Trail update 18th May 2022

The trail system is now functionally clear of snow. Spikes have not been required on the trail system for several weeks. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

The USFS Humber Park trailhead and parking lot, which includes the Devil’s Slide Trail (3E05) trailhead and the upper trailhead for the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail (3E07), was originally closed between Monday 16th May and Friday 20th May due to insecticide spraying operations. However, due to early completion of the work, Humber Park is now expected to reopen on the afternoon of Wednesday 18th May. Closure notices at Saddle Junction may not be removed until Thursday 19th.

The State Park section of Skyline Trail reopened on 10th May having been closed since 1st February.

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 all of the Tahquitz area meadows, Spitler Peak, South Ridge, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Willow Creek, and Deer Springs trails.

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 published on 10th May giving a visual overview of current 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.

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 are expected to reopen in the week before the Memorial Day weekend (including Boulder Basin, scheduled to reopen 26th May). 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), is scheduled to reopen on Saturday 21st May 2022.

Signage at Humber Park on Monday 16th May 2022. Humber Park and its associated trailheads are now expected to reopen on the afternoon of Wednesday 17th May.

WEATHER

After a couple of pleasantly seasonal days at the beginning and end of this week, temperatures are forecast to rise to far above seasonal from 21st to at least 26th May. Overnight low temperatures in particular will average 10-15°F above seasonal at mid elevations. Temperatures in the high country on 24th-29th will more closely resemble July/August than May. There is no precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) 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.

At the Peak on Monday 16th May 2022 at 0750 the air temperature was 43.3°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.7°F (1°C), 29% relative humidity, and a fresh due West wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 13.7 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 11th May 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 21.9°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 2.7°F (-16°C), 13% relative humidity, and a gusty due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 26.7 mph.

Antsell Rock Creek near the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead at Apple Canyon Road, 12th May 2022. Flow is between one third to one half of average for May. Apache Peak is in the distance in the upper left, with Spitler Peak to the right.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All major trails are functionally clear of snow. Some tiny icy snow patches remain in a handful of places above about 9000 ft elevation as mentioned below. Named trails are completely clear of snow/ice unless discussed below.

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 notoriously hazardous 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 to Tahquitz Peak is now functionally clear of icy snow, and spikes are no longer required.

The PCT is now functionally clear of snow throughout the San Jacinto mountains. A few tiny patches remain just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3, as do a few on the most sheltered sections of Fuller Ridge (Miles 188-189.5)

Snow cover now averages <5% on the Peak Trail, persisting in patches in two short traditionally persistent areas around 10,000 ft and 10,100 ft. Spikes are not required. The trail route on the East Ridge still has 40% snow cover but spikes are not required. The Wellman Trail is functionally 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.

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. 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 downed trees on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is essential for those who do not have extensive 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

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 labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover our modest 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 visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now donation options. Thank you so much for your support.

Coast Patch-nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepsis virgultea) at about 5100 ft on Spitler Peak Trail, 12th May 2022 (photo: Anne King).
Very fresh Mountain Lion scat in the middle of Spitler Peak Trail at about 6800 ft elevation, 12th May 2022. The scat appeared to be entirely composed of deer hair. The lion was estimated to weigh 70-100 lbs based on the scat size.

Trail update 11th May 2022

Major trails are now completely (or functionally) clear of snow. Spikes are no longer required on the trail system. Some hikers may find that spikes remain useful in a handful of limited areas (mentioned below) depending on individual comfort level and experience on small patches of icy snow. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

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

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 all of the Tahquitz area meadows, Spitler Peak, South Ridge, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Willow Creek, Caramba, and Deer Springs.

As snow is now so patchy and limited, I am no longer reporting snow depths. This does not mean there is no snow in the high country, only that in the locations for which I typically report depths, averages are zero. Snow patches remain in areas above 9000 ft, largely off established trails and on north-facing slopes.

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. Of my 34 ascents of San Jacinto Peak so far this year, the Salton Sea has not been visible for a third of them (including on 9th May), and the north shore has been indistinct at best for most.

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 published on 10th May giving a visual overview of current water conditions in the high country.

Despite periodic warm spells, hikers should continue to be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS Humber Park trailhead and parking lot, which includes the Devil’s Slide Trail (3E05) trailhead and the upper trailhead for the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail (3E07), will be closed from the afternoon of Monday 16th May to Friday 20th May due to tree management work.

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, as did the Forest Service campgrounds seasonally closed for the winter (except Boulder Basin, scheduled to reopen 26th May). 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), is now tentatively scheduled to reopen later in May 2022.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to be well below seasonal on 9th-11th May. Temperatures then rise dramatically to well above seasonal for 13th-19th May (temperatures may be more typical of July than May) before then falling to closer to seasonal. There is no precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 11th May 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 21.9°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 2.7°F (-16°C), 13% relative humidity, and a gusty due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 26.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 9th May 2022 at 0825 the air temperature was 32.6°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 16.7°F (-9°C), 31% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 25.7 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 5th May 2022 at 0740 the air temperature was 47.4°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 43.0°F (6°C), 8% relative humidity, and a light WNW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.3 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All major trails are functionally clear of snow. Some small icy snow patches remain in places above about 9000 ft elevation as mentioned below. Named trails are completely clear of snow/ice unless discussed below.

