Snow and trail update 23rd November 2022

[UPDATED 24th November: we took a brisk hike up and down Marion Mountain and upper Deer Springs trails to San Jacinto Peak early this morning. The northerly wind was bitter at the Peak and got stronger throughout the morning as we descended. The Weather section below is updated. There are no significant changes to snow/ice conditions, and advice below – basically spikes recommended throughout the high country – remains valid. The forecasts remain wildly inconsistent for the potential storms next week but it is looking increasingly likely that the systems will miss us to the north.]

Snow from the moderate storm on 8th-9th November (summarized in a prior Report) has been melting steadily as temperatures in the past week have been above seasonal. A major change to the weather might occur next week (see Weather section below) with forecasts suggesting a possible double storm system impacting the San Jacinto mountains, and cold temperatures at all mountain elevations for a week at least.

Lightly cloudy conditions made for a delightful hike on the evening of Monday 21st ascending San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain and Deer Spring trails, descending the east side (Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails). In recent days we have also surveyed trails around Tahquitz Peak, South Ridge, Spitler Peak, and Deer Springs, among others.

On 21st I again barebooted (i.e. no traction device) to the Peak on a generally well-traveled and compacted track through light icy snow. I put spikes on at the Peak for the descent and ultimately kept on my Kahtoola microspikes until about 9000 ft, one mile north of Saddle Junction. Even as melting proceeds steadily (details below), trails are very icy due to daily freeze/thaw cycles and compaction from hiker traffic, and spikes are recommended throughout the trail system above about 8000 ft (lower in places). Overall, melting is proceeding somewhat faster than expected but this holiday weekend trails will remain very icy. Often spikes are especially valuable for descending even when they are no necessarily needed for ascending.

Details of snow depths measured at various locations on the trail system are given at the foot of this posting. Note however that snow depth is rarely indicative of the challenge (or otherwise) of a given trail. Although excellent tracks are now in place for almost all major trails cautious navigation remains recommended.

Snowshoes are no longer required anywhere on the established trail system, where snow is now too shallow, icy and compacted. However this may change next week with new snowfall possible as discussed below.

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

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open and the parking area has been largely plowed.

Black Mountain Road closed on 7th November to vehicle traffic at the gate 1.7 miles up from Highway 243 (see Forest Service website regarding this closure here). This is expected to be a seasonal closure until next year.

Dark Canyon Road (4S02, the access to Seven Pines Trail), and Santa Rosa Truck Trail (7S02) also closed to vehicle traffic for the season on 7th November 2022.

Forest Service campgrounds at Boulder Basin, Marion Mountain, and Fern Basin are now closed for the season. The State Park campground at Stone Creek is also closed.

Fire lookouts at Black Mountain and Tahquitz Peak were closed for the season ahead of schedule in anticipation of the snow storm in early November.

WEATHER

Above seasonal temperatures will continue until Sunday 27th November. A double storm has been forecast as a possibility between Monday 28th November and Sunday 4th December. However the precipitation amounts and probabilities for both storm systems have varied greatly in recent forecasts, and the models seem to be especially uncertain about details of the second storm (approx. 2nd-3rd December). Temperatures during and after both storms are forecast to be below seasonal for late November, colder than the storm system in early November, and windy and hence especially cold in the high country.

The first storm overnight on Monday 28th may produce snow above 10,000 ft (forecasts have ranged from 0-16 inches), and very light snow near the elevation of Idyllwild preceded by a little rain. The second system, possible in a broad time window between 2nd and 4th December, may produce significant snow in the high country (forecasts have ranged widely from 0-30 inches above 10,000 ft!) but probably light rain and/or about an inch of snow at the elevation of Idyllwild. This information will be updated daily over the next week as details are changing significantly with every new forecast. Sadly it is looking increasingly likely that neither storm will significantly impact the San Jacinto mountains.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 24th November 2022 at 0810 the air temperature was 29.0°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.7°F (-15°C), 16% relative humidity, and a severe NNW wind sustained at 25 mph gusting to 35.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 21st November 2022 at 1610 the air temperature was 36.5°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.0°F (-2°C), 9% relative humidity, and a steady WSW breeze sustained at 6 mph gusting to 9.2 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 17th November 2022 at 0825 the air temperature was 36.3°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 29.5°F (-1°C), 10% relative humidity, and a cool NW breeze sustained at 3 mph gusting to 6.3 mph.

Gorgeous clouds at sunset as seen from about 10,300 ft elevation on the Peak Trail, 21st November 2022, with Jean Peak near right.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails above about 7500 ft currently remain lightly covered with patchy icy snow (more continuous above about 9000 ft). However excellent well-traveled and compacted tracks are now in place for most of the major trails (details below).

Hikers should expect to encounter new treefall hazards due to the enormous weight of ice from freezing rain associated with the early November storm, followed by recent Santa Ana winds, and after the passage of Tropical Storm Kay in September. New treefall hazards on several major trails have been reported, and those on Spitler Peak Trail have already been cleared by the Trail Report.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is functionally clear of icy snow, although a few minor patches remain, especially close to Humber Park. Spikes are not required.

Devil’s Slide Trail is almost clear of icy snow to about 7700 ft although some extended dirty icy patches remain below that. Above that elevation, icy snow is largely continuous to Saddle Junction. Spikes are not required for ascending, but some hikers will find them useful at least for descending the uppermost section.

There is a very well-traveled track from Saddle Junction to Tahquitz Peak (multiple photos below). The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail between Chinquapin Flat/PCT and Tahquitz Peak has a well-traveled and level track to follow through the steadily melting 1-2 inches of icy snow. Although not essential, spikes are recommended and many hikers will find them useful especially for descending.

The PCT on the south-facing slope (“Angel’s Glide”) for about 1.0 mile north of Saddle Junction is largely clear of snow (spikes not required).

The Wellman Trail from Annie’s Junction to Wellman Divide has about 40% icy snow cover. Spikes are useful at least for descending.

The Peak Trail has about 80% cover of icy snow, largely continuous above 9900 ft. Spikes are recommended.

There is a well-traveled track on light icy snow from Long Valley/Tram to Wellman Divide. Skyline Trail has a good track to follow through very thin icy snow above 7000 ft (the Traverse to Grubb’s Notch). Spikes are recommended but not strictly essential depending upon your comfort level hiking on angled icy snow.

The PCT throughout the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 207-151) has a clear track to follow, including Fuller Ridge Trail, which has been traversed by a handful of sobo PCT hikers.

South Ridge Trail (surveyed 19th November) is largely clear of snow from the top of South Ridge Road to Old Lookout Flat at about 7600 ft, with just 5% cover of icy snow. The traverse from Old Lookout Flat to the bottom of the switchbacks has about 40% icy snow cover. The switchbacks up to Tahquitz Peak average only 20% icy snow cover, but the frequency and length of ice patches increases on the uppermost switchbacks. Spikes are useful but not strictly required for ascending, but most hikers will continue to find them very useful for descending. South Ridge Road itself is now functionally clear of ice and snow.

Marion Mountain Trail has a very well-defined track to follow. Icy snow cover is 80% overall, becoming increasingly patchy below about 7000 ft, and again in the sun-exposed areas above 8000 ft. Spikes are recommended, at least for descending.

Deer Springs Trail is clear from the Highway 243 trailhead to the Suicide Rock trail junction at 7000 ft, and functionally clear from there to Strawberry Junction (8100 ft), with a few icy snow patches increasing in length and frequency as you ascend. Snow cover is about 80% from Strawberry Junction north for about 1.0 mile (roughly 8500 ft), and thereafter essentially continuous to San Jacinto Peak. An excellent track is easy to follow to Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley there are at least half-a-dozen tracks ascending toward San Jacinto Peak, none of which accurately follow the established trail route. The main track is clearest just above LRV and again close to the Peak junction. Spikes are recommended at least for descending upper Deer Springs Trail.

Spitler Peak Trail (surveyed 18th November) is clear of snow. Given the importance of this trail for the safety of northbound PCT hikers in particular, it is one of several trails “adopted” by the Trail Report. We removed nine treefall hazards on 18th November and the trail is now completely clear again, bringing to 56 the number of trees we have removed from this trail since mid 2021.

Seven Pines Trail has not been traveled since the early November storm, at least not in its uppermost section, and there is no track to follow through the snow.

Jean Peak (near right) as seen from San Jacinto Peak on the evening of 21st November 2022, with the Santa Rosa mountains on the horizon to left.

SNOW DEPTHS measured (largely) on 21st November 2022 are as follows, with depths from 9th November 2022 in parentheses where known. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying storms there has been extensive drifting, often particularly accumulating in the trails. Conversely in places scouring by the wind means the depths are well below the average. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 6 inches (was 12 inches on 9th)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 5-6 inches (was approx. 10 inches on 9th)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 1-2 inches (was 4 inches on 9th)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070 ft): 1-2 inches (was 6 inches on 9th)

Deer Springs Trail at top of Marion Mountain Trail (8700 ft): 1-3 inches

Tahquitz Peak (north side trail, 8700 ft): 1-2 inches [measured 19th November]

Tahquitz Peak (south side trail, 8500-8700 ft): 0-1 inch [measured 19th November]

Long Valley (8600 ft): 0-1 inch (was 2-3 inches on 9th)

Strawberry Junction (8100 ft): 0-1 inch (was approx. 2-3 inches on 9th)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070 ft): 0-1 inch (was 3 inches on 9th)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550 ft): 0 inch (was 2.5 inches on 9th)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0 inch (was <1 inch on 9th)

While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report uses small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to have unique challenges and 2022 has been no exception. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please consider using this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you so much for your support.

Above, the well-defined track through light icy snow on the north side of Tahquitz Peak on the 0.4 mile section of trail between Chinquapin Flat and Tahquitz Peak, 19th November 2022. Below, approximately the same view eight days earlier on 11th November, illustrating improvement in the definition of the track, but also its increasing iciness.
Another view of the well-defined track through light icy snow on the north side of Tahquitz Peak on the trail to Chinquapin Flat, 19th November 2022. Although many hikers will prefer to use spikes, they are not strictly required, depending on your comfort level hiking on this type of thin icy snow (and also depending on quality of footwear).

Trail update 16th November 2022

UPDATE 17th November 2022: as predicted, and even as melting proceeds steadily, trails are getting increasing icy due to daily freeze/thaw cycles, and spikes are recommended throughout the trail system above about 7000 ft. On my hike to San Jacinto Peak this morning, again I did not need spikes to ascend, but they were invaluable for descending all the way down to upper Devil’s Slide Trail. Starting in late morning the ice and icy snow is getting very slick due to a thin layer of meltwater on the surface, especially in sun-exposed areas. Overall, melting is proceeding faster than expected, especially with warmer than forecast temperatures, but this weekend trails will be very icy.

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Conditions immediately following the second Pacific storm, and the first significant snowfall, of winter 2022/23 that impacted the San Jacinto mountains on 8th-9th November were summarized in the previous Report.

On Monday 14th we ascended San Jacinto Peak via the east side (Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails) and descended the west side via Deer Springs Trail. This facilitated survey of the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183.5) plus several of its side trails. In the days since the storm, we have also surveyed trails around Tahquitz Peak, South Ridge, Spitler Peak, and Deer Springs, among others.

On 14th I barebooted (i.e. no traction device) to the Peak on a generally well-traveled and compacted track through light icy snow. The cold icy early morning snow had the perfect bite for good boots with excellent soles. The rocks around the summit were very slick with thick ice, and I put spikes on there and for the descent through Little Round Valley. I ultimately kept my Kahtoola microspikes on until just past the top of Marion Mountain Trail, but could have removed them somewhat sooner.

Although excellent tracks are now in place for almost all major trails (details below), cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Details of snow depths measured at various locations on the trail system are given at the foot of this posting. Note however that snow depth is rarely indicative of the challenge (or otherwise) of a given trail.

Spikes are currently recommended throughout the trail system above about 7500 ft, potentially lower in places. While they are not strictly required, depending upon your expertise level hiking on shallow variable icy snow, mixed with slush and ice patches (itself depending on time of day and sun exposure), spikes will continue become more increasingly useful over the next few days as established trails undergo freeze-thaw cycles and become further consolidated by hiker traffic. As I described above, spikes tend to be much more valuable for descending trails rather than ascending.

Snowshoes are no longer required anywhere on the established trail system, which is now too compacted for snowshoes. However they will remain valuable for off-trail travel at elevations above about 9500 ft for the foreseeable future.

Note that temperatures fluctuating either side of freezing are forecast for mid to upper elevations (at least >6000 ft) for the foreseeable future. Melting of snow on sun-exposed slopes and freeze-thaw cycles will combine to change trail conditions and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain. The advice above should be used with this in mind, and if in any doubt carry the necessary traction devices that you will be most comfortable using.

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

With such dramatic rainfall throughout the mountain range last week, and with snow now available for melting in the high country, I do not expect to be reporting on water conditions until next year. This is a genuine relief after such a long, hot, and largely dry last 6-7 months.

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open and the parking area has been largely plowed.

Black Mountain Road closed on 7th November to vehicle traffic at the gate 1.7 miles up from Highway 243 (see Forest Service website regarding this closure here). This is expected to be a seasonal closure until next year.

Dark Canyon Road (4S02), the access to Seven Pines Trail, and Santa Rosa Truck Trail (7S02) also closed to vehicle traffic for the season on 7th November 2022.

Forest Service campgrounds at Boulder Basin, Marion Mountain, and Fern Basin are now closed for the season.

Fire lookouts at Black Mountain and Tahquitz Peak were closed for the season ahead of schedule in anticipation of the snow storm last week.

Rime on dead oak trees (killed by the 2013 Mountain Fire) on upper Spitler Peak Trail, 10th November 2022. Spitler Peak itself is in the background.

WEATHER

A mixed assortment of weather is possible for the remainder of November. At mid elevations (e.g., Idyllwild) temperatures are forecast to warm for the next ten days, and to be above seasonal averages well into the second half of November. The same is largely true in the high country, however a short but severe Santa Ana wind event is forecast for 16th November. This may result in very strong winds and bitterly cold windchill temperatures at upper elevations. A minor heatwave is forecast for 23rd-27th November with temperatures at all elevations expected to warm to well above seasonal. There is the possibility that this will end abruptly with a minor storm on Monday 28th November, with 1-3 inches of snow possible above 10,000 ft.

Relatively mild temperatures combined with a weakening sun at this time of year means that snow melt may be slow at upper elevations, and conditions will be ideal for freeze/thaw cycles and hence icy trails everywhere above 6000 ft.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 14th November 2022 at 0910 the air temperature was 33.3°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.7°F (-6°C), 25% relative humidity, and a cool NW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 12.9 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 9th November 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 14.5°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -7.8°F (-22°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp due West wind sustained at 20 mph gusting to 30.5 mph.

Upper end of Little Round Valley (9800 ft) on 14th November 2022, with about 7-8 inches of snow from last week’s storm.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 7500 ft are currently remain lightly (or above 9000 ft, moderately) snow-covered. However excellent well-traveled and compacted tracks are now in place for most of the major trails (details below).

Hikers should expect to encounter new treefall hazards due to the enormous weight of ice from freezing rain currently in the trees and the high winds associated with the storm. New treefall hazards on Devil’s Slide Trail, South Ridge Trail, and Spitler Peak Trail, have all been reported.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely clear of icy snow, although quite a few patches remain, especially close to Humber Park. Spikes are not required.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of icy snow to about 7400 ft (Middle Spring) although some extended patches remain below that. Above that elevation, icy snow is almost continuous to Saddle Junction. Spikes are not essential for ascending, but most hikers will find them useful at least for descending.

Immediately north of Saddle Junction, snow cover is initially somewhat patchy on the sun exposed slope (“Angel’s Glide”) but thereafter icy snow cover is continuous through the Wellman and Peak trails to San Jacinto Peak. However the route is largely well-traveled and compacted.

There is a well-traveled track on continuous light icy snow from Long Valley/Tram to Wellman Divide. Skyline Trail has a good track to follow through light icy snow above 7000 ft (the Traverse to Grubb’s Notch). Spikes are recommended.

There is a well-traveled track from Saddle Junction to Tahquitz Peak. The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail between Chinquapin Flat/PCT and Tahquitz Peak has a well-traveled and level track – photo below – to follow through the light 3-4 inches of powder (drifted to six inches in places). Spikes are not essential, but many hikers may find them useful depending on their comfort level hiking on thin icy snow.

South Ridge Trail from the top of South Ridge Road to Tahquitz Peak has a well-traveled track to follow through the very light and patchy 1-3 inches of icy snow. Spikes are not required for ascending, but some hikers will find them useful for descending.

