Trail update 20th June 2019

I have continued to ascend San Jacinto Peak daily this month, by as many diverse routes as possible. This morning for example I started my hike on Fuller Ridge Trail. Following the great work of the PCT Section B Trail Crew last week, this trail is completely free of obstacles for the first time in years. Key pieces of news are as follows.

The snow has virtually gone. It is now possible to ascend the Peak by several different routes without putting a foot on snow. The couple of persistent on-trail areas where tiny patches of snow remain – mainly Little Round Valley and East Ridge – are described briefly below. Obviously additional traction (e.g., microspikes) is no longer required in the San Jacinto high country.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS informed me yesterday that an explosives team has been requested for later in the year. Obviously that work will close the trail for some considerable time in due course. Hikers continue to let me know that the video report from late May (available here) is useful for deciding whether to try to scramble around the rockslide.

The rehabilitation of Apache Spring Trail is being completed this week by an ACE (American Conservation Experience) crew. This is great news as this side trail off the PCT had been indistinct since the 2013 Mountain Fire. The average gradient has also been lowered slightly.

Another ACE crew started work yesterday on Devil’s Slide Trail, dealing with the minor rockfall areas caused by this winter and the flood event on Valentine’s Day.

Dark Canyon Road remains closed, apparently due to a combination of flood damage (see photos in prior report) and plague reported in the ground squirrel population in that area (the latter has become an annual event). Dark Canyon campground is therefore also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course).

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds remain closed until at least late July. They have a revised tentative reopening date of 25th July.

The status of various water sources was updated in a previous report. While there has been no dramatic change since then, I have noticed decreases in flow rates in most creeks and springs in the past week or so. Also, the Round Valley pipe had a new spigot added last week.

Be rattlesnake aware. The San Jacinto form of the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake is the second most dangerous animal in the high country (after your fellow human beings). They have a neurotoxic venom, which is considerably more life-threatening than the haemotoxic venom of many lower elevation rattlesnakes. They are now active, especially below 9000′ elevation (and Anabel and I encountered one at 9100′ yesterday).

Alpine Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon alpinum) staring to bloom at their eponymous spring, on Deer Springs Trail just below Little Round Valley, 18th June 2019.

WEATHER Temperatures have been a few degrees cooler in recent days – 12th June was the warmest day of the year so far in the high country – and look set to remain that way for the rest of June. On average this has been the coolest June in Idyllwild and in the high country for several years. No precipitation is in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 20th June 2019 at 1045, the air temperature was 49°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 45.3°F (8°C), 47% relative humidity, and a cool due West wind at 9 mph gusting to 18.4 mph.

At the Peak yesterday 19th June 2019 at 0855, the air temperature was 50.1°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 43.7°F (6°C), 43% relative humidity, and a brisk NE wind sustained at 7 mph, gusting to 17.0 mph.

The coolest day at the Peak since 9th June was on Tuesday 18th June, when at 0855 the air temperature was 45.1°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 35.2°F (2°C), 60% relative humidity, and a stiff NE wind of 16 mph gusting to 20.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail, including Fuller Ridge, is clear of snow throughout the San Jacinto mountains. Water is currently abundant and widespread.

Deer Springs Trail There are only tiny snow patches through Little Round Valley but it is snow-free from there to San Jacinto Peak. The campsites in LRV are now snow-free.

Tahquitz Peak trail from the PCT/ Chinquapin Flat is clear of snow.

East Ridge Trail from near Miller Peak to San Jacinto Peak remains 20% snow-covered, with some drifted areas still 2-3 feet deep, but it is largely possible to follow the trail route.

Round Valley trail to Wellman Divide is now clear of snow.

Devil’s Slide, South Ridge, Willow Creek, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Ernie Maxwell, High, Long Valley, and Skyline trails are all clear of snow.

Note that as of 5th June, Willow Creek Trail has 27 trees down on the trail between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide, making it slow going and a little hazardous in places. The relevant agencies have been notified.

I surveyed Seven Pines Trail on behalf of the State Park last week, and it has 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled for many months, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

South Ridge Road is clear and has been graded, but may require 4WD very near the top due to mud.

Black Mountain Road is easily passable, albeit a little bumpy in places, through to at least Fuller Ridge campground.

