of weather in detail.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 29th September 2021 at 0850 the air temperature was 35.8°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 21.9°F (-5°C), 62% relative humidity, and a gusty NNE wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 21.4 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 28th September 2021 at 0630 the air temperature was 39.6°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 26.3°F (-3°C), 27% relative humidity, and a stiff due West wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 26.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 27th September 2021 at 0955 the air temperature was 49.5°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 45.3°F (7°C), 58% relative humidity, and a very light due West wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C). This the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed on 19th August 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although they are reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park have moved quickly to remove these hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, about 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a CCC crew in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June.

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, especially on the State Park section, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned use trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is now flowing only intermittently and is no longer reliable. There is occasional flow (at just 0.2L/min) but without further precipitation input, this source should no longer be relied upon. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (the flow remains good for filtering, but is the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing, but very gently, further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – dried up in early July.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail but is now functionally dry where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow remarkably well. I rework the tiny pool at least once every week when I pass by and there is just sufficient depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when the creek is dry across the trail, small but invaluable fresh pools remain just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Very fresh Mountain Lion scat at Annie’s Junction, 9070ft elevation, 28th September 2021. The knife is 3.6in long for scale. The scat consisted entirely of deer hair, typical for lion in the San Jacinto mountains.

Forest and Park reopening 23rd September 2021

The San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest reopened on Thursday 23rd September. Details of the Forest Service reopening are available here. The wilderness of Mount San Jacinto State Park also reopened on the same schedule.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has been closed since 7th September for annual maintenance and is not due to reopen until 11th October (note revised later date for reopening). See their website for details.

The Forest and Park closures, in place for 22 days, were indicative of the considerable fire risk and especially the associated resource challenges. Although conditions have apparently ameliorated somewhat, please note that fire risk remains extreme.

Full fire restrictions remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in the State Park wilderness.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in late summer and early winter. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops are possible in the high country, usually in the afternoons, even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Water conditions in the high country are poor and continue to deteriorate slowly. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen before October, possibly not until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened about seven months ago.

WEATHER Following several days of temperatures well above seasonal, conditions will cool this weekend to near or even below average into the first couple of days of October, before rising above seasonal yet again. Although several days in the next week or so will be partly or mostly cloudy, and locally an intense thunderstorm is most likely on Friday 24th, otherwise there is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 22nd September 2021 at 0905 the air temperature was 55.3°F (13°C), with a windchill temperature of 51.4°F (11°C), 39% relative humidity, and a very light SE wind sustained at 1 mph gusting to 3.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 20th September 2021 at 0930 the air temperature was 57.6°F (14°C), with a windchill temperature of 54.1°F (12°C), 25% relative humidity, and a very light SSE breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 6.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C). This the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed on 19th August 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although they are reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park have moved quickly to remove these hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, about 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a CCC crew in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June.

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, especially on the State Park section, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned use trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is now flowing only intermittently and is no longer reliable. There is occasional flow (at just 0.2L/min) but without further precipitation input, this source should no longer be relied upon. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (the flow remains good for filtering, but is the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing, but very gently, further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – dried up in early July.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail but is now functionally dry where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow remarkably well. I rework the tiny pool at least once every week when I pass by and there is just sufficient depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when the creek is dry across the trail, small but invaluable fresh pools remain just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Forest closure 1st September 2021

[UPDATE 14th September 2021: the closure of San Bernardino National Forest was extended today until midnight on 22nd September, as reflected in the text below, and described in this USFS press release.]

The entire San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest closed effective at midnight, Tuesday 31st August 2021. In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This step is being taken due to exceptional fire risk and limited available firefighting resources statewide.

The closure includes all parking areas (e.g., Humber Park, Lake Fulmor), and all gated roads are locked (e.g., South Ridge Road, Black Mountain Road, May Valley Road, Azalea Road, Bee Canyon Road, etc.). I know this closure will be frustrating and will present challenges for locals and visitors alike. Regrettably it seems likely, with the direction the climate is heading, that this will be an increasingly common phenomenon in 21st Century California.

Other parts of the San Bernardino NF and other national forests in Southern California are included in this closure (see original USFS press release here, and closure extension here). The initial closure order for two-and-a-half weeks until Friday 17th September has now been extended to Wednesday 22nd September. Bear in mind that last year a similar closure was extended three additional times for a total of 31 days (and camping was then prohibited for about two months after that).

The wilderness of Mount San Jacinto State Park is also closing on the same schedule (see their website here). The State Park campgrounds at Idyllwild and Stone Creek remain open at this time, as do the minor trails in the immediate vicinity of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Hikers will not be allowed beyond Long Valley Ranger Station.

As almost all public trails into the State Park pass through Forest Service land anyway, the USFS closure makes the Park functionally accessible only via the Tram.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for annual maintenance between 7th September and 3rd October 2021 (as described on their website here).

Despite some encouraging thunderous rumblings in recent days, and some localized rain in Garner Valley and elsewhere, sadly forecast monsoon conditions did not result in significant widespread precipitation in the San Jacinto mountains. Further chances for rain are currently forecast for some days in early to mid September.

Minor fires in the Black Mountain area on the afternoon of Monday 30th August originated from dry lightning strikes. They were extinguished promptly while thankfully very small, largely by water-dropping helicopter filling up from Lake Fulmor, in addition to ground crews.

Please stay safe everyone. I will post any new information as soon as it comes available.

Very clear signage at the base of South Ridge Road, 2nd September 2021. Based on my surveys, many forest roads and trailheads have much less obvious signage.

Trail update 26th August 2021

Conditions have thankfully improved now, but the most striking event in the mountains in recent days has been the rapid deterioration in air quality due to smoke from fires in the north of the state. Smoke arrived in the high country on the morning of Monday 23rd August, largely above 7000ft, before steadily descending across the San Jacinto mountains during the course of that afternoon. By the morning of Tuesday 24th the smoke had thickened and sunk into the lower elevations largely below about 8800ft (see photos below), persisting until 25th. This event is especially remarkable given that the nearest major fires are hundreds of miles to the north, and in theory prevailing winds are largely moving the smoke away from us to the north and east. Give some thought to those in the Tahoe basin, where Air Quality Index readings over 800 were reported this week, more than quadruple the “very unhealthy” threshold.