Marion Mountain Trail has a very well-defined track throughout. Spikes are recommended, at least for descending.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear from the Highway 243 trailhead to the Suicide Rock trail junction at 7000 ft. From there to Strawberry Junction (8100 ft) snow cover averages 50% with patches increasing in length and frequency as you ascend. Spikes were not required even for descending on 14th. Snow cover is essentially continuous from Strawberry Junction to San Jacinto Peak, although patches are starting to clear below 8500 ft (south of the top of the Marion Mountain Trail). An excellent track is easy to follow to Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley the track is somewhat less clear and does not entirely accurately follow the establishes trail route. However the track is very useful and it is best to follow that route. Spikes are recommended at least for descending upper Deer Springs Trail.

The PCT throughout the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 207-151) has a clear track to follow, including Fuller Ridge Trail, which has been traversed by a handful of sobo PCT hikers.

Spitler Peak Trail is functionally clear of snow, but see photo below regarding patches of ice fallen from trees.

Seven Pines Trail has not been traveled since last week’s storm, at least not in its uppermost section, and there is no track to follow through the snow.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 14th November 2022 are as follows, with depths from 9th November 2022 in parentheses where known. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying storms there has been extensive drifting, often particularly accumulating in the trails. Conversely in places scouring by the wind means the depths are well below the average. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 10 inches (was 12 inches on 9th)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 7-8 inches (photo above)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 3 inches (was 4 inches on 9th)

Round Valley (9100 ft): was 4 inches on 9th

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070 ft): 5 inches (was 6 inches on 9th)

Deer Springs Trail at top of Marion Mountain Trail (8700 ft): 4-5 inches

Tahquitz Peak (north side trail, 8700 ft): 3-4 inches, drifted to six [measured 11th November]

Tahquitz Peak (south side trail, 8500-8700 ft): 2 inches [measured 11th November]

Long Valley (8600 ft): was 2-3 inches on 9th

Strawberry Junction (8100 ft): 1-2 inches (photo below)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070 ft): 2 inches (was 3 inches on 9th)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550 ft): patchy 0.5-1.0 inch (was 2.5 inches on 9th)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0 inch (was <1 inch on 9th)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report uses small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to have its unique challenges and 2022 has been no exception. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please consider using this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you so much for your support.

Strawberry Junction (8100 ft) on 14th November 2022, under 1-2 inches of remaining snow.
Well-defined track through the light snow on the north side of Tahquitz Peak on the 0.4 mile section of trail to/from Chinquapin Flat and Tahquitz Peak, 11th November 2022. Since the weekend, this track has become even better defined.
Above, trees encased in ice from freezing rain at 10,100 feet on the Peak Trail, 9th November 2022. Below, the same view on 14th November.
Above, the Peak Trail at 9800 ft on 9th November 2022, and below, the same view five days later on 14th November.
The well known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega, above on 9th November 2022, and below the same location on 14th November.
Above and below, Spitler Peak Trail on 10th November 2022. Above, what appears to be snow is actually rime ice that has fallen from the trees onto the trail. It is very much like walking across ice cubes. Below, the upper trail at about 6900 ft showing the rime on the dead live oak trunks (killed by the 2013 Mountain Fire) with a snow-dusted Tahquitz Peak in the distance. The trail was basically snow-free.

Moderate snow storm 8th-9th November 2022

UPDATE 11th November 2022: conditions for trails both north and south of Tahquitz Peak have been updated below, with photo, based on our hike this morning. In summary there are good tracks in place through the very shallow snow, and spikes are not required (but may be useful for some hikers depending on their experience in thin icy snow).

UPDATE #2 for 10th November 2022: It was disappointing late this morning to see southbound PCT hikers trying to hike down Highway 243 from Idyllwild to Mountain Center. Firstly because it is really unsafe, that is a busy and winding mountain road, not remotely a route designed for pedestrians. Secondly, because there is really very little snow on the PCT. As described below, there were only about three inches at Saddle Junction (PCT Mile 179) yesterday. This morning the PCT at the top of Spitler Peak Trail (roughly Mile 168.5) was basically clear of snow. Most of the PCT through the San Jacinto mountains has little more than 1-4 inches of snow to deal with. It is safest for all concerned that hikers hike the Trail rather than the highways.

UPDATE #1 for 10th November 2022: We hiked Spitler Peak Trail to its junction with the PCT this morning. Both trails were virtually completely clear of snow. Areas here at 6500-7000 ft had had much less snow than a few miles further north, only 0.5-1.0 inch depth. However there was a lot of rime ice starting to melt and fall from trees on upper Spitler (photos below). Nothing unduly dangerous, but something to be aware of for the next couple of days. The storm brought down four new treefall hazards down on upper Spitler Peak Trail, awkward but all passable with care.

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This is a brief summary of conditions following the second Pacific storm, and the first significant snowfall, of winter 2022/23 to impact the San Jacinto mountains. The total snow accumulation was ultimately very close to the predictions given by forecasts in the days prior to the storm, and notably it was the heaviest snowfall in the first half of November for at least a decade. The rainfall totals at mid elevations were remarkable, and it is tempting to ponder what the snowfall totals could have been in the mountain communities and in the high country had the air temperatures been just a few degrees cooler.

I recorded a short video at San Jacinto Peak early on the morning of Wednesday 9th November (available here) which gives a feel for conditions as the storm finally cleared. I also reported on the storm in real time over the past couple of days (available here) which has more detail than this summary.

The storm was relatively mild, as might be expected from an “atmospheric river” system pulling moisture in from subtropical latitudes at this relatively early season, and as a result the freeze level was relatively high for most of the time that precipitation fell. Indeed it rained as high as San Jacinto Peak multiple times on 7th and 8th November.

Idyllwild (data from 5550 ft) received a prodigious 4.01 inches of rain in the 31 hours starting at midnight on Monday 7th. This is the second heaviest rainfall period in the past decade for Idyllwild (behind the almost unbeatable “Great Valentine’s Day flood” event of 2019, when we recorded 7.8 inches in just 20 hours!).

It wasn’t until early in the morning on Wednesday 9th, by which time the bulk of the storm system had passed, that the snow level fell to near 5000 ft, with 0.75 inch snow recorded at 5550 ft elevation. Details of snow depths measured at various locations on the trail system are given at the foot of this posting.

Although excellent tracks are now in place for some major trails (as outlined below), cautious navigation is recommended everywhere for the next few days in particular.

Snow depths are currently suitable for snowshoeing everywhere above about 9000 ft. However they are not required, depending on your comfort level with postholing in drifted snow of moderate depth. With compaction of the trails over the next few days, snowshoes may become less useful, however they will remain valuable for off-trail travel at the highest elevations for the foreseeable future.

Spikes are currently useful throughout the trail system above about 6000 ft, potentially lower in places. They are not however required, depending upon your comfort level hiking on shallow variable snow, mixed with slushy and icy patches. Spikes will likely become more increasingly useful over the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They tend to be especially useful for descending trails.

Note that temperatures fluctuating either side of freezing are forecast for mid to upper elevations (at least >6000 ft) for the foreseeable future. Rapid melting of snow on sun-exposed slopes and freeze-thaw cycles will combine to change trail conditions and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain.

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

With such dramatic rainfall throughout the mountain range in the past two days, and with snow now available for melting in the high country, I do not expect to be reporting on water conditions until next year. After such a long, hot, and largely dry last 6-7 months, it was a real pleasure to see and hear water running in all of the ephemeral streams and springs on my descent on 9th November.

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open and the parking area has been largely plowed. It will however be very icy in the early mornings for the next few days at least. Even if the gate is closed there are nine legal parking spaces this side of the locked gate (near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead). Vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are “Road Closed” signs further down – as was often the case last winter – then those nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking.

Black Mountain Road closed on 7th November to vehicle traffic at the gate 1.7 miles up from Highway 243 (see Forest Service website regarding this closure here).

Santa Rosa Truck Trail (7S02) also closed to vehicle traffic for the winter on 7th November 2022.

Forest Service campgrounds at Boulder Basin, Marion Mountain, and Fern Basin are now closed for the winter.

Fire lookouts at Black Mountain and Tahquitz Peak were closed for the season this past weekend ahead of schedule in anticipation of the snow storm.

Trees encased in ice from freezing rain at 10,100 feet on the Peak Trail, 9th November 2022

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to remain at or even slightly below seasonal averages into the second half of November, with freezing conditions every night above about 5500 ft elevation. Combined with a weakening sun at this time of year, snow melt will generally be slow at upper elevations, and conditions will be ideal for freeze/thaw cycles and hence icy trails. There is currently no further precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 9th November 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 14.5°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -7.8°F (-22°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp due West wind sustained at 20 mph gusting to 30.5 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 7th November 2022 at 1715 the air temperature was 28.4°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.7°F (-11°C), 93% relative humidity, and a fresh WSW wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 22.0 mph.

Saddle Junction at about noon on 9th November 2022, with an average of three inches of fresh snow.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6000 ft are currently lightly (or above 9000 ft, moderately) snow-covered. However by this afternoon, melting was already underway below 9000 ft on sun-exposed slopes.

Reliable tracks are in place (at least) for Devil’s Slide Trail through to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide, from Long Valley/Tram to Wellman Divide, from Saddle Junction to Tahquitz Peak, and up South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail between Chinquapin Flat/PCT and Tahquitz Peak has a well-traveled and level track – photo below – to follow through the light 3-4 inches of powder (drifted to six inches in places). Spikes are not required, but some hikers may find them useful depending on their comfort level hiking on thin icy snow.

South Ridge Trail from the top of South Ridge Road to Tahquitz Peak has a relatively well-traveled track to follow through the very light and patchy 1-3 inches of icy snow. Spikes are not required for ascending, but some hikers may find them useful for descending.

The PCT from Snow Creek south to at least Saddle Junction (roughly Miles 207-179) has a clear track to follow.

Hikers should expect to encounter new treefall hazards due to the enormous weight of ice from freezing rain currently in the trees and the high winds associated with the storm. New treefall hazards on Devil’s Slide Trail, South Ridge Trail, and Spitler Peak Trail, have all been reported.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 9th November 2022 are as follows. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying the storm there is extensive drifting, often particularly accumulating in the trails. Conversely in places scouring by the wind means the depths are well below the average. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 12 inches

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 4 inches snow with 1-2 inches of ice underneath

Round Valley (9100 ft): 4 inches [special thanks to Kyle Eubanks for this measurement]

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070 ft): 6 inches

Tahquitz Peak (north side trail, 8700 ft): 3-4 inches, drifted to six [measured 11th November]

Tahquitz Peak (south side trail, 8500-8700 ft): 2 inches [measured 11th November]

Long Valley (8600 ft): 2-3 inches [special thanks to Kyle Eubanks for this measurement]

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070 ft): 3 inches

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550 ft): 2.5 inches (melting already underway this afternoon)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0.75 inches (melting rapidly this afternoon).

Well-defined track through the light snow on the north side of Tahquitz Peak on the 0.4 mile section of trail to/from Chinquapin Flat and Tahquitz Peak, 11th November 2022.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report uses small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to have its unique challenges and 2022 has been no exception. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please consider using this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you so much for your support.

Above and below, Spitler Peak Trail on 10th November 2022. Above, what appears to be snow is actually rime ice that has fallen from the trees onto the trail. It is very much like walking across ice cubes. Below, the upper trail at about 6900 ft showing the rime on the dead live oak trunks (killed by the 2013 Mountain Fire) with a snow-dusted Tahquitz Peak in the distance. The trail was basically snow-free.
Above, the Peak Trail at 9800 ft on 9th November 2022, and below, the same view two days earlier.
The well known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega, above on 9th November 2022, and below the same location on 7th November.

Storm updates 8th November 2022

The first significant Pacific storm of winter 2022/23 is currently impacting the San Jacinto mountains. Please check this page for periodic updates – the most recent is at the top – throughout the storm.

UPDATE on Wednesday 9th at 0840

I have just recorded a short video (available here) from San Jacinto Peak giving a feel for current conditions.

About 0.75 inch of snow fell overnight in Idyllwild (at 5550 ft). The remarkable rainfall continued into the early hours of this morning, with final measurements of 3.45 inches in the past 24 hours, and a storm total of 4.01 inches!

San Jacinto Peak added about six inches of snow overnight for a final storm total of 12-13 inches.

Long Valley (at 8600 ft) has an estimated snow depth of 2-3 inches of snow which fell overnight, on top of over three inches of rain in the previous 36 hours.

UPDATE on Tuesday 8th at 1910

Thankfully the precipitation has largely turned back into snow at San Jacinto Peak, where the storm total is now close to 6 inches. Hopeful for significantly more overnight.

The storm total for rain in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) is now at a really impressive 2.32 inches, with 1.76 inches in the last 12 hours.

Kyle Eubanks reported that hiking through  Long Valley was like walking through a river. The rain is starting to turn to snow there now, with about 0.5 inch accumulating so far, on top of more than two inches of rain today.

While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report uses small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 has been no exception. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please consider using this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now options. Thank you so much for your support.

UPDATE on Tuesday 8th at 1600

Idyllwild has added an impressive 1.25 inches of rain since 0700 this morning, for a storm total already of about 1.8 inches.

Having reached a depth of about 4.5 inches of snow at San Jacinto Peak, there has been negligible new accumulation in the last hour or more. Hiking around I was disappointed to find that the precipitation had turned to freezing rain again, and I quickly got soaked.

The same seems to be happening in Long Valley where the air temperature is fluctuating just above freezing. An impressive rainfall total of at least two inches was accompanied by about 0.25 inch of snow, but some of that seems to have melted in the past hour or so.

UPDATE on Tuesday 8th at 1230

Idyllwild has added another 0.5 inch of rain since 0700 this morning, for a storm total already exceeding one inch.

Steady snowfall at a rate of about one inch per hour in the past couple of hours has accumulated at San Jacinto Peak to a total depth of 3.0 inches.

The freeze level had remained stubbornly high in this relatively mild “atmospheric river” storm. However the air temperature has dropped significantly since 1200, and at Long Valley (8600 ft) the heavy rain has turned to wet snow in the past half hour. Prior to that, Long Valley had about 1.5 inch of rain.

UPDATE on Tuesday 8th at 1030

Idyllwild received a good rain overnight with 0.56 inch recorded by 0700 (at 5550ft).

A barely measurable dusting of 0.25 inch of snow fell at San Jacinto Peak overnight following an estimated 0.2 inch of freezing rain that plastered all the rocks with verglas.

A light snow of fine rounded grains started at about 0800, and current accumulation at San Jacinto Peak is near 1.0 inch. Snow level on my hike this morning was at about 9500 ft, and it is currently raining steadily in Long Valley at 8600 ft.

Near San Jacinto Peak, early morning on 8th November 2022.

UPDATE on Monday 7th at 2030

Now raining steadily in Idyllwild. Remarkably it is also mild enough to be raining at San Jacinto Peak, where about 0.15 inch has fallen this afternoon.

UPDATE on Monday 7th at 1830

Cloud cover started to envelop the mountains late this morning. On a hike up to San Jacinto Peak there was a little drizzle on most of Devil’s Slide Trail (6500-8000 ft) in early afternoon. The high country was in the cloud, was dry in places, and occasional drizzle was very light and sparse.

At San Jacinto Peak itself the rocks were covered in very slick verglas although the air temperature was only just below freezing.

In Idyllwild (at 5550 ft) there was brief light drizzle in early afternoon also, enough to dampen surfaces but not even adding up to 0.1 inch.

Long Valley (8600 ft) has remained functionally dry, measuring just 0.01 inch of drizzle.

Minor snow storm 3rd November 2022

UPDATED 5th November 2022: Weather forecasts are now confident that the San Jacinto mountains will be hit by our first significant snow storm of the season on 7th-9th November, with most of the precipitation falling on Tuesday 8th. The snow level may eventually drop below 5000 ft (around the lower end of Idyllwild) while estimates for snowfall above 10,000 ft elevation currently range from 10-30 inches. Rainfall below 6000 ft may be periodically intense and total 1-3 inches depending on location and elevation. Southbound PCT hikers in particular should continue to closely track forecasts (and the Trail Report) if they expect to be passing through the San Jacinto mountains in November. Spikes will almost certainly be recommended throughout the high country and on some of the PCT through the San Jacinto mountains for days (or possibly even weeks in places) following this storm. Snowshoes will likely be recommended above about 8000-9000 ft for several days at least, until trails become established and compacted (which can be slow at this time of year), and certainly for off-trail travel.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

The first snow in the San Jacinto mountains of the 2022/23 winter fell on the morning of Thursday 3rd November as the second phase of a two stage (but overall very minor) storm system. I hiked up to San Jacinto Peak through the most active snowfall early that day. The final accumulation above 10,000 ft was 0.5 inch, with about 0.25 inch above 9200 ft, and a trace elsewhere down to 5500 ft in Idyllwild. By early afternoon all ice had melted completely below 7000 ft.