A reminder that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba is not maintained. When USFS reopened the trail in November 2018 they made it clear that it would not be maintained for the foreseeable future (and it had been closed since the Mountain Fire in July 2013). The trail is indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should exercise very cautious navigation.

Trail update 13th June 2019

I have ascended San Jacinto Peak daily this month, by as many diverse routes as possible. This has included almost all the PCT above 8000′ in the region, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, and Willow Creek trails, Round Valley, plus Tahquitz Peak and the Tahquitz area meadows. Today’s ascent surpassed my record set last September for consecutive days summiting San Jacinto Peak (currently at 13). I recorded a short vlog at the Peak this morning, available here on YouTube. Key pieces of news are as follows.

The snow has virtually gone. It is now almost possible to ascend the Peak by several different routes without putting a foot on snow. The couple of persistent on-trail areas where snow remains – mainly Little Round Valley and East Ridge – are described below. Obviously additional traction (e.g., microspikes) is no longer required in the San Jacinto high country.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5), as reported on 10th June. The video report from late May (available here) may be useful for deciding whether to try to scramble around the rockslide.

Dark Canyon Road is closed, apparently due to flood damage (see photos below). This means Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course).

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds remain closed until at least late July. They have a revised tentative reopening date of 25th July.

The status of various water sources was updated in a previous report. and there has been no significant change since then. Most creeks and springs are currently flowing at their best rates in nearly a decade, with many additional ephemeral sources also flowing. [UPDATE: just after I took the photo below, the Round Valley pipe had a new spigot added. Thanks to Florian Boyd for this information.]

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Be rattlesnake aware. The San Jacinto form of the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake is the second most dangerous animal in the high country (after human beings). They have a neurotoxic venom, which is considerably more life-threatening than the haemotoxic venom of many lower elevation rattlesnakes. They are now active, especially below 9000′ elevation.

The pipe at Round Valley yesterday 12th June 2019. Flow rate is about 2 gpm. A new spigot was added on 13th June to control flow.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain summer-like for the foreseeable future – it is now summer, after all – but most of the next week will be a few degrees cooler than the past couple of days. No precipitation is in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 13th June 2019 at 0925, the air temperature was 59°F (15°C), with a windchill temperature of 55°F (13°C), 11% relative humidity, and a light SW breeze at 3 mph gusting to 5.4 mph.

At the Peak yesterday 12th June 2019 – the warmest day of the year so far at this altitude – at 0925, the air temperature was 59°F (15°C), with a windchill temperature of 58°F (14.5°C), 43% relative humidity, and a very light SW breeze sustained at 1 mph, gusting to 5.8 mph.

The last recent cool day at the Peak was Sunday 9th June, when at 0655 the air temperature was 41.9°F (5.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.1°F (-0.5°C), 49% relative humidity, and a stiff East wind of 17 mph gusting to 22.5 mph.

California Groundcone (Boschniakia strobilacea) recently emerged at about 8800′ elevation. This remarkable plant has no need for chlorophyll, parasitizing the roots of manzanita.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail, including Fuller Ridge, is clear of snow through the San Jacinto mountains. [UPDATE 14th June: the PCT Section B Trail Crew cleared the remaining six downed trees on Fuller Ridge today, meaning the Fuller Ridge Trail is completely clear of obstructions.]

Deer Springs Trail There are only tiny snow patches from about 8800′ to well above the Fuller Ridge Trail turning at about 9700′. Snow remains more continuous (30% cover) through Little Round Valley but it is virtually snow-free from there to just below San Jacinto Peak. The campsites in LRV are now snow-free.

Tahquitz Peak trail from the PCT/ Chinquapin Flat is clear of snow.

East Ridge Trail from near Miller Peak to San Jacinto Peak remains 50% snow-covered, with some drifted areas still 2-3 feet deep. Descending this route yesterday was largely an exercise in postholing through (flavorless) soft serve ice cream.

Round Valley trail to Wellman Divide has about 10% snow cover in its upper section near the Divide.

Devil’s Slide, South Ridge, Willow Creek, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Ernie Maxwell, High, Long Valley, and Skyline trails are all clear of snow.

Note that as of 5th June, Willow Creek Trail has 27 trees down on the trail between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide, making it slow going and a little hazardous in places. The relevant agencies have been notified.