A delightfully cool week has just come to an end, in which temperatures were at times below seasonal for the first time since mid June! On the morning of Thursday 19th August we recorded an overnight low temperature of 42°F (5°C) at 5550ft in Idyllwild. In a “normal” summer that temperature would probably not deserve a mention, but it has been far from a normal summer.

There is a chance of a return to monsoon conditions starting Sunday 29th August, potentially lasting into the first week of September. While grateful for the modest rain and higher humidity that we have received so far this season, given that the monsoon rainfall in Arizona has been among the heaviest ever recorded, we are probably unfortunate not to have had more precipitation so far this summer.

The most significant trail news from the past week is the great work by a small California Conservation Corps (CCC) crew working on some western slope trails in the State Park. Last week they cleared the 7-8 downed trees on Marion Mountain Trail, plus the similar number of tree hazards (including some major obstructions) on Deer Springs Trail between Strawberry Junction and Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 183-185.5). When I passed them on Saturday 21st, the CCC were working on improving the trail tread just below Strawberry Junction. It was great to be able to thank them in person for their hard work.

Daily wilderness hikes continue to include San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week by a variety of routes, plus various other trails, facilitating regular checks of water sources and trail hazards. On Tuesday 24th, USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and I finally finished trail trimming on the PCT north of Saddle Junction (approx. Miles 180-181).

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations, usually most likely in the afternoons.

Full fire restrictions are in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are now prohibited. The total fire ban has finally been extended to Riverside County lands starting 23rd August, including for example the Hurkey Creek campground (thanks to Dan Roberts for updates on the county situation).

Water conditions in the high country are poor and continue to deteriorate. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen before October, possibly much later. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened about six months ago.

The density of smoke at elevations below 9000ft was remarkable on the morning of 24th August 2021. Above, Tahquitz Peak just after sunrise as seen looking south from the PCT. Below, not the Great Smoky Mountains, but some very smoky mountains, looking south-east from near San Jacinto Peak down the Desert Divide and on to the Santa Rosa mountains.

WEATHER A few days of temperatures around (or even below!) seasonal for the first time in two months came to an end early this week. Daytime high temperatures will again be above average for August starting Wednesday 25th, with overnight low temperatures in particular being well above seasonal, before cooling again to around average for September in the first week of that month. As mentioned above, monsoonal rains are a possibility from 29th August to at least 3rd September. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 24th August 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 50.1°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.8°F (5°C), 31% relative humidity, and a very gusty SW wind sustained at 6 mph gusting to 16.8 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 21st August 2021 at 0815 the air temperature was 50.9°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 46.2°F (8°C), 16% relative humidity, and a brisk due South breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 8.4 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 19th August 2021 at 0830 the air temperature was 48.9°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.7°F (5°C), 15% relative humidity, and a light WSW wind sustained at 6 mph gusting to 10.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph. This the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed on 19th August 2020.

On 23rd August, smoke appeared in the morning at higher elevations, largely above 8000ft, as seen here from near May Valley Road. The San Jacinto high country is partially obscured to the left, with Tahquitz Rock to the right.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although they are reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park have moved quickly to remove these hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, about 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a CCC crew in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June.

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, especially on the State Park section, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned use trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

The biggest of several major tree hazards expertly removed by a CCC crew from Deer Springs Trail in the past week. This one fell in winter 2019/20 on the PCT right at the Deer Springs crossing.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe continues to flow weakly (at about 0.4L/min) as of last week. This source may not be reliable beyond August. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (the flow remains good for filtering, but is the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing, but very gently, further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – dried up in early July.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and also downstream – but even more weakly – where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Deer Springs Trail, 21st August 2021.

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow remarkably well. I rework the tiny pool at least once every week when I pass by and there is just sufficient depth from which to filter water.

Tiny but reliable, Switchback Spring continues to flow well just north of Strawberry Junction, 21st August 2021.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when the creek is dry across the trail, small but invaluable fresh pools remain just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Weather and water update 19th August 2021

Regrettably monsoonal weather conditions in the past week did not produce significant precipitation in the San Jacinto mountains, and the monsoon pattern appears to have shifted away from us for the remainder of August. On the plus side, a major cooling trend for the next few days will take daytime high temperatures below seasonal averages for the first time this summer (discussed in Weather below). Daily wilderness hikes continue to include San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week, and Tahquitz Peak weekly, both by a variety of routes, plus various other trails, facilitating regular checks of water sources and trail conditions.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations, usually most likely in the afternoons.

Full fire restrictions are in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are now prohibited.

Water conditions in the high country are poor and continue to deteriorate. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen before October. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened many months ago.

WEATHER Daytime high temperatures are falling rapidly to several degrees below seasonal for 18th-21st August. It should feel delightfully cool compared to the past two months! While overnight low temperatures will also fall dramatically compared to recent weeks, they will still largely be at or even slightly above seasonal norms. From Monday 23rd onwards, day and night temperatures will climb again to above average, with another heatwave currently forecast for the last week of August. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 19th August 2021 at 0830 the air temperature was 48.9°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.7°F (5°C), 15% relative humidity, and a light WSW wind sustained at 6 mph gusting to 10.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 16th August 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 60.2°F (16°C), with a windchill temperature of 56.8°F (14°C), 57% relative humidity, and a pleasant NNW breeze sustained at 3 mph gusting to 8.5 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph. This the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed on 19th August 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although they are reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park have moved quickly to remove these hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June.

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, especially on the State Park section, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned use trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe continues to flow weakly (at about 0.4L/min) as of last week. This source may not be reliable beyond August. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (on 4th August the flow was good for filtering, but was the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing, but very gently, further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

Tahquitz Creek flowing gently at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 10th August 2021.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – dried up in early July.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and also downstream – but much more weakly – where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow well. I rework the tiny pool once or twice every week when I pass by and there is just sufficient depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry. The tiny pool, just a few inches in diameter, is not adequate for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June!).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when dry across the trail, small but invaluable fresh pools remain just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

The array of challenges facing volunteer rangers is considerable. Above, about 15lb of trash I packed out from an abandoned campsite (complete with illegal fire ring) near Tahquitz Meadow, 10th August 2021. Below, an abandoned “vehicle” on May Valley Road which I reported to Forest Service in July but was still there on 12th August. Bottom, at the top of South Ridge Road someone drove over and flattened bollards designed to prevent vehicle damage to a burn area, 11th August.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Weather and water update 11th August 2021

Hopefully the San Jacinto mountains will receive some desperately needed monsoonal rain for the third week in a row, although so far storms on 9th and 10th have produced plenty of thunder and lightning but with no significant rainfall around Idyllwild. The monsoon system as a whole is described in detail in the latest NWS-San Diego video.