Much more striking than the snow were very cold temperatures in the high country, exceptional for early November. I recorded an air temperature of 10.8°F (-12°C) at San Jacinto Peak at 0930, with a windchill temperature of -13.7°F (-25°C). These temperatures will not persist however, and indeed a rapid warming trend will make for above average temperatures in the high country by this weekend. Most or all of the snow will consequently melt quickly.

I recorded a short video summarizing the conditions and the forecast for the next week from San Jacinto Peak this morning, available here on YouTube.

The first part of the storm system involved a periodic light rain on the morning of Wednesday 2nd which produced 0.16 inch in Idyllwild (at 5550 ft). We hiked briskly that morning in the thick cloud and drizzle to Tahquitz Peak (8840 ft), where the air temperature was 30°F, with a windchill down to 18°F (-8°C). Patchy rime was forming above 8500 ft elevation (see photo below), but at the same time there were occasional patches of blue sky above us, and the cloud ceiling was at about 9000 ft. Consequently at that time the high country was above the cloud and remained dry.

No additional traction devices are currently required or recommended (although that will almost certainly change by Tuesday 8th November, see Weather discussion below).

Note that another snow storm – expected to produce substantially more precipitation than the one reported here – is currently forecast as for Monday 7th to Wednesday 9th November.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures generally near freezing in the high country, and often below freezing around the high peaks when considering wind chill effects (see below for my latest weather observations from San Jacinto Peak). On 7th-9th November temperatures above 10,000 ft elevation are forecast to be far below freezing, with potentially dangerous windchills below 0°F (-18°C).

For discussion of specific trail condition and water information (prior to this minor snowfall), please see the previous Report (and others linked therein) available here.

Southbound PCT hikers in particular should continue to closely track forecasts (and the Trail Report) if they will be passing through the San Jacinto mountains in the first half of November.

Forest Service revised the closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire valid until 24th January 2023. Details and a map are available here. The closed area is substantially reduced from the original September 2022 order, and is now largely confined to the actual burn scar in northern Bautista Canyon, plus the Red Mountain area.

The passage of Tropical Storm Kay on 9th September brought down many trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards and branches on trails.

Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

WEATHER

Temperatures briefly climb again to near or even above average over the weekend, before another storm system, potentially quite major for so early in the winter, is expected to arrive on Monday 7th November, continuing throughout Tuesday 8th into Wednesday 9th. Temperatures will again drop to far below seasonal, and at least moderate precipitation is currently forecast at all elevations, including 8-20 inches of snow in the high country, a freeze level down to Idyllwild (5000 ft) or even lower, and as much as 1-2 inches of rain at mid elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295 m/10,810 ft) on Thursday 3rd November 2022 at 0930 the air temperature was 10.8°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -13.7°F (-25°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 19 mph gusting to 28.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 31st October 2022 at 0850 the air temperature was 41.7°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.0°F (1°C), 11% relative humidity, and a steady NE wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 10.0 mph.

Rime ice forming on trees exposed to the west wind at Tahquitz Peak, mid morning on 2nd November 2022.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on small donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please consider using this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

Looking north-east from the Peak Trail across Round and Long valleys, with Cornell Peak to the far left, mid morning on 3rd November 2022.
Wellman Divide (9700 ft) with a dusting of about 0.25 inch of snow, mid morning of 3rd November 2022.
Saddle Junction (8100 ft) with a trace of fresh snow, at about noon on 3rd November 2022.

Weather and water update 1st November 2022

[UPDATE 2nd November 2022: A periodic light rain in Idyllwild this morning produced 0.16 inch (at 5550 ft). We hiked briskly in the thick cloud and drizzle to Tahquitz Peak (8840 ft), where the air temperature was 30°F, with a windchill down to 18°F (-8°C). Patchy rime was forming above 8500 ft elevation, but at the same time there were occasional patches of blue sky above us, and the cloud ceiling was at about 9000 ft. Consequently the high country was above the cloud and remained dry (for now).]

Rime ice forming on trees exposed to the west wind at Tahquitz Peak, mid morning on 2nd November 2022.

Weather forecasts continue to predict our first (albeit minor) snow storm of the season on 2nd-3rd November. The forecast models have been wildly variable for the past week on the severity of the storm, but are now generally suggesting a light snow in the high country. The snow level may fall to about 5500 ft (just above the elevation of central Idyllwild) while estimates for snowfall above 10,000 ft elevation range from 2-6 inches. Southbound PCT hikers in particular should continue to closely track forecasts (and the Trail Report) if they will be passing through the San Jacinto mountains in the first half of November. Spikes may be recommended on parts of the PCT for at least a few days following the storm if snowfall proves to be more significant than is currently forecast. Rainfall below 6000 ft is forecast at 0.2-0.5 inch. Note that another snow storm – expected to produce more precipitation than this week’s – is currently forecast as for Monday 7th and Tuesday 8th November.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures generally near freezing in the high country, and often below freezing around the high peaks when considering wind chill effects (see below for my latest weather observations from San Jacinto Peak). On 2nd-4th November, and then again on 7th-8th, temperatures above 10,000 ft elevation are forecast to be well below freezing, with windchills below 0°F (-18°C).

Forest Service revised the closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire valid until 24th January 2023. Details and a map are available here. The closed area is substantially reduced from the original September 2022 order, and is now largely confined to the actual burn scar in northern Bautista Canyon, plus the Red Mountain area.

The passage of Tropical Storm Kay on 9th September brought down many trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards and branches on trails. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Based on multiple surveys in the past week throughout the trail system, water conditions have generally not changed significantly since the prior Report that is linked here, with the exception of the comments regarding Cedar Spring and Little Round Valley below. Photos illustrating the state of Tahquitz Creek at PCT Mile 177 and Little Tahquitz Valley were included in another prior Report available here.

Little Round Valley creek is now almost completely dry. A couple of short (20 yards) sections are still trickling in the middle of the valley, downstream from the Owl’s Hootch campsite. There is one small pool adequate for filtering.

Cedar Spring is flowing weakly both above and below the trough (starting 60 feet upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). The inflow pipe to the trough that was apparently vandalized in May 2022 was repaired on 25th October by a volunteer. This again makes the trough the most accessible location for water filtering. Photos of the spring and trough taken earlier that same morning were in last week’s Report available here.

Full fire restrictions introduced on Thursday 26th May remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described in detail on their website. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year. Fires are never permitted in the State Park wilderness.

Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

May Valley Road (5S21) reopened on 6th October, having been closed for eight months.

WEATHER

Temperatures for the last couple of days of October have been about average for the month. Moving into the first week of November, temperatures will drop dramatically as the forecasts are increasingly confident of the first (minor) snow storm of the winter on 2nd-3rd November. Precipitation is expected to come on two minor waves, the first on the morning of Wednesday 2nd, and then overnight in the early hours of Thursday 3rd. Freeze level may fall as low as 5500 ft while total snowfall above 10,000 ft is forecast to be 2-6 inches, largely falling in the second wave of precipitation early on Thursday morning.

Temperatures then briefly climb again to above average, especially in the high country, before another minor storm system is expected to arrive on Monday 7th November, continuing into Tuesday 8th. Temperatures will again drop to well below seasonal, and moderate precipitation is possible at all elevations, including 3-8 inches of snow in the high country, with a freeze level down to about Idyllwild (5000-5500 ft).

At San Jacinto Peak (3295 m/10,810 ft) on Monday 31st October 2022 at 0850 the air temperature was 41.7°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.0°F (1°C), 11% relative humidity, and a steady NE wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 10.0 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 27th October 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 35.8°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 25.0°F (-4°C), 19% relative humidity, and a moderate WNW wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 13.3 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Some major trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019 (partly due to reduced agency work during the coronavirus pandemic) passable with care by hikers but not for stock. This situation worsened somewhat following Tropical Storm Kay in early September 2022.

Willow Creek Trail remains a relatively slow, messy hike for a couple of miles. Some 37 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (23rd September 2022 survey). Of those, 27 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. A few trees were cut by chainsaw at the far (Hidden Divide) end of the Forest Service section recently, presumably by a CCC or State Park crew. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. Another tree came down near the start of this trail close to Saddle Junction in Tropical Storm Kay.

Spitler Peak Trail remains in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire, thanks to efforts supported by Andrea Lankford/pctmissing.org. Forty downed trees were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in January, and another seven in late October. Currently only one small tree that requires cutting remains across the trail, just below the PCT (and it is easy to pass under).

Nine of the ten new treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail from the Suicide Rock turning to Fuller Ridge following Tropical Storm Kay were cut by a State Park crew on 30th September, just ten days after I reported them.

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated since. In my most recent survey there were 82 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175 including 20+ major ones, and about six more on PCT Miles 175-177.

On Fuller Ridge Trail there are five major treefall hazards obstructing the trail in the 1.5 mile section nearest to the campground (PCT Miles 189-190.5). Although most of the downed trees reported this summer were cleared in July, four more major trees came down in Tropical Storm Kay.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. This is frankly grossly misleading and in reality both trails no longer exist and are so completely overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the former trails (local hikers Charles Phelan and Mark Gumprecht kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Remarkably Tropical Storm Kay did not add any new treefall hazards to this trail. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail unlike the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on small donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please consider using this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

Autumnal temperatures have made hiking on the Desert Divide especially idyllic, and we have been up there multiple times per week recently. On Friday 28th October we went up Spitler Peak Trail, having been on Cedar Spring Trail a couple of days earlier. Above, the Spitler junction with the PCT, and below, Spitler Creek still flowing gently about 3.2 miles up from the trailhead.

Trail and weather update 27th October 2022

Weather forecasts are predicting the first snow storm of the winter on 2nd-4th November. Unfortunately the forecast models vary greatly on the potential severity of the storm. The snow level may fall to about 6000 ft (a little above the elevation of Idyllwild) while estimates for snowfall above 10,000 ft elevation range widely from 6-24 inches. Southbound PCT hikers in particular are strongly recommended to closely track forecasts (and the Trail Report) if they will be passing through the San Jacinto mountains after 1st November. Spikes may be recommended on parts of the PCT for at least a few days following the storm if snowfall is significant. Rainfall below 6000 ft could exceed 0.5 inch. Projections for this storm will be updated daily.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures generally near freezing in the high country, and often below freezing around the high peaks when considering wind chill effects (see below for my latest weather observations from San Jacinto Peak). Starting Wednesday 2nd November for at least 3-4 days temperatures above 10,000 ft elevation will be far below freezing, with windchills below 0°F (-18°C).

Although our best monsoon season in 5-6 years is over, the San Jacinto mountains did just about catch the southernmost edge of a storm system at the weekend, with light rain overnight on Saturday 22nd (0.31 inch in Idyllwild at 5550 ft). While the high country was enveloped in cloud – cold enough to produce thick rime on trees above 10,000 ft (see photos below) – the rain-bearing clouds were confined to the mid elevations, with no significant precipitation falling above 8000 feet, as confirmed by measurements at Saddle Junction (8100 ft, trace), Wellman’s Cienega (9300 ft, 0.02 inch), and near San Jacinto Peak (10,700 ft, none).

Forest Service revised the closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire valid until 24th January 2023. Details and a map are available here. The closed area is substantially reduced from the original September 2022 order, and is now largely confined to the actual burn scar in northern Bautista Canyon, plus the Red Mountain area.

The passage of Tropical Storm Kay on 9th September brought down many trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards and branches on trails. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Based on multiple surveys in the past week throughout the trail system, water conditions have not changed significantly since the prior Report that is linked here. Photos illustrating the current state of Tahquitz Creek at PCT Mile 177 and Little Tahquitz Valley, and at Little Round Valley, were included in last week’s Report available here.

An update on Cedar Spring. This is flowing weakly both above and below the trough (starting 60 feet upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). The inflow pipe to the trough that was apparently vandalized in May 2022 was going to be repaired on 25th October by a volunteer that I encountered by chance on the trail. This will again make the trough the most accessible location for water filtering. In the meantime the trough has partially filled with rainwater (but with no flow it is cloudy and stagnant, photos below). I also encountered a trail crew low down on Cedar Spring Trail, who said they were going to do some trimming work from the PCT back down to the trailhead.

Full fire restrictions introduced on Thursday 26th May remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described in detail on their website. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year. Fires are never permitted in the State Park wilderness.

Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

May Valley Road (5S21) reopened on 6th October, having been closed for eight months. Sadly signs regarding this closure have not been removed from the lower (Bonita Vista Road) end.

WEATHER

Temperatures for the last week of October will initially be somewhat below average for the month, but slowly warming daily. Starting around Friday 28th October, temperatures may briefly climb to above average. Moving into the first week of November, the forecasts are increasingly confident of the first snow storm of the winter around 2nd-3rd November. Freeze level may fall as low as 6000 ft (e.g., Fern Valley) while snowfall above 10,000 ft may be as much as 24-30 inches.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810 ft/3295 m) on Thursday 27th October 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 35.8°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 25.0°F (-4°C), 19% relative humidity, and a moderate WNW wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 13.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 24th October 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 36.4°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 25.2°F (-4°C), 16% relative humidity, and a fresh NNE wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 15.7 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 21st October 2022 at 0940 the air temperature was 41.4°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.0°F (5°C), 40% relative humidity, and largely calm conditions with an occasional light NNE gust up to 2.0 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 17th October 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 35.1°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.1°F (-7°C), 86% relative humidity, and a steady NNE wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 23.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Some major trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019 (partly due to reduced agency work during the coronavirus pandemic) passable with care by hikers but not for stock. This situation worsened somewhat following Tropical Storm Kay in early September 2022.

Willow Creek Trail remains a relatively slow, messy hike for a couple of miles. Some 37 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (23rd September 2022 survey). Of those, 27 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. A few trees were cut by chainsaw at the far (Hidden Divide) end of the Forest Service section recently, presumably by a CCC or State Park crew. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. Another tree came down near the start of this trail close to Saddle Junction in Tropical Storm Kay.

Nine of the ten new treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail from the Suicide Rock turning to Fuller Ridge following Tropical Storm Kay were cut by a State Park crew on 30th September, just ten days after I reported them.

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated since. In my most recent survey there were 82 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175 including 20+ major ones, and about six more on PCT Miles 175-177.

On Fuller Ridge Trail there are five major treefall hazards obstructing the trail in the 1.5 mile section nearest to the campground (PCT Miles 189-190.5). Although most of the downed trees reported this summer were cleared in July, at least four more major trees came down in Tropical Storm Kay.

Spitler Peak Trail remains in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022. Several small trees, including three actually across the trail, came down during Tropical Storm Kay (surveyed 16th September) but all are in the lower half of the trail and are easily negotiated.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. This is frankly grossly misleading and in reality both trails no longer exist and are so completely overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the former trails (local hikers Charles Phelan and Mark Gumprecht kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Remarkably Tropical Storm Kay did not add any new treefall hazards to this trail. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail unlike the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

Cedar Spring on 25th October 2022. Above, the first accessible pool just 20 yards upstream from the trail. Below, the current state of the trough about 30 yards upstream, partially full of rainwater. The inflow to the trough was apparently going to be repaired later that day.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on small donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please consider using this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

Above and below, large chunks of ice next to uppermost Deer Springs Trail (10,500 ft) on 24th October 2022. Extensive rime ice forms in the trees in the high country when super-cooled water droplets are blown through the branches. In this case about 36 hours later the rime is partially melting and falls to the ground. A common phenomenon during winter storms in the San Jacinto mountains, but relatively unusual in October.

Trail and weather update 18th October 2022

It is a huge pleasure (and frankly a great surprise) to let readers know that the Trail Report won the Ernie Maxwell Community Spirit Award this past week. Organized by the Idyllwild Town Crier newspaper (which was founded by Ernie and his wife Betty in 1946), the Award may be largely unknown outside Idyllwild-Pine Cove, but is quite a big deal within our little community. An avid hiker, early activist for protection of the mountain environment, and unique artist, among many other things, for much of the latter half of the 20th Century Ernie Maxwell was arguably the dominant personality in the San Jacinto mountains. He is of course memorialized in the name of the well-known Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail. It is a genuine honor to have the Trail Report associated with him via this Award. Special thanks to Mark Dean of Pine Cove, long-time advocate and supporter of the Trail Report, for nominating me for the Award, and to those readers of the Idyllwild Town Crier (who apparently also follow the Trail Report!) for voting.

