[UPDATED 11th December: the first significant snow storm of the winter is coming (finally!) to the San Jacinto mountains, with rain and snow all day Tuesday 14th. At mid elevations heavy rain (>1in) most of the day will turn to snow on Tuesday evening, with a few inches likely in Idyllwild. Snow level will eventually drop overnight, with a dusting possible as low as 3500ft. The high country is expecting 1-2 feet of snow, heaviest on Tuesday afternoon. Winds will be dangerously strong especially over the peaks and ridges, leading to severe drifting.]
For the first time since late October we had a minor storm system pass through the San Jacinto mountains on Thursday 9th December. It started drizzling in Idyllwild just before sunrise, and by dusk totaled 0.85in of rain (at 5550ft elevation). Just after dark the precipitation briefly turned to snow and dusted in town (<0.25in). The measurable settled snow level was at about 6200ft, with a dusting of 0.5in snow at Devil’s Slide trailhead (6520ft).
The high country was periodically above the cloud in the morning, with occasional drizzle, which turned to light snow at about 1230. Barely one inch of snow fell in Long Valley (8600ft). I was not able to check the high peaks in the afternoon, but estimate 2-3in snow accumulated at most.
Spikes are recommended if you plan on hiking above about 7000ft elevation in the next few days. All trails above about 6000ft currently have at least some significant sections of snow and ice. Although warming temperatures this weekend will melt some ice and snow from lower and/or sun-exposed parts of the trail system, higher and shaded sections of trail will remain challenging. Forecast overnight temperatures will result in icy freeze/thaw conditions for the foreseeable future, and considerable additional fresh snow is expected early next week. Snowshoes are not currently required anywhere (although that will likely change after Tuesday 14th).
Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects.
For discussion of specific trail condition information (prior to this minor snowfall), please see the previous Report linked here.
Although there have been minor improvements in flow immediately after storms, water conditions in the high country remain poor, with many springs and creeks having dried this summer. Temperatures is the high country are now cold enough, especially overnight, that some of the few remaining water sources are completely frozen. The most recent update of water conditions is available in an earlier Report linked here.
The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information.
Temperatures will be at (or occasionally below) seasonal for December. Consequently almost all areas above about 5000ft will refreeze overnight. The first significant storm system of the winter is expected all day on Tuesday 14th December, with a mix of rain turning to snow at Idyllwild elevation (5000-6000ft), and moderate snowfall in the high country. Current forecast models suggest 3-5 inches of snow (on top of significant rainfall) in Idyllwild, and at least 15 inches of snow above 10,000ft elevation. Snow level may fall as low as 3500ft elevation by early morning on Wednesday 15th.
The subsequent ten days of December remain unsettled with the possibility of further precipitation. There is the tentative forecast of another “atmospheric river” event around 21st-23rd. The meteorological situation for our region in December is detailed in the latest NWS San Diego video.
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