I surveyed Seven Pines Trail on behalf of the State Park today, and it has 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled for many months, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

South Ridge Road is clear and has been graded, but may require 4WD very near the top due to mud.

Black Mountain Road is easily passable through to at least Fuller Ridge campground.

A reminder that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba is not maintained. When USFS reopened the trail in November 2018 they made it clear that it would not be maintained for the foreseeable future (and it had been closed since the Mountain Fire in July 2013). The trail is indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should exercise very cautious navigation.

Dark Canyon Road, 13th June 2019.
Dark Canyon Road damage (above) on the paved section to the Dark Canyon campground, and (below) on the dirt section to the Seven Pines trailhead.

Forest news 10th June 2019

This update is a compilation of very recent news relevant to hikers in the San Jacinto mountains. For the latest general trail situation see the report from 6th June. I have hiked San Jacinto Peak every day this month by many different routes, and will update the snow situation (such as it is) later this week.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). l spoke to U.S. Forest Service today and they have not made a determination to close the trail at this time. Hence the trail remains open until further notice. Passage around the rockslide requires exposed class 2 moves below it, or class 3 moves up and over it (if that sentence doesn’t make sense to you, probably best not to attempt to hike past the rockslide). Many hikers have kindly commented that the video report from late May (available here) was useful for deciding whether to try to pass the rockslide or not.

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds remain closed until at least late July. They have a revised tentative reopening date of 25th July. According to USFS, the continuing closure is due to insufficient staffing to repair the considerable damage to the access roads and campsites at these locations caused by the Valentine’s Day storm. Other camping areas along Black Mountain road are open. Black Mountain road itself is relatively easily passable with a high clearance vehicle.

Our superb local Pacific Crest Trail Section B Trail Crew cleared all of the downed trees from Spitler Peak Trail yesterday, Sunday 9th June. At least a dozen fallen trees, killed by the 2013 Mountain Fire, had made parts of the upper switchbacks of this trail something of an assault course this winter. Spitler Peak Trail is now clear and readily accessible to all.

Snow and trail update 6th June 2019

I have ascended San Jacinto Peak every day so far this month, by different routes each day. This has included almost all the PCT above 8000′ in the region, the east and west approaches to the Peak, Willow Creek Trail, Round Valley, plus Tahquitz Peak and the Tahquitz area meadows.

The snow has almost gone. What remains is not refreezing at night, and is soft even in the early morning. The few on-trail areas where snow persists are described below.

The status of the rock slide at PCT Mile 172.5 (just north of Antsell Rock) is discussed in detail in a posting from 30th May. A short section of trail either side of this rockslide will apparently be officially closed by USFS imminently. I will update as soon as details are available.

The status of various water sources was updated in the previous report. Most creeks and springs are currently flowing at their best rates in about a decade. Many additional ephemeral water sources also flowing. That said, it is striking how much the flow rates of some (e.g., springs on Devil’s Slide, Wellman’s Cienega) have dropped in recent days.

Snow depths are not updated in detail as so little remains, and what does will melt dramatically over the next few days. Northern slopes of all the ten thousand foot peaks still have almost continuous snow cover, as is very obvious looking south from San Jacinto Peak. Snow depth around San Jacinto Peak averages roughly 6″, and about 8″ Little Round Valley, but it is increasingly patchy, with deeper drifts in places, at both locations.

Microspikes are no longer needed anywhere in the San Jacinto high country. Snow is staying soft overnight everywhere, so footwear with decent tread is sufficient for the patches that remain. Traction might be useful (but not essential) for extensive high country off-trail travel. Descending the east ridge of San Jacinto Peak late this morning was a mix of postholing through soft-serve ice cream interspersed with fun glissading on firmer sections.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Be rattlesnake aware. Although Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes emerged at mid elevations in April, after a cool May they have just started to appear in the high country. Word around Idyllwild-Pine Cove so far this summer is that they are especially common this year. The San Jacinto form of this species is the second most dangerous animal in the high country (after your fellow human beings). They have a neurotoxic venom, which is considerably more life-threatening than the haemotoxic venom of many lower elevation rattlesnakes. I had my first high elevation observation today.

Small (roughly 24″) Southern Pacific Rattlesnake on Devil’s Slide Trail at 7800′ elevation early this afternoon. Larger, older individuals are typically much blacker.

