Water and weather update 3rd August 2022

Idyllwild experienced its best summer monsoonal rains in about five years in recent days, totaling 2.54 inches across three days (measured at 5550 ft elevation), which has temporarily alleviated some of the extreme fire risk. On Saturday 30th July from 1220-1320 an intense storm cell produced 0.77 inch rain, on Sunday 31st another one hour storm between 1030-1130 produced an impressive 1.08 inches of rain, and finally on Monday 1st August 0.69 inch fell between 1230-1400.

The thunderstorms were generally not forming until moist air coming from the east had passed to the west over the mountain range, so the eastern slope was generally missed by the intense storm cells, especially on 30th-31st July. On a full survey of the high country on Monday 1st August, southern and eastern slope routes such as Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails were damp but with little evidence of significant rainfall and widespread runoff. For example flow rates at Middle Spring on Devil’s Slide Trail and the springs at Wellman’s Cienega were the same as the previous week (i.e. very poor). No rain was reported at Long Valley on 30th and 31st, but it did rain there on 1st August.

The western slope trails showed more evidence of superficial runoff, and flow had improved slightly in the creek in Little Round Valley. However flow rate had not significantly changed in the North Fork of the San Jacinto River, and Deer Springs crossing remains dry. Elsewhere in the mountains rainfall was extremely localized, with multiple intense cells over Garner Valley and the Desert Divide on Saturday 30th, and an extremely intense storm cell was stationary over the northern Santa Rosa mountains for about two hours on Sunday 31st which likely produced several inches of rain.

Water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report. Unfortunately with thunderstorm effects being so localized (as described above), rapid runoff, and an extremely dry forest, the effects of monsoonal rains can be surprisingly brief. Recent hikes have included thorough surveys of water resources and trails around the Tahquitz area meadows, Willow Creek Trail and Round Valley, and the major trail systems on both the western and eastern slopes of the San Jacinto high country. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Hikers should be prepared for continuing hot and humid weather, with overnight “low” temperatures forecast to remain well above seasonal into mid August, and daytime highs generally near seasonal averages. Current humidity is far above normal at all elevations. Plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should of course be prepared for the possibility of rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon thunderstorms, typically in the afternoon, continue to be forecast for at least the next two weeks, but are currently most likely on 7th-12th August. Thunderstorms with lightning, relatively brief but intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

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

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on the trail system up to at least 8900 ft elevation. As usual the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail and around Tahquitz Peak seem to be particular hotspots, but rattlesnakes are possible anywhere up to at least 9300 ft. (Of course sightings are currently much less frequent during monsoonal weather.) Readers interested in the uniqueness and challenges of rattlesnakes in the San Jacinto high country may find this article that I wrote two years ago informative.

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, up to three Black Bears have been in the San Jacinto mountains since 2017. On Devil’s Slide Trail at first light on 18th July 2022 we were very fortunate to see the same large (>250lb) dark brown individual that I had seen in September 2021 (one short, poor quality video from the earlier observation is available here). This was clearly a different individual, based on colour pattern and size, from the “blond” one I saw on Devil’s Slide Trail in August 2020 and had previously filmed at home in Idyllwild in 2018 (available here).

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Note however the fire restrictions mentioned above. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) reopened on 11th July. However Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues. May Valley Road remains closed to vehicles due to “hazard trees” but the necessary tree work is expected to be completed in August.


The persistent heatwave that dominated much of July has eased somewhat with daytime highs generally forecast to be near seasonal for the first half of August, with much higher than normal humidity at times making it feel cooler. Overnight lows will nevertheless continue to average 5-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations for the foreseeable future. Monsoonal storms are forecast almost every day throughout the first half of August, with the highest probability currently on 6th-11th August.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 1st August 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 52.1°F (11°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 47.4°F (8°C), 82% relative humidity, and a light SE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.0 mph.


The trail system throughout the San Jacinto mountains cleared of snow in late April.

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 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. In my most recent survey I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175, plus about six more on PCT Miles 175-177. At least a third of the former are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

Three new trees that came down in late 2021 on Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail are readily passable for hikers (but not for stock).

