In anticipation of the first wave of February northbound (nobo) PCT hikers, I surveyed the PCT from near Tahquitz Peak north through Fuller Ridge, plus all the main access trails to the high country, and San Jacinto Peak daily from 5-9 Feb.
Overview With near-record-low snowfall so far this winter, many trails are largely clear of snow (in stark contrast to this time in 2017). Nevertheless, in some places hikers may find microspikes useful for traversing areas of compacted snow. This is especially true when descending slopes. The main problem this season may prove to be water. Although currently not a problem, some springs are already drying up, and even with precipitation forecast next week, other springs will dry during the course of the nobo PCT season
Pacific Crest Trail The PCT is largely clear of snow throughout the San Jacinto Mountains. There are some easily traversed extended areas of compacted snow and ice either side of Annie’s Junction (the State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction, where the PCT turns sharply west to Strawberry Cienega), and then again along the 0.5 mile section just south of the Fuller Ridge Trail junction. Fuller Ridge Trail is largely clear. Where there are occasional small remnants of snow there are obvious tracks to follow with well-dug steps. Small snow patches are most extensive between 3.1-4.7 miles along Fuller Ridge (measured from the south end of the trail), but the trail is easy to follow and the snow is melting quickly. Note that there is excellent flowing water (under the ice) at the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (0.48 miles north from the S end of Fuller Ridge Trail)
San Jacinto Peak trails The trail north from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak is mostly clear of snow. The only extended area of snow patches is north of Wellman’s Divide, between 9900’-10100’, but the trail is obvious. The Deer Springs Trail above the Fuller Ridge Trail has large ice/compacted snow patches, especially >9300′. Spikes are not required for ascending, but can be useful for descending for those unfamiliar with snow/ice travel. In Little Round Valley there continues to be about 90% snow cover under the trees, but the trail is obvious.
At San Jacinto Peak itself, there remains only 60% snow cover above 10,500’. The East Ridge (Ranger) Trail remains fully snow covered, with some drifts 6-10″ deep, but the trail is obvious (microspikes recommended for descending at least).
Deer Springs Trail Clear to Strawberry Junction (see above for details beyond Fuller Ridge).
PCT south from Saddle Junction to Mountain Fire closure Largely clear, small snow patches near Chinquapin Flat.
South Ridge Trail Clear from South Ridge Road trailhead to Tahquitz Peak, then passable with care to PCT (Chinquapin Flat). Between Tahquitz Peak and Chinquapin Flat there is continuous coverage of compacted snow that requires some care to traverse (microspikes are useful but not essential when heading north from Tahquitz Peak).
Devils Slide Trail Clear, a few tiny ice patches near Saddle Junction
Marion Mountain Trail Clear to State Park boundary. Some small ice patches in State Park section to Deer Springs Trail/PCT, but spikes not required.