Minor snow storm update 23rd February 2020

[UPDATE 24th February: our hike this morning to San Jacinto Peak showed that melting has been even faster than expected. Most trail conditions already more closely resemble the Report from 17th Feb available below. Note that due to compaction by hiker traffic over the weekend Devil’s Slide Trail had tricky ice in patches, especially early this morning.]

Just a brief update on the twelfth storm of this winter (the fifth of 2020) which passed over the San Jacinto mountains yesterday, 22nd February. Melting is happening so fast that conditions will largely revert to similar to the previous report (linked here) within a couple of days, so I will not go in to too much detail.

A short video from San Jacinto Peak this morning discusses current and future conditions.

Snowfall was 2-4″ in the high country (depending on location more than elevation), and just over an inch at Idyllwild, where we also had a mix of rain (0.2″) and hail (0.25″). Unlike the storm 12 days earlier, the snow was very wet, with large flakes, and there was much less wind associated with the storm, so drifting was minimal.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Most major trails have already been traveled and melting is so rapid already today that few trails are obscured by snowfall. Nevertheless cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

I ascended and descended San  Jacinto Peak from Humber Park in just boots this morning, as the footing in 2-4″ of fresh snow was reasonable. Although large sections of trail, especially below 9000′, are already wet and slushy, these are not expected to refreeze overnight this week. Consequently ice formation should be limited and the need for additional traction minimal. Hiking poles are currently more useful than spikes.

Microspikes may be useful, but are not required, above about 7500′ elevation, especially on the snow overlying compacted icy trails. Exposed trails with southerly aspects (e.g., South Ridge, PCT north of Saddle Junction, lower Deer Springs) are melting very rapidly up to 8600′. Snowshoes may be of limited use off-trail above about 9500′ elevation.

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures this week, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchil effects (see below for weather recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 5th February.

North face of Tahquitz Rock at dusk on 22nd February 2020.

WEATHER Temperatures will be well above seasonal for the next week, and very rapid snow melt is expected, especially on sun-exposed slopes. A potentially significant snow storm is currently forecast for 1st-2nd March. The remainder of the spring (March to May) is otherwise expected to be warmer and drier than average, as discussed in the latest NWS San Diego video.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Sunday 23rd February 2020, at 0910 the air temperature was 24.8°F (-4°C), with a windchill of 9.8°F (-12°C), 82% relative humidity, and a moderate NNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 15.6 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 21st February 2020 at 0825 the air temperature was 30.8°F (-1°C), with a windchill of 15.4°F (-9°C), 55% relative humidity, and a sharp SSE wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 22.2 mph.


The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes are not required, but may be useful (especially cold early mornings) on the PCT for increasingly patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 158 and 192, depending upon your comfort level on fresh powder and icy snow.

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


All trails above about 6500′ are snow-covered. However melting is rapid today, and will be even faster over the next few days, so conditions will ameliorate very quickly.

Reliable tracks are currently in place for Devil’s Slide Trail, Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, from the Tram through to Wellman Divide, Deer Springs Trail to at least Strawberry Junction, and Marion Mountain Trail to Deer Springs Trail and onward to San Jacinto Peak.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a good track to follow, and microspikes are useful but not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely clear of snow. A few patches remain, mainly near Humber Park. No spikes required.

South Ridge Trail is rapidly clearing to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with some remnant snow patches. Snow cover is becoming fairly patchy (<50%) higher up, and the soft thin snow is easily hiked. Microspikes are not required.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is clearing surprisingly quickly, snow drifts are softening, and crampons are no longer required (but some hikers may prefer them). Microspikes are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). In the morning, overnight wind conditions and the freeze-thaw cycle may well have covered the existing steps through the angled icy snow for 0.1-0.2 mile.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows, with snow accumulation from this latest storm given first, followed by current total average depth in parentheses. Please note that averages are given; drifts are much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 3″ (17″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 2″ (4″)(already largely melted)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 4″ (13″)

Long Valley (8600′): 2″ (3″)(already largely melted)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 3″ (4″)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 2″ (2″) (already largely melted)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 1.2″ (completely melted by this afternoon)

Wellman Divide early this morning 23rd February 2020 (above), and for comparison on Friday 21st February 2020 (below).

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