Our best (and certainly longest) monsoon season in years may finally be over, with no further significant storms currently forecast. Nevertheless the season was unusually long, persisting into mid October, and went out with a bang with an intense storm of thunder and lightning on the afternoon of Saturday 15th, accompanied by 0.51 inch of rain in Idyllwild. Similar rainfall was recorded at Saddle Junction (0.70 inch), Wellman’s Cienega (0.53 inch), and in Long Valley (0.63 inch). However such storms can be localized, and San Jacinto Peak received only 0.15 inch, while Little Round Valley and upper Deer Springs Trail showed evidence of only very light rain.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and generally below freezing above about 10,000 ft elevation when considering wind chill effects (see below for my latest weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

Forest Service revised the closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire valid until 24th January 2023. Details and a map are available here. The closed area is substantially reduced from the original September 2022 order, and is now largely confined to the actual burn scar in northern Bautista Canyon, plus the Red Mountain area.

The passage of Tropical Storm Kay on 9th September brought down many trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards and branches on trails. I am steadily hiking the trail system surveying for new treefall hazards and reporting them to the agencies. Details are given under Trail Conditions below. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Based on multiple surveys in the past week throughout the trail system, water conditions have not changed significantly since the previous Report (linked here). Photos below illustrate the current state of upper Tahquitz Creek, Little Round Valley, and Wellman’s Cienega.

Full fire restrictions introduced on Thursday 26th May remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year. Fires are never permitted in the State Park wilderness.

Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

May Valley Road (5S21) reopened on 6th October, having been closed for eight months.

WEATHER

Temperatures for the third week of October are forecast to be around average for the month, before dropping significantly to below average (especially the daytime highs) at all elevations from Saturday 22nd October onwards. There is a chance of light precipitation overnight on 22nd at mid elevations. It has been very unusual for the monsoon season to persist into mid October, but there are now no further significant thunderstorms in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 17th October 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 35.1°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.1°F (-7°C), 86% relative humidity, and a steady NNE wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 23.2 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 11th October 2022 at 0930 the air temperature was 45.9°F (8°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.7°F (4°C), 72% relative humidity, and a very light ESE breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 4.9 mph.

The ethereal view east towards Palm Springs from San Jacinto Peak, mid morning on 17th October 2022. Wispy clouds were being formed right around the Peak as moist air was being forced by a frigid 20 mph wind up and over the steep north face of the San Jacinto mountains. Where I grew up hiking in the mountains of Scotland, such clouds that race over literally at head height are known as “roarie bumlers” (they are a lot commoner there than here!).

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Some major trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019 (partly due to reduced agency work during the coronavirus pandemic) passable with care by hikers but not for stock. This situation worsened following Tropical Storm Kay in early September 2022.

Willow Creek Trail remains a relatively slow, messy hike for a couple of miles. Some 37 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (23rd September 2022 survey). Of those, 27 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. A few trees were cut by chainsaw at the far (Hidden Divide) end of the Forest Service section recently, presumably by a CCC or State Park crew. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. Another tree came down near the start of this trail close to Saddle Junction in Tropical Storm Kay.

Nine of the ten new treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail from the Suicide Rock turning to Fuller Ridge following Tropical Storm Kay were cut by a State Park crew on 30th September, just ten days after I reported them.

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated since. In my most recent survey there were 82 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175 including at least 20 major ones, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177.

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions (resurveyed 29th September). Those are expected to be cut in October.

Spitler Peak Trail remains in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022. Several small trees, including three actually across the trail, came down during Tropical Storm Kay (surveyed 16th September) but all are in the lower half of the trail and are easily negotiated.

On Fuller Ridge Trail there are five major treefall hazards obstructing the trail in the 1.5 mile section nearest to the campground (PCT Miles 189-190.5). Although most of the downed trees reported this summer were cleared in July, at least four more major trees came down in Tropical Storm Kay.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. This is frankly grossly misleading and in reality both trails no longer exist and are so completely overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the former trails (local hikers Charles Phelan and Mark Gumprecht kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Remarkably Tropical Storm Kay did not add any new treefall hazards to this trail. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail unlike the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on small donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please consider using this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

Upper Tahquitz Creek on 14th October 2022. Above, at the north (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley, where it is flowing at about 6.0 L/min. Below, further upstream near its source at about PCT Mile 177, where the flow rate was nearer 1.0 L/min.
The creek in Little Round Valley is now largely dry, with a little trickle remaining in the middle of the valley, 17th October 2022.
The best known spring at Wellman’s Cienega (9300 ft) continues to trickle very gently thanks to periodic rainfall throughout the past three months.

Trail and weather update 13th October 2022

It is exceptional for monsoon conditions to persist into October in the San Jacinto mountains. Our best monsoon season in several years (see for example photos below from 11th) is forecast to continue to bring unpredictable thunderstorm conditions into the second half of October.

Despite overnight low temperatures so far this month being above average for the season, hikers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and generally below freezing above 10,000 ft elevation when considering wind chill effects, starting 15th October. Forecasts hint at the possibility of an early dusting of snow on 15th-16th above 10,000 feet elevation.

Forest Service has revised the closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire valid until 24th January 2023. Details and a map are available here. The closed area is substantially reduced from the original September 2022 order, and is now largely confined to the actual burn scar in northern Bautista Canyon, plus the Red Mountain area.

Hikers should continue to be prepared for unpredictable, rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in this year’s unusually long monsoon season. Thunderstorms with lightning, brief but intense precipitation (often hail), and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations. Currently highest probabilities are forecast for storms on 15th-16th and 20th-21st October.

Tropical Storm Kay on 9th September brought down many trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards and branches on trails. I am steadily hiking the trail system surveying for new treefall hazards and reporting them to the agencies. Details are given under Trail Conditions below.

Flow rates on springs and creeks which improved briefly following Tropical Storm Kay have now largely returned to (generally very dry) pre-storm conditions. Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. Thorough surveys of water resources on the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country have been undertaken multiple times per week. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Full fire restrictions introduced on Thursday 26th May remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year. Fires are never permitted in the State Park wilderness.

Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

May Valley Road (5S21) reopened on 6th October, having been closed for eight months due to hazardous trees and then tree removal work.

WEATHER

Temperatures in the first two weeks of October have generally remained above average for the month but are forecast to drop closer to (or even below) seasonal starting Friday 14th. It is very unusual for the monsoon season to persist into October, but thunderstorms remain a possibility daily for the foreseeable future, most notably on Saturday 15th.

The five month period April to August 2022 was the second warmest ever recorded in Southern California by overall mean temperature for those months combined (NWS data). This will come as no great surprise to those living in the San Jacinto mountains, where we experienced one of the longest, hottest summers ever.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 11th October 2022 at 0930 the air temperature was 45.9°F (8°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.7°F (4°C), 72% relative humidity, and a very light ESE breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 4.9 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 9th October 2022 at 1620 the air temperature was 43.3°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 37.2°F (3°C), 66% relative humidity, and a pleasantly cool NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.5 mph.

Moody but visually spectacular conditions as seen from the high country on 11th October 2022. Above, looking south-east from the top of Marion Mountain at a thunderstorm over the Desert Divide. The Santa Rosa mountains are in the far distance to the left. Tahquitz Peak and Rock are in the middle distance at centre-right, with Jon’s Peak directly in front of them. Below, looking west-south-west from Jon’s Peak at a thunderstorm directly over the Fairview Fire scar. (Jon’s Peak, 10,230 ft, was kindly named for me in August 2015 by some members of RMRU.)

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Some major trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019 (partly due to reduced agency work during the coronavirus pandemic) passable with care by hikers but not for stock. This situation worsened following Tropical Storm Kay in early September 2022.

Willow Creek Trail remains a relatively slow, messy hike for a couple of miles. Some 37 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (23rd September 2022 survey). Of those, 27 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. A few trees were cut by chainsaw at the far (Hidden Divide) end of the Forest Service section recently, presumably by a CCC or State Park crew. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. Another tree came down near the start of this trail close to Saddle Junction in Tropical Storm Kay.

Nine of the ten new treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail from the Suicide Rock turning to Fuller Ridge following Tropical Storm Kay were cut by a State Park crew on 30th September, just ten days after I reported them.

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated since. In my most recent survey there were 82 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175 including at least 20 major ones, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177.

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions (resurveyed 29th September). Those are expected to be cut in October.

Spitler Peak Trail remains in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022. Several small trees, including three actually across the trail, came down during Tropical Storm Kay (surveyed 16th September) but all are in the lower half of the trail and are easily negotiated.

On Fuller Ridge Trail there are five major treefall hazards obstructing the trail in the 1.5 mile section nearest to the campground (PCT Miles 189-190.5). Although most of the downed trees reported this summer were cleared in July, at least four more major trees came down in Tropical Storm Kay.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. This is frankly grossly misleading and in reality both trails no longer exist and are so completely overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the former trails (local hikers Charles Phelan and Mark Gumprecht kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Remarkably Tropical Storm Kay did not add any new treefall hazards to this trail. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail unlike the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing at about 0.6 L/min (photo in prior Report). The nearby Round Valley creek and the small creek in Tamarack Valley both dried up in May.

Springs at Wellman’s Cienega are trickling (e.g., photo below). The flow rate was 0.5 L/min on 11th October, only 12% of the rate on 10th September.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing weakly but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (photo in prior Report).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of about 5.0 L/min [resurveyed 14th October]. It is flowing very weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The source of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River at about 9870 ft on the south flank of Newton Drury Peak, 11th October 2022. The highest perennial water source in the San Jacinto mountains. Locally known as “Bed Spring”, these days water appears above surface several hundred yards further downslope than it used to, no longer very close to the old rusty bed frame for which it is named.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, dried up in May. Although they flowed for a few days after Tropical Storm Kay, they are now dry again.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing gently, but reliably, at about 8.0 L/min where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail. It is also flowing gently downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). However further downstream the river has been completely dry where it crosses Seven Pines Trail and Dark Canyon Road since July. See above for a photo of the source of this river, about 0.5 mile upstream from Deer Springs Trail.

The creek in Little Round Valley dried in both mid June and again in late August, but flowed between those times and subsequently thanks to periodic storm rainfall every few weeks. It is now flowing very weakly for only about 250 feet in the middle of the valley (behind the Owl’s Hootch campsite sign for example) having dried rapidly in the past two weeks.

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) dried up in late May. [I was surprised to find a little trickle on 2nd October immediately following a thunderstorm earlier that day, but this has not persisted.]

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is usually just adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail (photo below). What this springs lacks in volume it makes up for with remarkable reliability.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June (although it flowed for a couple of days immediately after Tropical Storm Kay).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is almost dry again. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency water source for dogs. Other springs on this trail had been dry for months before the passage of Tropical Storm Kay, and five days later were already functionally dry again.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an invaluable source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER CONDITIONS: 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) [Updated 25th October] Flowing weakly above and below the trough (60 feet upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). The inflow pipe to the trough that was apparently vandalized in May 2022 was being repaired on 25th October, which will again make the trough the most accessible location for water filtering.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, but the spring box remains full.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing gently at both the uppermost and lowest crossings; photo of the latter in previous Report).

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 dry. This large creek dried up in late spring, nearly two months earlier than last year, and remains dry now despite recent rains.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

New signs were installed this month by the State Park on Deer Springs Trail at the Suicide Rock junction and at Strawberry Junction (above). Sadly the elevation, actually about 8075 ft, and some of the distances are inaccurate. Photographed 11th October 2022.
Switchback Spring about 0.6 mile north of Strawberry Junction on Deer Springs Trail, 11th October 2022.
The well known northern spring at Wellman’s Cienega, 11th October 2022, being kept just trickling by the periodic thunderstorms (plus Tropical Storm Kay) that have characterized this year’s monsoon season.

Trail and weather update 6th October 2022

Temperatures in the first week of October, while cooler, have remained above average for the month. They are forecast to drop somewhat next week, following what may be the last storms of this year’s extended monsoon season on 8th-10th. Some forecasts hint at a (very low) possibility of a dusting snow around 14th-15th October above 10,000 feet elevation. Fingers crossed for an early start to the winter.

Our best monsoon season in at least five years is the gift that keeps on giving. An isolated thunderstorm on Sunday 2nd didn’t produce any rain in Idyllwild or at Saddle Junction but the entire high country had a moderate wetting, with 0.30 inch at Wellman’s Cienega and 0.23 inch at San Jacinto Peak. Most impressive was evidence of accumulated hail in Little Round Valley (photo below) that I found on a Sunday evening circuit of the mountain.

The Forest Service has issued a revised closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire valid until 24th January 2023. Details and a map are available here. The closed area is substantially reduced from the original September 2022 order, and is now largely confined to the actual burn scar in northern Bautista Canyon, plus the Red Mountain area. Consequently the Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness, the Thomas Mountain area including the Ramona Trail, and the South Fork Wilderness Trail, have all now reopened.

Hikers should continue to be prepared for unpredictable, rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country into the autumn. Monsoon thunderstorms, usually in the afternoon, remain forecast as a possibility for the next week but on 9th-11th October in particular. Thunderstorms with lightning, brief but intense precipitation (including hail), and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Tropical Storm Kay on 9th September brought down many trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards and branches on trails. I am steadily hiking the trail system surveying for new treefall hazards and reporting them to the agencies. Details are given under Trail Conditions below.

Flow rates on springs and creeks which improved briefly following Tropical Storm Kay have now largely returned to pre-storm conditions, with brief, highly localized improvements following thunderstorms. Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. Thorough surveys of water resources on the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country have been undertaken 2-3 times per week, including Round Valley and Willow Creek weekly. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

All hikers, but especially those planning to hike Skyline Trail (either on its own or as part of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” route), should note that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for annual maintenance until Sunday 9th October 2022, with a tentative reopening date of 10th October. Check their website for reopening confirmation and details.

Full fire restrictions introduced on Thursday 26th May remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year. Fires are never permitted in the State Park wilderness.

Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

May Valley Road (5S21) finally reopened on 6th October, having been closed for eight months due to hazardous trees and then tree removal work.

WEATHER

Temperatures in the first week of October have generally remained above average for the month, especially the overnight lows which have been 5-15°F above seasonal. They are forecast to finally drop closer to seasonal next week, following the possibility of what may be the last storms of this extended monsoon season on 9th-12th. There is the very slim possibility of the first snow of the winter on 14th-15th October around the highest peaks above 10,000 feet elevation.

The five month period April to August 2022 was the second warmest ever recorded in Southern California by overall mean temperature for those months combined (NWS data). This will come as no great surprise to those living in the San Jacinto mountains, where we experienced one of the longest, hottest summers ever.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 6th October 2022 at 0955 the air temperature was 43.4°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 36.3°F (2°C), 56% relative humidity, and a fresh NE breeze sustained at 6 mph gusting to 9.9 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 4th October 2022 at 1015 the air temperature was 45.6°F (8°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.1°F (3°C), 58% relative humidity, and a pleasantly cool NNE breeze sustained at 6 mph gusting to 11.3 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 2nd October 2022 at 1715 the air temperature was 46.4°F (8°C), with a windchill temperature of 45.1°F (7°C), 84% relative humidity, and a very light WSW breeze sustained at 1.0 mph gusting to 4.7 mph.

Spectacular clouds looking south-east from the Peak Trail shortly before sunset, 2nd October 2022. The distant cumulonimbus formations to the left are over the Santa Rosa mountains.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019 (partly due to reduced agency work during the coronavirus pandemic) passable with care by hikers but not for stock. This situation was exacerbated by the impacts of Tropical Storm Kay in early September 2022.

Willow Creek Trail remains a relatively slow, messy hike for a couple of miles. Some 37 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (23rd September 2022 survey). Of those, 27 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. A few trees were cut by chainsaw at the far (Hidden Divide) end of the Forest Service section recently, presumably by a CCC or State Park crew. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. Another tree came down near the start of this trail close to Saddle Junction in Tropical Storm Kay.

Nine of the ten new treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail following Tropical Storm Kay were cut by a State Park crew on 30th September, just ten days after I reported them (must be some sort of record!).

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated since. In my most recent survey there were 80 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177. At least a third of the former are major hazards that require some degree of scrambling over or around.

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions (resurveyed 29th September). Those are expected to be cut this month.

Spitler Peak Trail (surveyed 16th September) remains in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022. Several small trees, including three actually across the trail, came down during Tropical Storm Kay, but all are in the lower half of the trail and are easily negotiated.

On Fuller Ridge Trail there are five major treefall hazards obstructing the trail in the 1.5 mile section nearest to the campground (PCT Miles 189-190.5). Although most of the downed trees reported this summer were apparently cleared in July, at least four more major trees came down in Tropical Storm Kay.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. This is frankly grossly misleading and in reality both trails no longer exist and are so completely overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the former trails (local hikers Charles Phelan and Mark Gumprecht kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Remarkably Tropical Storm Kay did not add any new treefall hazards to this trail. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail unlike the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing at about 0.75 L/min (photo in previous Report). The nearby Round Valley creek and the small creek in Tamarack Valley both dried up in May.