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 this winter. In March 2022 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 notoriously hazardous 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 to Tahquitz Peak is now functionally clear of icy snow. Two tiny patches remain but these have well-defined steps through the very short stretches of snow. Most hikers are finding spikes are no longer required.

The PCT is clear of snow from Mile 151 to 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow cover remains about 10% between Miles 175-177, but very few hikers are finding that spikes remain necessary in that area. Snow cover is now very limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3 (about 10% snow cover). Some snow patches remain on the sheltered sections of Fuller Ridge (notably Miles 188-189.5)

Snow cover now averages only 5% on the Peak Trail, persisting in patches in two short traditionally persistent areas around 10,000 ft and 10,100 ft. Spikes are generally not required. The trail route on the East Ridge still has 60% snow cover but is clearing steadily.

The Wellman Trail is almost clear of snow, other than 20% cover on the first 0.3 mile north of Annie’s Junction.

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 patches remain on the traverse near the North Fork of the San Jacinto River around 9400 ft elevation. Patchy snow cover remains about 20% in Little Round Valley. Icy snow patches only 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.

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, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is functionally clear of snow. 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 downed trees on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is essential for those who do not have extensive experience of hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

WATER CONDITIONS

This is not a comprehensive review of the status of all mountain water sources. In the high country there are still many 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 the past few 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.

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 labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover our modest costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now available options. Thank you so much for your support.

Above, Little Round Valley (9800ft) on 9th May 2022, and for comparison the same view about two weeks earlier on 25th April below.

Trail update 3rd May 2022

Melting of remaining snow has continued steadily and most major trails are now largely or completely clear of snow. Many hikers have found spikes unnecessary for the past couple of weeks, and hardly any of the 130 PCT hikers I have seen and talked with in the past ten days were using (or even carrying) spikes. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Early on Monday 2nd May we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman’s, and Peak trails, descending the same way. In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed multiple segments of the PCT, its side trails, and a few Forest roads. Trails surveyed in recent days have included South Ridge (twice), Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Willow Creek, Laws and Caramba, and Deer Springs.

In general spikes are no longer required, especially on extensively melted and/or well-traveled trails with defined snow steps. Hikers may find spikes remain useful in a handful of small areas above about 8500 ft (generally discussed below), depending on individual comfort level and experience on patches of icy snow, where snow on trails is compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally most useful for descending.

As snow is now so patchy and limited, I am no longer reporting snow depths. This does not mean there is no snow in the high country, only that in the locations for which I typically report depths, averages are zero or functionally zero. Significant snow remains in areas above 9000 ft, largely off established trails, in sheltered forested areas, and on north-facing slopes.

Despite mostly warmer days, hikers should continue to be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering wind chill effects, especially on 10th-12th May. See below for some of my most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak.

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road are open. South Ridge Road was partially graded in mid April, smoothing the worst sections. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Black Mountain (4S01) and Dark Canyon (5S02) roads remain in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only).

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic), is now tentatively scheduled to reopen later in May 2022.

The drainage in Little Round Valley, 29th April 2022. Although this formerly perennial creek has dried up with increasing frequency in summer or autumn of some recent years, in 2022 it was already completely dry in April.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to be at or above seasonal (in particular overnight lows) for the first week of May. It will be especially warm on 4th-7th May. Temperatures then drop below seasonal for most of the second week of the month, including temperatures below freezing in the high country on 10th-12th May. Temperatures rise to (or above) seasonal again starting 13th May. There is no significant precipitation in the forecasts.

The first three months of the year combined to be the second driest ever here in Riverside County, and the driest on record for the entire northern half of California (NWS data). The Sierra snowpack, at an impressive 160% of average on 1st January, was only 38% of average by 1st April. In the San Jacinto mountains precipitation has been below average in the high country for the tenth consecutive winter (and eight of those ten winters, including the past three seasons, have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 2nd May 2022 at 0815 the air temperature was 44.4°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 36.9°F (3°C), 10% relative humidity, and a brisk WNW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 12.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 29th April 2022 at 0815 the air temperature was 43.5°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 36.1°F (2°C), 8% relative humidity, and a light NNW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.3 mph.

Angled icy snow remaining on the north side of Tahquitz Peak, 1st May 2022. Most hikers will find that spikes are no longer required to cross this very short section on South Ridge Trail to/from Tahquitz Peak and Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8600 ft elevation are clear of snow. Thin patchy snow cover is rapidly becoming very limited on the trails above that elevation.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation” (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route). The Superintendent stated on 25th April “we are monitoring weather conditions and the route and hope to reopen in the coming weeks”. The State Park boundary on Skyline is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock.

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 this winter. In a full survey in March 2022, 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 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 to Tahquitz Peak has cleared rapidly [updated 1st May]. Two tiny patches of icy snow remain to cross, but these have well-defined steps through the snow (see photos above and below). Most hikers will find spikes are no longer required.

The following trails below 8800 ft elevation are completely clear of snow/ice: Ernie Maxwell, Devil’s Slide, Suicide Rock, South Ridge (south from Tahquitz Peak), all Garner Valley trails.

