Trail and weather update 6th October 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEATHER

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

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

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

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is dry. This large creek dried up in late spring, nearly two months earlier than last year, and remains dry now despite recent rains.

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

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

Trail update 28th September 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEATHER

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

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

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

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is dry. This large creek dried up in late spring, nearly two months earlier than last year, and remains dry now despite recent rains.

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

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

Trail and weather update 19th September 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEATHER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

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

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

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is dry. This large creek dried up in late spring, nearly two months earlier than last year, and remains dry now despite recent rains.

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

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

Tropical Storm Kay 9th September 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fairview Fire update 8th September 2022

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

Red Mountain, 9th September 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos from Tahquitz Peak on Thursday 8th September follow.

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

Please stay safe everyone.

Fire and weather update 7th September 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEATHER

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and will dry soon without new rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. Other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

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

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

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

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

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

Weather and water update 2nd September 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEATHER

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and will dry soon without new rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. Other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

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

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

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

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

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

Water and weather update 25th August 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEATHER

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and will dry soon without new rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. Other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing (upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough is dry. This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected until later in the year.

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

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

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

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

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

Water update 17th August 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEATHER

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and will dry soon without substantial monsoon rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. Other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing (well upslope from the trail into the campsite). Likely received substantial fresh input from storms in late July. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough was dry (but may temporarily fill with rainfall). This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected before the autumn.

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

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

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

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

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

Weather and water update 11th August 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEATHER

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and may dry very soon without substantial monsoon rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful emergency drinking source for dogs. Other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing (well upslope from the trail into the campsite). Likely received substantial fresh input from storms in late July. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough was dry (but may temporarily fill with rainfall). This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected before the autumn.

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

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

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

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

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

Water and weather update 3rd August 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEATHER

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Eastern slope

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

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

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

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

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and may dry in August without substantial monsoon rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful drinking source for dogs. Other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

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

WATER CONDITIONS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing (well upslope from the trail into the campsite). Likely received substantial fresh input from storms in late July. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough was dry (but may temporarily fill with rainfall). This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected before the autumn.

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

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

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

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

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.