Springs at Wellman’s Cienega are trickling. The flow rate was near 0.9 L/min on 4th October, roughly one quarter of the rate on 10th September.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing weakly but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (photo in previous Report).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of about 2.0 L/min. It is flowing very weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, dried up in May. Although they flowed for a few days after Tropical Storm Kay, they are now dry again.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing gently, but reliably, at at least 8.0 L/min where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail (also 8.0 L/min immediately after Kay, but up from 3.0 L/min last week). It is also flowing gently downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). However further downstream the river is completely dry where it crosses Seven Pines Trail and Dark Canyon Road.

The creek in Little Round Valley dried in both mid June and again in late August, but flowed between those times and subsequently thanks to periodic storm rainfall every few weeks. It is now flowing very weakly for about 250 feet in the middle of the valley (behind the Owl’s Hootch campsite sign for example) having dried rapidly in the past week.

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) dried up in late May. [I was surprised to find a little trickle on 2nd October immediately following a thunderstorm earlier that day, but this will not last.]

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is usually just adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail (photo in previous Report). What this springs lacks in volume it makes up for with remarkable reliability.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June (although it flowed for a couple of days immediately after Tropical Storm Kay).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is almost dry again. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency water source for dogs. Other springs on this trail had been dry for months before the passage of Tropical Storm Kay, and five days later were already functionally dry again.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an invaluable source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER CONDITIONS: 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 (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, but the spring box remains full.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing gently at both the uppermost and lowest crossings; photo of the latter in previous Report).

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 dry. This large creek dried up in late spring, nearly two months earlier than last year, and remains dry now despite recent rains.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

Accumulated hail doing its best impression of a little snow patch, Little Round Valley, late afternoon on 2nd October 2022.
One of nearly ten treefall hazards caused by Tropical Storm Kay on Deer Springs Trail that were cut by a State Park crew on 30th September. This one is at the junction at the top of Marion Mountain Trail, photo 2nd October 2022.
The well known northern spring at Wellman’s Cienega, 2nd October 2022, being kept trickling by the periodic thunderstorms (plus Tropical Storm Kay) that have characterized this year’s monsoon season.

Trail update 28th September 2022

The pleasantly autumnal (even well below seasonal!) temperatures that followed Tropical Storm Kay on 9th September have been replaced in recent days by a minor heatwave, with above seasonal temperatures expected to last until the end of the month. Temperatures in the first week of October are forecast to remain somewhat above average for that month.

An isolated monsoonal thunderstorm on Sunday 25th was not widely forecast but produced 0.79 inch of rain in Idyllwild (at 5550 ft elevation). It was brief, intense, and so localized that Saddle Junction (8100 ft) recorded an impressive 0.99 inch of rain, but less than 1.5 miles to the north there was only 0.05 inch at Wellman’s Cienega (9300 ft), while San Jacinto Peak and Long Valley remained completely dry.

The Forest Service issued a closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire until 1st October 2022. Details and a map are available here. Almost all of the San Jacinto Ranger District south and west of Highway 74 is closed. This includes all of the South Fork Wilderness, the Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness, Bautista Canyon, and the Thomas Mountain area, including the Ramona Trail. A revised order in early October will probably reduce this closure to only those areas directly impacted by the Fairview Fire.

Hikers should continue to be prepared for unpredictable, rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in late summer into autumn. Monsoon thunderstorms, usually in the afternoon, remain forecast as a possibility throughout the first week of October. Thunderstorms with lightning, brief but intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Tropical Storm Kay on 9th September brought down trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards and branches on trails. I am steadily hiking the trail system surveying for new treefall hazards and reporting them to the agencies. Details are given under Trail Conditions below.

Flow rates on springs and creeks which improved briefly following Tropical Storm Kay have now largely returned to pre-storm conditions. Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. At least weekly hikes include thorough surveys of water resources on the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country, including Round Valley and Willow Creek. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

All hikers, but especially those planning to hike Skyline Trail (either on its own or as part of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” route), should note that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for annual maintenance from Monday 12th September to Sunday 9th October 2022, with a tentative reopening date of 10th October.

Full fire restrictions introduced on Thursday 26th May remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year. Fires are never permitted in the State Park wilderness.

Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

The closure order for May Valley Road (5S21) expired on 5th September. The work on hazardous tree removal appears to have been completed in late September, but the gate near Cowbell Alley remains closed.

Tahquitz Ivesia (Ivesia callida) near Tahquitz Peak, 24th September 2022. One of at least a dozen – depending upon preferred taxonomy – plant species endemic to the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains. This tiny plant – the flower is less than 0.5 inch across – is known only from two unique, very rocky locations. The specific name callida means “most beautiful” in Greek.

WEATHER

The autumnal temperatures ushered in by Tropical Storm Kay lasted for two weeks. Since Friday 23rd we have had a modest late September heat wave, with temperatures (especially the overnight lows) above seasonal. While temperatures may drop somewhat in the first week of October, they remain above average for that month (in particular the overnight lows will be 10-20°F above seasonal). The possibility of a minor monsoonal thunderstorm is forecast for Wednesday 28th September, and storms remain a possibility throughout the first week of October.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 26th September 2022 at 0840 the air temperature was 51.3°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 46.7°F (8°C), 37% relative humidity, and a variable due North breeze sustained at 3 mph gusting to 8.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 23rd September 2022 at 0645 the air temperature was 44.3°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.5°F (4°C), 87% relative humidity, and a light due South wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.8 mph.

Sunset on the autumn equinox, 22nd September 2022, as seen from San Jacinto Peak. Santiago Peak is just visible above the hazy horizon to the south of the Sun, and Diamond Valley Reservoir is obvious at the far left.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. This situation has been exacerbated by the impacts of Tropical Storm Kay in early September 2022 as described above. Not all trails have (yet) been checked since Tropical Storm Kay, and treefall conditions may be worse than described below.

Willow Creek Trail remains a relatively slow, messy hike for a couple of miles. Some 37 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (23rd September 2022 survey). Of those, 27 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. A few trees were cut by chainsaw at the far (Hidden Divide) end of the Forest Service section recently, presumably by a CCC crew. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. Another tree came down near the start of this trail close to Saddle Junction in Tropical Storm Kay.

There are ten new treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail (photos in previous Report, surveyed 19th September). The State Park has been notified. Five of these are between the Suicide Rock Trail junction and Strawberry Junction, with a further five between Strawberry Junction and the Fuller Ridge Trail junction (PCT Miles 183-185.5). Two near the top of Marion Mountain Trail include one right at the trail junction. [UPDATE 30th September: great news, on my descent this morning I passed a State Park crew ascending with a chainsaw to clear most or all of these trees.]

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated. In my most recent survey I counted 80 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177. At least a third of the former are major hazards that require some degree of scrambling over or around.

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

Spitler Peak Trail (surveyed 16th September) remains in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022. Several small trees, including three actually across the trail, came down during Tropical Storm Kay, but all are in the lower half of the trail and are easily negotiated.

I have not thoroughly resurveyed Fuller Ridge Trail since Kay blew through. However there are at least five major treefall hazards obstructing the trail in the 1.5 mile section nearest to the campground (PCT Miles 189-190.5). Although most of the downed trees reported this summer were apparently cleared in July, at least four more major trees came down in Tropical Storm Kay (thanks to Snezana Nesic for this information).

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. This is frankly grossly misleading and in reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers nicknamed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail unlike the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

The pipe at Round Valley, flowing gently on 23rd September 2022.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing at 1.0 L/min (measured 23rd September, photo above). The nearby Round Valley creek and the small creek in Tamarack Valley both dried up in May.

Springs at Wellman’s Cienega are trickling (photo below). The flow rate was 0.75L/min on 26th September, half the rate recorded on 19th, and one quarter of the rate on 10th September.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing weakly but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (photo below).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of 2L/min. It is flowing very weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, dried up in May. Although they flowed for a few days after Tropical Storm Kay, they are now dry again.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing gently, but reliably, at about 5.0L/min where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail (down from 8L/min immediately after Kay, but up from 3L/min last week), then weakly downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). However the river is completely dry where it crosses Seven Pines Trail and Dark Canyon Road.

The creek in Little Round Valley dried in both mid June and again in late August, but flowed between those times and subsequently thanks to monsoon and storm rainfall. It is now flowing very weakly for about 350 feet in its lower half (photos in previous Report). Recent experience has shown it will continue to dry rapidly over the next few weeks without additional rainfall. [UPDATE 30th September: flow is down to a trickle for about 200 ft behind the “Owl’s Hootch” campsite sign, then it runs dry for a similar length before briefly flowing again. Water quality is not great and should be filtered.]

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) completely dried up in late May and has not restarted despite recent rains.

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is usually just adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail (photo in previous Report). What this springs lacks in volume it makes up for with remarkable reliability.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June (although it flowed for a couple of days immediately after Tropical Storm Kay).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency water source for dogs. Other springs on this trail had been dry for months before the passage of Tropical Storm Kay, and five days later were already functionally dry again.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an invaluable source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER CONDITIONS: 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 (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, but the spring box remains full.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing gently at both the uppermost and lowest crossings; photo of the latter in previous Report).

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 dry. This large creek dried up in late spring, nearly two months earlier than last year, and remains dry now despite recent rains.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

Willow Creek flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail, 23rd September 2022.
The well known northern spring at Wellman’s Cienega, 26th September 2022, barely trickling again just 17 days after Tropical Storm Kay brought 2-3 inches of rain to the San Jacinto mountains.

Trail and weather update 19th September 2022

It would be an understatement to say that the first half of September 2022 was complicated. The first few days continued a record-breaking heatwave that started in late August, with a run of nine days in Idyllwild with high temperatures at or above 90°F.

Late afternoon on 5th September the Fairview Fire started just south-east of Hemet. With light but shifting winds the fire initially went west, then east, south and finally south-west. Ultimately the fire spread to over 28,000 acres, killing two people and destroying multiple properties. Thousands of acres at the western edge of the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest centred on Bautista Canyon were burned, including the Red Mountain Fire Lookout.

The heatwave ended in remarkably dramatic fashion on Friday 9th when Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Kay passed offshore about 250 miles to the south-west of the San Jacinto mountains. This brought record-setting strong winds to the area, and sufficient rainfall to functionally extinguish the Fairview Fire. I spent the day observing the weather at San Jacinto Peak, where I recorded a maximum wind gust of 77.8 mph just after noon, shattering the previous strongest known wind speed recorded at that location. Wind gusts in Idyllwild exceeded 50 mph, stronger than even the fiercest Santa Ana winds recorded there, causing widespread damage to trees and overhead cables (we lost internet access for a week). Two different videos giving a sense of the conditions at San Jacinto Peak that day are available on YouTube and embedded in the previous Report.

The Forest Service has issued a closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire currently valid until 1st October 2022. Details and a map are available here. Almost all of the San Jacinto Ranger District south and west of Highway 74 is closed. This includes all of the South Fork Wilderness, the Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness, Bautista Canyon, and the Thomas Mountain area, including the Ramona Trail.

Tropical Storm Kay brought down many trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards and branches on trails. I am steadily hiking the trail system surveying for new treefall hazards and reporting them to the relevant agencies. So far nothing I have found has been too challenging to hike past. I have found seven new trees down on the PCT but there are doubtless many more. Five are down between Miles 183-185.5 (photos below), and there are two minor ones near Mile 180.5, roughly 1.5 miles north of Saddle Junction. There are five trees down on Deer Springs Trail between the Suicide Rock and Strawberry junctions, including a couple of major ones. Three I found on Spitler Peak Trail are all minor. Marion Mountain, Wellman, Peak, and Devil’s Slide trails are all clear.

Flow rates on springs and creeks, including some minor ones, briefly improved due to rains from Tropical Storm Kay. However the effects have been remarkably short-lived. Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. Hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources on the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country, and the Tahquitz area meadows. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

All hikers, but especially those planning to hike Skyline Trail (either on its own or as part of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” route), should note that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for annual maintenance from Monday 12th September to Sunday 9th October 2022, with a tentative reopening date of 10th October.

Full fire restrictions were introduced on Thursday 26th May on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year. Fires are never permitted in the State Park wilderness.

Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

The closure order for May Valley Road (5S21) expired on 5th September, but work on hazardous tree removal continues and looks unlikely to be completed before October. A new closure order will presumably be issued in due course.

WEATHER

The autumnal temperatures ushered in by Tropical Storm Kay have remained and will persist for another week, before moving back somewhat above average starting Friday 23rd. There is no further significant precipitation in the forecasts.

Kay was accompanied by significant rainfall, and also facilitated an easterly airflow that brought light monsoon rainfall and thunderstorms on several subsequent days. The five day period 9th-13th September produced the following rainfall totals: 1.78 inches in Idyllwild (5550 ft), 2.43 inches at San Jacinto Peak (10,700 ft), and 2.88 inches at Wellman’s Cienega (9300 ft).

In Idyllwild the overnight low temperature dropped below the monthly average only twice between 9th July 2022 and 10th September, a period of 64 days (and the exceptions were marginal, on 27th and 30th August when lows of 55°F were recorded, the average low for August being 55.4°F). The record for consecutive days of above-monthly-average low temperatures was set just last summer at 56 days (12th June-6th August 2021).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 14th September 2022 at 0850 the air temperature was 42.5°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 35.2°F (2°C), 73% relative humidity, and a light SSW breeze sustained at 3 mph gusting to 8.5 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th September 2022 at 0840 the air temperature was 42.6°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 32.0°F (0°C), 78% relative humidity, and a gusty SSE wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 18.7 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 9th September 2022 at 1220 the air temperature was 42.4°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of approximately 26°F (-3°C), 100% relative humidity, and a wild ENE gale sustained at 43 mph gusting to 77.8 mph. Both wind speeds were all-time records for the Peak.

The view south from May Valley Road just after sunrise on 13th September 2022. Low stratus clouds fill Garner Valley, with spectacular altocumulus at high altitude above. Butterfly Peak is in the distance at the far left.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. This situation has been exacerbated by the impacts of Tropical Storm Kay in early September 2022 as described above. Not all trails have (yet) been checked since Tropical Storm Kay, and treefall conditions may be worse than described below.

Willow Creek Trail is a slow, messy hike for a couple of miles, and is currently only recommended for experienced hikers. Some 46 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (August 2022 survey). Of those, 35 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. This situation has been reported to USFS. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. The huge amount of work that Bill Rhoads and I undertook to clear whitethorn along this trail in 2020 was not completely in vain and parts of the trail would have largely disappeared otherwise, but it has grown back rapidly and makes some of the treefall hazards more complicated to negotiate (photos in previous Report).

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated. In my most recent survey I counted about 80 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177. At least a third of the former are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

There are ten new treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail (photos below, surveyed 19th September). The State Park has been notified. Five of these are between the Suicide Rock Trail junction and Strawberry Junction, with a further five between Strawberry Junction and the Fuller Ridge Trail junction (PCT Miles 183-185.5). Two near the top of Marion Mountain Trail include one right at the trail junction.

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

Spitler Peak Trail (surveyed 16th September) remains in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022. Several small trees, including three actually across the trail, came down during Tropical Storm Kay, but all are in the lower half of the trail and are easily negotiated.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (multiple 2022 surveys) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by relatively agile hikers. Eleven of these are in the 1.5 mile section closest to Fuller Ridge Campground (approx. PCT Miles 189-190.5).

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail and is nothing like the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is trickling at about 0.5 L/min. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

Springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing (photo below). The flow rate of 3L/min immediately after Tropical Storm Kay had already dropped to 2L/min on 14th September, and 1.5L/min by 19th.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing gently but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of roughly 2L/min. It is flowing weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, dried up in May. Although they flowed for a few days after Tropical Storm Kay, they were largely dry again on 14th September.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing gently, but reliably, at about 4-5 L/min where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail (down from 8L/min immediately after Kay), and somewhat weakly downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). However the river is completely dry where it crosses Seven Pines Trail and Dark Canyon Road.

The creek in Little Round Valley dried in both mid June and again in late August, but flowed between those times and subsequently thanks to monsoon and storm rainfall. It is now flowing very weakly for about 400 feet in its lower half (photo below). Recent experience has shown it will continue to dry rapidly over the next few weeks.

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) completely dried up in late May and has not restarted despite recent rains.