WEATHER Temperatures will be summer-like for the foreseeable future, with some very slight cooling possible late next week. No precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 6th June 2019 at 1050, the air temperature was 51°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 47°F (8°C), 46% relative humidity, and a light West breeze at 5 mph gusting to 7.3 mph.

At the Peak yesterday 5th June 2019 at 0830, the air temperature was 53°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 44°F (7°C), 37% relative humidity, and a modest NNE breeze at 6 mph gusting to 10.5 mph.

The last cool day of the season at the Peak was Monday 3rd June, when at 0755 the air temperature was 38°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 26.7°F (-3°C), 78% relative humidity, and a cool due North wind of 11 mph gusting to 17.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 9600′ are essentially clear of snow, except for a few spots described below. Most higher trails also have only limited snow patches.

Waterproof footwear remains useful on some trails (e.g., Deer Springs, Fuller Ridge) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails. It is also valuable in the soft melting snow in many areas, especially after mid-morning.

Pacific Crest Trail is basically clear of snow through the San Jacinto mountains, including Fuller Ridge. Very limited patchy snow cover persists in a couple of areas, e.g., around Miles 181.5 and 189, but these present no challenge.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow up to north of the junction with the Marion Mountain Trail (about 8800′). There are only limited snow patches from that elevation to well above the Fuller Ridge Trail turning at about 9700′. Snow is more continuous (40% cover) through Little Round Valley but now only about 10% from there up to just below San Jacinto Peak. The campsites in LRV are now largely snow-free.

Tahquitz Peak trail from the PCT/ Chinquapin Flat is almost completely clear of snow (enough to pass easily without microspikes). There are a couple of extremely minor snow patches, but these have good steps in the soft snow.

East Ridge Trail from near Miller Peak to San Jacinto Peak remains 90% snow-covered, with some drifted areas still 2-3 feet deep. See my comments above about the mix of postholing and glissading.

Round Valley trail to Wellman Divide has about 40% snow cover. In places the tracks do not match the trail and a little care routefinding will still be required for the next few days.

Devil’s Slide, Willow Creek, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Ernie Maxwell, High, Long Valley, and Skyline trails are all clear of snow.

Note that as of 5th June, Willow Creek Trail has 27 trees down on the trail between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide, making it slow going and a little hazardous in places. The relevant agencies have been notified.

South Ridge Road is clear and has been graded, but it requires 4WD very near the top due to mud. South Ridge Trail is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak, with just a few tiny patches nearer the Peak. Microspikes not required, even for descending.

Black Mountain Road is easily passable through to Fuller Ridge campground. Note that the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds remain closed. Friday 28th June is the tentative reopening date for Boulder Basin.

Snow and trail update 2nd June 2019

[UPDATE 5th June 2019: I have ascended San Jacinto Peak every day so far this month, by different routes each day. Various trail and snow conditions are updated by date in the text below, including the Tahquitz Peak area and PCT today.]

Early this morning I hiked briskly to San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain and upper Deer Springs trails. Yesterday I hiked San Jacinto Peak up the eastern side from Devil’s Slide Trail via Wellman Divide, descending the same way. Anne and Anabel joined me to Saddle Junction, but then they returned home the long way via the PCT southbound, Tahquitz Peak, and South Ridge Trail. The past week has also included hikes including much of the PCT locally, plus Tahquitz Peak and the Tahquitz area meadows.

I posted a video from early this morning at the Peak to YouTube. There had been a tiny snowfall right at San Jacinto Peak overnight, likely from a localised thunderstorm.

Detailed trail conditions are discussed below, and an update to the road access problems are described near the foot of this posting. The status of the rock slide at PCT Mile 172.5 (just north of Antsell Rock) is discussed in detail in a posting from 30th May. UPDATE 4th June 2019: a short section of trail around this rockslide will be officially closed by USFS in the next few days. I will update as soon as details are available.

I have also added the status of various water sources, mainly for the benefit of thru-hikers. Many additional ephemeral water sources are also available, and of course snow is still in parts of the high country for melting.

Snow depths are not updated in detail, as most areas now have no consistent depth to measure, and what little remains will melt dramatically this week. Only above about 10,400′ is snow cover largely continuous (80% coverage). Snow depth around San Jacinto Peak averages roughly 12″, and about the same in Little Round Valley, but it is increasingly patchy in both locations.