The PCT is clear of snow from Mile 151 to 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow cover remains about 30% between Miles 175-177, but very few hikers are finding that spikes remain necessary in that area. Snow cover is now very limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3 (about 50% snow cover). Some snow patches remain on the sheltered sections of Fuller Ridge (notably Miles 188-189.5)

Snow cover now averages only 5% on the Peak Trail, persisting in two short traditional areas at 10,000 ft and 10,100 ft. Spikes are generally not required. The snow route on the East Ridge still has >80% snow cover but is clearing steadily.

The Wellman Trail is almost clear of snow, other than 60% cover on the first 0.3 mile north of Annie’s Junction.

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow [updated 29th April]. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction. Thereafter snow cover is a patchy 10% to about 9300 ft. Above that elevation snow cover currently averages 30%, but will continue to melt rapidly in the next few days. Snow is most extensive (50%) in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley snow cover averages 20%. Some hikers may find spikes useful in places, especially for descending. (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.

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, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is clear of snow to 7500 ft. Above that elevation snow cover is a patchy 10%. 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 downed trees on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is essential for those who do not have extensive experience of hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

It’s northbound PCT season! Please consider helping the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now options. Thank you for your support.

PCT Mile 185.6, the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail at its junction with Deer Springs Trail (8970ft). Above on 29th April 2022, and below just four days earlier on 25th April, when some snow remained from a minor snow storm on 22nd April. Eastern slopes more exposed to direct sun largely cleared on 24th and 25th April (as illustrated in the previous Report).
The other patch of angled icy snow remaining on the trail on the north side of Tahquitz Peak, 1st May 2022 (see also above). Spikes are no longer required to cross this very short section on South Ridge Trail to/from Tahquitz Peak and Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178.
Special thanks to great friend (and social media coordinator) of the Trail Report Charles Phelan who leaves Idyllwild-Pine Cove for New England this month in part to be closer to family. We hiked to Tahquitz Peak on 1st May 2022, where we had worked together as fire lookouts since Charles joined the program in 2016. Safe hiking Charles!

Trail update 27th April 2022

The minor snow storm on Friday 22nd April produced a few inches of fine powder in the high country, down to a very light dusting in Idyllwild, as detailed in the previous Report and this short video recorded from San Jacinto Peak as the storm abated. The majority of that new snow has already melted, especially on sun-exposed slopes, with rapidly warming temperatures in recent days.

Early on Monday 25th April we ascended via Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to San Jacinto Peak, descending via the East Ridge, Peak, Wellman’s, PCT, and Devil’s Slide trails. This loop also facilitated survey of the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly PCT Miles 179-181 and 185-186) plus several of its side trails.

For the third Peak ascent in the past six days my spikes went unused, even for descending. Of the 16 PCT hikers I talked with on our loop on 25th, none were using (or even carrying) spikes.

Hikers may find spikes remain useful in a few areas above about 8000 ft (generally discussed below), depending on individual comfort level and experience on patches of icy snow, where snow on trails is compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. In general spikes are no longer required, especially on extensively melted and/or well-traveled trails with defined snow steps. Spikes remain most useful for descending, especially for the first few hundred feet of elevation down from the highest peaks. Spikes remain recommended in certain locations, such as the north side of Tahquitz Peak.

Snow depths, such as they are, measured on 25th April are given below. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Despite periodic warmer temperatures, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road are open, and those areas are clear of snow. South Ridge Road was partially graded in mid April, removing the most uneven sections. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Black Mountain (4S01) and Dark Canyon (5S02) roads remain in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only).

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic), is now tentatively scheduled to reopen in May 2022.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to be generally around seasonal for the remainder of April, with the exception of a cooler day on Thursday 28th, warming to above seasonal for the first ten days of May (and well above seasonal in the high country). There is no further precipitation in the forecasts.

The first three months of the year combined to be the second driest ever here in Riverside County, and the driest on record for the entire northern half of California (NWS data). The Sierra snowpack, at an impressive 160% of average on 1st January, was only 38% of average by 1st April. In the San Jacinto mountains precipitation has been below average in the high country for the tenth consecutive winter (and eight of those ten winters, including the past three seasons, have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 25th April 2022 at 0825 the air temperature was 40.8°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.3°F (4°C), 23% relative humidity, and a barely perceptible SE breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 2.6 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 22nd April 2022 at 1130 the air temperature was 16.5°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -11.7°F (-24°C), 98% relative humidity, and a wild WSW wind sustained at 23 mph gusting to 47.3 mph. The latter was the strongest wind gust reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak this winter.

At the Peak on Wednesday 20th April 2022 at 0750 the air temperature was 30.5°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.1°F (-11°C), 61% relative humidity, and a strong due West wind sustained at 22 mph gusting to 32.1 mph.

Angled icy snow field remaining on the north side of Tahquitz Peak, 26th April 2022. Spikes (at least) and adequate experience are required to cross this short but challenging section on South Ridge Trail between Tahquitz Peak and Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8700ft are largely or completely clear of snow, and thin patchy snow cover is increasingly limited above that elevation.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation” (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route). The Superintendent stated on 25th April “we are monitoring weather conditions and the route and hope to reopen in the coming weeks”. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock.

