Following the moderate snow storm on 7th-8th November, a dramatic swing to temperatures far above seasonal for much of the past two weeks has resulted in rapid and extensive melting at all elevations. Most trails below 8000′ are already largely clear, and at higher elevations snow is very patchy, especially on sun-exposed slopes. Where icy snow remains, most major trails have now been well traveled and have reliable, compacted tracks to follow. No new snow depth data are given here, as almost all measurements are 1-2″ at most. I have continued to average at least three ascents into the San Jacinto high country every week, hiking mid-elevation trails on the intervening days.
Spikes remain recommended for parts of all trails above about 8000′ elevation for at least the next week or so as consolidated snow undergoes freeze-thaw cycles, creating localized icy conditions. Even when not required for ascending, spikes are invariably useful for descending trails where the snow is compacted and icy.
Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for temperatures recorded at San Jacinto Peak recently).
All wilderness and dispersed camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, as does all stove use. For further information contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.
Day hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are both open. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are nevertheless required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the self-serve kiosk outside the ranger station. Seasonal developed campgrounds – Stone Creek, Marion Mountain, and Fern Basin – closed on 10th November for the winter.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has reopened at reduced capacity, limited days, and shortened hours. See their website for details.
WEATHER Following temperatures well above seasonal in recent days, the next couple of days will be typically cool for November, before again warming up after Saturday 28th. Temperatures in the high country will remain above average (i.e. near or above freezing) into early December, so steady snowmelt will continue. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. The latest video discussion from NWS San Diego reviews the summer (spoiler alert: warmest ever), and includes medium term (December) and longer term (into February) weather projections (spoiler alert: warm and dry).
At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 25th November 2020 at 0825 the air temperature was 29.1°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.6°F (-10°C), 61% relative humidity, and a fresh due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 17.8 mph.
At the Peak on Monday 23rd November 2020 at 0825 the air temperature was 28.2°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 11.3°F (-12°C), 54% relative humidity, and a sharp due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 23.1 mph.
At the Peak on Friday 20th November 2020 at 0815 the air temperature was 43.3°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 39.1°F (4°C), 51% relative humidity, and a light due West breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 6.2 mph.
Trails below about 8000′ are now almost completely snow-free, with most areas at higher elevations also clearing very rapidly. Snow on trails largely persists in traditional areas that are colder and/or less sun-exposed, such as the north face of Tahquitz Peak, in Little Round Valley, Deer Springs Trail between Marion Mountain and Fuller Ridge trails, either side of Annie’s Junction, around 10,000′ on the Peak Trail, between Round Valley and Wellman Divide, and around the summit of San Jacinto Peak.
Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has a well-defined track to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes remain recommended.
Devil’s Slide Trail is basically clear of snow. Most hikers will not need spikes on the handful of tiny icy snow patches that remain near Saddle Junction. The major new treefall hazard just past the second switchback was removed on Friday 20th November.
South Ridge Trail is almost completely clear and spikes are no longer required all the way to Tahquitz Peak.
Deer Springs Trail is basically clear of snow up to and past Strawberry Junction to about 8600′, just before the Marion Mountain Trail junction (no spikes required). Snow cover is about 70% from there to the Fuller Ridge Trail junction. Thereafter icy snow cover averages 20% depending on exposure, but it is 90% in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley the icy snow cover is about 20%. most hikers will find spikes are useful, depending upon your comfort level on ice and compacted snow, especially for descending in some sections.
Marion Mountain Trail is almost completely clear of icy snow, however a few tricky patches remain, especially near the PCT junction. Spikes can be useful in patches, especially for descending.
Ernie Maxwell Trail is completely clear of snow.
Removal of the dozen or so fallen tree hazards on Spitler Peak Trail was completed earlier this month.
Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic since the last snowfall, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018, initially due to snowfall, then the road closure from February 2019. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.
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