Daily hikes include San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week, and Tahquitz Peak weekly, both by a variety of routes facilitating regular checks of water sources and trail conditions. Recent trail maintenance work has focused on South Ridge Trail and the PCT just north of Saddle Junction (the latter alongside Forest Service volunteer Bill Rhoads).

Regrettably a vehicle was broken into at the trailhead parking at the top of South Ridge Road on Saturday morning, 7th August. To add insult to injury, it was the vehicle of one of our invaluable volunteer fire lookouts at Tahquitz Peak. Another hiker vehicle parked on Tahquitz View Drive at the bottom of South Ridge Road was similarly damaged the same morning. Living nearby, I estimate that I have hiked past these trailheads more than 400 times in the past decade and this is the first break-in I have heard of or witnessed. Thankfully trailhead vehicle break-ins are extremely rare in the San Jacinto mountains, although we did have a spate at Humber Park and Deer Springs trailhead in 2014-2016. Hopefully this does not signal the start of a similar wave. The usual cautions may help; leave no valuables whatsoever in your vehicle, and nothing visible at all from the outside.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations, usually most likely in the afternoons.

Full fire restrictions are in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are now prohibited.

Water conditions in the high country remain very poor, despite recent showers. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. While flow can improve briefly immediately after rain storms, the effects of monsoonal events typically only last a few days at most.

Be bear aware. Observations have been infrequent in the past two years, but 1-3 individuals remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. One was seen just east of Saddle Junction in early July, fresh tracks were on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May and dumpsters in nearby Dark Canyon were visited by a bear in July.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. Apparently it may not reopen before October. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened many months ago.

WEATHER Daytime temperatures will be around seasonal this week, although with a minor heatwave at the weekend (14th-15th August). As seems to be increasingly “normal” in recent years, the overnight low temperatures will continue to average at least 5-10 degrees above historical norms for the foreseeable future. From 17th onwards, daytime high temperatures will be at (or even slightly below!) average for August. Monsoonal rains are possible every day 14th-20th August, generally most likely in the afternoons or at night. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 9th August 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 52.8°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.1°F (10°C), 56% relative humidity, and a light WNW breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.0 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 5th August 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 50.9°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 44.0°F (7°C), 75% relative humidity, and a steady due East wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 13.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph. This the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed on 19th August 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although they are reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park have moved quickly to remove these hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June.

Willow Creek Trail has 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, especially on the State Park section, but remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned use trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

After an absence of about six months, a new summit sign was placed on 1st August. I was happy to see that for the first time in at least a decade the correct name for the Peak was used (there is no “Mount” in the name). Photo 3rd August 2021.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.4L/min) as of Monday 9th August. This source may not be reliable beyond this month. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (on 4th August the flow was good for filtering, but was the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

The well known north spring flowing gently at Wellman’s Cienega, 9th August 2021.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing, but very gently, further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

Tahquitz Creek flowing gently at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 10th August 2021.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – dried up in early July.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and also downstream – but much more weakly – where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow well. I rework the tiny pool once or twice every week when I pass by and there is just sufficient depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry. The tiny pool, just a few inches in diameter, is not adequate for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June!).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now functionally dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when dry however there are small but invaluable fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Weather and water update 5th August 2021

Just last week I wrote how encouraging the summer monsoonal rains appeared to be for the first time in about five years, then last Friday 30th July we were treated to a much heavier rainfall (plus hail) associated with an intense thunderstorm right over town. In Idyllwild at 5550ft we recorded 1.89 inches (48mm) of rain, almost all of which fell within about an hour in mid-afternoon. This was the most rain we had recorded in a day in almost two-and-a-half years, since the unprecedented storm of 14th February 2019 when 7.77 inches (197mm) fell in fewer than twenty hours.

Idyllwild was evidently right underneath a major thunderstorm cell on the south-west side of the mountain, as there was erosion and flooding damage littering many of the town streets, and also on lower Deer Springs Trail and lower Marion Mountain Trail. While all of the San Jacinto mountains thankfully received some rain, there was generally less than an inch across the high country judging by minimal erosion on most trails and the continuing low flow of the springs.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations, usually most likely in the afternoons.

Full fire restrictions are in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are now prohibited.

Water conditions in the high country remain very poor, despite recent showers. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. While flow can improve briefly immediately after rain storms, the effects of monsoonal events typically only last a few days at most.

Be bear aware. Observations have been infrequent in the past two years, but 1-3 individuals remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. One was seen just east of Saddle Junction in early July, fresh tracks were on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May and dumpsters in nearby Dark Canyon were visited by a bear in July.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. Apparently it may not reopen before October. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened many months ago.

After an absence of about six months, a new summit sign was placed on 1st August. I was happy to see that for the first time in at least a decade the correct name for the Peak was used. Photo 3rd August 2021.

WEATHER A brief heatwave in the first week of the month with temperatures well above average (even for August) is forecast to give way to daytime high temperatures closer to seasonal in the second week of August. Nevertheless overnight low temperatures will continue to be about ten degrees above historical norms every day. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast, although monsoonal rains are possible on 10th-14th August. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 3rd August 2021 at 0830 the air temperature was 58.2°F (15°C), with a windchill temperature of 52.0°F (11°C), 51% relative humidity, and a gusty ESE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 16.7 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 1st August 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 50.9°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 44.0°F (7°C), 75% relative humidity, and a steady due East wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 13.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph. This the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed at 0745 on 19th August 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees). Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) is now clear.

