Snow and trail update 2nd June 2019

[UPDATE 5th June 2019: I have ascended San Jacinto Peak every day so far this month, by different routes each day. Various trail and snow conditions are updated by date in the text below, including the Tahquitz Peak area and PCT today.]

Early this morning I hiked briskly to San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain and upper Deer Springs trails. Yesterday I hiked San Jacinto Peak up the eastern side from Devil’s Slide Trail via Wellman Divide, descending the same way. Anne and Anabel joined me to Saddle Junction, but then they returned home the long way via the PCT southbound, Tahquitz Peak, and South Ridge Trail. The past week has also included hikes including much of the PCT locally, plus Tahquitz Peak and the Tahquitz area meadows.

I posted a video from early this morning at the Peak to YouTube. There had been a tiny snowfall right at San Jacinto Peak overnight, likely from a localised thunderstorm.

Detailed trail conditions are discussed below, and an update to the road access problems are described near the foot of this posting. The status of the rock slide at PCT Mile 172.5 (just north of Antsell Rock) is discussed in detail in a posting from 30th May. UPDATE 4th June 2019: a short section of trail around this rockslide will be officially closed by USFS in the next few days. I will update as soon as details are available.

I have also added the status of various water sources, mainly for the benefit of thru-hikers. Many additional ephemeral water sources are also available, and of course snow is still in parts of the high country for melting.

Snow depths are not updated in detail, as most areas now have no consistent depth to measure, and what little remains will melt dramatically this week. Only above about 10,400′ is snow cover largely continuous (80% coverage). Snow depth around San Jacinto Peak averages roughly 12″, and about the same in Little Round Valley, but it is increasingly patchy in both locations.

Melting is currently very rapid, with a continuing warming trend forecast. Currently microspikes can be useful (depending on your comfort level on soft snow) only for trails above about 9700′, likely for a few more days at the highest elevations, in particular for descending San Jacinto Peak (especially on the west side). Traction is also useful (but not essential) for some high country off-trail travel.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Fresh fire ring, and presumably the (ir)responsible party, by the trail in Little Round Valley early morning 2nd June 2019. No matter how fun they may be, nor how cold the temperature gets, fires are not permitted in the wilderness of the San Jacinto mountains.

WEATHER Temperatures will continue to climb to summer-like levels, with highs at or near 80°F by the middle of this week in Idyllwild, and near 50°F at San Jacinto Peak. We have been having unseasonal thunderstorm activity in recent days, and be prepared for this possibility in the afternoon or evening any day this week.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 2nd June 2019 at 0705, the air temperature was 34°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 22°F (-6°C), 86% relative humidity, and a chilly NNE breeze at 9 mph gusting to 17 mph.

At the Peak on 1st June 2019 at 0830, the air temperature was 35°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 26°F (-3°C), 75% relative humidity, and a cool SE breeze at 8 mph gusting to 13 mph.

Finally, at the Peak on 27th May 2019 at 0855 the air temperature was 25°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.5°F (-14°C), 52% relative humidity, and a very sharp WNW wind at 12 mph gusting to 28.6 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Most trails below about 9600′ are largely clear of snow, although it persists in some stubborn areas, more so on the western (Deer Springs Trail) side. Trail conditions will continue to change rapidly with more melting. Details for specific routes are below.

Waterproof footwear remains useful on approach trails (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails. It is also invaluable in the soft melting snow in many areas, especially after mid-morning.

Major trails have all been well traveled in the past week, so they have obvious, consolidated tracks.

Pacific Crest Trail [UPDATED 5th June 2019] The PCT is almost clear of snow through the San Jacinto mountains. Snow cover is very thin and patchy in a few areas, e.g., around Miles 181.5, 185, and 189. Microspikes are no longer required to hike the PCT through the San Jacinto mountains. However they may prove useful to those hikers unfamiliar with snow travel, e.g. in persistent patches on the north side of Fuller Ridge around Mile 189).

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow up to beyond the junction with the Marion Mountain Trail (about 8800′). There are only limited snow patches from that elevation to well above the Fuller Ridge Trail turning at about 9500′. Snow is more continuous (60% cover) through Little Round Valley and then about 40% up to 10,500′ just below San Jacinto Peak. Some of the campsites in LRV are now largely snow-free.

Tahquitz Peak trail from the PCT/ Chinquapin Flat [UPDATED 5th June] is almost completely clear of snow (enough to pass easily without microspikes). There are a couple of minor snow patches, but these have good steps in the soft snow.

East Ridge Trail from near Miller Peak to San Jacinto Peak remains 90% snow-covered, with some drifted areas still 2-3 feet deep. It remains firm enough to go straight up with minimal postholing, at least in the mornings.

Round Valley trail to Wellman Divide has about 50% snow cover. In places the tracks do not match the trail and some care routefinding is required.

Devil’s Slide, Willow Creek, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Ernie Maxwell, High, Long Valley, and Skyline trails are all clear of snow.

Note that as of 5th June, Willow Creek Trail has 27 trees down on the trail between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide, making it slow going and a little hazardous in places. The relevant agencies have been notified.

South Ridge Road is clear and has been graded, but it requires 4WD very near the top due to mud. South Ridge Trail is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak, with just a few tiny patches nearer the Peak. Microspikes not required, even for descending.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing well. Flow rate on 4th June was 2.1 gpm, which is as strong as it gets. [A new spigot was added on 13th June to control water flow. Thanks to Florian Boyd for this information.]

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

Willow Creek where it crosses its eponymous trail, 4th June 2019.

Tahquitz Valley is flowing.

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

Skunk Cabbage Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing well.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail is flowing well.

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing the strongest I have seen in at least six years.

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing very strongly. [PCT hikers note: many PCT guides and apps confuse the Deer Springs crossing with the North Fork of the San Jacinto River. The latter is another 0.5 miles further north on the Fuller Ridge Trail, see above.]

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing well.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Jolley, Middle, and Powderbox springs are all flowing well, as are several unnamed ephemeral creeks, but flow rates have dropped in recent days.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow very well, as do several other minor creeks that cross the trail.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Highway 74 There is a water cache where the PCT crosses Highway 74, on the north side of the highway. This appears to be reliably maintained (by local trail angel Grumpy), but never assume water caches will definitely be there.

Pool 3.5 miles north of Highway 74 is now dry.

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing fairly well, but the access trail off the PCT is somewhat unclear. Easier to get water from Spitler Creek described below.

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 already drying up and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing well). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. The remaining closed section may not reopen until late summer at best. Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet is currently open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000). It is not now expected to reopen without restrictions until late July at the earliest.

Trail sign at Wellman Divide today 1st June 2019 (above) and for comparison on 22nd March 2019 (below).

4 thoughts on “Snow and trail update 2nd June 2019

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