Weather and water update 8th 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). An intense storm cell over the eastern slope of the high country has just produced 2.1 inches of rain in under two hours In Long Valley this afternoon, Monday 8th August. Additional rain is a possibility almost daily for at least the next two weeks, currently most likely from 13th-18th August.

The very localized nature of earlier thunderstorms, and the speed of the runoff, meant that there was minimal impact on springs and creeks, as described in the previous report. On a full survey of the high country on 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.

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 somewhat with daytime highs generally forecast to be closer to seasonal throughout August. Much higher than normal humidity can make it feel somewhat cooler early in the morning, but then hotter later in the day. Overnight low temperatures continue to average 5-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations for the foreseeable future. Monsoonal storms are a possibility almost every day for at least the next two weeks.

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.

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).

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.

Willow Creek Trail remains a relatively 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.

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.

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 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 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 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.

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.

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.

Water and trail update 27th July 2022

[UPDATED Sunday 31st July 2022: like yesterday, an intense thunderstorm directly over Idyllwild for just one hour between 1030-1130 produced an impressive 1.08 inches of rain (at 5550 ft). Also like yesterday, the eastern slope seemed to be largely missed by the storm cells, with no rain visible or reported at Long Valley. An extremely intense storm cell was stationary over the northern Santa Rosa mountains for about two hours, and likely produced several inches of rain. Obviously two days of monsoonal rains will have significantly changed the water situation, which will be surveyed and reported over the coming week.]

[UPDATED Saturday 30th July 2022: an intense thunderstorm over Idyllwild starting at 1220 produced 0.77 inch of rain (at 5550 ft elevation) in just one hour before ending abruptly. Similarly intense storm cells were seen across the western side of the San Jacinto mountains, especially in Garner Valley. The eastern side was largely unaffected, with Long Valley reporting zero rainfall. Obviously this rain will locally impact water sources, although the effects may be limited to a few days.]

Despite hours of thunder in the afternoons of both 24th and 25th July, negligible rain fell (e.g., on 24th, 0.02in recorded at Long Valley and only a trace in Idyllwild). On the morning of 25th in Tahquitz Meadow the trail and bracken ferns were slightly damp but flow rates at multiple locations on Tahquitz Creek were (unsurprisingly) unaffected. Elsewhere the trails were dry. It is possible that a very localized storm cell produced substantial rain somewhere in the mountains on either day.

Otherwise there has been no additional rainfall since a few highly localized thunderstorms on 22nd June, and with recent hot, dry, and windy weather, most water sources have continued to deteriorate steadily. 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 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 weather, with overnight low temperatures forecast to generally remain well above seasonal into early August at least, and daytime highs generally near seasonal averages. 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 conditions, typically in the afternoons, are tentatively forecast from 29th July to 1st August, and again from 5th-8th August. 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. 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. 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.

Typical view of a large adult Southern Pacific Rattlesnake at about 7550 ft elevation on Devil’s Slide Trail, late morning on Saturday 23rd July 2022. Some hikers with a dog wisely chose to turn back after this snake did not move out of the trail for more than ten minutes. This was one of two rattlesnakes on this trail that morning, the other a small juvenile near Jolley Spring (c.7100 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 Road (5S02) reopened on about 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 has dominated much of July has eased somewhat with daytime highs generally forecast to be near seasonal for the remainder of the month, although overnight lows will continue to average 5-10°F above seasonal at mid elevations for the foreseeable future. While there is currently little sign of significant precipitation in the forecasts, this could change at short notice with monsoonal storms forecast as a possibility for most days in the remainder of July and into the first week of August, but especially 30th July to 1st August, and 5th-8th August.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Friday 15th July 2022 at 0840 the air temperature was 56.3°F (14°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 54.7°F (13°C), 61% relative humidity, and a moderate due South wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 17.5 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. Although reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With a couple of storms this past season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 48 trees (July 2022 survey) are down between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, 39 of these on the Forest Service section. A couple of these require significant caution to pass. Three or four nearest to Hidden Divide on the State Park section appear to have been recently cut.

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 (May 2022 survey) 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.

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 will likely dry by September without additional rainfall.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing (photo above) but recent history suggests it will not persist all summer. 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 localized thunderstorms in late June, and the well-known north springs will dry up in the next couple of months without further precipitation from summer monsoons. 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 very weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177 (photo below). 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, but very weakly for the time of year, where it crosses Willow Creek Trail, 23rd July 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).

The creek in Little Round Valley received substantial new precipitation from a thunderstorm on 22nd June, the effects of which have been remarkably persistent. Having been nearly dry in mid June, the creek just about continues to flow very gently throughout most of the valley, forming some reasonable pools in the lower half (photo below) before disappearing subsurface where it crosses Deer Springs Trail. 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 weakly 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 (photo in earlier Report) and did not receive any additional water from rains in June.

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 will dry in August without 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 very weakly (well upslope from the trail into the campsite) and should no longer be relied upon. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is now dry (see photos in earlier Report). This 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 very 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 at both the uppermost and lowest crossings, photo in earlier 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, nearly two months earlier than last year (photo in earlier Report).

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.

Above and below, Tahquitz Creek on 25th July 2022. Above, flowing steadily at the lower end of Little Tahquitz Valley, and below, flowing very weakly near its source where it crosses the PCT at about Mile 177.
The well-known northern springs at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft, above and below) are both reduced to minimal flow, 23rd July 2022. The less commonly used spring a few yards to the south (lower photo) is flowing slightly better. Both seem destined to dry completely by about September, as in 2016. For now, sufficient surface flow just remains for drinking and slow filtering.
The North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Deer Springs Trail at about 9400 ft elevation, 15th July 2022. The flow rate here has roughly halved in the past month. This is (so far) one of the genuinely perennial water sources on the mountain, having never dried up in recorded human history.
Small pools in the creek at the lower end of Little Round Valley, still just sufficient for filtering, 15th July 2022.

Water and trail update 20th July 2022

At this time of year the Trail Report may be updated somewhat less frequently – normally updates average every 5-7 days – during the next couple of months. Of course any significant news (e.g., fires, storms, closures) will be reported immediately.

There has been no additional rainfall since a few highly localized thunderstorms on 22nd June, and with recent hot, dry, and windy weather, most water sources have continued to deteriorate steadily. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. Recent hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources around the Tahquitz area meadows and on the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country. Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report.

Hikers should be prepared for continuing hot weather, with temperatures – especially the overnight lows – forecast to generally be above seasonal for the remainder of July. 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 conditions, usually in the afternoons, are tentatively forecast from 25th-29th July. 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. 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. 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 recently, 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 about 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 this month.

WEATHER

The persistent heatwave that has dominated much of July is forecast to persist until about 24th, although overnight lows in particular will continue to average 5-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations for the remainder of the month. There is currently no significant precipitation in the forecasts, with only a very small probability of monsoonal storms from 25th-29th.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Friday 15th July 2022 at 0840 the air temperature was 56.3°F (14°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 54.7°F (13°C), 61% relative humidity, and a moderate due South wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 17.5 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. Although reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With a couple of storms this past season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 45 trees (May 2022 survey) are down between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, 75% of these on the Forest Service section.

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 (May 2022 survey) 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 February 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 clearer near Caramba. 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.

The well-known northern spring at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft) is already reduced to weak subsurface flow that briefly emerges at the base of the undercut slope, 15th July 2022. For now, sufficient surface flow remains for drinking and slow filtering.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing but recent history suggests it will not persist all summer. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

Both the northern (photo above) and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing extremely weakly for the time of year. They did not receive additional input from the localized thunderstorms in late June, and the well-known north spring will dry up in the next couple of months without further precipitation from summer monsoons. 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 relatively weakly but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing (photos below) gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley. 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.

Tahquitz Creek on 5th July 2022. Above, near its source (“Grethe Spring”) where it crosses the PCT at about Mile 177, and below about 0.35 mile further downstream at the lower (northern) end of Little Tahquitz Valley. The creek is dry between these two areas.

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 now flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail (phot 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 substantial new precipitation from a thunderstorm on 22nd June, the effects of which have been remarkably persistent. Having been nearly dry in mid June, the creek continues to flow very gently throughout most of the valley, forming some reasonable pools in the lower half (photo below) before disappearing subsurface where it crosses Deer Springs Trail. 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 weakly 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 (photo in earlier Report) and did not receive any additional water from rains in June.

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 well dry in July. 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. Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system but 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 very weakly (well upslope from the trail into the campsite) and should no longer be relied upon. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is now dry (see photos in earlier Report). This 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, and 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, photo in earlier 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, nearly two months earlier than last year (photo in earlier Report).

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 where it crosses Deer Springs Trail at about 9400 ft elevation, 15th July 2022. The flow rate here has roughly halved in the past three weeks. This is (so far) one of the genuinely perennial water sources on the mountain, having never dried up in recorded human history.
Small pools in the creek at the lower end of Little Round Valley, still adequate for filtering, 15th July 2022.

Water and trail update 7th July 2022

At this time of year the Trail Report may be updated somewhat less frequently – normally it is at least every 5-7 days – for the next couple of months. Of course any significant news (e.g., fires, storms, closures) will be reported immediately.

The temporary effects of the highly localized thunderstorms on 22nd June on a handful of water sources have now largely dissipated. The trail system has been clear of snow since April. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. Recent hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources around the Tahquitz area meadows and in the San Jacinto high country. Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report.

Hikers should be prepared for hot weather, with temperatures forecast to be well above seasonal from 10th-16th July at least. Plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a possibility around mid month, currently forecast to be most likely on 16th-19th July. 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. 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.

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Note however the fire restrictions mentioned above. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) currently remains closed but is expected to reopen this month. 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 this month.

WEATHER

After the first few days of July were relatively cool, a major warming trend is imminent. Starting Friday 8th July and lasting until at least Monday 18th, temperatures are forecast to be above – at times far above – seasonal averages. Idyllwild (around 5200 ft elevation) may have daytime highs at or above 90°F for at least a week. Overnight lows in particular are forecast to average 10-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations. There is no significant precipitation in the forecasts, with only a slim possibility of monsoonal storms around mid-month.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Sunday 3rd July 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 53.5°F (12°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 50.5°F (10°C), 7% relative humidity, and a light WSW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system, including the entire PCT 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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With a couple of storms this past season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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.

Recent significant treefall hazards on Devil’s Slide and Marion Mountain trails have been removed by the agencies.

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 45 trees (May 2022 survey) are down between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, 75% of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the 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 (May 2022 survey) 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 February 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 clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road has been closed almost continuously since February 2019 (with the brief exception of October-December 2021). 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 have been removed and almost the entire trail has been 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.

The well-known northern spring at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft) is already reduced to little more than a trickle, 3rd July 2022. Sufficient flow remains for drinking and slow filtering.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing but recent history suggests it will not persist all summer. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

Both the northern (photo above) and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very weakly for the time of year. They did not receive additional input from the localized thunderstorms in late June, and the well-known north spring seems destined to dry up in the next couple of months without further precipitation from summer monsoons. 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 steadily where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing (photos below) gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley. 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.

Tahquitz Creek on 5th July 2022. Above, near its source (“Grethe Spring”) where it crosses the PCT at about Mile 177, and below about 0.35 mile further downstream at the lower (northern) end of Little Tahquitz Valley. The creek is dry between these two areas.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley received significant new precipitation from a thunderstorm on 22nd June. Having been nearly dry in mid June, the creek is again close to drying again, but currently small pools for filtering remain. The same creek continues to flow 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 weakly 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 (photo in this prior Report) and did not receive any additional water from rains in June.