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is usually just adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail. What this springs lacks in volume it makes up for with remarkable reliability.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June (although it flowed for a couple of days immediately after Tropical Storm Kay).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. Other springs on this trail had been dry for months before the passage of Tropical Storm Kay, and five days later were already largely or completely dry again.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER CONDITIONS: 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 (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, but the spring box remains full.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing gently at both the uppermost and lowest crossings; photo of the latter below).

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 dry. This large creek dried up in late spring, nearly two months earlier than last year, and remains dry now despite recent rains.

Two of five treefall hazards caused by Tropical Storm Kay on Deer Springs Trail below Strawberry Junction. Above, a multi-tree mess near the Suicide Rock Trail junction, and below, a large pine down about 0.5 mile below Strawberry Junction. Photos 19th September 2022.
This mess is on Deer Springs Trail at about PCT Mile 184, roughly one mile north of Strawberry Junction, photographed 19th September 2022.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

More downed trees in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Kay on Deer Springs Trail/Pacific Crest Trail, 12th September 2022. Above, at the junction with Marion Mountain Trail (approx PCT Mile 185) and below, just 0.2 mile further north on Deer Springs Trail
Spitler Creek flowing weakly at its lowest crossing of Spitler Peak Trail (about 3.3 miles up from the trailhead), 16th September 2022.
Creek in Little Round Valley again flowing well (post Tropical Storm Kay) on 12th September 2022 (above), but already rapidly drying one week later on 19th (below).
The well-known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega, 14th September 2022. Having flowed quite well immediately after Tropical Storm Kay, measured flow rates had almost halved just five days later.

Tropical Storm Kay 9th September 2022

Due to storm damage to overhead lines my internet access is currently very limited and it may be a week or more before the Trail Report can be fully updated. In the meantime here are a few key points relating to the storm and fire activity. For general details of trail and water conditions prior to Tropical Storm Kay, see this earlier Report.

(1) The Forest Service has issued a closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire, currently valid until 1st October 2022. Details and a map are available here. Almost all of the San Jacinto Ranger District south and west of Highway 74 is closed. This includes all of the South Fork Wilderness, the Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness, Bautista Canyon, and the Thomas Mountain area, including the Ramona Trail.

(2) Springs and creeks, including some minor ones, are currently flowing due to rains from Tropical Storm Kay. This effect will be temporary, but at least for the next week, water is widespread in the high country. Flow rate at Wellman’s Cienega, which had dried up in the first week of September, was 3L/min on 10th September.

(3) The storm brought down trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards on trails. On my hikes since the storm so far I have found four trees down on the PCT but there are doubtless many more. Two are down near Mile 185 across Deer Springs Trail near the top of Marion Mountain Trail, and there are two minor ones near Mile 180.5, roughly 1.5 miles north of Saddle Junction.

[UPDATED 10th September @ 1050: rainfall totals for past 24 hours are 1.75 inches at San Jacinto Peak and 1.62 inches in Idyllwild (at 5550ft). Most impressive was 2.6 inches at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft). It is a huge relief to get some meaningful precipitation. Springs are flowing again. Flow rate at Wellman’s Cienega was 3L/min this morning. Even small ephemeral springs on Devil’s Slide Trail are trickling.]

We hiked up to San Jacinto Peak this morning, Friday 9th September, to see what Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Kay would bring in terms of weather. We were not disappointed.

On the way up I noted that Middle Spring on Devil’s Slide Trail, and the north springs at Wellman’s Cienega, had all finally dried up. Now with sufficient rain hopefully they will start trickling again.

It was one of the strangest ascents I have made. It was still very warm, over 70°F at the trailhead, so I was heading up in t-shirt and shorts but could see the cloud descending rapidly and the stiff wind was unusually warm. The wind and cloud were very reminiscent of my many winter ascents, but the air temperature was 40-50 degrees too warm. Making things even more unusual in several locations on Devil’s Slide Trail I could see to the west large flames and billowing smoke near the top of Rouse Ridge at its northern end close to Cranston, graphic evidence of the Fairview Fire several miles away.

We finally got into the cloud at about 8500 ft and had a very light rain shortly thereafter (but it was largely horizontal due to the strong easterly wind).

At the first recording of the weather at San Jacinto Peak at 1045 I measured a wind gust of 58.4 mph, surpassing my previous highest observation at that location by nearly 10 mph. The wind was sustained at an impressive 35 mph and bizarrely – given the wind speed – the windchill was a relatively mild 29.8°F.

The winds started to get crazy by about noon, and at my second attempt the maximum wind gust was an astonishing 77.8 mph. This crushed any previous record wind speed recorded at San Jacinto Peak, at least in the modern era. The sustained wind was well over 40 mph.

I recorded a short(ish) video near the Peak available here on YouTube.

Subsequently the winds never quite reached such strong gusts again. The air temperatures never fell below the mid 40s. However most impressive were the sustained wind speeds which remained above 30 mph for at least nine hours, roughly 0900-1800. In contrast winter storms at the peak are much more gusty with the sustained wind speeds rarely exceeding 30 mph, and when they do it is often only for an hour or two.

This very short video was taken when the sustained winds were “only” about 35 mph and the gusts were “only” near 60 mph, at about 1045 today, Friday 9th September.

Most of the day the rainfall was very light, with only 0.25 inch until mid afternoon, but finally it started raining more heavily around 1600. As of 1830 rainfall at San Jacinto Peak today measured 0.9 inch. By about the same time, Idyllwild (at 5550ft) had recorded just over 1.0 inch. There will be a clearer picture of overall rainfall from this unusual event by tomorrow morning.

Fairview Fire update 8th September 2022

[UPDATED Friday 9th September @ 1130: I am currently at San Jacinto Peak having hiked up this morning to observe Tropical Storm Kay, more on this in a subsequent posting. The following photo has probably circulated widely by now, but those of us in the fire lookout community were devastated to learn of the destruction of Red Mountain lookout overnight in the Fairview Fire. While far from surprising given the conditions, it comes as a huge blow to us all.]

Red Mountain, 9th September 2022

[UPDATED Thursday 8th September @ 1930: thankfully nothing significant to report from the Idyllwild-Pine Cove-Mountain Center area. Generally east or south-east winds, the outermost hint of Hurricane Kay perhaps, are pushing smoke and active burn areas away from here. Sadly conditions have deteriorated further in Bautista Canyon, and especially in the south-west quadrant of the fire, which may be exacerbated by high winds (from the east) predicted for tomorrow morning. Total acreage now at 23,900, roughly an additional 5,000 today (so far).]

[UPDATED Thursday 8th September @ 0930: I have just added some photos from our morning hike to Tahquitz Peak, below the more dramatic photos and video from last night.]

Fire acreage was reported near 12,000 on Wednesday afternoon but by 2230 a CalFire estimate put the fire at 19,300 acres.

No evacuation warning or order issued yet for Idyllwild-Pine Cove. Most of the growth overnight has been to the south, broadly speaking, and the immediate threat to Idyllwild-Pine Cove may have passed. However the afternoon is when fire behaviour tends to get vigourous and erratic.

Thankfully Red Mountain Fire Lookout has survived the night, just. There is a livestream from the mountaintop available on YouTube here.

Note that Highway 74 closed on Wednesday night between Valle Vista (east end of Hemet) and Mountain Center (Highway 243 junction).

I recorded the video below on Wednesday evening, 7th September, and have added a couple of still photos also.

The prognosis for the next 24 hours remains poor. Northern Bautista Canyon is largely destroyed and will never be the same again. Recent spread seems to be to the south towards the Sage area.

Hurricane Kay is forecast to arrive on Friday 9th and the rain will hopefully extinguish this fire. It is hard to overlook the irony that in a world with such a rapidly changing climate we may largely depend upon a hurricane to put out a huge wildfire that started during an exceptional heatwave.

Above, looking south-west from Idyllwild, with Red Mountain at the left of the image, dusk on 7th September 2022.
Below, sunset on 7th September 2022 underneath a huge pyrocumulus cloud that developed that afternoon over the fire.

Photos from Tahquitz Peak on Thursday 8th September follow.

Strawberry Valley, where Idyllwild is located, at about 0850 (above) and filling with smoke by 0930 (below), as the local wind flow shifted to the west (it cleared out again as we descended by about 1030).
Garner Valley filling with smoke, as seen from Tahquitz Peak.
The San Jacinto high country as seen from Tahquitz Peak at about 0900 on 8th September 2022. Note the smoke reaching to about 9000 ft elevation in upper Strawberry Valley in the lower left of the image. The clouds were the first hint of Hurricane Kay hundreds of miles to our south-west.

Please stay safe everyone.

Fire and weather update 7th September 2022

[UPDATED Wednesday 7th September @ 1630: news from the Fairview Fire has not been good this afternoon. Dramatic fire activity up (and out of) Bautista Canyon has continued and latest size estimate is now 9845 acres. The fire has apparently crossed Rouse Hill Road (5S15) near its northern end putting it less than one mile from Highway 74 (roughly a couple of miles east of Cranston).]

[UPDATED Wednesday 7th September @ 1430: latest reports indicate the Fairview Fire continues steady progress south-east up both sides of Bautista Canyon. Total size now at least 7100 acres. Crews have been placed at Bautista Conservation Camp for structure defense. An intensive Phos-Chek campaign is underway to protect the antennas and fire lookout at Red Mountain.]

[UPDATED Wednesday 7th September @ 0530: early this morning the Fairview Fire was estimated at 6520 acres, having more than doubled in size in the past 24 hours. Almost all of the spread was east into northern Bautista Canyon. The good news for residents of Idyllwild and Mountain Center is that winds today are expected to be weaker and variable but largely easterly, hopefully holding the fire well to our west in the Bautista Canyon area. Thanks to Hurricane Kay, cooler, damp, cloudy conditions are forecast for 9th and 10th September.]

[UPDATED Tuesday 6th September @ 2030: the Fairview Fire, now well over 5000 acres, is expanding steadily along a broad front, mainly to the southeast, occupying much of northern Bautista Canyon. A huge expanse of flame was visible to the naked eye about eight miles west of town this evening from Idyllwild.]

The somewhat apocalyptic view to the west from Inspiration Point, western Idyllwild, just before sunset, 6th September 2022.

[UPDATED Tuesday 6th September @ 1650: the Fairview Fire is now estimated at 4500 acres. It continues to push east, having crossed into the National Forest and jumped Bautista Canyon Road. At that point the fire hits very rugged terrain with a lot of unburned fuel and it will be challenging to slow its progress. A combination of evacuation order and evacuation warning was recently issued for a huge area south and west of Highway 74 and north of Highway 371, roughly Mountain Center to Thomas Mountain and south to Anza.]

Attention is currently on the Fairview Fire which started just south-east of Hemet late afternoon on 5th September, quickly spreading to over 2000 acres, killing two people and destroying multiple properties. Although early this morning the eastern flank of the fire was about ten miles west of Mountain Center, and just over one mile west of the National Forest boundary, we know from recent experience (notably the Cranston Fire in July 2018) that fires can cover the ground from the east end of Hemet to the fringes of Idyllwild in a few hours. Thankfully the wind direction and wind speed currently make that scenario unlikely.

The Fairview Fire as seen from Inspiration Point at the west end of Idyllwild, early morning 6th September 2022. Located on the southeast side of Hemet, the fire is currently about 10 miles west of Mountain Center.

The exceptional heatwave that has been impacting our region since the end of August continues for another couple of days. The heatwave is forecast to break quite dramatically on Friday 9th, when the San Jacinto mountains will catch the edge of Hurricane Kay as it churns off the northwest coast of Baja California. Gale force winds around the highest peaks on Friday 9th will result in windchill temperatures below freezing on 9th-10th September in the high country even though air temperatures may be near 50°F (10°C). How much precipitation is associated with the wind and cloud is unclear from the divergent forecast models, currently ranging from a light drizzle to a couple of inches, but about 0.5-1.0 inch is suggested by most forecasts, mainly overnight on Friday 9th into the morning of Saturday 10th.

Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. Please note these may change rapidly if there is substantial precipitation on 9th-10th September. Hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources on the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country frequently, plus Round Valley and the Tahquitz area meadows. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Hikers should continue to be prepared for exceptionally hot weather until Friday 9th September, with overnight “low” temperatures at least 15-20°F above seasonal and daytime high temperatures around 90°F (32°C) even at 6000 ft elevation. Plan accordingly regarding route choice, start time, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should be prepared for unpredictable, rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in late summer. Monsoonal storms, typically in the afternoon, remain a possibility throughout September (in addition to the possible tropical storm spinoff on 9th-10th). Thunderstorms with lightning, brief but intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

All hikers, but especially those planning to hike Skyline Trail (either on its own or as part of the “Cactus-to-Clouds”), should note that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for annual maintenance from Monday 12th September to Sunday 9th October 2022, with a tentative reopening date of 10th October.

Full fire restrictions were introduced on Thursday 26th May on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year. Fires are never permitted in the State Park wilderness.

Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

May Valley Road (5S21) remains closed, including to foot traffic. Work to remove hazardous trees, burned by the 2018 Cranston Fire, finally got underway in mid August. The current closure order expired on 5th September, but work looks unlikely to be completed until later this month.

WEATHER

Temperatures that have been far above seasonal since 30th August will continue until 8th September. Daytime highs have exceeded 90°F (32°C) at 5000-6000 ft elevation while overnight low temperatures average 15-20°F above seasonal at mid elevations (5000-7500 ft). Daytime high temperatures finally drop to about average for September from 9th onwards (although overnight lows will apparently remain well above seasonal).

As described above, spinoff from Hurricane Kay will produce strong winds in the high country, windchill temperatures below freezing on 9th-11th September around the highest peaks, heavily cloudy days on 9th and 10th, and the possibility of up to an inch of rain at all elevations mainly on Saturday 10th. From 11th September onwards, temperatures are forecast to be closer to seasonal for the month, but with possibilities for monsoon rainfall continuing for several days.

According to National Weather Service data (available here) recorded at the Idyllwild Fire station, precipitation was slightly below average for August, despite some good monsoon rains. The air temperature averaged 2.7°F above normal for the month of August. The maximum high temperature of 96°F recorded on 31st August broke the record for that day (previously 94°F recorded in 2017).

In Idyllwild the overnight low temperature has dropped below the monthly average only once since 9th July 2022, currently a sequence of 56 days (the sole exception was on 27th August when a low of 55°F was recorded, the average low for August being 55.4°F). The record for consecutive days of above-monthly-average low temperatures was set just last summer at 56 days (12th June-6th August 2021).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Friday 2nd September 2022 at 0740 the air temperature was 60.5°F (16°C), with a windchill temperature of 54.5°F (13°C), 47% relative humidity, and a gusty NNE breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 10.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock.

Willow Creek Trail is a slow, messy hike for a couple of miles, and is currently only recommended for experienced hikers. Some 46 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (August 2022 survey). Of those, 35 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. This situation has been reported to USFS. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. The huge amount of work that Bill Rhoads and I undertook to clear whitethorn along this trail in 2020 was not completely in vain and parts of the trail would have largely disappeared otherwise, but it has grown back rapidly and makes some of the treefall hazards more complicated to negotiate (photos in previous Report).

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated. In my most recent survey I counted about 80 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177. At least a third of the former are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

On 9th August a California Conservation Corps team cut the four treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail between Strawberry Junction and the top of Marion Mountain Trail, including the huge one of three that came down in late 2021 just south of the latter junction (photo in previous Report).

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (multiple 2022 surveys) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by relatively agile hikers. Eleven of these are in the 1.5 mile section closest to Fuller Ridge Campground (approx. PCT Miles 189-190.5).

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail and is nothing like the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is trickling at about 0.5 L/min (photo below). It is only continuing to flow into September thanks to some monsoonal rainfall input over the past month, but recent history suggests it could now dry up at any time without further precipitation. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

All springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing extremely weakly for the time of year, at about 0.25 L/min. They did not receive significant input from summer thunderstorms, and the well-known north springs may dry completely in the next month or two without significant precipitation. They should no longer be relied upon for anything other than emergency filtering. This spring dried for the first time in recorded history in October 2015, then again in September 2016.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing weakly but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of roughly 1.5L/min. It is flowing weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, have been dry since May.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing weakly, but reliably, at about 6.0 L/min where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and more weakly downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). However the river is completely dry where it crosses Seven Pines Trail and Dark Canyon Road (photos in previous Report).

The creek in Little Round Valley (photos below) dried dramatically in late August, and will not last beyond September without further rainfall. There is gentle surface flow in two short sections, for about 50 yards behind the “Campsite 2 Owl’s Hootch” sign, and for another 70 yards a little further downstream.

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) completely dried up in late May where it crosses the trail and did not receive any meaningful water from rains in July.

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail (photo in previous Report).