Willow Creek Trail has 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, especially on the State Park section, but remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned (but subtle) trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.5L/min). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (on 12th July the flow was good for filtering, but was the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

The well-known northernmost spring at Wellman’s Cienega, still flowing gently, 1st August 2021.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing, but very gently, further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – dried up in early July.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and also downstream – but much more weakly – where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow well. I rework the tiny pool once or twice every week when I pass by and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry. The tiny pool, just a few inches in diameter, is not adequate for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now functionally dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when dry however there are small but invaluable fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

On 29th July 2021 I was again fortunate to assist San Diego Zoo with another reintroduction of the endangered Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frog (Rana muscosa) in the San Jacinto mountains. Above and below, two of the more than one hundred captive-bred individuals released that day.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Weather and water update 28th July 2021

[UPDATE Friday 30th July: major monsoonal thunderstorms this afternoon have produced up to two inches of rain (plus large hail) across the San Jacinto mountains. Obviously the water conditions reported below are not currently relevant. When runoff has subsided, likely within a few days, conditions should revert to “normal”. The next full update to the Report will likely be 3rd August.]

With the monsoons having failed here in the San Jacinto mountains for the past 3-4 years, it is so encouraging to be writing about summer rainstorms for the second week in a row. While the storm cells on Sunday 18th produced only about 0.17in (4mm), the monsoonal system that came through in the morning of Monday 26th July, more than doubled that with 0.42in (10mm) at 5550ft in Idyllwild. While this volume of rain will not change the water conditions on the mountain, and only offers a brief respite from fire risk, we’ll take anything at this point! We had a pleasantly cool, if humid, hike in light drizzle early Monday morning via Devil’s Slide Trail, reaching San Jacinto Peak just as the cloud was breaking up, then descending Deer Springs Trail. Water sources were of course flowing a little better following the rain, but this will likely last only a day or two. As last week, it was delightful to have the dust dampened down and to smell a wet forest.

Daily survey hikes continue to include San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week, plus Tahquitz Peak weekly, both by a variety of routes facilitating regular checks of water sources. Recent trail maintenance work (alongside Forest Service volunteer Bill Rhoads) has focused on the PCT just north of Saddle Junction.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, ordinarily most common in the afternoon, are a possibility most days for the remainder of July at least. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions on Forest Service lands began on 23rd June, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are now prohibited.

Water conditions in the high country are very poor and deteriorating, despite recent showers. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. Notably creeks in Little Round Valley and Skunk Cabbage Meadow are now dry.

Be bear aware. Observations have been infrequent in the past two years, but 1-3 individuals remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. One was seen just east of Saddle Junction in early July, and fresh tracks were on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. Apparently it may not reopen until October. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened many months ago.

WEATHER The brief cooling of the past couple of days will not last, and daytime high temperatures will be at or above seasonal averages for the remainder of July, before another heating trend in the first week of August. Overnight low temperatures continue to be up to ten degrees above seasonal every day. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast (although minor monsoonal rains are a possibility as discussed above). Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 26th July 2021 at 1040 the air temperature was 45.9°F (8°C), with a windchill temperature of 37.2°F (3°C), 94% relative humidity, and a moderate SSW wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 14.3 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 24th July 2021 at 0715 the air temperature was 51.8°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.6°F (9°C), 75% relative humidity, and a light SSE wind sustained at 3 mph gusting to 7.6 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph. This the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed at 0745 on 19th August 2020.

Parish’s Catchfly (Silene parishii) at 10,700ft elevation on San Jacinto Peak. This species, endemic to the mountains of Southern California, is flowering about two months earlier at this elevation than in 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees). Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) is now clear.

Willow Creek Trail has 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, especially on the State Park section, but remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned (but subtle) trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

Multi-layer clouds just after rain, looking south-south-easr from San Jacinto Peak, 26th July 2021. Jean Peak is to the right.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.5L/min). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (on 12th July the flow was good for filtering, but was the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing, but very gently, further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – dried up in early July.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and also downstream – but much more weakly – where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is very poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow well. I rework the tiny pool every week and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry. The tiny pool, just a few inches in diameter, is not adequate for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are small but invaluable fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Tahquitz Peak (in the cloud to the left) looking south from the PCT, early morning on 26th July 2021. The cloudbase at about 8700ft lifted to 11,000ft within two hours.

Water and weather update 21st July 2021

Daily survey hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week, plus Tahquitz Peak weekly, both by a variety of routes facilitating regular checks of water sources. Recent trail maintenance work (alongside Forest Service volunteer Bill Rhoads) has focused on the PCT just north of Saddle Junction.

Impressive early morning thunderstorms passed over us on Sunday 18th, largely to the south then west of Idyllwild. We had only 0.10in of rain in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) in that storm and from the condition of trails in the high country on 19th it was clear that there had been similarly little rain up there. We had a delightful early morning hike up South Ridge to Tahquitz Peak on 18th, initially in the warm rain, and it was so pleasant to have the dust dampened down and to smell a wet forest for the first time in months.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, most often in the afternoons, are a possibility most days for the foreseeable future, especially 25th-26th July. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions on Forest Service lands began on 23rd June, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are now prohibited. USFS enforcement has been effective, with multiple substantial fines apparently issued last week to violators along South Ridge Road.

Water conditions in the high country are very poor and deteriorating. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. Notably creeks in Little Round Valley and Skunk Cabbage Meadow are now dry.

Be bear aware. Observations have been infrequent in the past two years, but 1-3 individuals remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. One was seen just east of Saddle Junction in early July, and fresh tracks were on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. Apparently it may not reopen until October. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened many months ago.

An early morning thunderstorm passing to the north-west of Pine Cove, as seen from South Ridge Trail just below Tahquitz Peak, 18th July 2021.

WEATHER Daytime high temperatures will fluctuate around seasonal averages for the next week, but with overnight lows continuing to be some several degrees above seasonal. There is a chance of light rainfall associated with thunderstorms at all elevations on 26th July. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 19th July 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 53.2°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.7°F (10°C), 86% relative humidity, and a very light ESE breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 6.7 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 16th July 2021 at 0750 the air temperature was 56.6°F (14°C), with a windchill temperature of 53.6°F (12°C), 53% relative humidity, and a very light SSE breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 6.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph. This the highest air temperature recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed at 0745 on 19th August 2020.