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) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely flowing and may well dry in July. 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 again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, there are very small fresh pools 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 steadily. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing very weakly (well upslope from the trail into the campsite) and should no longer be relied upon. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is now dry (see photos in previous Report).

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, and the spring box remains full (photo in previous 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, photo 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, nearly two months earlier than last year (photo in previous Report).

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.

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar above, and chrysalis below, photographed in two different locations in Idyllwild on 28th June and 4th July 2022, respectively. In both cases the food plant is Woollypod Milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa).

Water and trail update 30th June 2022

At this time of year the Trail Report may be updated somewhat less frequently – normally it is at least weekly – for the next couple of months. Of course any significant news (e.g., fires, storms, closures) will be reported immediately.

A day of intermittent thunderstorms in the San Jacinto mountains on Wednesday 22nd June included some highly localized but intense storm cells over parts of the high country. One storm cell for example generated about 0.5in of rain in Long Valley in just one hour in early afternoon. Such localized rain significantly improved the flow rates of a handful of water sources (if only for a few weeks), specifically in Little Round (photos below), Round, and Long valleys. By contrast, nearly a day of stormy weather produced only 0.05in of rain just three miles away in Idyllwild (at 5550ft).

The trail system has been clear of snow since April. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. Recent hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources on the Desert Divide, the Tahquitz area meadows, and the western slope of the San Jacinto high country. Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report.

Hikers should be prepared for hot weather, with temperatures generally near or above seasonal, especially from 6th July onwards. Plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements. Regrettably, no further monsoonal conditions are currently forecast.

Air quality and visibility down in the lowlands, especially the Coachella Valley, has been generally poor all year due to the lack of rainfall combined with windier than average conditions. Sadly this poor air quality has been visibly climbing into the higher elevations in recent weeks, with only occasional clearer days.

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 in June 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.

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Note however the fire restrictions mentioned above. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) remains in “winter closure” and consequently Dark Canyon Campground remains closed. May Valley Road remains closed to vehicles due to “hazard trees”.

WEATHER

Although the last week of June has been generally much warmer than seasonal, the first 5-6 days of July are forecast to be at (or even slightly below) seasonal average temperatures. Nevertheless overnight lows are forecast to continue to average a few degrees above seasonal at mid elevations. Hot weather, with temperatures well above seasonal, returns starting 6th July. There is no precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Sunday 26th June 2022 at 0930 the air temperature was 57.5°F (14°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 55.4°F (13°C), 23% relative humidity, and a light ENE wind sustained at 3 mph gusting to 11.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system, including the entire PCT 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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With a couple of storms this past season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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.

Recent significant treefall hazards on Devil’s Slide and Marion Mountain trails have been removed by the agencies.

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 45 trees (May 2022 survey) are down between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, 75% of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the 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 in time to aid PCT hikers using this as a snow-free alternate.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (May 2022 survey) 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 February 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 clearer near Caramba. 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 from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees have been removed and almost the entire trail has been 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 substantial experience of hiking this trail.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing steadily but recent history suggests it will not persist all summer. 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 weakly for the time of year. It seems destined to dry up in the next couple of months without further precipitation from summer monsoons. 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 steadily where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow (photo in previous Report). 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 (photo in previous Report). Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is basically dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is now barely trickling, is unsuitable for filtering, and may well dry in July.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing steadily 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 significant new precipitation from the storm system on 22nd June (see photos below). For the first time all year (even including spring snowmelt!), there is water in the creek throughout most of the valley, although it does disappear subsurface in sections. Consequently there are several small pools suitable for filtering, after the whole valley was extremely close to drying completely in the third week of June. The same creek continues to flow 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 weakly 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 (photo in prior Report) and did not receive any additional water from 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 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) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now barely trickling, and may well dry in July. 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 again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, there are small fresh pools 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 steadily. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing very weakly (well upslope from the trail into the campsite) and should no longer be relied upon. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is now dry (see photos in previous Report).

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, and the spring box remains full (photo in previous 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, photo 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, nearly two months earlier than last year (photo in previous Report).

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.

Lower Little Round Valley, 26th June 2022. This pool, right next to the trail where it enters the valley at its lower end, was close to drying in mid June, but roughly doubled in depth thanks to localized rainfall on 22nd.
Upper Little Round Valley, 26th June 2022. Remarkably this is the first time this year, even including spring snowmelt season, that this section of the creek in Little Round Valley has had any water flow whatsoever, thanks to a very localized but intense thunderstorm in the catchment area on 22nd June.
North Fork of the San Jacinto River at about 9400 ft elevation where it crosses Deer Springs Trail, 26th June 2022. Although less than half-a-mile from Little Round Valley (above) the flow rate did not significantly increase here due to the very localized nature of the thunderstorms four days earlier.

Water and trail update 23rd June 2022

With relatively little changing on the trail system at present, other than the steady deterioration of the limited water resources, the Trail Report may be updated somewhat less frequently – normally it is at least weekly – for the next couple of months. Any significant news (e.g., fires, storms, closures, openings) will of course be reported immediately.

A day of intermittent thunderstorms in the San Jacinto mountains on Wednesday 22nd June produced only 0.05in rain in Idyllwild (at 5550ft). However, one intense storm cell over the north-east of the mountain did generate about 0.5in of rain in Long Valley in early afternoon. Such localized rain will improve (if only temporarily) flow rates of impacted water sources.

The trail system has been clear of snow since April. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. Recent hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources on the Desert Divide and around the Tahquitz area meadows. Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report.

Hikers should be prepared for unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures well above average for the month, starting Tuesday 21st June and lasting until the end of the month. Please plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a possibility for the foreseeable future, currently most likely on 22nd and 27th June. 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.

Air quality and visibility down in the lowlands, especially the Coachella Valley, has been generally poor all year due to the lack of rainfall combined with windier than average conditions. Sadly this poor air quality has been visibly climbing into the higher elevations in recent weeks, with some occasional clearer days.

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 recently 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.

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Note the fire restrictions mentioned above. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) remains in “winter closure” and consequently Dark Canyon Campground remains closed. May Valley Road remains closed to vehicles due to “hazard trees”.

We have been working steadily for seven years to enhance the wildlife habitat on the small patch of forest we own adjacent to our cabin in Idyllwild. This Mule Deer chose to have her fawns here this year, and remarkably she had triplets! This photo was taken through a spotting scope from our deck, and the (still very wobbly) triplets are visible on the foreground of the doe, 18th June 2022. This is the only time we have seen triplets in the San Jacinto mountains, although twins are relatively common.

WEATHER

Delightfully cool mornings on 18th-20th June presaged another major heatwave starting Tuesday 21st June. Overnight low temperatures in particular are forecast to average 10-15°F above seasonal for the remainder of June at mid elevations. Temperatures will then moderate to around seasonal for the first week of July. There is no significant precipitation in the forecasts.

Short-, medium-, and long-term weather projections are summarized in this NWS San Diego video, along with very informative data regarding the past couple of years of weather and fire seasons.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 13th June 2022 at 0730 the air temperature was 42.6°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.6°F (0°C), 7% relative humidity, and a blustery due West wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 26.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system, including the entire PCT 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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With a couple of storms this past season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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.

Recent significant treefall hazards on Devil’s Slide and Marion Mountain trails have been removed by the agencies.

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 45 trees (May 2022 survey) are down between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, 75% of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the 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 in time to aid PCT hikers using this as a snow-free alternate.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (May 2022 survey) 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 February 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 clearer near Caramba. 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 from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees have been removed and almost the entire trail has been 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 substantial experience of hiking this trail.

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing but recent history suggests it will not persist all summer. 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 very weakly for the time of year. In the second week of June the flow rate at the well-known northern spring again dropped dramatically in a matter of days to barely a trickle (photo in previous Report) and it seems destined to dry up in the next couple of months without precipitation from summer monsoons. 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 steadily where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow (photo in previous Report). 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 (photo in previous Report). Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is basically dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is now barely trickling, is unsuitable for filtering, and will likely dry in July.

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley barely trickles for about 150 ft at the lower end of Little Round Valley before disappearing subsurface. It will likely dry up in July (if not before), and should not be relied upon. The same creek continues to flow 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 weakly 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 (photo in previous Report).

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) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now barely trickling, and will likely dry in July. 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 again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

The trough at Cedar Spring, 19th June 2022. The pipe that brought water into the trough was apparently vandalized, probably sometime in May, completely drying up the trough. Both Forest Service and the PCTA have been informed.

WATER CONDITIONS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing very weakly (well upslope from the trail into the campsite) and should no longer be relied upon. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is now dry (photos above and below).

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, and the spring box remains full (photo below). 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, photo 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, nearly two months earlier than last year (photo below).

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.

Tiny, gently flowing pool just downstream from Cedar Spring (but above the trough), 19th June 2022.
Lowest of the three crossings of Spitler Creek on the Spitler Peak Trail, about 1.5 miles down from the PCT, 18th June 2022.
The spring box at Apache Spring, 18th June 2022.
Antsell Rock Creek where it crosses Apple Canyon Road adjacent to the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead, 18th June 2022. This water source has dried up nearly two months earlier than in 2021.

Trail and water update 16th June 2022

With relatively little changing on the trail system at present, other than the steady deterioration of the limited water resources, the Trail Report will be updated less frequently – normally it is at least weekly – for the next couple of months. Any significant news (fires, closures, openings, etc.) will of course be reported immediately.

The trail system has been clear of snow since April. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Hikers should be prepared for unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures well above average for the month, on 15-16th June, and again starting 21st June. Please plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Due to the exceptionally dry state of the mountain already, water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report.

Air quality and visibility down in the lowlands, especially the Coachella Valley, has been generally poor all year, due to the lack of rainfall combined with windier than average conditions. Sadly this poor air quality has been visibly climbing into the higher elevations in recent weeks.

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 recently 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 (e.g., see photos in this earlier Report).

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Note the fire restrictions mentioned above. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) remains in “winter closure” and consequently Dark Canyon Campground remains closed. May Valley Road remains closed to vehicles due to “hazard trees”.

WEATHER

Following three near-record hot days (above 90°F in Idyllwild) on 9th-11th June, Monday 13th felt pleasantly cool, although it was actually slightly above seasonal! Temperatures are forecast to rise again and be well above seasonal for 15th-16th June, dropping back to pleasantly cool on 18th-19th, before another significant heatwave is currently forecast starting Tuesday 21st June. Overnight low temperatures in general may average 5-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations (even on Monday 13th the overnight low was more than 10°F above average). There is no significant precipitation in the forecasts.

Short-, medium-, and long-term weather projections are summarized in this NWS San Diego video, along with very informative data regarding the past couple of years of weather and fire seasons.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 13th June 2022 at 0730 the air temperature was 42.6°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.6°F (0°C), 7% relative humidity, and a blustery due West wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 26.2 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 10th June 2022 at 0700 the air temperature was 53.0°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 46.8°F (8°C), 44% relative humidity, and a moderate due South breeze sustained at 7 mph gusting to 15.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system, including the entire PCT 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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With a couple of storms this past season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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.

Recent significant treefall hazards on Devil’s Slide and Marion Mountain trails have been removed by the agencies.

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 45 trees (May 2022 survey) are down between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, 75% of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the 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 in time to aid PCT hikers using this as a snow-free alternate.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (May 2022 survey) 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 February 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 clearer near Caramba. 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 from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees have been removed and almost the entire trail has been 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 substantial experience of hiking this trail.