Melting is currently very rapid, with a continuing warming trend forecast. Currently microspikes can be useful (depending on your comfort level on soft snow) only for trails above about 9700′, likely for a few more days at the highest elevations, in particular for descending San Jacinto Peak (especially on the west side). Traction is also useful (but not essential) for some high country off-trail travel.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Fresh fire ring, and presumably the (ir)responsible party, by the trail in Little Round Valley early morning 2nd June 2019. No matter how fun they may be, nor how cold the temperature gets, fires are not permitted in the wilderness of the San Jacinto mountains.

WEATHER Temperatures will continue to climb to summer-like levels, with highs at or near 80°F by the middle of this week in Idyllwild, and near 50°F at San Jacinto Peak. We have been having unseasonal thunderstorm activity in recent days, and be prepared for this possibility in the afternoon or evening any day this week.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 2nd June 2019 at 0705, the air temperature was 34°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 22°F (-6°C), 86% relative humidity, and a chilly NNE breeze at 9 mph gusting to 17 mph.

At the Peak on 1st June 2019 at 0830, the air temperature was 35°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 26°F (-3°C), 75% relative humidity, and a cool SE breeze at 8 mph gusting to 13 mph.

Finally, at the Peak on 27th May 2019 at 0855 the air temperature was 25°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.5°F (-14°C), 52% relative humidity, and a very sharp WNW wind at 12 mph gusting to 28.6 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Most trails below about 9600′ are largely clear of snow, although it persists in some stubborn areas, more so on the western (Deer Springs Trail) side. Trail conditions will continue to change rapidly with more melting. Details for specific routes are below.

Waterproof footwear remains useful on approach trails (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to multiple stream crossings and considerable water flowing in the trails. It is also invaluable in the soft melting snow in many areas, especially after mid-morning.

Major trails have all been well traveled in the past week, so they have obvious, consolidated tracks.

Pacific Crest Trail [UPDATED 5th June 2019] The PCT is almost clear of snow through the San Jacinto mountains. Snow cover is very thin and patchy in a few areas, e.g., around Miles 181.5, 185, and 189. Microspikes are no longer required to hike the PCT through the San Jacinto mountains. However they may prove useful to those hikers unfamiliar with snow travel, e.g. in persistent patches on the north side of Fuller Ridge around Mile 189).

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow up to beyond the junction with the Marion Mountain Trail (about 8800′). There are only limited snow patches from that elevation to well above the Fuller Ridge Trail turning at about 9500′. Snow is more continuous (60% cover) through Little Round Valley and then about 40% up to 10,500′ just below San Jacinto Peak. Some of the campsites in LRV are now largely snow-free.

Tahquitz Peak trail from the PCT/ Chinquapin Flat [UPDATED 5th June] is almost completely clear of snow (enough to pass easily without microspikes). There are a couple of minor snow patches, but these have good steps in the soft snow.

East Ridge Trail from near Miller Peak to San Jacinto Peak remains 90% snow-covered, with some drifted areas still 2-3 feet deep. It remains firm enough to go straight up with minimal postholing, at least in the mornings.

Round Valley trail to Wellman Divide has about 50% snow cover. In places the tracks do not match the trail and some care routefinding is required.

Devil’s Slide, Willow Creek, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Ernie Maxwell, High, Long Valley, and Skyline trails are all clear of snow.

Note that as of 5th June, Willow Creek Trail has 27 trees down on the trail between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide, making it slow going and a little hazardous in places. The relevant agencies have been notified.

South Ridge Road is clear and has been graded, but it requires 4WD very near the top due to mud. South Ridge Trail is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak, with just a few tiny patches nearer the Peak. Microspikes not required, even for descending.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing well. Flow rate on 4th June was 2.1 gpm, which is as strong as it gets. [A new spigot was added on 13th June to control water flow. Thanks to Florian Boyd for this information.]

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing well. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Willow Creek where it crosses its eponymous trail, 4th June 2019.

Tahquitz Valley is flowing.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing well at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing well further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177).

Skunk Cabbage Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing well.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing very well where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail is flowing well.