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 this winter. In a full survey in March 2022, 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 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is clearing rapidly. However one extended patch of angled icy snow remains for which spikes, or even better crampons and ice axe, are required (see photo above).

The following trails below 8800 ft elevation are completely clear of snow/ice: Ernie Maxwell, Devil’s Slide, Suicide Rock, South Ridge (south from Tahquitz Peak), all Garner Valley trails.

The PCT is functionally clear of snow from Mile 151 to 175 (Red Tahquitz). A few tiny patches remain on the north-east side of Apache Peak but will clear in the next day or two. Snow cover remains about 40% between Miles 175-178, and some hikers are finding that spikes remain useful for those few miles. Snow cover is now limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. Some lengthy snow patches remain on the sheltered sections of Fuller Ridge (notably Miles 188-189.5)

Snow cover now only averages 10% on the Peak Trail, persisting in the handful of traditional areas that are less sun-exposed (e.g., around 9900-10,100 ft). Spikes are generally not required for ascending, but may be useful in places for descending. A posthole snow route on the East Ridge still has >95% snow cover but is becoming increasingly uneven due to melting.

The Wellman Trail is almost clear of snow, other than the first 0.3 mile north of Annie’s Junction.

Marion Mountain Trail has about 10% cover of thin, patchy, icy snow, largely above 7600 ft elevation. Spikes are not required. 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 to about 8600ft (c.0.2 mile south of Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is a patchy 50% to about 9300 ft. Above that elevation snow cover currently averages 70%, but will melt rapidly in the next few days. Snow is most extensive (90%) in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley snow cover averages 60%, with the first switchbacks above LRV, and those closest to Summit Junction, rapidly clearing of snow. Most hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending. (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) [checked 26th April] is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak and spikes are not required. 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 has less than 30% snow cover overall, with most remaining snow expected to melt in the next few days. 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 functionally 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.

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, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is functionally clear of snow to 7500 ft. Above that elevation snow cover is a patchy 30%. 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 downed trees on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places (especially in snow conditions), and cautious navigation is essential for those who do not have extensive experience of hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on Monday 25th April 2022 are as follows. Where known, the fresh snowfall following the minor storm on Friday 22nd April 2022 is given in parentheses. As mentioned in previous Reports, although many areas retain some extensive patches of snow from December and February storms, average measurements were functionally zero inches in all locations immediately prior to 22nd April. Note that there was considerable drifting in the trails in the latest storm. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 1-2 inches (5 inches on 22nd April)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 3-5 inches

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 0 inches (3.5 inches on 22nd April)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 2 inches (3.5 inches on 22nd April)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 1 inch

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 0 inches (2.5 inches on 22nd April)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (1.5 inches on 22nd April, largely melted by that afternoon)

Marion Mountain trailhead (6300 ft): 0 inches

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0 inches (<0.25 inch on 22nd April 2022, all melted by that afternoon)

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Detailed snow conditions on the PCT are described above under “Trail Conditions”.

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could well be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be challenging, especially for those with limited experience of snow/ice hiking. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April, requires spikes (at least), and is notoriously treacherous.

Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in April or May (although that is weather and/or maintenance dependent).

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park permits overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru-hikers.

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now options. Thank you for your support.

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just north of Wellman Divide. On the sun-exposed eastern slope snow from the minor storm on 22nd April has melted rapidly. Above, on 25th April 2022, and below on 22nd April.
PCT Mile 185.6, the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail at its junction with Deer Springs Trail (8970ft). Above on 25th April 2022, and below a week earlier on 18th April. On the sheltered western slope, snowmelt has been slower.

Minor snow storm 22nd April 2022

[UPDATE Sunday 24th April 2022 @ 1030: a minor fire reported just inside the State Park 1.6 miles up Marion Mountain Trail is currently being contained by Forest Service personnel. The fire was only a few feet square and surrounded by light snow. Judging by the size and location, it was likely an illegal campfire.]

This is a very brief summary of a minor storm that passed over the San Jacinto mountains on Friday 22nd April. With very warm, sunny conditions forecast for the next week, I will not go into too much detail as rapid melting will quickly return general conditions back to those described in the previous Report.

Rain started in Idyllwild (at 5550 ft) just after midnight, eventually accumulating to an impressive 0.64 inch by about 0500, before turning to a very light sleety snow (<0.25 inch accumulation).

Overall precipitation was, thankfully, above most forecasts, with 2-5 inches of snow in the high country (depending on elevation), and a dusting of snow down to about 5000 ft. Snow depths measured on 22nd April are detailed near the foot of this post.

Early on Friday 22nd we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails, breaking trail by postholing the entire ascent, and then descending the same route (other than descending the East Ridge down to 10,400 ft). Although I carried spikes, I never thought of using them in nice light, dry, powder which afforded good grip.

I recorded a short video summary of conditions – in a wild westerly wind, sorry for the mediocre sound – at San Jacinto Peak late morning on 22nd April.