Tahquitz Creek flowing gently at the lower (north) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 14th June 2022.

WATER CONDITIONS

This is not a comprehensive review of the status of all mountain water sources. In the high country there are still a few tiny patches of snow available for melting. This video gave an overview of major water sources in the high country as of 10th May.

Water status: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing but recent history suggests it will not persist all summer. 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 very weakly for the time of year. In the second week of June the flow rate at the well-known northern spring again dropped dramatically in a matter of days to barely a trickle (photo below) and it seems destined to dry up in the next couple of months without precipitation from summer monsoons. 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 steadily where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow (photo above). 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 (photo below). Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is basically dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow (photo below) and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is now barely trickling, is unsuitable for filtering, and will likely dry in June/July.

Water status: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley barely trickles for about 150 ft at the lower end of Little Round Valley before disappearing subsurface. It will likely dry up in the next month, and cannot be relied upon. The same creek continues to flow steadily 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 weakly 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 (photo above).

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) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now barely trickling, and will likely dry in July. A tiny pool remains as a useful drinking source for dogs at this time. 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 again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

Water status: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing very weakly (well upslope from the trail into the campsite) and should no longer be relied upon. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in about May 2022 and consequently the trough is now dry.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, and the spring box remains full. 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 flowing weakly. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Thank you 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.

Skunk Cabbage (or “Candy’s”) Creek barely flowing at the trail crossing at the lower end of Skunk Cabbage Meadow, 14th June 2022.
Tahquitz Creek flowing weakly where it crosses the PCT (approx. Mile 177) immediately below Grethe Spring, 14th June 2022.
North spring at Wellman’s Cienega, 13th June 2022. Flowing extremely weakly for the time of year, this invaluable water source is on track to dry up this summer or autumn without significant new precipitation.
The Deer Springs crossing on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail, 13th June 2022. This water source has been dry for weeks where it crosses the trail at approx. PCT Mile 185.4.

Water and weather update 8th June 2022

The trail system has been clear of snow for many weeks. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

In addition to ascending San Jacinto Peak by different routes on average once every 3-4 days, we have surveyed many other trails, in recent days including Deer Springs, Fuller Ridge, Seven Pines, Marion Mountain, and South Ridge, plus some Forest roads.

Hikers should be prepared for unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures generally far above average for June, starting Wednesday 8th June for at least ten days. Please plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Due to the exceptionally dry state of the mountain already, water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report.

Air quality and visibility down in the lowlands, especially the Coachella Valley, has been poor all year, due to the lack of rainfall combined with windier than average conditions. Sadly this poor air quality has been visibly climbing into the higher elevations in recent weeks.

National Weather Service San Diego issued this very informative video on 29th May. Some of the data presented are remarkable, if generally very discouraging.

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 recently been seen on the trail system up to at least 8800 ft elevation (multiple times at Tahquitz Peak). As usual, the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail seems to be a particular hotspot (e.g., see photos in this earlier Report).

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) remains in “winter closure” and consequently Dark Canyon Campground remains closed. May Valley Road remains closed to vehicles due to “hazard trees”.

WEATHER

Following a couple of relatively cool days for the second weekend in a row, temperatures are forecast to get hot and then even hotter. From Wednesday 8th June for at least ten days temperatures will generally be far above seasonal for June, exceeding even midsummer averages (with only a brief respite on 13th-14th). Overnight low temperatures in particular may average 10-20°F above seasonal at mid elevations. There is no precipitation in the forecasts.

Short-, medium-, and long-term weather projections are summarized in the latest NWS San Diego video (available here), along with very informative data regarding the past couple of years of weather and fire seasons.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 6th June 2022 at 0800 the air temperature was 52.6°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 45.5°F (7°C), 21% relative humidity, and a brisk WNW wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 22.6 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 2nd June 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 49.8°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.3°F (8°C), 24% relative humidity, and a very gentle due West breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 4.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system, including the entire PCT 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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With storms this season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

The significant new treefall hazard that fell about two miles up Devil’s Slide Trail over Memorial Day weekend was removed last week.

The huge treefall hazard across Marion Mountain Trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary was cut last week.

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 45 trees (May 2022 survey) are down between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, 75% of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the 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 in time to aid PCT hikers using this as a snow-free alternate.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (May 2022 survey) 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 February 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 clearer near Caramba. 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 from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees have been removed and almost the entire trail has been 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 substantial experience of hiking this trail.

The “creek” in Little Round Valley (9700 ft) now forming just a few weakly trickling pools, 6th June 2022.

WATER CONDITIONS

This is not a comprehensive review of the status of all mountain water sources. In the high country there are still a few tiny patches of snow available for melting. This video gave an overview of major water sources in the high country as of 10th May.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing steadily (photo below) but recent history suggests it will not persist all summer. 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 very weakly for the time of year. In May the flow rate at the well-known northern spring dropped dramatically by about 50%. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing steadily where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing weakly further upstream at its source (known colloquially as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (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 – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley only trickles for about 150 ft at the lower end of Little Round Valley before disappearing subsurface (see photo above). It will likely dry up in the next month or two. The same creek continues to flow steadily 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 steadily.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) has dried up where it crosses the trail.

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) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now barely trickling, and will likely dry by July. A tiny pool remains as a useful drinking source for dogs. Other springs on this trail have been dry for weeks.

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

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly, should no longer be relied upon.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing at least at the lowest crossing).

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

Western Sheepmoth (Hemileuca eglanterina) on Fuller Ridge Trail, 2nd June 2022.

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.

North spring at Wellman’s Cienega (9300 ft), 6th June 2022, flowing very weakly for the time of year.
Pipe in Round Valley (9100 ft) flowing steadily, 3rd June 2022 (photo courtesy of Darla Priest).

Trail update 1st June 2022

A special thank you to Steve Holldber, owner of Idyllwild Heating and Cooling, for hosting our successful fundraising sale on Saturday 28th May. Many thanks to Anne for tasty treats (visitors commented that they had never seen “free” baked goods and coffee at a yard sale before!), to Florian for publicizing the event on social media, and to the many neighbors and friends, new and old, who came by to say hello and support us.

The trail system has been clear of snow for a few weeks and spikes have not been required on the trails since April. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

In addition to ascending San Jacinto Peak by different routes on average every three days, we have surveyed large segments of the PCT, its side trails, and a few Forest roads. Trails surveyed in recent days have included Deer Springs, Fuller Ridge, Seven Pines, Marion Mountain, Spitler Peak, and South Ridge, among others.

Due to the exceptionally dry state of the mountain already, there is a brief summary of water conditions where known at the foot of this Report. A short video report (available here) was issued on 10th May giving a visual overview of water conditions in the high country. Air quality and visibility down in the lowlands, especially the Coachella Valley, has been poor all year, likely due to the lack of rainfall combined with windier than average conditions.

National Weather Service San Diego issued this very informative video on 29th May. Some of the data presented are remarkable, if generally very discouraging.

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) are prohibited for the remainder of the year.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have already been seen on the trail system up to at least 8800 ft elevation (near Tahquitz Peak). As usual, the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail seems to be a particular hotspot (e.g., see photos in previous Report).

Black Mountain Road (4S01) reopened on 11th May. South Ridge Road was partially graded in mid April, smoothing the worst sections. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) remains in “winter closure”.

Forest Service seasonal campgrounds reopened on Thursday 26th May (Boulder Basin, Marion Mountain, Fern Basin). Note the full fire restrictions described above. The State Park Stone Creek Campground reopened for the season on 6th May.

The spectacular northwest face of Folly Peak as seen from Fuller Ridge, 24th May 2022. The major drainage in the centre of the image is the East Branch of the West Fork of Snow Creek. It is exceptional for these steep, north-facing canyons to be almost completely free of snow as early as May.

WEATHER

Following a couple of pleasantly cool days this weekend, temperatures are generally forecast to be above, or well above, seasonal for 1st-7th June, coolest next weekend (3rd-5th June). Overnight low temperatures in particular may average 5-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations. Preliminary forecasts suggest temperatures will be far above seasonal, more reminiscent of August than early June, about starting 8th June. There is no precipitation in the forecasts.

Short-, medium-, and long-term weather projections are summarized in the latest NWS San Diego video (available here), along with very informative data regarding the past couple of years of weather and fire seasons.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 30th May 2022 at 0710 the air temperature was 39.5°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 27.3°F (-3°C), 18% relative humidity, and a brisk WNW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 20.5 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 27th May 2022 at 0740 the air temperature was 51.5°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 44.3°F (7°C), 23% relative humidity, and a gentle SW wind sustained at 6 mph gusting to 9.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system, including the entire PCT throughout the San Jacinto mountains, has been clear of snow for several weeks.

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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With storms this season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

A significant new treefall hazard that fell across Devil’s Slide Trail over Memorial Day weekend about two miles up from Humber Park was immediately reported to the Forest Service.

The trail route on the East Ridge of San Jacinto Peak is now functionally clear of snow.

Marion Mountain Trail has one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is now clear of snow. Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they 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 has more than 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the 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 (May 2022 survey) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by 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 February 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 clearer near Caramba. 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 from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees have been removed and almost the entire trail has been thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Despite this very considerable effort, Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail and is nothing like the relatively wide, bare routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have substantial experience of hiking this trail.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it is crossed by Seven Pines Trail, 29th May 2022.

WATER CONDITIONS

On Monday 23rd May, the flow rate at Wellman’s Cienega had dropped by a remarkable 50% since the previous week, although it is largely unchanged in the week since. While I expect sufficient water to continue to trickle here for another couple of months at least, this gives an idea of the poor state of water resources on the mountain this year, and the rate at which they can change.

This is not a comprehensive review of the status of all mountain water sources. In the high country there are still patches of snow available for melting, and several less well-known minor springs are flowing. Sadly however – given that it’s still only May – I have already been getting many questions regarding water availability on the mountain. I have checked all of these water sources personally in recent days.

This video gives an overview of major water sources in the high country as of 10th May.

Water sources currently flowing include: Wellman’s Cienega (flowing weakly on 30th May), Round Valley faucet (flowing well on 30th May), North Fork of the San Jacinto River (both where it crosses Deer Springs Trail and on Fuller Ridge Trail at PCT Mile 186), Deer Springs (PCT Mile 185.4, very weak flow), Willow Creek crossing on Willow Creek Trail, Tahquitz Creek (PCT Mile 177 and also Little Tahquitz Meadow), Skunk Cabbage Meadow creek, Strawberry Cienega (very weak), Apache Spring (weak), Cedar Spring, Live Oak Spring, Antsell Rock Creek (at the Spitler Peak trailhead), Spitler Creek (on Spitler Peak Trail, very weak flow).

Water sources known to be dry: Tahquitz Valley pipe, Penrod Canyon (approx. PCT Mile 154), Little Round Valley creek (isolated pools only and almost dry on 27th May).

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 so much for your support.

Alpine Shooting Star (Primula tetrandra) flowering at Shooting Star Spring, 9600 ft elevation on Deer Springs Trail, 27th May 2022.

Trail update 25th May 2022

The Trail Report is holding a small fundraising sale on the morning of Saturday 28th May, very kindly hosted by Idyllwild Heating and Cooling on North Circle Drive in Idyllwild (near Cafe Aroma). There will be a variety of good condition hiking, camping, and outdoor gear. Also “free” (with your modest donation!) will be some of Anne’s delicious fresh baked treats, plus Pacific Crest Trail stickers, trail markers, and map posters. Thanks for your support!