It was a rare sticky summer morning at San Jacinto Peak on 19th July with relative humidity close to 90%. The cumulus cloudbase was at 11,000ft. The view looking WNW with Black Mountain on the far left.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees). Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) is now clear.

Willow Creek Trail has 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, especially on the State Park section, but remains less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some other local hikers have kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned (but subtle) trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my recent survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.5L/min). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Round Valley pipe flowing gently, 12th July 2021.

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (on 12th July the flow was good for filtering, but was the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing, but very gently, further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – dried up in early July.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and also downstream – but much more weakly – where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Recently dried creekbed in Little Round Valley, 19th July 2021.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing extremely weakly and is very poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is flowing. I rework the tiny pool every week and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry. The tiny pool, just a few inches in diameter, is not adequate for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now functionally dry. All other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are small but invaluable fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Lemon Lily (Lilium parryi) flowering in a San Jacinto mountains meadow, 16th July 2021.

Water and weather update 14th July 2021

Daily survey hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week, allowing for regular checks of water sources, for example on 12th descending via Round Valley, the High Trail, and Willow Creek Trail.

The astonishing air temperature I recorded at San Jacinto Peak on Monday 12th July, 67.6°F (19.8°C) at 0810, shattered the previous record Peak temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed at 0745 on 19th August 2020. I have rarely recorded high temperatures at or just above 60°F at the Peak (three times in summer 2018, but not once in 2019), but now 70 degrees seems to be a possibility. In over 500 early morning ascents of Devil’s Slide Trail, I have never known it to be so warm as on 12th, close to 80°F at Humber Park pre-dawn at 0515.

While temperatures will drop for the next few days, they will remain at or above seasonal averages (overnight lows especially tending to be high), so plan your hiking accordingly for hot, very dry conditions. There have been multiple heat-related rescues on Skyline Trail in recent weeks, and only hikers who are extremely familiar with that trail in these conditions should even be considering attempting it in summer.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a possibility for the foreseeable future, especially 18th-23rd July. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions on Forest Service lands began on 23rd June, as described here. All campfires at USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites in the San Jacinto mountains are now prohibited.

Water conditions in the high country are poor and deteriorating. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. The creek in Little Round Valley is now functionally dry. Even the relatively major Antsell Rock Creek has dried up at Apple Canyon Road adjacent to the Spitler Peak trailhead.

Be bear aware. Observations have been infrequent in the past two years, but 1-3 individuals remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. One was seen just east of Saddle Junction last week, and very fresh tracks were on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It may reopen later this month. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

WEATHER Daytime high temperatures will drop to near seasonal averages on 14th-18th, although with overnight lows tending to remain as much as 10°F above seasonal. Temperatures are forecast to again be above average next week. There is no significant widespread precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph, with visibility very limited by haze/smoke.

At the Peak on Tuesday 6th July 2021 at 0825 the air temperature was 56.5°F (14°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.9°F (10°C), 31% relative humidity, and a stiff due East wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 17.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late autumn, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees). Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards in early July.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) has been completely cleared.

Willow Creek Trail has 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, especially on the State Park section, but nevertheless remains much less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned (but subtle) trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my recent survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.5L/min). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Round Valley pipe flowing gently, 12th July 2021.

Hidden Lake dried completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing, but very weakly, where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Willow Creek, where it crosses the trail of the same name, 12th July 2021. This is the lowest flow I have ever seen in Willow Creek, but it remains invaluable for filtering.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing very gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley has stopped flowing, there are tiny pools for about 20 feet, and it dries up long before leaving the Valley. It is currently very marginal for filtering at best. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is very poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is flowing. I rework the tiny pool every week and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is almost dry. The tiny pool, just a few inches in diameter, is not adequate for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now functionally dry. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are tiny fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is a critical source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail.

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Spitler Creek continues to flow gently in the upper switchbacks of Spitler Peak Trail, 5th July 2021.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs (Rana muscosa), 8th July 2021. These individuals, photographed after their release into the wild, are part of a reintroduction project in the San Jacinto mountains managed by San Diego Zoo, with which I was kindly invited to assist. Note how individuals can adjust their coloration to match the substrate.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Water and trail update 7th July 2021

Daily survey hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week, plus in recent days Spitler Peak Trail, South Ridge Trail (several times), Laws/Caramba area, South Fork Wilderness Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex. Recent trail maintenance has focused on several of the trails mentioned above.

Full fire restrictions began on Wednesday 23rd June on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires at USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites in the San Jacinto mountains are now prohibited.

Temperatures for the foreseeable future will be largely well above seasonal averages, so plan your hiking accordingly for very hot, very dry conditions.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a slim possibility for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Water conditions in the high country are poor and deteriorating. Hot, dry weather for many weeks has not helped the situation. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described in detail below. The creek in Little Round Valley was almost dry on 6th July. On 5th July I was surprised to find that Antsell Rock Creek has dried up at Apple Canyon Road adjacent to the Spitler Peak trailhead.

Be bear aware. Although sightings have been infrequent in the past two years, one was reported on Willow Creek Trail at 0745 on 3rd July just east of Saddle Junction (per David English). The size and colour reported suggest this may be a third individual, different from the “Rite Aid” bear and “Blondie” who both appeared in 2017 (see my video of the latter in Idyllwild in 2018). The Trail Report last reported very fresh tracks on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May (see this earlier Report for photo).

Mountain Lions are thankfully always common and widespread locally. One of my camera traps in the San Jacinto mountains near Idyllwild obtained great daylight video of an adult female on 24th June.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It may reopen later this month. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and are usually available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

WEATHER Temperatures overall will be above seasonal averages for the foreseeable future, with overnight lows in particular tending to be far above seasonal. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 6th July 2021 at 0825 the air temperature was 56.5°F (14°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.9°F (10°C), 31% relative humidity, and a stiff due East wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 17.4 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 1st July 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 52.3°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.6°F (9°C), 48% relative humidity, and a light due West wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.0 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late autumn, as discussed in detail below.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees). Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards in early July.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz ( PCT Miles 175-177) has been completely cleared.

