Trail update 27th May 2020

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak every day so far in May, using many different routes, for example in the past week alternating between Seven Pines/Marion Mountain trails and the Devil’s Slide/Peak Trail routes.

Other than the few remaining patchy areas described in detail below, snow has gone from the trail system, and microspikes are no longer required. On warm days, caution is advised on soft snow melting away from rocks and logs, and over running water.

As indicated on their website, Mount San Jacinto State Park headquarters in Idyllwild is now open to issue day hiking permits. All camping in the State Park, including in wilderness, remains closed.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. Black Mountain Road is closed by Forest Service order until 31st May. Reopening has been delayed until 7th June at the earliest for grading work.

Fire lookouts at Tahquitz Peak and Black Mountain should be operational starting 31st May and 7th June, respectively. When manned the structures will be closed to all visitors due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Despite warm weather at mid elevations, in the first week of June hikers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing at the highest peaks, and possibly below freezing when considering windchill effects.

WEATHER This week will be dominated by hot summer temperatures, 10-20 degrees above seasonal. Temperatures in the first week of June are forecast to drop, although remaining above seasonal most days. There is no precipitation in the forecast. The May storms of recent years failed us in 2020.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Wednesday 27th May 2020, at 0755 the air temperature was 52.0°F (11°C), with a windchill of 49.9°F (10°C), 39% relative humidity, and a light SE wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 12.3 mph.

In stark contrast, just eight days ago at the Peak on Tuesday 19th May 2020, at 0815 the air temperature was 17.9°F (-8°C), with a windchill of -1.5°F (-19°C), 51% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 19.8 mph.

The warmest day of the year to date recorded at the Peak remains Thursday 7th May 2020, when at 0810 the air temperature was 53.1°F (12°C), with a “windchill” of 50.5°F (10°C), 17% relative humidity, and a very light due West wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Other than a few very limited high country areas detailed below, all trails are clear of snow. Many trails have new treefall hazards from this winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

The Peak Trail above Wellman Divide is clear of snow, except for patches for 0.1 mile around 10,000′, and tiny patches at San Jacinto Peak. The East Ridge Trail [updated 29th May] still has 20% drifted snow cover.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Little Round Valley. There is a new major double treefall hazard next to the Deer Springs crossing. Snow cover through Little Round Valley is 20%. Up to San Jacinto Peak snow cover is <5%. The trail is obvious, with excellent steps, through the handful of tiny snow patches.

Willow Creek Trail is clear of snow, but has 24 new tree hazards (13 on Forest Service land, 11 on State Park) between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide from this past winter, based on a full survey undertaken 13th May and repeated on 26th May. None are as large or as challenging to get around as in 2019.

Round Valley Trail is clear from Long Valley to Round Valley, but from the latter to Wellman Divide still has about 10% coverage of shallow snow patches. The High Trail has a few tiny snow drifts still across the trail, and one major treefall hazard.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, based on multiple May 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is anticipated to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

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. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since June 2019. Both trails are very indistinct and heavily overgrown with challenging whitethorn in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should exercise extremely cautious navigation. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is quite obvious for about a mile, becoming less distinct as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge).

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

WATER All major creeks and springs are currently flowing well, as are some ephemeral sources. Consequently their status is not being updated in detail at this time. Flow rates have dropped dramatically in May, some two months earlier than last year, and a dry late summer and autumn seem likely.

Looking south from San Jacinto Peak toward Jean Peak and Marion Mountain, 27th May 2020 (above), and for comparison on 27th May 2019 (below).

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