Current conditions for individual routes are discussed in detail below where known. These will change rapidly with warming temperatures and widespread melting in the next few days. Although useful tracks are already in place for some major trails (mentioned below), including the entire PCT, cautious navigation remains recommended everywhere.

Some hikers will find that spikes are currently helpful depending upon comfort level on thin snow cover. They are not generally required however, as thin, soft snow is providing reasonable traction to footwear suitable for mountain hiking in winter conditions. This will change over the next couple of days in differing ways, as some high country trails rapidly melt in very warm temperatures, while others become compacted and icier with freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks, on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and (as always) for descending and traversing. Snow conditions are extremely poor for snowshoeing with very thin snow plus rapid melting expected.

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in the next week, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures around freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road remain open. Humber Park was largely clear of snow by the afternoon of 22nd April.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to rise rapidly to above seasonal by Sunday 24th, be very warm on 25th-27th, then drop slightly to near seasonal from Thursday 28th. Snowmelt will be very rapid and widespread at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Friday 22nd April 2022 at 1130 the air temperature was 16.5°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -11.7°F (-24°C), 98% relative humidity, and a wild WSW wind sustained at 23 mph gusting to 47.3 mph. The latter was the strongest wind gust recorded at San Jacinto Peak this winter.

At the Peak on Wednesday 20th April 2022 at 0750 the air temperature was 30.5°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.1°F (-11°C), 61% relative humidity, and a strong due West wind sustained at 22 mph gusting to 32.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500 ft are currently partially obscured by light snow, with thin snow cover continuous above about 7000 ft. Melting was already underway on 22nd April and will accelerate very rapidly over the next week.

The entire PCT through the San Jacinto mountains already has a well-traveled track through the fresh snow. By the time I descended on the afternoon of 22nd, I was pleased to see well-defined tracks following my route north from Saddle Junction, and continuing on round to Strawberry Junction. A well-traveled track came in to Saddle Junction from the south, and discussions with various thru hikers I passed indicated that the PCT north and south of the area I covered was hiked by multiple groups in the afternoon of 22nd.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177).

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, initially “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Although the trail is now clear of significant ice problems, Ranger Station staff have indicated that the trail remains closed indefinitely. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 had good steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These steps will have been largely obscured by the fresh snowfall. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Spikes are strongly recommended for this weekend at least. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a very well-defined track to follow. Sections were already close to clearing (and/or turning to slush) by the afternoon of 22nd April, especially below 6700 ft.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is already partly clear of snow, and will clear completely this weekend.

My shallow posthole track is largely well-defined from Annie’s Junction to San Jacinto Peak, via the Wellman and Peak trails. Tracks were disappearing quickly under spindrift snow in wind-exposed areas above 9900 ft elevation.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on Friday 22nd April 2022 are as follows. The only number given is the new snowfall. As mentioned in the previous Report, although many areas retain some extensive patches of older snow, average mweasurements were functionally zero inches in all locations prior to this latest storm. Due to strong winds accompanying this storm note that there is considerable drifting in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 5 inches

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 3.5 inches

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 3.5 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 2.5 inches

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 1.5 inches (largely melted by afternoon of 22nd)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): <0.25 inch (all melted by afternoon of 22nd)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to keep active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all available. Thank you for your support.

The well-known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft) on 22nd April 2022 above, and the same view for comparison on 18th April below.

Trail update 20th April 2022

[UPDATED 22nd April 2022: a minor snow storm overnight produced five inches of snow at San Jacinto Peak, and 0.5in rain and a trace of snow in Idyllwild. Snowmelt will be rapid over the weekend,, but some hikers will find spikes useful for at least the next couple of days. More details (and a feel for conditions in the high country) in this short video recorded late this morning.]

Recent warm days have led to further widespread snowmelt. Although a very minor storm system is forecast for the early morning of Friday 22nd April, only 1-2 inches of snow are expected above about 8000 ft elevation, which is unlikely to significantly impact trail conditions or increase navigation challenges. A return to warm weather immediately after the storm will result in fresh snow melting very quickly.

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

Early on Monday 18th April we ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails to San Jacinto Peak, descending via Deer Springs Trail. This loop also facilitated survey of the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183) plus several of its side trails. This was my first Peak ascent this calendar year in which my spikes went unused all morning, even for descending. Of the 24 PCT hikers I saw and chatted with on my loop hike, only a handful were using spikes, even those leaving the Trail to summit the Peak.

Hikers may find spikes remain useful in a few areas above about 8000 ft (generally discussed below), depending on individual comfort level and experience on patches of icy snow, where snow on trails is compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. In general spikes are no longer required, especially on extensively melted and well-traveled trails with defined snow steps. Spikes remain most useful for descending, especially for the first few hundred feet of elevation down from the highest peaks. Spikes remain valuable – if no longer strictly essential – in certain locations, such as the north side of Tahquitz Peak.

As snow is now so patchy and limited, I am no longer reporting snow depths. However significant snow remains in patches, largely in sheltered forested areas, and on north-facing slopes. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Despite unseasonal warm temperatures at times, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road are open, and these areas cleared of icy snow weeks ago. Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April. Black Mountain (4S01) and Dark Canyon (5S02) roads remain in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only).

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic) is now tentatively scheduled to reopen in May 2022.