The trail system has been clear of snow for a few weeks and spikes have not been required on the trails since April. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed large segments of the PCT, its side trails, and a few Forest roads. Trails surveyed in recent days have included Deer Springs, Fuller Ridge, Seven Pines, Marion Mountain, Spitler Peak, and South Ridge, among others.

Due to the exceptionally dry state of the mountain already, there is a brief summary of water conditions where known at the foot of this Report. A short video report (available here) was issued on 10th May giving a visual overview of water conditions in the high country. Air quality and visibility down in the lowlands, especially the Coachella Valley, has been poor all year, likely due to the lack of rainfall combined with windier than average conditions.

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

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have already been seen on the trail system up to at least 7000 ft elevation. As usual, the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail seems to be a particular hotspot (see photos below).

South Ridge Road was partially graded in mid April, smoothing the worst sections. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) remains in winter closure.

Black Mountain Road (4S01) reopened on 11th May.

Forest Service campgrounds seasonally closed for the winter will reopen on Thursday 26th May (Boulder Basin, Marion Mountain, Fern Basin). Note the full fire restrictions described above.

The State Park Stone Creek Campground reopened for the season on 6th May. The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic), reopened on Saturday 21st May 2022.

WEATHER

Temperatures are generally forecast to remain well above seasonal for the remainder of May, though briefly pleasantly cooler on 28th-30th. Overnight low temperatures in particular may average 10-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations. There is no precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 23rd May 2022 at 0725 the air temperature was 51.0°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 43.7°F (6°C), 31% relative humidity, and a pleasantly cool NNE wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.8 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 18th May 2022 at 0740 the air temperature was 45.1°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 33.8°F (1°C), 37% relative humidity, and a pleasantly cool NE wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 19.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All major trails are clear of snow, including for example the notoriously hazardous 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 to Tahquitz Peak. The PCT is now clear of snow throughout the San Jacinto mountains.

Skyline Trail reopened on 10th May having been closed from the State Park boundary (5800 ft) up to Grubb’s Notch since 1st February.

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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With storms this season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

The trail route on the East Ridge of San Jacinto Peak still has 20% snow cover but spikes are not required. The Wellman and Peak trails are clear of snow.

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is functionally clear of snow. A few tiny patches remain on the traverse near the North Fork of the San Jacinto River around 9400 ft elevation. Patchy snow cover is now <10% in Little Round Valley. Icy snow patches cover <5% of the trail from Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak. (Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.)

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. 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 clear of snow. However there are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

Fuller Ridge Trail is clear of snow. There are 14 treefall hazards (May 2022 survey) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by 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 February 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 clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is functionally clear of snow, a few tiny patches remain on the uppermost 0.5 mile. This trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 57 downed trees have been removed. Almost all of the lower 3.0 miles has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length. While downed trees have now been removed from the upper 0.7 mile of trail, thorough clearing and trimming has not been finished, the route remains somewhat obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required for those who do not have experience of hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Deer Springs Trail at about 9400 ft elevation, 18th May 2022. One of the most reliable and, even in the past challenging decade, genuinely perennial water sources in the San Jacinto mountains.

WATER CONDITIONS

On Monday 23rd May, the flow rate at Wellman’s Cienega had dropped by a remarkable 50% since the previous week. Although I expect sufficient water to continue to trickle here for another couple of months at least, this gives an idea of the poor state of water resources on the mountain this year, and the rate at which they can change.

This is not a comprehensive review of the status of all mountain water sources. In the high country there are still patches of snow available for melting, and several less well-known minor springs are flowing. Sadly however – given that it’s only May – I have already been getting many questions regarding water availability on the mountain. I have checked all of these water sources personally in recent days.

This video gives an overview of major water sources in the high country as of 10th May.

Water sources currently flowing include: Wellman’s Cienega, Round Valley faucet, Little Round Valley Creek (at west end of valley, very weak), North Fork of the San Jacinto River (both where it crosses Deer Springs Trail and on Fuller Ridge Trail at PCT Mile 186), Deer Springs (PCT Mile 185.4, very weak flow), Willow Creek crossing on Willow Creek Trail, Tahquitz Creek (PCT Mile 177 and also Little Tahquitz Meadow), Skunk Cabbage Meadow creek, Strawberry Cienega (weak), Apache Spring (weak), Cedar Spring, Live Oak Spring, Antsell Rock Creek (at the Spitler Peak trailhead), Spitler Creek (on Spitler Peak Trail).

Water sources known to be dry: Tahquitz Valley pipe, Penrod Canyon (approx. PCT Mile 154).

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 so much for your support.

Juvenile Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus helleri), Devil’s Slide Trail at about 6700 ft elevation, late morning on 23rd May 2022. Only 10 inches (25 cm) long, this tiny individual was surprisingly hard to see in the pale grey sand of the trail. Although adults are predominantly blackish, juveniles are mainly off-white with black markings. Eventually (below) the snake adopted a defensive posture, at which point we left it in peace.
Annie’s Junction (approx. PCT Mile 180.8) on 23rd May 2022 (above). Following an historically “average” or “normal” winter, the same location might look like the photo below, taken on the same date exactly four years earlier, 23rd May 2019.

Trail update 18th May 2022

The trail system is now functionally clear of snow. Spikes have not been required on the trail system for several weeks. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

The USFS Humber Park trailhead and parking lot, which includes the Devil’s Slide Trail (3E05) trailhead and the upper trailhead for the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail (3E07), was originally closed between Monday 16th May and Friday 20th May due to insecticide spraying operations. However, due to early completion of the work, Humber Park is now expected to reopen on the afternoon of Wednesday 18th May. Closure notices at Saddle Junction may not be removed until Thursday 19th.

The State Park section of Skyline Trail reopened on 10th May having been closed since 1st February.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed large segments of the PCT, its side trails, and a few Forest roads. Trails surveyed in recent days have included all of the Tahquitz area meadows, Spitler Peak, South Ridge, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Willow Creek, and Deer Springs trails.

Due to the exceptionally dry state of the mountain already, there is a brief summary of water conditions where known at the foot of this Report. A short video report (available here) was published on 10th May giving a visual overview of current water conditions in the high country. Air quality and visibility down in the lowlands, especially the Coachella Valley, has been poor all year, likely due to the lack of rainfall combined with windier than average conditions.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in mid April, smoothing the worst sections. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) remains in winter closure.

Black Mountain Road (4S01) reopened on 11th May. Forest Service campgrounds seasonally closed for the winter are expected to reopen in the week before the Memorial Day weekend (including Boulder Basin, scheduled to reopen 26th May). The State Park Stone Creek Campground reopened for the season on 6th May.

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic), is scheduled to reopen on Saturday 21st May 2022.

Signage at Humber Park on Monday 16th May 2022. Humber Park and its associated trailheads are now expected to reopen on the afternoon of Wednesday 17th May.

WEATHER

After a couple of pleasantly seasonal days at the beginning and end of this week, temperatures are forecast to rise to far above seasonal from 21st to at least 26th May. Overnight low temperatures in particular will average 10-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations. Temperatures in the high country on 24th-29th will more closely resemble July/August than May. There is no precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 18th May 2022 at 0740 the air temperature was 45.1°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 33.8°F (1°C), 37% relative humidity, and a pleasantly cool NE wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 19.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 16th May 2022 at 0750 the air temperature was 43.3°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.7°F (1°C), 29% relative humidity, and a fresh due West wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 13.7 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 11th May 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 21.9°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 2.7°F (-16°C), 13% relative humidity, and a gusty due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 26.7 mph.

Antsell Rock Creek near the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead at Apple Canyon Road, 12th May 2022. Flow is between one third to one half of average for May. Apache Peak is in the distance in the upper left, with Spitler Peak to the right.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All major trails are functionally clear of snow. Some tiny icy snow patches remain in a handful of places above about 9000 ft elevation as mentioned below. Named trails are completely clear of snow/ice unless discussed below.

Skyline Trail reopened on 10th May having been closed from the State Park boundary (5800 ft) up to Grubb’s Notch since 1st February.

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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With storms this season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

The notoriously hazardous 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 to Tahquitz Peak is now functionally clear of icy snow, and spikes are no longer required.

The PCT is now functionally clear of snow throughout the San Jacinto mountains. A few tiny patches remain just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3, as do a few on the most sheltered sections of Fuller Ridge (Miles 188-189.5)

Snow cover now averages <5% on the Peak Trail, persisting in patches in two short traditionally persistent areas around 10,000 ft and 10,100 ft. Spikes are not required. The trail route on the East Ridge still has 40% snow cover but spikes are not required. The Wellman Trail is functionally clear of snow.

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is functionally clear of snow. A few tiny patches remain on the traverse near the North Fork of the San Jacinto River around 9400 ft elevation. Patchy snow cover is now <10% in Little Round Valley. Icy snow patches cover <5% of the trail from Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak. (Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.)

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. 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 clear of snow. However there are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

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 February 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 clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is functionally clear of snow. This trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 downed trees on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is essential for those who do not have extensive experience of hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Deer Springs Trail at about 9400 ft elevation, 18th May 2022. One of the most reliable and, even in the past challenging decade, genuinely perennial water sources in the San Jacinto mountains.

WATER CONDITIONS

This is not a comprehensive review of the status of all mountain water sources. In the high country there are still patches of snow available for melting, and several less well-known minor springs are flowing. Sadly however – given that it’s only May – I have already been getting many questions regarding water availability on the mountain. I have checked all of these water sources personally in recent days.

This video gives an overview of major water sources in the high country as of 10th May.

Water sources currently flowing include: Wellman’s Cienega, Round Valley faucet, Little Round Valley Creek (at west end of valley, very weak), North Fork of the San Jacinto River (both where it crosses Deer Springs Trail and on Fuller Ridge Trail at PCT Mile 186), Deer Springs (PCT Mile 185.4, very weak flow), Willow Creek crossing on Willow Creek Trail, Tahquitz Creek (PCT Mile 177 and also Little Tahquitz Meadow), Skunk Cabbage Meadow creek, Strawberry Cienega (weak), Apache Spring (weak), Cedar Spring, Live Oak Spring, Antsell Rock Creek (at the Spitler Peak trailhead), Spitler Creek (on Spitler Peak Trail).

Water sources known to be dry: Tahquitz Valley pipe, Penrod Canyon (approx. PCT Mile 154).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover our modest 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 visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now donation options. Thank you so much for your support.

Coast Patch-nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepsis virgultea) at about 5100 ft on Spitler Peak Trail, 12th May 2022 (photo: Anne King).
Very fresh Mountain Lion scat in the middle of Spitler Peak Trail at about 6800 ft elevation, 12th May 2022. The scat appeared to be entirely composed of deer hair. The lion was estimated to weigh 70-100 lbs based on the scat size.

Trail update 11th May 2022

Major trails are now completely (or functionally) clear of snow. Spikes are no longer required on the trail system. Some hikers may find that spikes remain useful in a handful of limited areas (mentioned below) depending on individual comfort level and experience on small patches of icy snow. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Skyline Trail reopened on 10th May having been closed from the State Park boundary (5800 ft) up to Grubb’s Notch since 1st February.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed large segments of the PCT, its side trails, and a few Forest roads. Trails surveyed in recent days have included all of the Tahquitz area meadows, Spitler Peak, South Ridge, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Willow Creek, Caramba, and Deer Springs.

As snow is now so patchy and limited, I am no longer reporting snow depths. This does not mean there is no snow in the high country, only that in the locations for which I typically report depths, averages are zero. Snow patches remain in areas above 9000 ft, largely off established trails and on north-facing slopes.