Willow Creek Trail has 14 downed trees on its Forest Service section (including a couple of new ones in high winds in June), with a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. This was reported to USFS in April. There are half-a-dozen additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned (but subtle) trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my recent survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The creek in Little Round Valley, sadly reduced to a few feet of tiny pools, 6th July 2021. It will be completely dry within a couple of weeks.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.5L/min on 28th June). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing, but relatively weakly, where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried some four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley has stopped flowing, there are tiny pools for about 20 feet, and it dries up long before leaving the Valley (see photo above). It is currently very marginal for filtering, and will completely dry in July. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is very poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is flowing. I rework the tiny pool every week and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is almost dry. The tiny pool is barely sufficient for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June).

Strawberry Cienega, 24th June 2021. The tiny pool (lower left) was barely two inches deep, and about six inches across, and should not be relied upon for filtering.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now almost dry. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are tiny fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail.

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring, about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road, continues to flow well.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Spitler Creek continues to flow gently in the upper switchbacks of Spitler Peak Trail, 5th July 2021.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Spectacular cumulus and altocumulus clouds as seen from Old Lookout Flat (7600ft) on South Ridge Trail, early morning 29th June 2021. Looking east (above), and west (below).

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail update 1st July 2021

Daily hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week by a variety of routes, plus in recent days South Ridge Trail, Laws/Caramba area, South Fork Wilderness Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex.

Recently I have focused on vegetation trimming along several major trail sections, notably South Ridge Trail, upper Deer Springs Trail, the “Strawberry Trail” (PCT from Annie’s Junction to Strawberry Junction, Miles 181-183), Spitler Peak Trail, and the South Fork Wilderness Trail, the latter with the help of Forest Service volunteer Bill Rhoads.

Full fire restrictions began on Wednesday 23rd June on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires at USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites in the San Jacinto mountains are now prohibited.

Relatively cool, cloudy weather with minor precipitation (0.02in in Idyllwild at 5550ft) was a pleasant relief last week on 23rd and 24th June. Temperatures for the foreseeable future will be above seasonal averages, so plan your hiking accordingly for hot, dry conditions.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a slim possibility for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate. Recent hot, dry weather has not helped the situation. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described in detail in the previous Report.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here, and has been surprisingly popular (likely because it is short and stuff blows up!). The project was a success, making this section of the PCT significantly safer, and it is now readily passable with care by hikers (but it remains impassable for stock).

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It is not expected to reopen before late July. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and are usually available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

WEATHER Temperatures overall will be at or above seasonal averages for the foreseeable future, with overnight lows in particular tending to be well above seasonal. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 1st July 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 52.3°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.6°F (9°C), 48% relative humidity, and a light due West wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.0 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 28th June 2021 at 0655 the air temperature was 58.8°F (15°C), with a windchill temperature of 54.7°F (13°C), 43% relative humidity, and a light due North wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 8.4 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 24th June 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 44.0°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.7°F (2°C), 96% relative humidity, and a fresh SSW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.3 mph.

South Fork of the San Jacinto River at 3650ft elevation where it intersects the South Fork Wilderness Trail, 25th June 2021. The riverbed was altered dramatically by the great flood event of 14th February 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late autumn. Conditions have not changed significantly since the previous Report.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

Excellent work by an ACE crew in anticipation of the rockslide blasting earlier in June resulted in the clearing of many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175). Nevertheless about 20 hazards remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. USFS volunteers had previously cleared all treefall hazards from Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 14 downed trees on its Forest Service section (including a couple of new ones in recent high winds), with a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been made aware of the problem. There are half-a-dozen additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 24th June 2021

We have been able to maintain daily hikes despite the heat, including San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week by a variety of routes, and usually Tahquitz Peak once a week. Other trails surveyed in recent days have included most of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains, South Ridge Trail, Laws/Caramba area, Willow Creek Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex several times.

Full fire restrictions come into force on Wednesday 23rd June on Forest Service lands, as described in this press release. All campfires at USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites in the San Jacinto mountains are now prohibited.

Temperatures this week will feel pleasantly cool compared to last week. Another heatwave, shorter and less severe than last week, arrives Saturday 26th June, potentially continuing until about 1st July. June 2021 is on pace to set a record for number of days >90°F recorded in June in Idyllwild history. Two hiker fatalities due to heat-related problems in the adjacent Santa Rosa mountains in recent days, including one just south of Highway 74 near PCT Mile 145, highlight the considerable risks of hiking in such weather. If you plan on hiking from 26th June onwards, please pay particular attention to forecasts and plan accordingly for very hot, very dry conditions.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a slim possibility for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here, and has been surprisingly popular (likely because it is short and stuff blows up!). The project was a success, making this section of the PCT significantly safer, and it is now readily passable with care by hikers (but it remains impassable for stock).

Water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate. The recent weather will not help the situation. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

Be rattlesnake aware. Although in general it appears to be a very poor year for them, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on multiple trails at elevations up to near 9000ft.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It is not expected to reopen until July. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain around average until Saturday 26th, when they are forecast to rise to well above seasonal (especially overnight lows), accompanied by low humidity. There is currently no significant precipitation in the forecast (although monsoonal storms are a possibility in the first few days of July). Fire risk is severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 22nd June 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 49.3°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.3°F (5°C), 44% relative humidity, and a cool WSW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 22.8 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 16th June 2021 at 0700 the air temperature was 60.9°F (16°C), with a windchill temperature of 56.3°F (8°C), 26% relative humidity, and a pleasantly fresh NE wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow in early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of autumn.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

Excellent work by an ACE crew in anticipation of the rockslide blasting last week resulted in the clearing of many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175). Nevertheless about 20 hazards remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. USFS volunteers had previously cleared all treefall hazards from Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 14 downed trees on its Forest Service section (including two new ones in recent high winds), with a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified. There are half-a-dozen additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing, but weakly (at about 0.5L/min in late June). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 14th June 2021.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly for only about fifty feet [updated 1st July] and dries up before leaving the Valley. It is currently marginal for filtering. There is unlikely to be water in LRV beyond July. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is very poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is now dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6).

The tiny, but perennial,

spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is trickling. I rework the tiny pool every week and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is almost dry. The tiny pool is barely sufficient for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filer 0.25L in late June).

