Trail update 25th May 2022

The Trail Report is holding a small fundraising sale on the morning of Saturday 28th May, very kindly hosted by Idyllwild Heating and Cooling on North Circle Drive in Idyllwild (near Cafe Aroma). There will be a variety of good condition hiking, camping, and outdoor gear. Also “free” (with your modest donation!) will be some of Anne’s delicious fresh baked treats, plus Pacific Crest Trail stickers, trail markers, and map posters. Thanks for your support!

The trail system has been clear of snow for a few weeks and spikes have not been required on the trails since April. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed large segments of the PCT, its side trails, and a few Forest roads. Trails surveyed in recent days have included Deer Springs, Fuller Ridge, Seven Pines, Marion Mountain, Spitler Peak, and South Ridge, among others.

Due to the exceptionally dry state of the mountain already, there is a brief summary of water conditions where known at the foot of this Report. A short video report (available here) was issued on 10th May giving a visual overview of water conditions in the high country. Air quality and visibility down in the lowlands, especially the Coachella Valley, has been poor all year, likely due to the lack of rainfall combined with windier than average conditions.

Full fire restrictions begin on Thursday 26th May on Forest Service lands, as described here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at all campgrounds and yellow post sites) will then be prohibited for the remainder of the year.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have already been seen on the trail system up to at least 7000 ft elevation. As usual, the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail seems to be a particular hotspot (see photos below).

South Ridge Road was partially graded in mid April, smoothing the worst sections. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) remains in winter closure.

Black Mountain Road (4S01) reopened on 11th May.

Forest Service campgrounds seasonally closed for the winter will reopen on Thursday 26th May (Boulder Basin, Marion Mountain, Fern Basin). Note the full fire restrictions described above.

The State Park Stone Creek Campground reopened for the season on 6th May. The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic), reopened on Saturday 21st May 2022.

WEATHER

Temperatures are generally forecast to remain well above seasonal for the remainder of May, though briefly pleasantly cooler on 28th-30th. Overnight low temperatures in particular may average 10-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations. There is no precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 23rd May 2022 at 0725 the air temperature was 51.0°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 43.7°F (6°C), 31% relative humidity, and a pleasantly cool NNE wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.8 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 18th May 2022 at 0740 the air temperature was 45.1°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 33.8°F (1°C), 37% relative humidity, and a pleasantly cool NE wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 19.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All major trails are clear of snow, including for example the notoriously hazardous 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 to Tahquitz Peak. The PCT is now clear of snow throughout the San Jacinto mountains.

Skyline Trail reopened on 10th May having been closed from the State Park boundary (5800 ft) up to Grubb’s Notch since 1st February.

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With storms this season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated since. In my most recent survey I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

The trail route on the East Ridge of San Jacinto Peak still has 20% snow cover but spikes are not required. The Wellman and Peak trails are clear of snow.

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is functionally clear of snow. A few tiny patches remain on the traverse near the North Fork of the San Jacinto River around 9400 ft elevation. Patchy snow cover is now <10% in Little Round Valley. Icy snow patches cover <5% of the trail from Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak. (Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.)

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

Willow Creek Trail is clear of snow. However there are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

Fuller Ridge Trail is clear of snow. There are 14 treefall hazards (May 2022 survey) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by agile hikers. Eleven of these are in the 1.5 mile section closest to Fuller Ridge Campground (approx PCT Miles 189-190.5).

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). 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, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is functionally clear of snow, a few tiny patches remain on the uppermost 0.5 mile. This trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 57 downed trees have been removed. Almost all of the lower 3.0 miles has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length. While downed trees have now been removed from the upper 0.7 mile of trail, thorough clearing and trimming has not been finished, the route remains somewhat obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required for those who do not have experience of hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Deer Springs Trail at about 9400 ft elevation, 18th May 2022. One of the most reliable and, even in the past challenging decade, genuinely perennial water sources in the San Jacinto mountains.

WATER CONDITIONS

On Monday 23rd May, the flow rate at Wellman’s Cienega had dropped by a remarkable 50% since the previous week. Although I expect sufficient water to continue to trickle here for another couple of months at least, this gives an idea of the poor state of water resources on the mountain this year, and the rate at which they can change.

This is not a comprehensive review of the status of all mountain water sources. In the high country there are still patches of snow available for melting, and several less well-known minor springs are flowing. Sadly however – given that it’s only May – I have already been getting many questions regarding water availability on the mountain. I have checked all of these water sources personally in recent days.

This video gives an overview of major water sources in the high country as of 10th May.

Water sources currently flowing include: Wellman’s Cienega, Round Valley faucet, Little Round Valley Creek (at west end of valley, very weak), North Fork of the San Jacinto River (both where it crosses Deer Springs Trail and on Fuller Ridge Trail at PCT Mile 186), Deer Springs (PCT Mile 185.4, very weak flow), Willow Creek crossing on Willow Creek Trail, Tahquitz Creek (PCT Mile 177 and also Little Tahquitz Meadow), Skunk Cabbage Meadow creek, Strawberry Cienega (weak), Apache Spring (weak), Cedar Spring, Live Oak Spring, Antsell Rock Creek (at the Spitler Peak trailhead), Spitler Creek (on Spitler Peak Trail).

Water sources known to be dry: Tahquitz Valley pipe, Penrod Canyon (approx. PCT Mile 154).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on your small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you so much for your support.

Juvenile Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus helleri), Devil’s Slide Trail at about 6700 ft elevation, late morning on 23rd May 2022. Only 10 inches (25 cm) long, this tiny individual was surprisingly hard to see in the pale grey sand of the trail. Although adults are predominantly blackish, juveniles are mainly off-white with black markings. Eventually (below) the snake adopted a defensive posture, at which point we left it in peace.
Annie’s Junction (approx. PCT Mile 180.8) on 23rd May 2022 (above). Following an historically “average” or “normal” winter, the same location might look like the photo below, taken on the same date exactly four years earlier, 23rd May 2019.

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