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing the strongest I have seen in at least six years.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing well.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing very strongly. [PCT hikers note: many PCT guides and apps confuse the Deer Springs crossing with the North Fork of the San Jacinto River. The latter is another 0.5 miles further north on the Fuller Ridge Trail, see above.]

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing well.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is flowing well.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Jolley, Middle, and Powderbox springs are all flowing well, as are several unnamed ephemeral creeks, but flow rates have dropped in recent days.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow very well, as do several other minor creeks that cross the trail.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Highway 74 There is a water cache where the PCT crosses Highway 74, on the north side of the highway. This appears to be reliably maintained (by local trail angel Grumpy), but never assume water caches will definitely be there.

Pool 3.5 miles north of Highway 74 is now dry.

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing fairly well, but the access trail off the PCT is somewhat unclear. Easier to get water from Spitler Creek described below.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is already drying up and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing well). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three 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 flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. The remaining closed section may not reopen until late summer at best. Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet is currently open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000). It is not now expected to reopen without restrictions until late July at the earliest.

Trail sign at Wellman Divide today 1st June 2019 (above) and for comparison on 22nd March 2019 (below).

Rock slide update 30th May 2019

Florian Boyd and I hiked southbound on the PCT this morning from Devil’s Slide Trail to the Zen Center Trail (roughly PCT Miles 179.5 to 171). This allowed us to take a look at the much-discussed rock fall partially blocking the PCT just north of Antsell Rock at about Mile 172.5. I recorded the following video there late morning today, also available here on YouTube.

As described in the video, the rock fall is fairly easily passable with care both around on the downslope side, and up-and-over. I did both and personally recommend the former, especially if coming southbound. If hiking solo, I would strongly recommend waiting for a partner (or several) to help with the transfer of packs.

As posted yesterday, the U.S. Forest Service has NOT closed the trail at this time (I have this in writing direct from them). Any signs you may see – apparently there is one at the Highway 74 crossing – to the contrary are unofficial and misleading. This situation may change next week after an official assessment in the next couple of days.

Note also that between Miles 171 and 177 there are at least 26 trees down across the trail. (These are being reported to PCTA/USFS today.) So some caution is required with these hazards also. Obviously the trail is not passable to horses for the foreseeable future.

Snow from the three storms in the previous two weeks has largely cleared below 9000′, with only a few limited patches through to Mile 180 (no microspikes required). There will be a more extensive update on trail conditions on the afternoon of Saturday 1st June.

Snow storm update 27th May 2019

[UPDATE 29th May 2019: U.S. Forest Service has confirmed that the trail is NOT closed at the rock slide near PCT Mile 172.5. An official assessment will be made in the next few days. A closure notice would then take several more days to come into effect. Hence the trail will remain open at least into next week. Any signs to the contrary on the trail are not official and not accurate.]

[UPDATE 28th May 2019: we hiked to the PCT via South Ridge and Tahquitz Peak this morning, mainly to assess the challenging snow slope on the north side of Tahquitz, updated in the text below, with photo.]

This morning I had my last true snow hike of a memorable season, to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide, descending the same way. Our third snow storm in the last eight days! It was still snowing very finely on me as I hiked up Devil’s Slide Trail past Saddle Junction until about 8600′, when I broke out into spectacular sunshine for the rest of the morning.

A light snowfall coated the entire mountain down to about 5500′, with five fresh inches at San Jacinto Peak. On top of the two storms last week, the Peak has had 20″ of snowfall in late May this year! Last night’s snow was an extremely fine grain powder, reminiscent of sand, and was so light that it was heavily drifting in the strong wind. It was delightful to hike in, with minimal postholing, and I didn’t use microspikes all the way to San Jacinto Peak (although I did use them on the uppermost descent).

Yesterday and overnight in Idyllwild we had drizzle and rain (0.53″ at 5550′), which briefly turned to snow early this morning (0.25″).

Exceptionally rapid melting was already well underway during my descent. It felt like it was raining coming through the wooded sections with so much snow melt falling from the trees. Devil’s Slide Trail below 7000′ was already completely clear of snow by noon today, when just five or so hours earlier I had hiked up in a continuous couple of inches of lovely fresh powder. There was no sign that Humber Park or Idyllwild had even received any overnight snow by early this afternoon.