Strawberry Cienega, 24th June 2021. The tiny pool (lower left) was barely two inches deep, and about six inches across, and should not be relied upon for filtering.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are tiny fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring, about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road, continues to flowing well.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing gently). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing steadily. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

New fire ring (above) in Little Round Valley, not much over 100 feet from rather clear signage (below) indicating campfires are not permitted there (or indeed anywhere else in the State Park). Photographed 22nd June 2021. I destroyed the fire ring to discourage anyone else from having the same idea.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Rockslide and water update 17th June 2021

Temperatures this week will continue to be exceptional for June in the San Jacinto mountains. Tuesday 15th set a record high temperature for that date in Idyllwild (99°F), while 120°F in Palm Springs broke the daily record by four degrees (both locations passing records set in a heatwave in June 1961). If you plan on hiking prior to 21st, please pay particular attention to forecasts and plan accordingly for very hot, very dry conditions.

The major trail news this week is the removal on Monday 14th June of the rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock. I have before, during (!), and after video available here. The blasting was a success, making this section of the PCT significantly safer, and thank you to USFS for inviting the Trail Report to assist with the project. The trail tread was improved both before and after the blasting by an American Conservation Experience (ACE) volunteer crew, and is now passable with care by hikers (but remains too narrow for stock).

Water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate rapidly. This week’s weather will not help the situation. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on multiple trails at elevations up to near 9000ft.

Mountain Lions are thankfully always common and widespread locally. One of my camera traps in the San Jacinto mountains near Idyllwild obtained excellent footage of a healthy adult passing by on 22nd May and again on 5th June 2021.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It is not expected to reopen before late July. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Wildflower array along the PCT at South Peak, 14th June 2021.

WEATHER Temperatures will be far above normal (especially overnight lows), and potentially dangerous, until Sunday 20th, accompanied by low humidity. Temperatures return to near seasonal averages starting Monday 21st June. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk is severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 16th June 2021 at 0700 the air temperature was 60.9°F (16°C), with a windchill temperature of 56.3°F (8°C), 26% relative humidity, and a pleasantly fresh NE wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 7th June 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 49.4°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 43.3°F (6°C), 28% relative humidity, and a brisk SSW breeze sustained at 6 mph gusting to 11.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow in early May. Water conditions are a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of autumn.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

Excellent work by the ACE crew in anticipation of the rockslide blasting resulted in the clearing of many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175). Nevertheless about 20 hazards remain, including at least seven major obstructions for hikers. USFS volunteers had previously cleared all treefall hazards from Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 12 downed trees on its Forest Service section, including a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified. There are several additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead, although the road is expected to reopen soon.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 14th June 2021.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020. However about 100 yards upstream there is a little surface flow with pools just about suitable for filtering.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly for only a few hundred feet and dries up before leaving the Valley. It is currently marginal for filtering. There is unlikely to be water in LRV beyond June this year. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is now flowing very weakly but remains adequate for filtering.

The tiny spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is trickling. I reworked the tiny pool and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring barely continues to trickle. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is largely dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring, about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road, was flowing well last week.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing gently). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing steadily. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Weather and water update 10th June 2021

UPDATED 13th June: the 400 acre Flats Fire started late this morning just south of the Sugarloaf Cafe in the Pinyon area. Highway 74 is closed between Garner Valley (Hwy 371 junction) and Palm Desert. More information available here.

An ACE trail crew is working 10th-16th June on the northern Desert Divide (mainly PCT Miles 172-176). The PCT will be completely closed for critical maintenance work all day Monday 14th June between Spitler Peak Trail (Mile 168.5) and Tahquitz Creek (Mile 177). In general, hikers should expect significant delays and possible trail closures between about Apache Peak and Red Tahquitz for the next several days at least.

My daily hikes, largely surveying water resources, usually include San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week. The focus recently has transitioned to trail maintenance, fire lookout duties, and wilderness ranger patrol (a.k.a. trash pick up).

Temperatures next week are forecast to be exceptionally high in the San Jacinto mountains, near or above the records for mid June set in a heatwave in 1961. Next week’s weather is discussed in detail in this NWS San Diego video. If you are planning on hiking on 14th-20th, please pay particular attention to forecasts and plan accordingly for extremely hot, dry conditions.

Water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate rapidly. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. Notable changes this week include Deer Springs crossing on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail which is now dry. Water flowing in Little Round Valley creek is down to only about 200ft. This will dry up in the next few weeks. The San Jacinto high country has been clear of snow since early May.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on multiple trails at elevations up to near 9000ft.

Be bear aware. Although reports have been very infrequent in the past two years, at least one Black Bear remains in the San Jacinto mountains. We found very fresh tracks on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May (see this previous Report for photo).

Mountain Lions are thankfully always common and widespread locally. One of my camera traps in the San Jacinto mountains near Idyllwild obtained excellent footage of a healthy adult passing by on 22nd May and again on 5th June 2021.

Fresh print of a relatively small (yearling?) Mountain Lion in trail at Wellman’s Cienega, 7th June 2021. The knife is 3.6″ long for scale.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It is not expected to reopen before mid July. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May. Visitors are currently unable to access fire lookouts when manned due to USFS coronavirus protocols.

WEATHER Temperatures are – pleasantly, and unusually – currently below seasonal averages, before swinging dramatically to far above normal after Saturday 12th. Temperatures on at least 14th-19th June will be well above midsummer highs, accompanied by low humidity. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk is severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 7th June 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 49.4°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 43.3°F (6°C), 28% relative humidity, and a brisk SSW breeze sustained at 6 mph gusting to 11.8 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 1st June 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 52.1°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.1°F (8°C), 41% relative humidity, and a light NE breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.6 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are clear of snow. Water conditions are a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of autumn.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT from Tahquitz Creek to the rockslide (PCT Miles 172.5-177, about 60 trees down), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

In addition to the trail crew on the PCT section Miles 172-175 mentioned above,, USFS volunteers are currently working on clearing treefall hazards between Red Tahquitz and Tahquitz Creek (PCT Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 12 downed trees on its Forest Service section, including a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified. There are several additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead, although the road is expected to reopen soon.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020. However about 100 yards upstream there is a little surface flow with pools just about suitable for filtering.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly for only a few hundred feet and dries up before leaving the Valley. It is currently marginal for filtering. There is unlikely to be water in LRV beyond June this year. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is now flowing very weakly but remains adequate for filtering.