Air quality and visibility down in the lowlands, especially the Coachella Valley, has been poor all year, likely due to the lack of rainfall combined with windier than average conditions. Of my 34 ascents of San Jacinto Peak so far this year, the Salton Sea has not been visible for a third of them (including on 9th May), and the north shore has been indistinct at best for most.

Due to the exceptionally dry state of the mountain already, there is a brief summary of water conditions where known at the foot of this Report. A short video report (available here) was published on 10th May giving a visual overview of current water conditions in the high country.

Despite periodic warm spells, hikers should continue to be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS Humber Park trailhead and parking lot, which includes the Devil’s Slide Trail (3E05) trailhead and the upper trailhead for the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail (3E07), will be closed from the afternoon of Monday 16th May to Friday 20th May due to tree management work.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in mid April, smoothing the worst sections. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) remains in winter closure.

Black Mountain Road (4S01) reopened on 11th May, as did the Forest Service campgrounds seasonally closed for the winter (except Boulder Basin, scheduled to reopen 26th May). The State Park Stone Creek Campground reopened for the season on 6th May.

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic), is now tentatively scheduled to reopen later in May 2022.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to be well below seasonal on 9th-11th May. Temperatures then rise dramatically to well above seasonal for 13th-19th May (temperatures may be more typical of July than May) before then falling to closer to seasonal. There is no precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 11th May 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 21.9°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 2.7°F (-16°C), 13% relative humidity, and a gusty due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 26.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 9th May 2022 at 0825 the air temperature was 32.6°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 16.7°F (-9°C), 31% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 25.7 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 5th May 2022 at 0740 the air temperature was 47.4°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 43.0°F (6°C), 8% relative humidity, and a light WNW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.3 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All major trails are functionally clear of snow. Some small icy snow patches remain in places above about 9000 ft elevation as mentioned below. Named trails are completely clear of snow/ice unless discussed below.

Skyline Trail reopened on 10th May having been closed from the State Park boundary (5800 ft) up to Grubb’s Notch since 1st February.

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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With storms this season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 this winter. In March 2022 I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

The notoriously hazardous 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 to Tahquitz Peak is now functionally clear of icy snow. Two tiny patches remain but these have well-defined steps through the very short stretches of snow. Most hikers are finding spikes are no longer required.

The PCT is clear of snow from Mile 151 to 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow cover remains about 10% between Miles 175-177, but very few hikers are finding that spikes remain necessary in that area. Snow cover is now very limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3 (about 10% snow cover). Some snow patches remain on the sheltered sections of Fuller Ridge (notably Miles 188-189.5)

Snow cover now averages only 5% on the Peak Trail, persisting in patches in two short traditionally persistent areas around 10,000 ft and 10,100 ft. Spikes are generally not required. The trail route on the East Ridge still has 60% snow cover but is clearing steadily.

The Wellman Trail is almost clear of snow, other than 20% cover on the first 0.3 mile north of Annie’s Junction.

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is functionally clear of snow. A few patches remain on the traverse near the North Fork of the San Jacinto River around 9400 ft elevation. Patchy snow cover remains about 20% in Little Round Valley. Icy snow patches only cover <5% of the trail from Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak. (Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.)

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. 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 clear of snow. However there are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

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 February 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, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is functionally clear of snow. This trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 downed trees on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is essential for those who do not have extensive experience of hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

WATER CONDITIONS

This is not a comprehensive review of the status of all mountain water sources. In the high country there are still many patches of snow available for melting, and several less well-known minor springs are flowing. Sadly however – given that it’s only May – I have already been getting many questions regarding water availability on the mountain. I have checked all of these water sources personally in the past few days.

This video gives an overview of major water sources in the high country as of 10th May.

Water sources currently flowing include: Wellman’s Cienega, Round Valley faucet, Little Round Valley Creek (at west end of valley, very weak), North Fork of the San Jacinto River (both where it crosses Deer Springs Trail and on Fuller Ridge Trail at PCT Mile 186), Deer Springs (PCT Mile 185.4, very weak flow), Willow Creek crossing on Willow Creek Trail, Tahquitz Creek (PCT Mile 177 and also Little Tahquitz Meadow), Skunk Cabbage Meadow creek, Strawberry Cienega (weak), Apache Spring (weak), Cedar Spring, Live Oak Spring.

Water sources known to be dry: Tahquitz Valley pipe, Penrod Canyon (approx. PCT Mile 154).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover our modest costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now available options. Thank you so much for your support.

Above, Little Round Valley (9800ft) on 9th May 2022, and for comparison the same view about two weeks earlier on 25th April below.

Trail update 3rd May 2022

Melting of remaining snow has continued steadily and most major trails are now largely or completely clear of snow. Many hikers have found spikes unnecessary for the past couple of weeks, and hardly any of the 130 PCT hikers I have seen and talked with in the past ten days were using (or even carrying) spikes. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Early on Monday 2nd May we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman’s, and Peak trails, descending the same way. In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed multiple segments of the PCT, its side trails, and a few Forest roads. Trails surveyed in recent days have included South Ridge (twice), Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Willow Creek, Laws and Caramba, and Deer Springs.

In general spikes are no longer required, especially on extensively melted and/or well-traveled trails with defined snow steps. Hikers may find spikes remain useful in a handful of small areas above about 8500 ft (generally discussed below), depending on individual comfort level and experience on patches of icy snow, where snow on trails is compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally most useful for descending.

As snow is now so patchy and limited, I am no longer reporting snow depths. This does not mean there is no snow in the high country, only that in the locations for which I typically report depths, averages are zero or functionally zero. Significant snow remains in areas above 9000 ft, largely off established trails, in sheltered forested areas, and on north-facing slopes.

Despite mostly warmer days, hikers should continue to be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering wind chill effects, especially on 10th-12th May. See below for some of my most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak.

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road are open. South Ridge Road was partially graded in mid April, smoothing the worst sections. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Black Mountain (4S01) and Dark Canyon (5S02) roads remain in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only).

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic), is now tentatively scheduled to reopen later in May 2022.

The drainage in Little Round Valley, 29th April 2022. Although this formerly perennial creek has dried up with increasing frequency in summer or autumn of some recent years, in 2022 it was already completely dry in April.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to be at or above seasonal (in particular overnight lows) for the first week of May. It will be especially warm on 4th-7th May. Temperatures then drop below seasonal for most of the second week of the month, including temperatures below freezing in the high country on 10th-12th May. Temperatures rise to (or above) seasonal again starting 13th May. There is no significant precipitation in the forecasts.

The first three months of the year combined to be the second driest ever here in Riverside County, and the driest on record for the entire northern half of California (NWS data). The Sierra snowpack, at an impressive 160% of average on 1st January, was only 38% of average by 1st April. In the San Jacinto mountains precipitation has been below average in the high country for the tenth consecutive winter (and eight of those ten winters, including the past three seasons, have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 2nd May 2022 at 0815 the air temperature was 44.4°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 36.9°F (3°C), 10% relative humidity, and a brisk WNW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 12.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 29th April 2022 at 0815 the air temperature was 43.5°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 36.1°F (2°C), 8% relative humidity, and a light NNW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.3 mph.

Angled icy snow remaining on the north side of Tahquitz Peak, 1st May 2022. Most hikers will find that spikes are no longer required to cross this very short section on South Ridge Trail to/from Tahquitz Peak and Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8600 ft elevation are clear of snow. Thin patchy snow cover is rapidly becoming very limited on the trails above that elevation.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation” (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route). The Superintendent stated on 25th April “we are monitoring weather conditions and the route and hope to reopen in the coming weeks”. The State Park boundary on Skyline is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock.

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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With storms this season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 this winter. In a full survey in March 2022, I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 to Tahquitz Peak has cleared rapidly [updated 1st May]. Two tiny patches of icy snow remain to cross, but these have well-defined steps through the snow (see photos above and below). Most hikers will find spikes are no longer required.

The following trails below 8800 ft elevation are completely clear of snow/ice: Ernie Maxwell, Devil’s Slide, Suicide Rock, South Ridge (south from Tahquitz Peak), all Garner Valley trails.

The PCT is clear of snow from Mile 151 to 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow cover remains about 30% between Miles 175-177, but very few hikers are finding that spikes remain necessary in that area. Snow cover is now very limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3 (about 50% snow cover). Some snow patches remain on the sheltered sections of Fuller Ridge (notably Miles 188-189.5)

Snow cover now averages only 5% on the Peak Trail, persisting in two short traditional areas at 10,000 ft and 10,100 ft. Spikes are generally not required. The snow route on the East Ridge still has >80% snow cover but is clearing steadily.

The Wellman Trail is almost clear of snow, other than 60% cover on the first 0.3 mile north of Annie’s Junction.

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow [updated 29th April]. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction. Thereafter snow cover is a patchy 10% to about 9300 ft. Above that elevation snow cover currently averages 30%, but will continue to melt rapidly in the next few days. Snow is most extensive (50%) in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley snow cover averages 20%. Some hikers may find spikes useful in places, especially for descending. (Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.)

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. 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 clear of snow. However there are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

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 February 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, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is clear of snow to 7500 ft. Above that elevation snow cover is a patchy 10%. This trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 downed trees on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is essential for those who do not have extensive experience of hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

It’s northbound PCT season! Please consider helping the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now options. Thank you for your support.

PCT Mile 185.6, the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail at its junction with Deer Springs Trail (8970ft). Above on 29th April 2022, and below just four days earlier on 25th April, when some snow remained from a minor snow storm on 22nd April. Eastern slopes more exposed to direct sun largely cleared on 24th and 25th April (as illustrated in the previous Report).
The other patch of angled icy snow remaining on the trail on the north side of Tahquitz Peak, 1st May 2022 (see also above). Spikes are no longer required to cross this very short section on South Ridge Trail to/from Tahquitz Peak and Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178.
Special thanks to great friend (and social media coordinator) of the Trail Report Charles Phelan who leaves Idyllwild-Pine Cove for New England this month in part to be closer to family. We hiked to Tahquitz Peak on 1st May 2022, where we had worked together as fire lookouts since Charles joined the program in 2016. Safe hiking Charles!

Trail update 27th April 2022

The minor snow storm on Friday 22nd April produced a few inches of fine powder in the high country, down to a very light dusting in Idyllwild, as detailed in the previous Report and this short video recorded from San Jacinto Peak as the storm abated. The majority of that new snow has already melted, especially on sun-exposed slopes, with rapidly warming temperatures in recent days.

Early on Monday 25th April we ascended via Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to San Jacinto Peak, descending via the East Ridge, Peak, Wellman’s, PCT, and Devil’s Slide trails. This loop also facilitated survey of the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly PCT Miles 179-181 and 185-186) plus several of its side trails.

For the third Peak ascent in the past six days my spikes went unused, even for descending. Of the 16 PCT hikers I talked with on our loop on 25th, none were using (or even carrying) spikes.

Hikers may find spikes remain useful in a few areas above about 8000 ft (generally discussed below), depending on individual comfort level and experience on patches of icy snow, where snow on trails is compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. In general spikes are no longer required, especially on extensively melted and/or well-traveled trails with defined snow steps. Spikes remain most useful for descending, especially for the first few hundred feet of elevation down from the highest peaks. Spikes remain recommended in certain locations, such as the north side of Tahquitz Peak.

Snow depths, such as they are, measured on 25th April are given below. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Despite periodic warmer temperatures, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road are open, and those areas are clear of snow. South Ridge Road was partially graded in mid April, removing the most uneven sections. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Black Mountain (4S01) and Dark Canyon (5S02) roads remain in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only).

