Trail update 16th November 2022

UPDATE 17th November 2022: as predicted, and even as melting proceeds steadily, trails are getting increasing icy due to daily freeze/thaw cycles, and spikes are recommended throughout the trail system above about 7000 ft. On my hike to San Jacinto Peak this morning, again I did not need spikes to ascend, but they were invaluable for descending all the way down to upper Devil’s Slide Trail. Starting in late morning the ice and icy snow is getting very slick due to a thin layer of meltwater on the surface, especially in sun-exposed areas. Overall, melting is proceeding faster than expected, especially with warmer than forecast temperatures, but this weekend trails will be very icy.


Conditions immediately following the second Pacific storm, and the first significant snowfall, of winter 2022/23 that impacted the San Jacinto mountains on 8th-9th November were summarized in the previous Report.

On Monday 14th we ascended San Jacinto Peak via the east side (Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails) and descended the west side via Deer Springs Trail. This facilitated survey of the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183.5) plus several of its side trails. In the days since the storm, we have also surveyed trails around Tahquitz Peak, South Ridge, Spitler Peak, and Deer Springs, among others.

On 14th I barebooted (i.e. no traction device) to the Peak on a generally well-traveled and compacted track through light icy snow. The cold icy early morning snow had the perfect bite for good boots with excellent soles. The rocks around the summit were very slick with thick ice, and I put spikes on there and for the descent through Little Round Valley. I ultimately kept my Kahtoola microspikes on until just past the top of Marion Mountain Trail, but could have removed them somewhat sooner.

Although excellent tracks are now in place for almost all major trails (details below), cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Details of snow depths measured at various locations on the trail system are given at the foot of this posting. Note however that snow depth is rarely indicative of the challenge (or otherwise) of a given trail.

Spikes are currently recommended throughout the trail system above about 7500 ft, potentially lower in places. While they are not strictly required, depending upon your expertise level hiking on shallow variable icy snow, mixed with slush and ice patches (itself depending on time of day and sun exposure), spikes will continue become more increasingly useful over the next few days as established trails undergo freeze-thaw cycles and become further consolidated by hiker traffic. As I described above, spikes tend to be much more valuable for descending trails rather than ascending.

Snowshoes are no longer required anywhere on the established trail system, which is now too compacted for snowshoes. However they will remain valuable for off-trail travel at elevations above about 9500 ft for the foreseeable future.

Note that temperatures fluctuating either side of freezing are forecast for mid to upper elevations (at least >6000 ft) for the foreseeable future. Melting of snow on sun-exposed slopes and freeze-thaw cycles will combine to change trail conditions and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain. The advice above should be used with this in mind, and if in any doubt carry the necessary traction devices that you will be most comfortable using.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and generally well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

With such dramatic rainfall throughout the mountain range last week, and with snow now available for melting in the high country, I do not expect to be reporting on water conditions until next year. This is a genuine relief after such a long, hot, and largely dry last 6-7 months.

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open and the parking area has been largely plowed.

Black Mountain Road closed on 7th November to vehicle traffic at the gate 1.7 miles up from Highway 243 (see Forest Service website regarding this closure here). This is expected to be a seasonal closure until next year.

Dark Canyon Road (4S02), the access to Seven Pines Trail, and Santa Rosa Truck Trail (7S02) also closed to vehicle traffic for the season on 7th November 2022.

Forest Service campgrounds at Boulder Basin, Marion Mountain, and Fern Basin are now closed for the season.

Fire lookouts at Black Mountain and Tahquitz Peak were closed for the season ahead of schedule in anticipation of the snow storm last week.

Rime on dead oak trees (killed by the 2013 Mountain Fire) on upper Spitler Peak Trail, 10th November 2022. Spitler Peak itself is in the background.


A mixed assortment of weather is possible for the remainder of November. At mid elevations (e.g., Idyllwild) temperatures are forecast to warm for the next ten days, and to be above seasonal averages well into the second half of November. The same is largely true in the high country, however a short but severe Santa Ana wind event is forecast for 16th November. This may result in very strong winds and bitterly cold windchill temperatures at upper elevations. A minor heatwave is forecast for 23rd-27th November with temperatures at all elevations expected to warm to well above seasonal. There is the possibility that this will end abruptly with a minor storm on Monday 28th November, with 1-3 inches of snow possible above 10,000 ft.

Relatively mild temperatures combined with a weakening sun at this time of year means that snow melt may be slow at upper elevations, and conditions will be ideal for freeze/thaw cycles and hence icy trails everywhere above 6000 ft.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 14th November 2022 at 0910 the air temperature was 33.3°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.7°F (-6°C), 25% relative humidity, and a cool NW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 12.9 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 9th November 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 14.5°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -7.8°F (-22°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp due West wind sustained at 20 mph gusting to 30.5 mph.

Upper end of Little Round Valley (9800 ft) on 14th November 2022, with about 7-8 inches of snow from last week’s storm.