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and will dry soon without new rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. 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, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER CONDITIONS: 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 (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly, but the spring box remains full. This spring has functionally dried up in recent years and may not be reliable by autumn.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing gently at both the uppermost and lowest 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 dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

The pipe in Round Valley, Monday 29th August 2022, still trickling at a flow rate of approximately 0.5 L/min.
The lower section of Little Round Valley creek, including several of the largest pools (above), is now dry, 2nd September 2022. Some gentle flow remains in the middle section of Little Round Valley creek, with a couple of small pools sufficient for slow filtering (below).

Weather and water update 2nd September 2022

A few localized thunderstorms in the past couple of weeks included one over the Devil’s Slide Trail area on 20th August and another over San Jacinto Peak and the western slope (notably Marion Mountain Trail) on 24th August. While these dampened the trails, impacts on water sources were negligible compared to the more widespread and intense monsoonal rains of 30th July-1st August. The weather focus over the next week shifts to an exceptional early September heatwave, discussed in more detail below.

Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. Hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources on the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country frequently, most recently on 25th and 28th August, plus Round Valley and around the Tahquitz area meadows. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Hikers should be prepared for exceptionally hot weather from 31st August to 8th September, with overnight “low” temperatures at least 15-20°F above seasonal and daytime high temperatures at or above 90°F (32°C) even at 6000-7000 ft elevation. Plan accordingly regarding route choice, start time, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should continue to be prepared for unpredictable, rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in late summer. Monsoon thunderstorms, typically in the afternoon, remain a slim possibility daily for at least the next week. Thunderstorms with lightning, brief but intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions were introduced on Thursday 26th May on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year. Fires are never permitted in the State Park wilderness.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on the trail system up to at least 8900 ft elevation. The lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail, near Strawberry Cienega, and around Tahquitz Peak are locations with regular sightings, but rattlesnakes are possible anywhere up to at least 9300 ft.

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Note however the fire restrictions mentioned above. Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

May Valley Road (5S21) remains completely closed, including to foot traffic (photos below). Work to remove hazardous trees, burned by the 2018 Cranston Fire, finally got underway in mid August. The current closure order expires on 5th September, but work looks unlikely to be completed before late September.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to be far above seasonal from 30th August until at least 8th September, with the likelihood that several early September temperature records for the San Jacinto mountains will be broken. Daytime highs will exceed 90°F (32°C) at 6000 ft elevation for nine consecutive days while overnight low temperatures will average 15-20°F above seasonal at mid elevations (5000-7500 ft). Forecast temperatures between 1st-8th September at San Jacinto Peak will be among the highest recorded there in 2022. Daytime high temperatures finally drop closer to average for September on 9th-10th (although overnight lows will remain well above seasonal). Monsoonal thunderstorms are currently forecast as a (slim) possibility daily until 9th September.

Based on National Weather Service data recorded at Idyllwild Fire station, the overnight low temperature has only dropped below the monthly average on one day since 9th July 2022 (that was on 27th August when a low of 55°F was recorded, the average low for the month being 55.4°F). The record for consecutive days of above-average low temperatures was set just last summer at 56 days (12th June-6th August 2021).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Friday 2nd September 2022 at 0740 the air temperature was 60.5°F (16°C), with a windchill temperature of 54.5°F (13°C), 47% relative humidity, and a gusty NNE breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 10.4 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 29th August 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 50.7°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 42.8°F (6°C), 61% relative humidity, and a steady SE wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 18.6 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 25th August 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 55.2°F (13°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 52.0°F (11°C), 67% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 3 mph gusting to 4.5 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system throughout the San Jacinto mountains cleared of snow in late April.

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock.

Willow Creek Trail is a slow, messy hike for a couple of miles, and is currently only recommended for experienced hikers. Some 46 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (August 2022 survey). Of those, 35 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. This situation has been reported to USFS. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. The huge amount of work that Bill Rhoads and I undertook to clear whitethorn along this trail in 2020 was not completely in vain and parts of the trail would have largely disappeared otherwise, but it has grown back rapidly and makes some of the treefall hazards more complicated to negotiate (photos in previous Report).

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated. In my most recent survey I counted about 80 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177. At least a third of the former are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

On 9th August a California Conservation Corps team cut the four treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail between Strawberry Junction and the top of Marion Mountain Trail, including the huge one of three that came down in late 2021 just south of the latter junction (photo in previous Report).

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (multiple 2022 surveys) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by relatively agile hikers. Eleven of these are in the 1.5 mile section closest to Fuller Ridge Campground (approx. PCT Miles 189-190.5).

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail and is nothing like the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

The pipe in Round Valley, Monday 29th August 2022, still trickling at a flow rate of approximately 0.5 L/min.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is trickling at about 0.5 L/min (photo above). It is only continuing to flow into September thanks to some monsoonal rainfall input over the past month, but recent history suggests it could now dry up at any time without further precipitation. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

All springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing extremely weakly for the time of year, at about 0.25 L/min. They did not receive significant input from summer thunderstorms, and the well-known north springs (photo below) may dry completely in the next month or two without significant precipitation. They should no longer be relied upon for anything other than emergency filtering. This spring dried for the first time in recorded history in October 2015, then again in September 2016.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing weakly but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (photo in previous Report).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of roughly 1.5L/min. It is flowing weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, have been dry since May.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing weakly, but reliably, at about 6.0 L/min where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail (photo below) and more weakly downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). However the river is completely dry where it crosses Seven Pines Trail and Dark Canyon Road (photos in previous Report).

The creek in Little Round Valley (photos below) has dried dramatically in late August, and will not last beyond September without further rainfall. There is gentle surface flow in two short sections, for about 50 yards behind the “Campsite 2 Owl’s Hootch” sign, and for another 70 yards a little further downstream.

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) completely dried up in late May where it crosses the trail and did not receive any meaningful water from rains in July.

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail (photo in previous Report).

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and will dry soon without new rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. 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, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER CONDITIONS: 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 (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly, but the spring box remains full. This spring has functionally dried up in recent years and may not be reliable by autumn.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing gently at both the uppermost and lowest 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 dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

The lower section of Little Round Valley creek, including several of the largest pools, is now dry, 2nd September 2022 (above), having been flowing well just nine days earlier on 25th August (below).
Some gentle flow remains in the middle section of Little Round Valley creek, with a couple of small pools sufficient for slow filtering, 2nd September 2022.
North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Deer Springs Trail at about 9400ft elevation, flowing weakly but reliably at about 6.0 L/min flow rate, 2nd September 2022.
The well-known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega, 29th August 2022. Although barely trickling at about 0.25 L/min, I continue to clear out the little pool every time I hike the Wellman Trail to facilitate emergency filtering.
May Valley Road (5S21) closure at the northern (Cowbell Alley) access, 26th August 2022, with details and map of the current closure order, due to expire on 5th September, below.

Water and weather update 25th August 2022

The excellent monsoonal rains of 30th July-1st August have not been repeated, although a minor storm cell over San Jacinto Peak and the western slope (notably Marion Mountain Trail) on Tuesday 24th did dampen some trails and slightly improve some water sources. Although forecasts indicate that further monsoon activity this month is unlikely, storms are possible in the first week of September.

Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. Hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources on the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country frequently, most recently on 19th and 25th August, plus around the Tahquitz area meadows, Willow Creek Trail and Round Valley. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Hikers should be prepared for continuing hot and humid weather, with overnight “low” temperatures forecast to remain about 5-15°F above seasonal into September, and daytime highs typically at or above seasonal averages (with the exception of 26th-28th). An intense heatwave is currently forecast for 30th August-4th September at least. Humidity has been above normal at all elevations for a month. Plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should continue to be prepared for the possibility of rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon thunderstorms, typically in the afternoon, remain a possibility almost daily (although precipitation probabilities have generally lowered for the foreseeable future). Thunderstorms with lightning, brief but intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions were introduced on Thursday 26th May on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on the trail system up to at least 8900 ft elevation. The lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail, near Strawberry Cienega, and around Tahquitz Peak are regular hotspots, but rattlesnakes are possible anywhere up to at least 9300 ft.

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Note however the fire restrictions mentioned above. Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.

May Valley Road (5S21) remains completely closed (including to foot traffic). Work to remove hazard trees finally got underway in mid August. The current closure order expires on 5th September, but work looks unlikely to be completed before late September.

Coast Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis multifasciata), 18th August 2022. This small individual, about 15 inches long, was on the trail system near Red Hill Truck Trail, at the western end of Idyllwild.

WEATHER

Daytime high temperatures are forecast to generally be around or above seasonal for the remainder of August, but well above average on 30th August until 4th September at least. Overnight low temperatures will continue to average 5-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations (5000-7500 ft). Monsoonal storms always remain a possibility at this time of year, but precipitation probabilities are currently low into the first week of September.

Based on National Weather Service data recorded at Idyllwild Fire station, the last time that the overnight low temperature was below the monthly average this year was on 9th July 2022, so we are currently on a run of at least 46 consecutive days of above-average low temperatures. While this is remarkable, it is still well short of the previous record of 56 days, set just last summer (12th June-6th August 2021).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 25th August 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 55.2°F (13°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 52.0°F (11°C), 67% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 3 mph gusting to 4.5 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 19th August 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 57.5°F (14°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 50.0°F (10°C), 42% relative humidity, and a gentle NE breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 8.3 mph.

Fires are never permitted in wilderness areas, regardless of the fact that full fire restrictions have been in place for several months. Nevertheless volunteer rangers continue to find (and remove) fire rings with depressing frequency. This one I found in the Forest next to the PCT at about Mile 180.5 on 19th August 2022, apparently built by an equestrian judging by other evidence at the campsite. It had not been there three days earlier when I hiked by the same location.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system throughout the San Jacinto mountains cleared of snow in late April.

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock.

Willow Creek Trail is a slow, messy hike for a couple of miles, and is currently only recommended for experienced hikers. Some 46 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (August 2022 survey). Of those, 35 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. This situation has been reported to USFS. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. The huge amount of work that Bill Rhoads and I undertook to clear whitethorn along this trail in 2020 was not completely in vain and parts of the trail would have largely disappeared otherwise, but it has grown back rapidly and makes some of the treefall hazards more complicated to negotiate (photos in previous Report).

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated. In my most recent survey I counted about 80 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177. At least a third of the former are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

On 9th August a California Conservation Corps team cut the four treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail between Strawberry Junction and the top of Marion Mountain Trail, including the huge one of three that came down in late 2021 just south of the latter junction (photo in previous Report).

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (multiple 2022 surveys) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by relatively agile hikers. Eleven of these are in the 1.5 mile section closest to Fuller Ridge Campground (approx. PCT Miles 189-190.5).

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail and is nothing like the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing at roughly 1.0 L/min but recent history suggests it may not persist much longer without further rainfall input. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

All springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing extremely weakly for the time of year. They did not receive significant input from summer thunderstorms, and the well-known north springs (photo below) may dry completely in the next month or two without further precipitation. They should no longer be relied upon for filtering. This spring dried for the first time in recorded history in October 2015, then again in September 2016.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing weakly but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (photo in previous Report).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of roughly 2.0L/min. It is flowing weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, have been dry since May.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail (photo in previous Report) and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). However the river is completely dry where it crosses Seven Pines Trail and Dark Canyon Road (photos below).

The creek in Little Round Valley (photo below) has received periodic new precipitation from thunderstorms since late June, including on 24th August. Having been nearly dry in mid June, the creek continues to trickle through the lower half of the valley (for roughly 400 ft), forming some minor pools in the lower half. However the flow has dropped substantially in August, and may not last beyond September without further rainfall. The same creek continues to flow gently where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) completely dried up in late May where it crosses the trail and did not receive any meaningful water from rains in July.

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail (photo below).

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and will dry soon without new rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. 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, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER CONDITIONS: 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 (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, but the spring box remains full. This spring has functionally dried up in recent years and may not be reliable by autumn.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing steadily at both the uppermost and lowest 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 dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on your small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

The largest of the pools in the lower section of Little Round Valley creek, 25th August 2022. A light rain on 24th has helped to keep this creek trickling steadily for now.
The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is completely dry where it crosses Seven Pines Trail (above) and about a mile further downstream where it crosses Dark Canyon Road near Dark Canyon campground (below), photographed 17th August 2022.
The well-known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega, 19th August 2022. Although barely trickling, I continue to clear out the little pool every time I hike the Wellman Trail to facilitate emergency filtering.
Switchback Spring, about 0.4 mile north of Strawberry Junction on Deer Springs Trail, 15th August 2022. Although small, it is a remarkably reliable water source. To facilitate filtering I clear out debris from the tiny pool on the upslope side most weeks.

Water update 17th August 2022

Despite often cloudy and humid conditions since the excellent monsoonal rains of 30th July-1st August, with thunder rumbling some afternoons (and regular flash flood warnings being issued), we have not had significant further rainfall in the high country since 8th August, and not since 1st August in Idyllwild. Some effects of the earlier storms persist, with the trails still largely free of dust, but the impact on most water sources from these storms was minimal and the water situation continues to decline as described below. Sadly forecasts indicate that further monsoon activity this month is either unlikely or will be very limited.

Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. Hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources on the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country at least weekly, most recently on Monday 15th August, and around the Tahquitz area meadows, Willow Creek Trail and Round Valley. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Hikers should be prepared for continuing hot and humid weather, with overnight “low” temperatures forecast to remain about 10-15°F above seasonal into late August, and daytime highs typically at or above seasonal averages. Humidity is largely above normal at all elevations. Plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should continue to be prepared for the possibility of rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon thunderstorms, typically in the afternoon, remain a possibility almost daily into late August (although precipitation probabilities have generally lowered for the next week or two). Thunderstorms with lightning, brief but intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions were introduced on Thursday 26th May on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on the trail system up to at least 8900 ft elevation. The lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail, near Strawberry Cienega, and around Tahquitz Peak are regular hotspots, but rattlesnakes are possible anywhere up to at least 9300 ft.

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, up to three Black Bears have been in the San Jacinto mountains since 2017. On Devil’s Slide Trail at first light on 18th July 2022 we were very fortunate to see the same large (>250lb) dark brown individual that I had seen in September 2021 (one short, poor quality video from the earlier observation is available here). This was clearly a different individual, based on colour pattern and size, from the “blond” one I saw on Devil’s Slide Trail in August 2020 and had previously filmed at home in Idyllwild in 2018 (available here).

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Note however the fire restrictions mentioned above. Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues. May Valley Road remains closed to vehicles due to “hazard trees” but the necessary tree work is expected to be completed in August.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to be at or largely above seasonal for the remainder of August. Overnight low temperatures will continue to average 5-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations (5000-7500 ft). Higher than normal humidity can make it feel hotter, especially later in the day. Monsoonal storms remain a possibility every afternoon for at least the next ten days, although probabilities for significant precipitation are declining.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 15th August 2022 at 0800 the air temperature was 60.8°F (16°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 58.8°F (14°C), 45% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 3.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system throughout the San Jacinto mountains cleared of snow in late April.

Willow Creek Trail is a slow, messy hike in places, and is currently only recommended for experienced hikers. Some 46 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (August 2022 survey). Of those, 35 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. This situation has been reported in person to USFS. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July (photo below). The huge amount of work that Bill Rhoads and I undertook to clear whitethorn along this trail in 2020 was not completely in vain and parts of the trail would have largely disappeared otherwise, but it has grown back rapidly and makes some of the treefall hazards more complicated to negotiate (photo below).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated. In my most recent survey I counted about 80 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177. At least a third of the former are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

On 9th August a California Conservation Corps team cut the four treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail between Strawberry Junction and the top of Marion Mountain Trail, including the huge one of three that came down in late 2021 just south of the latter junction (photo below).

One new major treefall hazard came down on Marion Mountain Trail, about two miles up, in July. Otherwise this trail is in generally excellent condition.

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (multiple 2022 surveys) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by relatively agile hikers. Eleven of these are in the 1.5 mile section closest to Fuller Ridge Campground (approx. PCT Miles 189-190.5).

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022 (with a brief reopening October-December 2021). Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Despite this very considerable effort, Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail and is nothing like the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

Major treefall hazard removed last week by a California Conservation Corps team from Deer Springs Trail (at about PCT Mile 184.5), photographed 15th August 2022.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing at roughly 1.0 L/min but recent history suggests it may not persist all summer without further rainfall input. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing extremely weakly for the time of year. They did not receive significant additional input from recent thunderstorms, and the well-known north springs may dry completely in the next couple of months without further precipitation. They should no longer be relied upon for filtering. This spring dried for the first time in recorded history in October 2015, then again in September 2016.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing weakly but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (photo below).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of >2.0L/min (photo below). It is flowing weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177 (photo below). It is clear that this area received some fresh monsoonal rain input in late July, but this dissipated within hours. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

Willow Creek flowing very weakly, but reliably, where it crosses its eponymous trail, 11th August 2022.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, have been dry since May.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail (photo below) and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). However the river is completely dry where it crosses Seven Pines Trail and Dark Canyon Road (photos below).