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic), is now tentatively scheduled to reopen in May 2022.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to be generally around seasonal for the remainder of April, with the exception of a cooler day on Thursday 28th, warming to above seasonal for the first ten days of May (and well above seasonal in the high country). There is no further precipitation in the forecasts.

The first three months of the year combined to be the second driest ever here in Riverside County, and the driest on record for the entire northern half of California (NWS data). The Sierra snowpack, at an impressive 160% of average on 1st January, was only 38% of average by 1st April. In the San Jacinto mountains precipitation has been below average in the high country for the tenth consecutive winter (and eight of those ten winters, including the past three seasons, have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 25th April 2022 at 0825 the air temperature was 40.8°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.3°F (4°C), 23% relative humidity, and a barely perceptible SE breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 2.6 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 22nd April 2022 at 1130 the air temperature was 16.5°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -11.7°F (-24°C), 98% relative humidity, and a wild WSW wind sustained at 23 mph gusting to 47.3 mph. The latter was the strongest wind gust reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak this winter.

At the Peak on Wednesday 20th April 2022 at 0750 the air temperature was 30.5°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.1°F (-11°C), 61% relative humidity, and a strong due West wind sustained at 22 mph gusting to 32.1 mph.

Angled icy snow field remaining on the north side of Tahquitz Peak, 26th April 2022. Spikes (at least) and adequate experience are required to cross this short but challenging section on South Ridge Trail between Tahquitz Peak and Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8700ft are largely or completely clear of snow, and thin patchy snow cover is increasingly limited above that elevation.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation” (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route). The Superintendent stated on 25th April “we are monitoring weather conditions and the route and hope to reopen in the coming weeks”. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock.

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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With storms this season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 this winter. In a full survey in March 2022, I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is clearing rapidly. However one extended patch of angled icy snow remains for which spikes, or even better crampons and ice axe, are required (see photo above).

The following trails below 8800 ft elevation are completely clear of snow/ice: Ernie Maxwell, Devil’s Slide, Suicide Rock, South Ridge (south from Tahquitz Peak), all Garner Valley trails.

The PCT is functionally clear of snow from Mile 151 to 175 (Red Tahquitz). A few tiny patches remain on the north-east side of Apache Peak but will clear in the next day or two. Snow cover remains about 40% between Miles 175-178, and some hikers are finding that spikes remain useful for those few miles. Snow cover is now limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. Some lengthy snow patches remain on the sheltered sections of Fuller Ridge (notably Miles 188-189.5)

Snow cover now only averages 10% on the Peak Trail, persisting in the handful of traditional areas that are less sun-exposed (e.g., around 9900-10,100 ft). Spikes are generally not required for ascending, but may be useful in places for descending. A posthole snow route on the East Ridge still has >95% snow cover but is becoming increasingly uneven due to melting.

The Wellman Trail is almost clear of snow, other than the first 0.3 mile north of Annie’s Junction.

Marion Mountain Trail has about 10% cover of thin, patchy, icy snow, largely above 7600 ft elevation. Spikes are not required. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is functionally clear of snow to about 8600ft (c.0.2 mile south of Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is a patchy 50% to about 9300 ft. Above that elevation snow cover currently averages 70%, but will melt rapidly in the next few days. Snow is most extensive (90%) in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley snow cover averages 60%, with the first switchbacks above LRV, and those closest to Summit Junction, rapidly clearing of snow. Most hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending. (Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.)

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) [checked 26th April] is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak and spikes are not required. 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 has less than 30% snow cover overall, with most remaining snow expected to melt in the next few days. However there are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is functionally clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

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 February 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, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is functionally clear of snow to 7500 ft. Above that elevation snow cover is a patchy 30%. This trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 downed trees on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places (especially in snow conditions), and cautious navigation is essential for those who do not have extensive experience of hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on Monday 25th April 2022 are as follows. Where known, the fresh snowfall following the minor storm on Friday 22nd April 2022 is given in parentheses. As mentioned in previous Reports, although many areas retain some extensive patches of snow from December and February storms, average measurements were functionally zero inches in all locations immediately prior to 22nd April. Note that there was considerable drifting in the trails in the latest storm. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 1-2 inches (5 inches on 22nd April)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 3-5 inches

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 0 inches (3.5 inches on 22nd April)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 2 inches (3.5 inches on 22nd April)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 1 inch

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 0 inches (2.5 inches on 22nd April)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (1.5 inches on 22nd April, largely melted by that afternoon)

Marion Mountain trailhead (6300 ft): 0 inches

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0 inches (<0.25 inch on 22nd April 2022, all melted by that afternoon)

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Detailed snow conditions on the PCT are described above under “Trail Conditions”.

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could well be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be challenging, especially for those with limited experience of snow/ice hiking. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

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

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April, requires spikes (at least), and is notoriously treacherous.

Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in April or May (although that is weather and/or maintenance dependent).

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park permits overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru-hikers.

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now options. Thank you for your support.

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just north of Wellman Divide. On the sun-exposed eastern slope snow from the minor storm on 22nd April has melted rapidly. Above, on 25th April 2022, and below on 22nd April.
PCT Mile 185.6, the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail at its junction with Deer Springs Trail (8970ft). Above on 25th April 2022, and below a week earlier on 18th April. On the sheltered western slope, snowmelt has been slower.

Minor snow storm 22nd April 2022

[UPDATE Sunday 24th April 2022 @ 1030: a minor fire reported just inside the State Park 1.6 miles up Marion Mountain Trail is currently being contained by Forest Service personnel. The fire was only a few feet square and surrounded by light snow. Judging by the size and location, it was likely an illegal campfire.]

This is a very brief summary of a minor storm that passed over the San Jacinto mountains on Friday 22nd April. With very warm, sunny conditions forecast for the next week, I will not go into too much detail as rapid melting will quickly return general conditions back to those described in the previous Report.

Rain started in Idyllwild (at 5550 ft) just after midnight, eventually accumulating to an impressive 0.64 inch by about 0500, before turning to a very light sleety snow (<0.25 inch accumulation).

Overall precipitation was, thankfully, above most forecasts, with 2-5 inches of snow in the high country (depending on elevation), and a dusting of snow down to about 5000 ft. Snow depths measured on 22nd April are detailed near the foot of this post.

Early on Friday 22nd we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails, breaking trail by postholing the entire ascent, and then descending the same route (other than descending the East Ridge down to 10,400 ft). Although I carried spikes, I never thought of using them in nice light, dry, powder which afforded good grip.

I recorded a short video summary of conditions – in a wild westerly wind, sorry for the mediocre sound – at San Jacinto Peak late morning on 22nd April.

Current conditions for individual routes are discussed in detail below where known. These will change rapidly with warming temperatures and widespread melting in the next few days. Although useful tracks are already in place for some major trails (mentioned below), including the entire PCT, cautious navigation remains recommended everywhere.

Some hikers will find that spikes are currently helpful depending upon comfort level on thin snow cover. They are not generally required however, as thin, soft snow is providing reasonable traction to footwear suitable for mountain hiking in winter conditions. This will change over the next couple of days in differing ways, as some high country trails rapidly melt in very warm temperatures, while others become compacted and icier with freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks, on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and (as always) for descending and traversing. Snow conditions are extremely poor for snowshoeing with very thin snow plus rapid melting expected.

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in the next week, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures around freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road remain open. Humber Park was largely clear of snow by the afternoon of 22nd April.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to rise rapidly to above seasonal by Sunday 24th, be very warm on 25th-27th, then drop slightly to near seasonal from Thursday 28th. Snowmelt will be very rapid and widespread at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Friday 22nd April 2022 at 1130 the air temperature was 16.5°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -11.7°F (-24°C), 98% relative humidity, and a wild WSW wind sustained at 23 mph gusting to 47.3 mph. The latter was the strongest wind gust recorded at San Jacinto Peak this winter.

At the Peak on Wednesday 20th April 2022 at 0750 the air temperature was 30.5°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.1°F (-11°C), 61% relative humidity, and a strong due West wind sustained at 22 mph gusting to 32.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500 ft are currently partially obscured by light snow, with thin snow cover continuous above about 7000 ft. Melting was already underway on 22nd April and will accelerate very rapidly over the next week.

The entire PCT through the San Jacinto mountains already has a well-traveled track through the fresh snow. By the time I descended on the afternoon of 22nd, I was pleased to see well-defined tracks following my route north from Saddle Junction, and continuing on round to Strawberry Junction. A well-traveled track came in to Saddle Junction from the south, and discussions with various thru hikers I passed indicated that the PCT north and south of the area I covered was hiked by multiple groups in the afternoon of 22nd.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177).

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, initially “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Although the trail is now clear of significant ice problems, Ranger Station staff have indicated that the trail remains closed indefinitely. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 had good steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These steps will have been largely obscured by the fresh snowfall. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Spikes are strongly recommended for this weekend at least. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a very well-defined track to follow. Sections were already close to clearing (and/or turning to slush) by the afternoon of 22nd April, especially below 6700 ft.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is already partly clear of snow, and will clear completely this weekend.

My shallow posthole track is largely well-defined from Annie’s Junction to San Jacinto Peak, via the Wellman and Peak trails. Tracks were disappearing quickly under spindrift snow in wind-exposed areas above 9900 ft elevation.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on Friday 22nd April 2022 are as follows. The only number given is the new snowfall. As mentioned in the previous Report, although many areas retain some extensive patches of older snow, average mweasurements were functionally zero inches in all locations prior to this latest storm. Due to strong winds accompanying this storm note that there is considerable drifting in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 5 inches

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 3.5 inches

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 3.5 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 2.5 inches

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 1.5 inches (largely melted by afternoon of 22nd)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): <0.25 inch (all melted by afternoon of 22nd)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to keep active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all available. Thank you for your support.

The well-known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft) on 22nd April 2022 above, and the same view for comparison on 18th April below.

Trail update 20th April 2022

[UPDATED 22nd April 2022: a minor snow storm overnight produced five inches of snow at San Jacinto Peak, and 0.5in rain and a trace of snow in Idyllwild. Snowmelt will be rapid over the weekend,, but some hikers will find spikes useful for at least the next couple of days. More details (and a feel for conditions in the high country) in this short video recorded late this morning.]

Recent warm days have led to further widespread snowmelt. Although a very minor storm system is forecast for the early morning of Friday 22nd April, only 1-2 inches of snow are expected above about 8000 ft elevation, which is unlikely to significantly impact trail conditions or increase navigation challenges. A return to warm weather immediately after the storm will result in fresh snow melting very quickly.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed multiple segments of the PCT, its side trails, and Forest roads. Trails surveyed in recent days have included South Ridge, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Willow Creek, Laws and Caramba, Deer Springs, and Spitler Peak.

Early on Monday 18th April we ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails to San Jacinto Peak, descending via Deer Springs Trail. This loop also facilitated survey of the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183) plus several of its side trails. This was my first Peak ascent this calendar year in which my spikes went unused all morning, even for descending. Of the 24 PCT hikers I saw and chatted with on my loop hike, only a handful were using spikes, even those leaving the Trail to summit the Peak.

Hikers may find spikes remain useful in a few areas above about 8000 ft (generally discussed below), depending on individual comfort level and experience on patches of icy snow, where snow on trails is compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. In general spikes are no longer required, especially on extensively melted and well-traveled trails with defined snow steps. Spikes remain most useful for descending, especially for the first few hundred feet of elevation down from the highest peaks. Spikes remain valuable – if no longer strictly essential – in certain locations, such as the north side of Tahquitz Peak.