I recorded an unneccessarily long and rambling video (sorry!) just after 0900 this morning at San Jacinto Peak, available on YouTube here.

Melting is so rapid, and with a very strong warming trend forecast, that equipment recommendations may change daily. Currently, I suggest microspikes will be useful for some trails above about 7000′, especially early tomorrow morning, and likely for a few more days at the highest elevations, especially for descending San Jacinto Peak. The PCT will largely clear in the next day or two, at least below 8000′.

Waterproof or water resistant footwear is strongly recommended on approach trails at least (e.g., Devil’s Slide, lower Deer Springs) due to considerable water flowing in the trails and slushy melting snow everywhere. It will also be invaluable for at least the next few days elsewhere in soft melting snow.

Tahquitz Peak and Tahquitz Rock emerging from the cloud at around noon today, 27th May 2019.

WEATHER Other than what I recorded at the Peak this morning (see below), the weather will be warm the rest of this week, hot next week. A very significant warming trend will commence tomorrow, leading to almost complete melting everywhere by or in the first week of June. There is a slim chance of brief afternoon thunderstorms tomorrow and Wednesday, May 28th and 29th. For the rest of May hikers should still be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and potentially below freezing with windchill on some days.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, 27th May 2019, at 0855 the air temperature was 25°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.5°F (-14°C), 52% relative humidity, and a very sharp WNW wind at 12 mph gusting to 28.6 mph.

At the Peak on 23rd May 2019 at 1055 the air temperature was 24.4°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 9.5°F (-12.5°C), 100% relative humidity, and a brisk West wind at 10 mph gusting to 15.5 mph.

Jean Peak (10,670′) early this morning, 27th May 2019, from the Peak Trail.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above 6000′ were completely covered with 1-5″ of fresh snow this morning, but by this afternoon very rapid melting meant that most areas below 8000′ were already becoming very wet and slushy, or were already clear (<7000′).

All trails above 9000′ are currently under continuous snow cover roughly 4-20″ deep but this situation will change dramatically with melting in the next few days.

Reasonable tracks to follow are already in place for the PCT throughout the San Jacinto mountains. Reliable, well-traveled tracks are also in place for Devil’s Slide Trail, and the Wellman and Peak trails on the east side, and through Round and Long valleys to the Tram. It is likely that Deer Springs and Marion Mountain trails will be hiked today given the holiday and the traffic I witnessed on the lower trails on my descent.

Pacific Crest Trail Early this morning snow cover was thin and patchy from about Mile 158 to 163, and then continuous thereafter, and at least a couple of inches deep, through to at least Mile 194. See however the comments above regarding melting. Microspikes are unlikely to be needed anywhere on the PCT by about Thursday 30th May.

Note that the much-reported rockfall at about Mile 172.5 (Antsell-South Peak) is basically one huge rock and is passable with some minor scrambling (thanks to multiple PCT hikers for confirming this information). The area was assessed today by the PCTA Trail crew. USFS will make a determination as to any possible closure shortly and I will update as necessary.

Tahquitz Peak trail from the PCT/ Chinquapin Flat is tricky again with the recent snowfalls. Microspikes (in conjunction with an ice axe, if you are familiar with its use) and considerable caution are recommended for this section. There are reasonable steps to follow in the softening snow, but with a couple of short steep icy patches. The situation is improving rapidly with considerable melting.

The steepest section of trail on the north side of Tahquitz Peak, mid-morning of 28th May 2019

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 27th May are as follows (for those areas that had snow remaining from the winter, plus snow from last week’s stroms, the combined average total is indicated in parentheses). For locations that were measured on 20th May and then [estimated] on 23rd May, see those data in the previous report (I have not re-estimated those locations due to the rapid nature of recent melting). Average depth is given, drifts may be significantly deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10,810′): 5″ (total 20″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 4″ (total 10″)

Annie’s Junction (PCT Mile 181.5 at State Park boundary) (9050′): 3″ (total 6″)

Long Valley (8500′): 2″ (almost completely melted by the time of writing)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″ (total 3″, largely melted by this afternoon)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 0.5″ (now all melted)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0.25″ (now completely melted)

Trail sign at Annie’s Junction (9050′) today 27th May 2019 (above) and just eleven days earlier on 16th May 2019 (below).