Willow Creek just upstream from Laws Camp, early morning of Thursday 14th April 2022.

WEATHER

After a few recent days of above seasonal temperatures, a cooler spell is forecast between 20th-23rd April, with temperatures at or even slightly below average for April. A minor storm system is forecast for the early morning of Friday 22nd April, with <0.3in rain forecast for Idyllwild and a dusting of snow above about 7000 ft elevation, with two inches of snow possible around the highest peaks. Starting Sunday 24th temperatures yet again rise to well above seasonal, and will be very warm for April on 25th-29th.

The first three months of the year combined to be the second driest ever here in Riverside County, and the driest on record for the entire northern half of California (NWS data). The Sierra snowpack, at an impressive 160% of average on 1st January, was only 38% of average by 1st April. In the San Jacinto mountains precipitation has been below average in the high country for the tenth consecutive winter (and eight of those ten winters, including the past three seasons, have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 20th April 2022 at 0750 the air temperature was 30.5°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.1°F (-11°C), 61% relative humidity, and a strong due West wind sustained at 22 mph gusting to 32.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 18th April 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 40.5°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 29.3°F (-1°C), 28% relative humidity, and a steady WNW wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 27.6 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 13th April 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 29.1°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.6°F (-9°C), 17% relative humidity, and a sharp NW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 17.3 mph.

The well-known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega, 18th April 2022. The low flow is more reminiscent of September than April.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8700ft are generally clear of snow, and thin patchy snow cover is increasingly limited above that elevation.

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 will 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 this winter. In a full survey on 19th March 2022, 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 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is now clearing rapidly. A few extended patches of angled icy snow remain but have steps to follow. Most hikers will find spikes are still useful, especially for descending, but they are no longer essential.

Effective 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route.) The trail is expected to reopen later in April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. The trail remained closed as of 19th April.

The following trails below 8800 ft elevation are completely clear of snow/ice: Ernie Maxwell, Devil’s Slide, Suicide Rock, South Ridge (south from Tahquitz Peak), all Garner Valley trails.

The PCT is clear of snow from Mile 151 to 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow cover remains about 40% between Miles 175-178, and some hikers are finding that spikes remain useful for those few miles. Snow cover is now limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. Some lengthy snow patches remain on the sheltered sections of Fuller Ridge (notably Miles 188-189.5)

Snow cover now only averages 10% on the Peak Trail, persisting in the handful of traditional areas that are less sun-exposed (e.g., around 9000-10,100 ft). Spikes are generally not required for ascending, but can be useful in places for descending. The well-compacted snow route on the East Ridge still has 95% snow cover but is becoming increasingly uneven due to melting.

The Wellman Trail is almost clear of snow, other than the first 0.3 mile north of Annie’s Junction.

Marion Mountain Trail is now 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 completely clear of snow to about 8700ft (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is a very patchy 10% to about 9300 ft. Above that elevation snow cover averages only 30%. Snow is most extensive (60%) in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley snow cover averages only 40%, with the first switchbacks above LRV, and those closest to Summit Junction, now functionally clear of snow. Some hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending. (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. Spikes are not required. 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 has less than 10% snow cover overall, with a traveled track to Long Valley through the remaining snow patches. 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.

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, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is clear of snow to 8200 ft. Above that elevation snow cover is a patchy 30%. There is at least one set of visible hiker tracks across the remaining snow patches on Seven Pines Trail as of 11th April. 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places (especially in snow conditions), and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now options. Thank you for your support.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Detailed snow conditions on the PCT are described above under “Trail Conditions”.

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could well be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be challenging, especially for those with limited experience of snow/ice hiking. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April, requires spikes (at least), and is notoriously treacherous.

Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in April or May (although that is weather and/or maintenance dependent).

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru-hikers.

PCT Mile 185.6, the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail at its junction with Deer Springs Trail (8970ft). Above on 18th April 2022, and three weeks earlier on 29th March 2022. What a difference just a couple of weeks can make.

Trail and snow update 13th April 2022

Although cooler conditions are (thankfully) forecast for the next few days, near record warm weather last week led to very rapid and widespread snowmelt. Consequently overall snowmelt conditions are nearly two months ahead of an average snow year. The minor storm overnight on Monday 11th April produced no snow, and a mere 0.02in of drizzle in Idyllwild.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed multiple segments of the PCT, its side trails, and Forest roads.

While spikes have not been needed on my ascents of San Jacinto Peak since late March, most hikers are continuing to find them useful in parts of the high country depending on their comfort level on patchy ice and icy snow. Spikes remain most useful for descending, especially for the first few hundred feet of elevation down from the highest peaks. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Spikes remain useful – but are no longer required, especially on heavily traveled trails with defined steps – in some areas above about 8000 ft, depending on individual comfort level on icy snow, and where snow on trails is compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally most valuable for traversing and for descending.

Snow depths measured on 11th April are detailed near the foot of this post, but note that snow depth is not necessarily indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions underfoot.

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

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road are open. Humber Park was clear of snow by the afternoon of 29th March, and South Ridge Road is clear of icy snow.

The following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01) and Dark Canyon (5S02).