The creek in Little Round Valley (photo below) received moderate new precipitation from thunderstorms at the end of July. Having been nearly dry in mid June, the creek just about continues to flow through the lower half of the valley (roughly 400 ft), forming some minor pools in the lower half. However the flow has dropped substantially in August, and may not last the autumn without further rainfall. The same creek continues to flow gently where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) completely dried up in late May where it crosses the trail and did not receive any meaningful water from rains in July.

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail (photo below).

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and will dry soon without substantial monsoon rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. 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, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER CONDITIONS: 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 (well upslope from the trail into the campsite). Likely received substantial fresh input from storms in late July. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough was dry (but may temporarily fill with rainfall). This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected before the autumn.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, but the spring box remains full (photo in earlier Report). This spring has functionally dried up in recent years and should not be relied upon by late summer.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing steadily at both the uppermost and lowest 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 dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on your small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is completely dry where it crosses Seven Pines Trail (above) and about a mile further downstream where it crosses Dark Canyon Road near the campground (below), 17th August 2022.
The treefall hazards on Willow Creek Trail are challenging. While the few that were on the State Park section, including a notably huge and slippery one (above) have now been cut, at least 45 remain on the Forest Service section of trail. Many are large, and where they combine with overgrown whitethorn the trail has briefly disappeared (below). Photos 11th August 2022.
Switchback Spring, about 0.4 mile north of Strawberry Junction on Deer Springs Trail, 15th August 2022. Although small, it is a remarkably reliable water source. To facilitate filtering I clear out debris from the tiny pool on the upslope side whenever I hike past.
The largest of the pools in the lower section of Little Round Valley creek. Without new rainfall input the water level is dropping rapidly, as seen when comparing the same view from 15th August 2022 (above) and one week earlier on 8th August (below).
The North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Deer Springs Trail at about 9400 ft elevation, 15th August 2022. The already low flow rate here has declined markedly in the past week, as this catchment did not receive significant new input from recent rains.

Weather and water update 11th August 2022

Last week Idyllwild experienced its best summer monsoonal rains in 5-6 years, totaling 2.54 inches between Saturday 30th July and Monday 1st August. Although conditions have been largely cloudy and humid since, with thunder rumbling most afternoons, we have not had significant further rainfall in Idyllwild (just 0.07 inch on 4th August, and 0.11 inch on 8th August).

After surveying water sources the morning of 8th August, an intense storm cell that afternoon passed over the high country from Long Valley in the east (which recorded 2.1 inches of rain in under two hours) to Black Mountain in the west. This will have augmented some of the water sources mentioned below, although the effects are often surprisingly brief. Further thunderstorms are forecast almost daily for at least the next two weeks, currently most likely from 16th-19th August.

The very localized nature of earlier thunderstorms, and the speed of the runoff, meant that there was minimal impact on springs and creeks from the late July storms, as described in the previous report. On a full survey of the high country on the morning Monday 8th August, water sources were largely in a similarly poor condition to late July prior to the monsoonal rains. The notable exception was the creek in Little Round Valley, where flow remained gentle but steady, having been within days of drying up in mid June.

Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. Recent hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources and trails around the Tahquitz area meadows, Willow Creek Trail and Round Valley, and the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed until at least Monday 15th August due to maintenance issues following flash flooding on Monday 8th. Check their website for confirmation of reopening.

Hikers should be prepared for continuing hot and humid weather, with overnight “low” temperatures forecast to remain far above seasonal into late August, and daytime highs generally near or slightly above seasonal averages. Current humidity is far above normal at all elevations. Plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should also be prepared for the possibility of rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon thunderstorms, typically in the afternoon, continue to be forecast as a possibility almost daily into late August. Thunderstorms with lightning, relatively brief but intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions were introduced on Thursday 26th May on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on the trail system up to at least 8900 ft elevation. The lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail, near Strawberry Cienega, and around Tahquitz Peak are regular hotspots, but rattlesnakes are possible anywhere up to at least 9300 ft. (Sightings are currently less frequent during monsoonal weather.) Readers interested in the uniqueness and challenges of rattlesnakes in the San Jacinto high country may find this article that I wrote two years ago informative.

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, up to three Black Bears have been in the San Jacinto mountains since 2017. On Devil’s Slide Trail at first light on 18th July 2022 we were very fortunate to see the same large (>250lb) dark brown individual that I had seen in September 2021 (one short, poor quality video from the earlier observation is available here). This was clearly a different individual, based on colour pattern and size, from the “blond” one I saw on Devil’s Slide Trail in August 2020 and had previously filmed at home in Idyllwild in 2018 (available here).

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Note however the fire restrictions mentioned above. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) reopened on 11th July. However Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues. May Valley Road remains closed to vehicles due to “hazard trees” but the necessary tree work is expected to be completed in August.

WEATHER

The persistent heatwave that dominated much of July has eased slightly with daytime highs generally forecast to be closer to seasonal throughout August. Much higher than normal humidity can make it feel cool but sticky early in the morning, then hotter later in the day. Overnight low temperatures will continue to average 5-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations (5000-7500 ft) for the foreseeable future. Monsoonal storms are a possibility every afternoon for at least the next two weeks, apparently most likely on 16th-19th August.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 8th August 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 51.7°F (11°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 45.0°F (7°C), 81% relative humidity, and a pleasantly fresh SSE breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 13.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 1st August 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 52.1°F (11°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 47.4°F (8°C), 82% relative humidity, and a light SE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.0 mph.

Delightful altocumulus cloud photographed from Tahquitz Peak, early morning of 5th August 2022.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system throughout the San Jacinto mountains cleared of snow in late April.

Willow Creek Trail is a slow, messy hike in places, and is currently only recommended for experienced hikers. About 46 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (August 2022 survey). Of those, 35 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. This situation has been reported in person to USFS. The State Park cut the ten or so trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July (photo below). The huge amount of work that Bill Rhoads and I undertook to clear whitethorn along this trail in 2020 was not completely in vain, but it has grown back rapidly and makes some of the treefall hazards more complicated to negotiate (photo below).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated. In my most recent survey I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177. At least a third of the former are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

Three new trees that came down in late 2021 on Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail are readily passable for hikers (but not for stock). A CCC crew is expected to clear these this month.

One new major treefall hazard came down on Marion Mountain Trail, about two miles up, in July.

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (multiple 2022 surveys) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by relatively agile hikers. Eleven of these are in the 1.5 mile section closest to Fuller Ridge Campground (approx. PCT Miles 189-190.5).

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022 (with a brief reopening October-December 2021). Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022 however. The Trail Report has adopted Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Despite this very considerable effort, Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail and is nothing like the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

Willow Creek flowing very weakly, but reliably, where it crosses its eponymous trail, 11th August 2022.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing at about 1.0 L/min but recent history suggests it may not persist all summer without further rainfall input. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

Both the northern (photo below) and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing extremely weakly for the time of year. They did not receive significant additional input from recent thunderstorms, and the well-known north springs may dry completely in the next couple of months without further precipitation. They should no longer be relied upon for filtering. This spring dried for the first time in recorded history in October 2015, then again in September 2016.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing weakly but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (photo above).

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of >2.0L/min (photo below). It is flowing weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177 (photo below). It is clear that this area received some fresh monsoonal rain input in late July, but this dissipated within hours. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, have been dry since May.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley (photos below) received moderate new precipitation from thunderstorms at the end of July. Having been nearly dry in mid June, the creek just about continues to flow through the lower half of the valley (roughly 400 ft), forming some reasonable pools in the lower half. The same creek continues to flow gently where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) completely dried up in late May where it crosses the trail and did not receive any additional water from rains in July.

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and may dry very soon without substantial monsoon rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. 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, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER CONDITIONS: 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 (well upslope from the trail into the campsite). Likely received substantial fresh input from storms in late July. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough was dry (but may temporarily fill with rainfall). This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected before the autumn.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, but the spring box remains full (photo in earlier Report). This spring has functionally dried up in recent years and should not be relied upon by late summer.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing steadily at both the uppermost and lowest 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 dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on your small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

The treefall hazards on Willow Creek Trail are challenging. While the few that were on the State Park section, including a notably huge and slippery one (above) have now been cut, at least 45 remain on the Forest Service section of trail. Many are large, and where they combine with overgrown whitethorn the trail has functionally disappeared (below). Photos 11th August 2022.
The creek in Little Round Valley, 8th August 2022. Above, the largest of a sequence of small, fresh rainwater pools in the lower half of the valley. Below, the creek is now dry again where it passes through the meadow in the upper valley, but evidence of flow of monsoonal rains is clearly visible.
The well-known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft), 8th August 2022, is barely trickling and sadly received minimal or no fresh input from recent rains. The adjacent spring a few yards to the south is currently flowing slightly better.
The North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Deer Springs Trail at about 9400 ft elevation, 8th August 2022. The already low flow rate here continues decline slowly, and this catchment did not receive significant new input from recent rains.
Above and below, Tahquitz Creek on 1st August 2022. Above, flowing steadily at the lower end of Little Tahquitz Valley, and below, flowing weakly near its source where it crosses the PCT at about Mile 177. In this lower image it is possible to see from the damp soil how the water level rose in rains the day before but very rapidly receded.

Water and weather update 3rd August 2022

Idyllwild experienced its best summer monsoonal rains in about five years in recent days, totaling 2.54 inches across three days (measured at 5550 ft elevation), which has temporarily alleviated some of the extreme fire risk. On Saturday 30th July from 1220-1320 an intense storm cell produced 0.77 inch rain, on Sunday 31st another one hour storm between 1030-1130 produced an impressive 1.08 inches of rain, and finally on Monday 1st August 0.69 inch fell between 1230-1400.

The thunderstorms were generally not forming until moist air coming from the east had passed to the west over the mountain range, so the eastern slope was generally missed by the intense storm cells, especially on 30th-31st July. On a full survey of the high country on Monday 1st August, southern and eastern slope routes such as Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails were damp but with little evidence of significant rainfall and widespread runoff. For example flow rates at Middle Spring on Devil’s Slide Trail and the springs at Wellman’s Cienega were the same as the previous week (i.e. very poor). No rain was reported at Long Valley on 30th and 31st, but it did rain there on 1st August.

The western slope trails showed more evidence of superficial runoff, and flow had improved slightly in the creek in Little Round Valley. However flow rate had not significantly changed in the North Fork of the San Jacinto River, and Deer Springs crossing remains dry. Elsewhere in the mountains rainfall was extremely localized, with multiple intense cells over Garner Valley and the Desert Divide on Saturday 30th, and an extremely intense storm cell was stationary over the northern Santa Rosa mountains for about two hours on Sunday 31st which likely produced several inches of rain.

Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. Unfortunately with thunderstorm effects being so localized (as described above), rapid runoff, and an extremely dry forest, the effects of monsoonal rains can be surprisingly brief. Recent hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources and trails around the Tahquitz area meadows, Willow Creek Trail and Round Valley, and the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Hikers should be prepared for continuing hot and humid weather, with overnight “low” temperatures forecast to remain well above seasonal into mid August, and daytime highs generally near seasonal averages. Current humidity is far above normal at all elevations. Plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should of course be prepared for the possibility of rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon thunderstorms, typically in the afternoon, continue to be forecast for at least the next two weeks, but are currently most likely on 7th-12th August. Thunderstorms with lightning, relatively brief but intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions were introduced on Thursday 26th May on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites), and smoking, are prohibited for the remainder of the year.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on the trail system up to at least 8900 ft elevation. As usual the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail and around Tahquitz Peak seem to be particular hotspots, but rattlesnakes are possible anywhere up to at least 9300 ft. (Of course sightings are currently much less frequent during monsoonal weather.) Readers interested in the uniqueness and challenges of rattlesnakes in the San Jacinto high country may find this article that I wrote two years ago informative.

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, up to three Black Bears have been in the San Jacinto mountains since 2017. On Devil’s Slide Trail at first light on 18th July 2022 we were very fortunate to see the same large (>250lb) dark brown individual that I had seen in September 2021 (one short, poor quality video from the earlier observation is available here). This was clearly a different individual, based on colour pattern and size, from the “blond” one I saw on Devil’s Slide Trail in August 2020 and had previously filmed at home in Idyllwild in 2018 (available here).

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Note however the fire restrictions mentioned above. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) reopened on 11th July. However Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues. May Valley Road remains closed to vehicles due to “hazard trees” but the necessary tree work is expected to be completed in August.

WEATHER

The persistent heatwave that dominated much of July has eased somewhat with daytime highs generally forecast to be near seasonal for the first half of August, with much higher than normal humidity at times making it feel cooler. Overnight lows will nevertheless continue to average 5-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations for the foreseeable future. Monsoonal storms are forecast almost every day throughout the first half of August, with the highest probability currently on 6th-11th August.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 1st August 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 52.1°F (11°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 47.4°F (8°C), 82% relative humidity, and a light SE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.0 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system throughout the San Jacinto mountains cleared of snow in late April.

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated. In my most recent survey I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177. At least a third of the former are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

Three new trees that came down in late 2021 on Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail are readily passable for hikers (but not for stock).

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

Willow Creek Trail is currently a slow, messy hike. About 39 trees (July 2022 survey) are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary. Some additional downed trees may remain on the State Park section, but a few others have been recently cut here.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (multiple 2022 surveys) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by relatively agile hikers. Eleven of these are in the 1.5 mile section closest to Fuller Ridge Campground (approx. PCT Miles 189-190.5).

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022 (with a brief reopening October-December 2021). Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022 however. The Trail Report has adopted Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Despite this very considerable effort, Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail and is nothing like the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

This treefall hazard came down on Marion Mountain Trail (about 1.7 miles up) in the past few days and is relatively tricky to hike around safely. Photo 1st August 2022.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing (photo below) but recent history suggests it may not persist all summer without significant monsoonal storm input. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

Both the northern (photos below) and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing extremely weakly for the time of year. They did not receive additional input from the recent localized thunderstorms, and the well-known north springs will dry up in the next couple of months without further precipitation. This spring dried for the first time in recorded history in October 2015, then again in September 2016.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing gently but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of >2.0L/min (photo below). It is flowing weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177 (photo below). It is clear that this area received some fresh monsoonal rain input recently, but this dissipated within hours. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, have been dry since May.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley received moderate new precipitation from thunderstorms at the end of July. Having been nearly dry in mid June, the creek just about continues to flow through the lower half of the valley (roughly 400 ft), forming some reasonable pools in the lower half. The same creek continues to flow gently where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) completely dried up in late May where it crosses the trail and did not receive any additional water from rains in July.

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and may dry in August without substantial monsoon rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful drinking source for dogs. 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, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER CONDITIONS: 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 (well upslope from the trail into the campsite). Likely received substantial fresh input from storms in late July. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough was dry (but may temporarily fill with rainfall). This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected before the autumn.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, but the spring box remains full (photo in earlier Report). This spring has functionally dried up in recent years and should not be relied upon by late summer.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing steadily at both the uppermost and lowest 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 dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

On Friday 29th July I worked to clear a huge quantity of trash from Forest Service land on South Ridge Road with the help of fellow volunteer Bill Rhoads. The estimated 300lbs of refuse we extracted filled the bed of my full sized truck. This included the remains of two abandoned camps and an informal glass bottle shooting range.

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Above and below, Tahquitz Creek on 1st August 2022. Above, flowing steadily at the lower end of Little Tahquitz Valley, and below, flowing weakly near its source where it crosses the PCT at about Mile 177. In this lower image it is possible to see from the damp soil how the water level rose in recent rains but has already receded.
The pipe in Round Valley (9100 ft) on 23rd July 2022. Water continues to flow very gently at roughly 0.5L/min, but this water source may dry by September without additional rainfall.
The well-known northern springs at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft, above and below) are both reduced to minimal flow, photographed 1st August 2022, and sadly received minimal fresh input from recent rains. The less commonly used spring a few yards to the south (lower photo) is flowing slightly better. For now, sufficient surface flow just remains for drinking and slow filtering.
Small pools in the creek at the lower end of Little Round Valley, 1st August 2022. Note the fresh debris washed down by recent thunderstorms.
The North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Deer Springs Trail at about 9400 ft elevation, 1st August 2022. The flow rate here has roughly halved in the past six weeks, and this catchment did not receive significant new input from recent rains.