All trails above about 7500 ft are currently remain lightly (or above 9000 ft, moderately) snow-covered. However excellent well-traveled and compacted tracks are now in place for most of the major trails (details below).

Hikers should expect to encounter new treefall hazards due to the enormous weight of ice from freezing rain currently in the trees and the high winds associated with the storm. New treefall hazards on Devil’s Slide Trail, South Ridge Trail, and Spitler Peak Trail, have all been reported.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely clear of icy snow, although quite a few patches remain, especially close to Humber Park. Spikes are not required.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of icy snow to about 7400 ft (Middle Spring) although some extended patches remain below that. Above that elevation, icy snow is almost continuous to Saddle Junction. Spikes are not essential for ascending, but most hikers will find them useful at least for descending.

Immediately north of Saddle Junction, snow cover is initially somewhat patchy on the sun exposed slope (“Angel’s Glide”) but thereafter icy snow cover is continuous through the Wellman and Peak trails to San Jacinto Peak. However the route is largely well-traveled and compacted.

There is a well-traveled track on continuous light icy snow from Long Valley/Tram to Wellman Divide. Skyline Trail has a good track to follow through light icy snow above 7000 ft (the Traverse to Grubb’s Notch). Spikes are recommended.

There is a well-traveled track from Saddle Junction to Tahquitz Peak. The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail between Chinquapin Flat/PCT and Tahquitz Peak has a well-traveled and level track – photo below – to follow through the light 3-4 inches of powder (drifted to six inches in places). Spikes are not essential, but many hikers may find them useful depending on their comfort level hiking on thin icy snow.

South Ridge Trail from the top of South Ridge Road to Tahquitz Peak has a well-traveled track to follow through the very light and patchy 1-3 inches of icy snow. Spikes are not required for ascending, but some hikers will find them useful for descending.

Marion Mountain Trail has a very well-defined track throughout. Spikes are recommended, at least for descending.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear from the Highway 243 trailhead to the Suicide Rock trail junction at 7000 ft. From there to Strawberry Junction (8100 ft) snow cover averages 50% with patches increasing in length and frequency as you ascend. Spikes were not required even for descending on 14th. Snow cover is essentially continuous from Strawberry Junction to San Jacinto Peak, although patches are starting to clear below 8500 ft (south of the top of the Marion Mountain Trail). An excellent track is easy to follow to Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley the track is somewhat less clear and does not entirely accurately follow the establishes trail route. However the track is very useful and it is best to follow that route. Spikes are recommended at least for descending upper Deer Springs Trail.

The PCT throughout the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 207-151) has a clear track to follow, including Fuller Ridge Trail, which has been traversed by a handful of sobo PCT hikers.

Spitler Peak Trail is functionally clear of snow, but see photo below regarding patches of ice fallen from trees.

Seven Pines Trail has not been traveled since last week’s storm, at least not in its uppermost section, and there is no track to follow through the snow.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 14th November 2022 are as follows, with depths from 9th November 2022 in parentheses where known. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying storms there has been extensive drifting, often particularly accumulating in the trails. Conversely in places scouring by the wind means the depths are well below the average. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 10 inches (was 12 inches on 9th)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 7-8 inches (photo above)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 3 inches (was 4 inches on 9th)

Round Valley (9100 ft): was 4 inches on 9th

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070 ft): 5 inches (was 6 inches on 9th)

Deer Springs Trail at top of Marion Mountain Trail (8700 ft): 4-5 inches

Tahquitz Peak (north side trail, 8700 ft): 3-4 inches, drifted to six [measured 11th November]

Tahquitz Peak (south side trail, 8500-8700 ft): 2 inches [measured 11th November]

Long Valley (8600 ft): was 2-3 inches on 9th

Strawberry Junction (8100 ft): 1-2 inches (photo below)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070 ft): 2 inches (was 3 inches on 9th)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550 ft): patchy 0.5-1.0 inch (was 2.5 inches on 9th)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0 inch (was <1 inch on 9th)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report uses small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to have its unique challenges and 2022 has been no exception. 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 consider using this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you so much for your support.

Strawberry Junction (8100 ft) on 14th November 2022, under 1-2 inches of remaining snow.
Well-defined track through the light snow on the north side of Tahquitz Peak on the 0.4 mile section of trail to/from Chinquapin Flat and Tahquitz Peak, 11th November 2022. Since the weekend, this track has become even better defined.
Above, trees encased in ice from freezing rain at 10,100 feet on the Peak Trail, 9th November 2022. Below, the same view on 14th November.
Above, the Peak Trail at 9800 ft on 9th November 2022, and below, the same view five days later on 14th November.
The well known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega, above on 9th November 2022, and below the same location on 14th November.
Above and below, Spitler Peak Trail on 10th November 2022. Above, what appears to be snow is actually rime ice that has fallen from the trees onto the trail. It is very much like walking across ice cubes. Below, the upper trail at about 6900 ft showing the rime on the dead live oak trunks (killed by the 2013 Mountain Fire) with a snow-dusted Tahquitz Peak in the distance. The trail was basically snow-free.

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