Trail and water update 13th August 2019

Three ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past five days have covered most of the major trails on the east and west sides of the mountain. The Tahquitz area meadows were surveyed last week.

The status of water sources, most of which have been checked in recent days, is updated below, and the status of road closures is also described at the foot of this posting.

As reported last month, closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place through this year.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoonal conditions, most often in the afternoons, are a slim possibility for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not otherwise forecast.

WEATHER Typical summer weather at present. Slightly cooler overnight temperatures recently have made for delightful early morning hiking. There is no precipitation in the forecast (but see comments above regarding monsoonal storms). Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest morning of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Tuesday 13th August 2019 at 0805, the air temperature was 53.6°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.4°F (10°C), 33% relative humidity, and a pleasant SE wind at 5 mph gusting to 10.8 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 10th August 2019 at 0810, the air temperature was 48.1°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.2°F (5°C), 16% relative humidity, and a fresh SSW breeze at 10 mph gusting to 14.7 mph.


All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, have been free of snow since the end of June.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

With the closure of Dark Canyon Road, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course, 3.5 miles each way).

Willow Creek Trail has had most obstructing trees removed this summer, and there are fewer than five trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide (2-3 on USFS land and one on State Park). This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in early June. However at least one of the remaining trees can be challenging to hike around (or over, depending on one’s abilities).

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot is flowing well.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing well, but flow rates dropped dramatically last month. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley continues to flow well where it crosses the meadow trail.

Creek through Tahquitz Valley, 7th August 2019.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing strongly 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).

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 7th August 2019.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is flowing gently, but is very overgrown with thick vegetation, and is too shallow for easy filtering. It is much more accessible where it crosses the Caramba Trail.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing very well where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and even better where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.0).

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing at its strongest in at least six years, but the flow rate continues to decline steadily.

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) is flowing very well.

Switchback Spring (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is now flowing only gently, but there is very little depth in which to filter water, and it is heavily overgrown.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega is flowing gently. However the tiny pool between the rocks, good for filtering, was filled with sediment over the winter.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing very weakly now. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, dried up many weeks ago.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well just upstream of the trail. Intermittent diversion by Fern Valley Water District results in the flow across the actual trail being inconsistent at present. This creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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 gently. The trail off the PCT to this spring was greatly improved earlier this summer.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending this trail from the PCT 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 to 1.3 miles down, are Spitler Creek, which continues to flow well.

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 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 2019 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. This will not reopen until well into 2020, possibly with a pilot car by spring, but it may be next summer before it fully reopens. The status of Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet remains unchanged, namely reopening full time in September but with flagmen and partial single lane traffic. Currently this road is open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends and holidays. It is unclear when it will completely reopen to unhindered access.

The before and after of one of three fire rings removed from Little Round Valley on 5th August 2019. A gentle reminder that no fires are ever permitted in the San Jacinto wilderness.

3 thoughts on “Trail and water update 13th August 2019

  1. Thank you for removing fire rings! The idea that camping means having a fire is deeply embedded in our culture, including advertisements for camping equipment, but it needs to be challenged and changed.


    1. “If you think you can’t camp without a fire, try camping without a forest” (because eventually that is the inevitable consequence of having open fires in dry western wilderness areas).


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