As snow is now so patchy and limited, I am no longer reporting snow depths. However significant snow remains in patches, largely in sheltered forested areas, and on north-facing slopes. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Despite unseasonal warm temperatures at times, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road are open, and these areas cleared of icy snow weeks ago. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Black Mountain (4S01) and Dark Canyon (5S02) roads remain in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only).

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic) is now tentatively scheduled to reopen in May 2022.

Willow Creek just upstream from Laws Camp, early morning of Thursday 14th April 2022.

WEATHER

After a few recent days of above seasonal temperatures, a cooler spell is forecast between 20th-23rd April, with temperatures at or even slightly below average for April. A minor storm system is forecast for the early morning of Friday 22nd April, with <0.3in rain forecast for Idyllwild and a dusting of snow above about 7000 ft elevation, with two inches of snow possible around the highest peaks. Starting Sunday 24th temperatures yet again rise to well above seasonal, and will be very warm for April on 25th-29th.

The first three months of the year combined to be the second driest ever here in Riverside County, and the driest on record for the entire northern half of California (NWS data). The Sierra snowpack, at an impressive 160% of average on 1st January, was only 38% of average by 1st April. In the San Jacinto mountains precipitation has been below average in the high country for the tenth consecutive winter (and eight of those ten winters, including the past three seasons, have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 20th April 2022 at 0750 the air temperature was 30.5°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.1°F (-11°C), 61% relative humidity, and a strong due West wind sustained at 22 mph gusting to 32.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 18th April 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 40.5°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 29.3°F (-1°C), 28% relative humidity, and a steady WNW wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 27.6 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 13th April 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 29.1°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.6°F (-9°C), 17% relative humidity, and a sharp NW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 17.3 mph.

The well-known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega, 18th April 2022. The low flow is more reminiscent of September than April.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8700ft are generally clear of snow, and thin patchy snow cover is increasingly limited above that elevation.

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 reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With storms this season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 this winter. In a full survey on 19th March 2022, I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is now clearing rapidly. A few extended patches of angled icy snow remain but have steps to follow. Most hikers will find spikes are still useful, especially for descending, but they are no longer essential.

Effective 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route.) The trail is expected to reopen later in April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. The trail remained closed as of 19th April.

The following trails below 8800 ft elevation are completely clear of snow/ice: Ernie Maxwell, Devil’s Slide, Suicide Rock, South Ridge (south from Tahquitz Peak), all Garner Valley trails.

The PCT is clear of snow from Mile 151 to 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow cover remains about 40% between Miles 175-178, and some hikers are finding that spikes remain useful for those few miles. Snow cover is now limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. Some lengthy snow patches remain on the sheltered sections of Fuller Ridge (notably Miles 188-189.5)

Snow cover now only averages 10% on the Peak Trail, persisting in the handful of traditional areas that are less sun-exposed (e.g., around 9000-10,100 ft). Spikes are generally not required for ascending, but can be useful in places for descending. The well-compacted snow route on the East Ridge still has 95% snow cover but is becoming increasingly uneven due to melting.

The Wellman Trail is almost clear of snow, other than the first 0.3 mile north of Annie’s Junction.

Marion Mountain Trail is now clear of snow. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is completely clear of snow to about 8700ft (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is a very patchy 10% to about 9300 ft. Above that elevation snow cover averages only 30%. Snow is most extensive (60%) in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley snow cover averages only 40%, with the first switchbacks above LRV, and those closest to Summit Junction, now functionally clear of snow. Some hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending. (Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.)

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. Spikes are not required. 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 has less than 10% snow cover overall, with a traveled track to Long Valley through the remaining snow patches. However there are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

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 February 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, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is clear of snow to 8200 ft. Above that elevation snow cover is a patchy 30%. There is at least one set of visible hiker tracks across the remaining snow patches on Seven Pines Trail as of 11th April. This trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places (especially in snow conditions), and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now options. Thank you for your support.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Detailed snow conditions on the PCT are described above under “Trail Conditions”.

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could well be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be challenging, especially for those with limited experience of snow/ice hiking. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

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

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April, requires spikes (at least), and is notoriously treacherous.

Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in April or May (although that is weather and/or maintenance dependent).

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru-hikers.

PCT Mile 185.6, the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail at its junction with Deer Springs Trail (8970ft). Above on 18th April 2022, and three weeks earlier on 29th March 2022. What a difference just a couple of weeks can make.

Trail and snow update 13th April 2022

Although cooler conditions are (thankfully) forecast for the next few days, near record warm weather last week led to very rapid and widespread snowmelt. Consequently overall snowmelt conditions are nearly two months ahead of an average snow year. The minor storm overnight on Monday 11th April produced no snow, and a mere 0.02in of drizzle in Idyllwild.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed multiple segments of the PCT, its side trails, and Forest roads.

While spikes have not been needed on my ascents of San Jacinto Peak since late March, most hikers are continuing to find them useful in parts of the high country depending on their comfort level on patchy ice and icy snow. Spikes remain most useful for descending, especially for the first few hundred feet of elevation down from the highest peaks. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Spikes remain useful – but are no longer required, especially on heavily traveled trails with defined steps – in some areas above about 8000 ft, depending on individual comfort level on icy snow, and where snow on trails is compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally most valuable for traversing and for descending.

Snow depths measured on 11th April are detailed near the foot of this post, but note that snow depth is not necessarily indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions underfoot.

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

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road are open. Humber Park was clear of snow by the afternoon of 29th March, and South Ridge Road is clear of icy snow.

The following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01) and Dark Canyon (5S02).

Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April.

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic) is reportedly scheduled to reopen on 23rd April 2022.

WEATHER

Following the cold but frustratingly dry storm system that passed through overnight on Monday 11th April, temperatures climb slowly back to around seasonal by Friday 15th April, and then continue to warm to above seasonal for 17th-18th April, before dropping back to seasonal. Some forecasts are suggesting the possibility of a minor storm system on 22nd-23rd April.

This recent video from National Weather Service San Diego includes some grim statistics. The first three months of the year combined to be the second driest ever here in Riverside County, and the driest on record for the entire northern half of California. The Sierra snowpack, at an impressive 160% of average on 1st January, was only 38% of average on 1st April.

In the San Jacinto mountains for the tenth consecutive winter precipitation has been below average in the high country (and eight of those ten winters, including the past three seasons, have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 13th April 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 29.1°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.6°F (-9°C), 17% relative humidity, and a sharp NW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 17.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 11th April 2022 at 0920 the air temperature was 35.6°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.5°F (-5°C), 46% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 22.7 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 8th April 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 41.4°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.5°F (0°C), 28% relative humidity, and a stiff NE wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 22.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8700ft are now largely or completely clear of snow, and thin snow cover is increasingly patchy everywhere above that elevation, especially on sun-exposed slopes.

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 reported promptly, agencies failed to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 this winter. In a full survey on 19th March 2022, I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around. Many hikers have told me recently that the tree hazards are much more problematic than the remaining snow.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is melting rapidly and has a set of steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. While crampons with an ice axe (and thorough knowledge of how to use both) are preferred, experienced hikers will find spikes sufficient. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January 2022.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route.) The trail is expected to reopen later in April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. The open section of trail below 5800 ft is clear of snow.

The following trails below 8800 ft elevation are completely clear of snow/ice: Ernie Maxwell, Devil’s Slide, Suicide Rock, South Ridge (south from Tahquitz Peak).

The PCT is clear of snow from Mile 151 to 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow cover remains extensive (>40%) between Miles 175-178, and many hikers are finding that spikes remain useful for those few miles. Snow cover is now very limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 190 snow cover averages about 50%, with some lengthy snow patches. Exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) are now clear, as are areas north of Mile 190.

Snow cover is now only about 40% on the Peak Trail, persisting in the handful of traditional areas that are less sun-exposed, and above about 10,400 ft. Spikes are generally not required for ascending, but can be useful in places for descending. The well-compacted snow route on the East Ridge has 95% snow cover.

The Wellman Trail is almost clear of snow, other than the first 0.3 mile north of Annie’s Junction.

Marion Mountain Trail is now clear of snow, with just a tiny snow patch right below its junction with Deer Springs Trail that does not require spikes. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to about 8600ft (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is a very patchy 10% to about 9300 ft. Above that elevation snow cover averages about 50%. Snow cover is most extensive (80%) in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley snow cover averages 60%, however the first switchbacks above LRV, and those closest to Summit Junction, are now functionally clear of snow. The trail itself is largely visible now, and is a good route for ascending. My former direct off-trail snow route is now heavily melted and not recommended. Cautious navigation is required as there are several alternative tracks meandering across the patchy snow slope. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.]

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak, with just a couple of tiny ice patches remaining near the Peak. Spikes are not required. 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.

The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide, and is clearing rapidly.

Willow Creek Trail has about 10% snow cover overall, with a lightly-traveled track to Long Valley through the remaining snow patches. However there are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

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 careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is functionally clear of snow to 8200 ft. Above that elevation snow cover is a patchy 40%. There is one set of visible hiker tracks across the remaining snow patches on Seven Pines Trail as of 11th April. This trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places (especially in snow conditions), and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 11th April 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the greatest depth of the winter following the storms of 22nd-23rd February 2022 given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 0-8 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 5 inches (30-36 inches on 23rd February, heavily drifted)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 0 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 0-6 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 2-4 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 0 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 0 inches (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (15 inches on 23rd February)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now options. Thank you for your support.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Detailed snow conditions on the PCT are described above under “Trail Conditions”.

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could well be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be challenging, especially for those with limited experience of snow/ice hiking. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

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

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April, requires spikes (at least), and is notoriously treacherous.

Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in April or May (although that is weather and/or maintenance dependent).

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru-hikers.

PCT Mile 185.6 where the Fuller Ridge and Deer Springs trails diverge (8950ft). Above on 11th April 2022, and below on 29th March 2022, showing rapid snowmelt.
Little Round Valley (9800ft), above on 11th April 2022, and below on 29th March 2022.

Snow and trail update 5th April 2022

Snowfall from the minor storm last week (described here) melted within days, as illustrated in the photos at the foot of this posting. Melting of older snow largely from earlier this “winter” – I use that word in the broadest possible sense – has also accelerated dramatically. Very warm, dry conditions are forecast for the first ten days of April.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed many segments of PCT Miles 168-191 and its side trails.

On none of my recent ascents of San Jacinto Peak have spikes been needed, although many hikers will find them useful in places depending on their comfort level on icy snow. Spikes are useful for descending, at least for the first few hundred feet of elevation below San Jacinto Peak.

On 31st March we reviewed conditions again at Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) as discussed in this short video. Very little snow remains, and the video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March (available here) remains relevant, although now hikers will encounter even less snow than in the video. Similarly the detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March also remains broadly applicable. Again, conditions will only continue to get easier over the next week. See below for a detailed description of snow cover on the PCT from Miles 151-205.

Snow depths measured on 1st and 4th April are detailed near the foot of this post, but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions underfoot.

Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. These will continue to change and simplify with rapid and widespread melting over the next ten days. Although useful tracks are now in place for most major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Spikes remain useful (but no longer essential, especially on well-traveled trails) in some areas above about 8000 ft, as snow on trails can be icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally most valuable for traversing and for descending. Snow conditions are extremely poor for snowshoeing with limited thin snow cover, and continued rapid melting expected.