Santa Rosa Road (7S02) reopened on 7th April.

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic) is reportedly scheduled to reopen on 23rd April 2022.

WEATHER

Following the cold but frustratingly dry storm system that passed through overnight on Monday 11th April, temperatures climb slowly back to around seasonal by Friday 15th April, and then continue to warm to above seasonal for 17th-18th April, before dropping back to seasonal. Some forecasts are suggesting the possibility of a minor storm system on 22nd-23rd April.

This recent video from National Weather Service San Diego includes some grim statistics. The first three months of the year combined to be the second driest ever here in Riverside County, and the driest on record for the entire northern half of California. The Sierra snowpack, at an impressive 160% of average on 1st January, was only 38% of average on 1st April.

In the San Jacinto mountains for the tenth consecutive winter precipitation has been below average in the high country (and eight of those ten winters, including the past three seasons, have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 13th April 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 29.1°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.6°F (-9°C), 17% relative humidity, and a sharp NW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 17.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 11th April 2022 at 0920 the air temperature was 35.6°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.5°F (-5°C), 46% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 22.7 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 8th April 2022 at 0820 the air temperature was 41.4°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.5°F (0°C), 28% relative humidity, and a stiff NE wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 22.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8700ft are now largely or completely clear of snow, and thin snow cover is increasingly patchy everywhere above that elevation, especially on sun-exposed slopes.

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, agencies failed to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will 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 this winter. In a full survey on 19th March 2022, 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. Many hikers have told me recently that the tree hazards are much more problematic than the remaining snow.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is melting rapidly and has a set of steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. While crampons with an ice axe (and thorough knowledge of how to use both) are preferred, experienced hikers will find spikes sufficient. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January 2022.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route.) The trail is expected to reopen later in April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. The open section of trail below 5800 ft is clear of snow.

The following trails below 8800 ft elevation are completely clear of snow/ice: Ernie Maxwell, Devil’s Slide, Suicide Rock, South Ridge (south from Tahquitz Peak).

The PCT is clear of snow from Mile 151 to 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow cover remains extensive (>40%) between Miles 175-178, and many hikers are finding that spikes remain useful for those few miles. Snow cover is now very limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 190 snow cover averages about 50%, with some lengthy snow patches. Exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) are now clear, as are areas north of Mile 190.

Snow cover is now only about 40% on the Peak Trail, persisting in the handful of traditional areas that are less sun-exposed, and above about 10,400 ft. Spikes are generally not required for ascending, but can be useful in places for descending. The well-compacted snow route on the East Ridge has 95% snow cover.

The Wellman Trail is almost clear of snow, other than the first 0.3 mile north of Annie’s Junction.

Marion Mountain Trail is now clear of snow, with just a tiny snow patch right below its junction with Deer Springs Trail that does not require spikes. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to about 8600ft (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is a very patchy 10% to about 9300 ft. Above that elevation snow cover averages about 50%. Snow cover is most extensive (80%) in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley snow cover averages 60%, however the first switchbacks above LRV, and those closest to Summit Junction, are now functionally clear of snow. The trail itself is largely visible now, and is a good route for ascending. My former direct off-trail snow route is now heavily melted and not recommended. Cautious navigation is required as there are several alternative tracks meandering across the patchy snow slope. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [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, with just a couple of tiny ice patches remaining near the Peak. Spikes are not required. 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.

The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide, and is clearing rapidly.

Willow Creek Trail has about 10% snow cover overall, with a lightly-traveled track to Long Valley through the remaining snow patches. 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.

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 careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail is functionally clear of snow to 8200 ft. Above that elevation snow cover is a patchy 40%. There is one set of visible hiker tracks across the remaining snow patches on Seven Pines Trail as of 11th April. 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places (especially in snow conditions), and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 11th April 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the greatest depth of the winter following the storms of 22nd-23rd February 2022 given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 0-8 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 5 inches (30-36 inches on 23rd February, heavily drifted)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 0 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 0-6 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 2-4 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 0 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 0 inches (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (15 inches on 23rd February)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all now options. Thank you for your support.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Detailed snow conditions on the PCT are described above under “Trail Conditions”.

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could well be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be challenging, especially for those with limited experience of snow/ice hiking. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April, requires spikes (at least), and is notoriously treacherous.

Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in April or May (although that is weather and/or maintenance dependent).

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru-hikers.

PCT Mile 185.6 where the Fuller Ridge and Deer Springs trails diverge (8950ft). Above on 11th April 2022, and below on 29th March 2022, showing rapid snowmelt.
Little Round Valley (9800ft), above on 11th April 2022, and below on 29th March 2022.

Snow and trail update 5th April 2022

Snowfall from the minor storm last week (described here) melted within days, as illustrated in the photos at the foot of this posting. Melting of older snow largely from earlier this “winter” – I use that word in the broadest possible sense – has also accelerated dramatically. Very warm, dry conditions are forecast for the first ten days of April.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed many segments of PCT Miles 168-191 and its side trails.

On none of my recent ascents of San Jacinto Peak have spikes been needed, although many hikers will find them useful in places depending on their comfort level on icy snow. Spikes are useful for descending, at least for the first few hundred feet of elevation below San Jacinto Peak.