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 currently a slow, messy hike. About 39 trees (July 2022 survey) are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary. Some additional downed trees may remain on the State Park section, but a few others have been recently cut here.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (multiple 2022 surveys) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by relatively 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 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 more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022 (with a brief reopening October-December 2021). Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022 however. 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 the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Despite this very considerable effort, Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail and is nothing like the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have significant experience of hiking this trail.

This treefall hazard came down on Marion Mountain Trail (about 1.7 miles up) in the past few days and is relatively tricky to hike around safely. Photo 1st August 2022.


The Round Valley pipe is flowing (photo below) but recent history suggests it may not persist all summer without significant monsoonal storm input. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

Both the northern (photos below) and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing extremely weakly for the time of year. They did not receive additional input from the recent localized thunderstorms, and the well-known north springs will dry up in the next couple of months without further precipitation. This spring dried for the first time in recorded history in October 2015, then again in September 2016.

The Wellman’s Cienega springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is currently flowing gently but reliably where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Valley at a flow rate of >2.0L/min (photo below). It is flowing weakly further upstream at its source, known colloquially as Grethe Spring, where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177 (photo below). It is clear that this area received some fresh monsoonal rain input recently, but this dissipated within hours. Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek dried up in late June where it crosses under the trail through Skunk Cabbage Meadow.


Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, have been dry since May.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail (photo below) and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley received moderate new precipitation from thunderstorms at the end of July. Having been nearly dry in mid June, the creek just about continues to flow through the lower half of the valley (roughly 400 ft), forming some reasonable pools in the lower half. The same creek continues to flow gently where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing gently and is barely adequate for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) completely dried up in late May where it crosses the trail and did not receive any additional water from rains in July.

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) has been dry since June.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling and may dry in August without substantial monsoon rain input. A tiny pool remains as a useful drinking source for dogs. Other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, even when Fern Valley Water District is diverting flow into the pipe system small fresh pools remain among the rocks just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).


Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing (well upslope from the trail into the campsite). Likely received substantial fresh input from storms in late July. Sadly the inflow pipe to the trough – formerly the most accessible water source – was vandalized in May 2022 and consequently the trough was dry (but may temporarily fill with rainfall). This damage has been reported to the Forest Service, but no repair is expected before the autumn.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly, but the spring box remains full (photo in earlier Report). This spring has functionally dried up in recent years and should not be relied upon by late summer.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.90 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing steadily at both the uppermost and lowest crossings).

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is dry, nearly two months earlier than last year.

On Friday 29th July I worked to clear a huge quantity of trash from Forest Service land on South Ridge Road with the help of fellow volunteer Bill Rhoads. The estimated 300lbs of refuse we extracted filled the bed of my full sized truck. This included the remains of two abandoned camps and an informal glass bottle shooting range.

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 for your support.

Above and below, Tahquitz Creek on 1st August 2022. Above, flowing steadily at the lower end of Little Tahquitz Valley, and below, flowing weakly near its source where it crosses the PCT at about Mile 177. In this lower image it is possible to see from the damp soil how the water level rose in recent rains but has already receded.
The pipe in Round Valley (9100 ft) on 23rd July 2022. Water continues to flow very gently at roughly 0.5L/min, but this water source may dry by September without additional rainfall.
The well-known northern springs at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft, above and below) are both reduced to minimal flow, photographed 1st August 2022, and sadly received minimal fresh input from recent rains. The less commonly used spring a few yards to the south (lower photo) is flowing slightly better. For now, sufficient surface flow just remains for drinking and slow filtering.
Small pools in the creek at the lower end of Little Round Valley, 1st August 2022. Note the fresh debris washed down by recent thunderstorms.
The North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Deer Springs Trail at about 9400 ft elevation, 1st August 2022. The flow rate here has roughly halved in the past six weeks, and this catchment did not receive significant new input from recent rains.

3 thoughts on “Water and weather update 3rd August 2022

  1. John, This guy was on Devils Slide a couple of weeks ago. Just thought I’d share with you.Daryl 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone


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