The tiny spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is trickling. I reworked the tiny pool and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring barely continues to trickle. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is largely dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring, about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road, was flowing well last week.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing gently). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing steadily. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Water and trail update 3rd June 2021

Daily hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week and typically Tahquitz Peak once a week, both by a variety of routes. Additional trails surveyed in the last few days have included Spitler Peak Trail, Laws area, Willow Creek Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex.

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country have been clear of snow since early May. Water conditions in the high country are deteriorating rapidly, and are reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2015 and 2016. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have already been seen on multiple trails at elevations up to near 9000ft.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake at about 4900ft near Spitler Peak Trail, 30th May 2021. Compared to higher elevation individuals, this SPR is mainly dark brown (not blackish) with buff markings (not white or pale grey). At this elevation the snake’s venom was likely haemotoxic rather than neurotoxic (the latter is normal higher up), but I decided not to personally test that hypothesis.

Be bear aware. Although reports have been very infrequent in the past two years, at least one Black Bear remains in the San Jacinto mountains. We found very fresh tracks on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May (see previous Report for photo).

Mountain Lions are of course always common and widespread locally. One of my camera traps in the San Jacinto mountains near Idyllwild obtained excellent footage of a healthy adult (probably female?) on 22nd May, available here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. It is not expected to reopen before July. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds.

Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May. Visitors are currently unable to access fire lookouts when manned due to USFS coronavirus protocols.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be above seasonal averages in the first week of June (especially overnight lows). A significant cooling trend starts Sunday 6th for several days. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk is very high.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 1st June 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 52.1°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.1°F (8°C), 41% relative humidity, and a light NE breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.6 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 26th May 2021 at 0720 the air temperature was 38.7°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.6°F (-2°C), 32% relative humidity, and a moderate WSW breeze sustained at 7 mph gusting to 13.2 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 22nd May 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 18.8°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.8°F (-15°C), 47% relative humidity, and a fresh West breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are clear of snow. Water conditions are a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late summer or autumn at best.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT from Tahquitz Creek to the rockslide (PCT Miles 172.5-177, about 60 trees down), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

A trail crew is scheduled to work on the PCT section Miles 173-175 starting later this month. USFS volunteers are currently working on clearing treefall hazards between Red Tahquitz and Tahquitz Creek (PCT Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 12 downed trees on its Forest Service section, including a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. PCT Miles 191-207) reopened on 3rd April 2021. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the roughly 17 mile section.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are misleading. However the rope is ageing and if you choose to use it you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are no imminent plans to close this section of the PCT for rock removal work. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

The State Park reminds all hikers that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020. However about 100 yards upstream there is a little surface flow with pools just about suitable for filtering.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly for only a few hundred feet and dries up before leaving the Valley. It is currently marginal for filtering. There is unlikely to be water in LRV beyond June this year. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is now flowing very weakly but remains adequate for filtering.

The tiny spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is trickling. I reworked the tiny pool and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring barely continues to trickle. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is largely dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring, about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road, was flowing well last week.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing gently). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing steadily. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 27th May 2021

Daily hikes have included San Jacinto Peak 2-3 times per week and Tahquitz Peak once a week, both by a variety of routes. Additional trails surveyed in the past week have included Seven Pines Trail, Laws area and lower Caramba Trail, Willow Creek Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex.

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country have been clear of snow since early May. Water conditions in the high country are already worryingly reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2015 and 2016. The status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have already been seen on multiple trails at elevations close to 9000ft.

Be bear aware. Although reports have been very infrequent in the past two years, at least one Black Bear remains in the San Jacinto mountains. We found very fresh tracks on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May.

Fresh hindfoot print of a Black Bear descending lower Seven Pines Trail, early morning of 22nd May 2021. The knife is 3.6 inches long for scale.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. It is not expected to reopen before July. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May (having been closed for two years due to maintenance issues) along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds.

Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopens for the season on Sunday 30th May. Note that visitors are currently unable to access fire lookouts when manned due to coronavirus protocols.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be above seasonal averages into early June, with some days well above seasonal (especially overnight lows). The first week of June is forecast to have weather more typical of July-August. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk is high.

A brief but dramatic cooling on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd May provided a reminder of how quickly conditions can change in the mountains. The cooling was accompanied by strong westerly winds, with windchill temperatures far below freezing in the high country.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 26th May 2021 at 0720 the air temperature was 38.7°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.6°F (-2°C), 32% relative humidity, and a moderate WSW breeze sustained at 7 mph gusting to 13.2 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 22nd May 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 18.8°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.8°F (-15°C), 47% relative humidity, and a fresh West breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.8 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 21st May 2021 at 0830 the air temperature was 13.4°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -11.0°F (-24°C), 68% relative humidity, and a frigid due West wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 30.1 mph.

Not exactly a winter wonderland, but thick rime plastered the upper western slope in the early morning of 22nd May 2021. Photo taken at 9600ft just below Little Round Valley.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are clear of snow. Regrettably water conditions are already becoming a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late summer at best.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT from Tahquitz Creek to the rockslide (PCT Miles 172.5-177, about 60 trees down), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees). A trail crew is scheduled to work on the PCT section Miles 173-175 starting in June.

Willow Creek Trail has 12 downed trees on its Forest Service section, including a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. PCT Miles 191-207) reopened on 3rd April 2021. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the roughly 17 mile section.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are misleading. However the rope is ageing and if you choose to use it you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are no imminent plans to close this section of the PCT for rock removal work. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

The State Park reminds all hikers that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

A challenging downed tree hazard across Willow Creek Trail just west of the Willow Creek crossing, 21st May 2021.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (last year neither dried until August).

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020. However about 100 yards upstream there is some flow, with pools suitable for filtering.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly for only a few hundred feet and dries up before leaving the Valley. There will not be water in LRV beyond June this year. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing gently.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling. I reworked the tiny pool and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring barely continues to trickle. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is already dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Seven Pines Trail, 22nd May 2021. I estimate flow is about 25-35% compared to the same time last year, when water was flowing over the rocks in the foreground.