Despite unseasonably warm weather, hikers should continue to be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects, especially next week (see below for my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road are open. Humber Park was clear of snow by the afternoon of 29th March, and South Ridge Road is clear of icy snow.

The following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02).

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic) is tentatively scheduled to reopen on 23rd April 2022.

Dawn on Spitler Peak Trail, 31st March 2022, just after we emerged from the marine cloud layer at 5700 ft elevation. Thomas Mountain is to the right, and Cone Peak is barely visible poking through the cloud left of centre.

WEATHER

Temperatures forecast for 5th-9th April will be at or near record highs and more closely resemble early June rather than early April. They will be accompanied by Santa Ana winds and very low humidity. A significant cooling is expected for a few days starting 11th April. Forecasts remain uncertain, but there is the possibility of a very minor storm system around 12th April.

This latest video from National Weather Service San Diego makes includes some grim statistics. The first three months of the year combined to be the second driest ever here in Riverside County, and the driest on record for the entire northern half of California. The Sierra snowpack, at an impressive 160% of average on 1st January, is now only 38% of average.

In the San Jacinto mountains for the tenth consecutive winter precipitation has been below average in the high country (and eight of those ten winters, including this season, have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 4th April 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 34.0°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 26.6°F (-3°C), 61% relative humidity, and a light NE wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.4 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 1st April 2022 at 0825 the air temperature was 32.2°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 18.3°F (-8°C), 55% relative humidity, and a fresh ESE wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 18.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Many trails below about 8700ft are now largely or completely clear of snow, and thin snow cover is increasingly patchy everywhere above that elevation, especially on sun-exposed slopes. Melting has been steady in the past two weeks, and will accelerate dramatically in the second week of 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 reported promptly, agencies failed to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

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 this winter. In a full survey on 19th March 2022, I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around. Many hikers have commented to me that the tree hazards are more problematic than the remaining snow.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is melting rapidly and has a set of steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous however. Currently crampons with an ice axe (and thorough knowledge of how to use both) are preferred, although experienced hikers will find spikes sufficient. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January 2022.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route.) The trail is expected to reopen sometime in April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. The open section of trail below 5800 ft is clear of snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of icy snow to near Saddle Junction, with just a few tiny patches mainly near the latter.

The PCT for a mile north of Saddle Junction (“Angel’s Glide”) is essentially clear of snow.

The Wellman Trail is now only about 40% snow-covered.

The well-traveled compacted track on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak follows the trail route. Icy snow cover remains 80% but spikes are generally not needed other than close to San Jacinto Peak. Above 10,400ft tracks most tracks form a well-compacted route up the East Ridge.

Marion Mountain Trail is now functionally clear of snow, with just a few tiny dirty snow patches that do not require spikes. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Snow cover on the PCT has almost completely melted from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 175 (Red Tahquitz). See my video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March available here, with the specific area around Apache Peak surveyed again on 31st March (here). Although snow remains largely continuous between Miles 175-179, this will change rapidly over the next week. Spikes are useful for those few miles. Snow cover is becoming very limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 191, snow cover is extensive, although exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) are now clear, as are areas north of Mile 191. See the detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to about 8600ft (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is roughly 50% to about 9400 ft. Above that elevation snow cover is nearly continuous (>90%), with some clear patches rapidly developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.] From Little Round Valley up to near the Peak the most heavily traveled track follows my posthole track from 29th March, which itself followed my snowshoe route from late February. This track did not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many). Cautious navigation is required as there are several alternative tracks meandering across this snow slope. Some short sections of the trail above Little Round Valley have started to clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) [updated 7th April] is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak, with just a couple of tiny ice patches remaining near the Peak. Spikes are not required. 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.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide, and is clearing rapidly.

Willow Creek Trail has about 20% snow cover overall, with a posthole and snowshoe track to Long Valley through the remaining snow. There are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

The trail from Saddle Junction to near Reeds Meadow, then past Little Tahquitz Meadow to connect to the PCT is currently largely an ugly posthole track through soft snow that does not remotely follow the established trail routes. Melting will be rapid in the next week or so.

The Suicide Rock Trail is clear of snow.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in 2022.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well-traveled, is very sun-exposed and is functionally clear of snow.

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 careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. 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 from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. 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 recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

Unsurprisingly, there were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines Trail as of 4th April.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 1st April 2022 (eastern side locations) and 4th April 2022 (western side) are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the greatest depth of the winter following the storms of 22nd-23rd February 2022 given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 7-8 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 10 inches (30-36 inches on 23rd February, heavily drifted)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 0-4 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 9 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 4-6 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 0 inches, new snow largely melted by afternoon of 29th March

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 0 inches (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (15 inches on 23rd February)

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PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Detailed snow conditions on the PCT are described above under “Trail Conditions”.

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could well be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be challenging, especially for those with limited experience of snow/ice hiking. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

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

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April (at least), requires crampons and ice axe, and is notoriously treacherous.

Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in April (although that is weather dependent).

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru-hikers.

Approx. PCT Mile 185.6, where Fuller Ridge Trail diverges from Deer Springs Trail. Above on 4th April 2022, and below for comparison six days earlier on 29th March 2022
Above, Wellman Divide (9700 ft) on 1st April 2022, and below the same view three days earlier on 29th March 2022 for comparison.

Minor snow storm update 29th March 2022

[UPDATE Thursday 31st March 2022: this morning we shot a short video review of the Apache Peak area (PCT Mile 169.5) available here on YouTube. PCT Miles 151-175 are now functionally clear of snow and many thru hikers will find spikes are no longer required until rounding onto the north side of Red Tahquitz at Mile 175.]

A minor storm passed over the San Jacinto mountains on Monday 28th March, with light precipitation continuing into the early hours of Tuesday 29th.

Overall precipitation was well below forecasts, with only 3-5 inches of snow in the high country (depending on elevation). There was a dusting of snow down to about 5000 ft. In Idyllwild at 5550 ft we received 0.63 in of rain, plus 1.5 in of snow, although the latter melted within a few hours. Snow depths measured on 29th March are detailed near the foot of this post, but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions underfoot.

Early on Tuesday 29th March we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails. Although I carried crampons, spikes, and ice axe, in case I encountered a variety of challenging conditions, I ultimately only used the latter in lieu of poles. I broke trail the entire way through shallow to moderate snow, in good boots with excellent traction.

We descended Deer Springs Trail, again breaking trail almost the entire way, and again with no need for additional traction in easy powder, returning to Humber Park via the Suicide Rock Trail and Suicide Rock climbers trail. I did briefly encounter some posthole tracks near the top of Marion Mountain Trail. With such shallow snow, melting was well underway by the time I descended below Strawberry Junction, despite the west slope remaining in the cloud almost all day below about 9000 ft.

This loop also facilitated survey of – and breaking trail for – the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183) plus survey of several of its side trails.

Current conditions for individual routes are discussed in detail below where known. These will change rapidly with warming temperatures and widespread melting by next weekend. Although useful tracks are now in place for some major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation remains recommended everywhere.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making. These concerns may steadily increase over the next couple of weeks with snow undergoing multiple freeze-thaw cycles, with rising temperatures, seasonally stronger insolation, and highly variable snowmelt.

Spikes are currently helpful but are not strictly essential, as thin, soft snow is providing reasonable traction to footwear suitable for mountain hiking in winter conditions. This may change over the next few days as high country trails become compacted and icier with freeze-thaw cycles. Then spikes will be recommended everywhere above about 8000ft. They are generally especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks, on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and (as always) for descending and traversing. In the high country some hikers will find crampons a suitable alternative to spikes, although they are certainly not necessary (except of course on the north faces of San Jac and Tahquitz).

Snow conditions are generally poor for snowshoeing with thin snow plus rapid melting expected. With melting and compaction caused by freeze-thaw cycles and hiker traffic, conditions will rapidly deteriorate further for snowshoeing over the next week. Nevertheless, snowshoes may be valuable off trail above about 9000ft for the next few days.

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in the next week or so, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures around freezing in the high country, and often well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for my recent observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road remain open. Humber Park was clear of snow by the afternoon of 29th March.

A capricious Tahquitz Peak as seen from about PCT Mile 180 early in the morning of 29th March 2022.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to rise rapidly to about seasonal by Wednesday 30th, and then to warm further to above seasonal on 1st April. The first week of April will be very warm and snowmelt will be rapid and widespread at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 29th March 2022 at 1040 the air temperature was 19.8°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -1.0°F (-18°C), 94% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 25.9 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 25th March 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 45.5°F (7.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.3°F (3°C), 27% relative humidity, and a light SSE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 12.7 mph. The air temperature was likely an all-time record high for this location in the month of March.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500 ft are currently partially obscured by light snow, with thin snow cover continuous above about 8000 ft. Melting was already underway on 29th March and will accelerate very rapidly over the next week.

Current snow cover on the PCT is limited from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and then increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and 175 (Red Tahquitz). The thin snow cover from this latest storm will melt within the next few days. Some shaded chutes and slopes can be tricky for those without snow/ice experience, and spikes remain recommended. Within a couple of days my video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March available here will again be accurate to the conditions due to rapid melting. Snow remains largely continuous between Miles 175-179. Snow cover will quickly become very patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 191, snow cover is currently largely continuous, although extensive exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) will very rapidly clear again, as will areas north of Mile 191. The detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March will again be accurate to conditions after melting on 30th-31st March.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and February have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Long Valley Ranger Station staff have stated that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Very shallow snow from these latest storms on the open section of trail below 5800 ft will melt very rapidly on this exposed slope.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has very indistinct steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These steps will have been largely obscured by the fresh snowfall. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are currently recommended. It is possible that spikes will be sufficient by the weekend. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-defined shallow posthole track to follow. Large sections were already clearing by the afternoon of 29th March, especially below 7700 ft.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is already largely clear of snow, and will clear completely on 30th March.

My shallow posthole track is well-defined from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, via the PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails. Above 10,400 ft my posthole track roughly follows the East Ridge Trail route.

Marion Mountain Trail has a well-defined posthole track through the snow along its entire length, however it does not follow the trail route in places.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines or Fuller Ridge trails as of early afternoon on 29th March, nor on the Strawberry Trail (approx. PCT Miles 181-183).

Deer Springs Trail has a well-defined track along its entire length. Most snow had already melted below Strawberry Junction (8100 ft) by the afternoon of 29th, and it will liekly clear completely below about 8600 ft on 30th-31st. Below Little Round Valley I (generally) made a conscious effort to accurately follow the trail route. Through and above Little Round Valley the only track is my shallow posthole route down from the Peak which does not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many hikers).

Suicide Rock Trail was functionally clear of snow by the afternoon of 29th March.

Spitler Peak Trail will very rapidly clear of snow in the next day or two. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in 2022.

Strawberry Junction (8100ft, approx PCT Mile 183) in early afternoon on 29th March 2022.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 29th March 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the new snow from the storm on 28th-29th March given in parentheses. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 12-14 inches (4-5 inches new)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 12-14 inches (4 inches new)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 4-6 inches (4 inches new)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 11 inches (3 inches new)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 8 inches (3 inches new)

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 0-1 inch (1-2 inches new, largely melted by afternoon of 29th)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 2-3 inches (2 inches new)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 1.5 inches (1.5 inches new, largely melted by afternoon of 29th)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 1.5 inches (1.5 inches new, all melted by afternoon of 29th)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to keep active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle has been added as a fee-free way to donate. Thank you for your support.

The well-known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft) on 29th March 2022 above, and the same view for comparison on 25th March below.