On 31st March we reviewed conditions again at Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) as discussed in this short video. Very little snow remains, and the video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March (available here) remains relevant, although now hikers will encounter even less snow than in the video. Similarly the detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March also remains broadly applicable. Again, conditions will only continue to get easier over the next week. See below for a detailed description of snow cover on the PCT from Miles 151-205.

Snow depths measured on 1st and 4th April are detailed near the foot of this post, but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions underfoot.

Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. These will continue to change and simplify with rapid and widespread melting over the next ten days. Although useful tracks are now in place for most major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Spikes remain useful (but no longer essential, especially on well-traveled trails) in some areas above about 8000 ft, as snow on trails can be icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally most valuable for traversing and for descending. Snow conditions are extremely poor for snowshoeing with limited thin snow cover, and continued rapid melting expected.

Despite unseasonably warm weather, hikers should continue to be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects, especially next week (see below for my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road are open. Humber Park was clear of snow by the afternoon of 29th March, and South Ridge Road is clear of icy snow.

The following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02).

The Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild, closed for more than two years (originally due to the coronavirus pandemic) is tentatively scheduled to reopen on 23rd April 2022.

Dawn on Spitler Peak Trail, 31st March 2022, just after we emerged from the marine cloud layer at 5700 ft elevation. Thomas Mountain is to the right, and Cone Peak is barely visible poking through the cloud left of centre.

WEATHER

Temperatures forecast for 5th-9th April will be at or near record highs and more closely resemble early June rather than early April. They will be accompanied by Santa Ana winds and very low humidity. A significant cooling is expected for a few days starting 11th April. Forecasts remain uncertain, but there is the possibility of a very minor storm system around 12th April.

This latest video from National Weather Service San Diego makes includes some grim statistics. The first three months of the year combined to be the second driest ever here in Riverside County, and the driest on record for the entire northern half of California. The Sierra snowpack, at an impressive 160% of average on 1st January, is now only 38% of average.

In the San Jacinto mountains for the tenth consecutive winter precipitation has been below average in the high country (and eight of those ten winters, including this season, have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 4th April 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 34.0°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 26.6°F (-3°C), 61% relative humidity, and a light NE wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.4 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 1st April 2022 at 0825 the air temperature was 32.2°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 18.3°F (-8°C), 55% relative humidity, and a fresh ESE wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 18.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Many trails below about 8700ft are now largely or completely clear of snow, and thin snow cover is increasingly patchy everywhere above that elevation, especially on sun-exposed slopes. Melting has been steady in the past two weeks, and will accelerate dramatically in the second week of 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 reported promptly, agencies failed to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will 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 this winter. In a full survey on 19th March 2022, 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. Many hikers have commented to me that the tree hazards are more problematic than the remaining snow.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is melting rapidly and has a set of steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous however. Currently crampons with an ice axe (and thorough knowledge of how to use both) are preferred, although experienced hikers will find spikes sufficient. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January 2022.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route.) The trail is expected to reopen sometime in April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. The open section of trail below 5800 ft is clear of snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of icy snow to near Saddle Junction, with just a few tiny patches mainly near the latter.

The PCT for a mile north of Saddle Junction (“Angel’s Glide”) is essentially clear of snow.

The Wellman Trail is now only about 40% snow-covered.

The well-traveled compacted track on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak follows the trail route. Icy snow cover remains 80% but spikes are generally not needed other than close to San Jacinto Peak. Above 10,400ft tracks most tracks form a well-compacted route up the East Ridge.

Marion Mountain Trail is now functionally clear of snow, with just a few tiny dirty snow patches that do not require spikes. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Snow cover on the PCT has almost completely melted from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 175 (Red Tahquitz). See my video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March available here, with the specific area around Apache Peak surveyed again on 31st March (here). Although snow remains largely continuous between Miles 175-179, this will change rapidly over the next week. Spikes are useful for those few miles. Snow cover is becoming very limited between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 191, snow cover is extensive, although exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) are now clear, as are areas north of Mile 191. See the detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to about 8600ft (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is roughly 50% to about 9400 ft. Above that elevation snow cover is nearly continuous (>90%), with some clear patches rapidly developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [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.] From Little Round Valley up to near the Peak the most heavily traveled track follows my posthole track from 29th March, which itself followed my snowshoe route from late February. This track did not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many). Cautious navigation is required as there are several alternative tracks meandering across this snow slope. Some short sections of the trail above Little Round Valley have started to clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) [updated 7th April] is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak, with just a couple of tiny ice patches remaining near the Peak. Spikes are not required. 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.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide, and is clearing rapidly.

Willow Creek Trail has about 20% snow cover overall, with a posthole and snowshoe track to Long Valley through the remaining snow. There are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

The trail from Saddle Junction to near Reeds Meadow, then past Little Tahquitz Meadow to connect to the PCT is currently largely an ugly posthole track through soft snow that does not remotely follow the established trail routes. Melting will be rapid in the next week or so.

The Suicide Rock Trail is clear of snow.

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 2022.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well-traveled, is very sun-exposed and is functionally clear of snow.

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 careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. 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 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

Unsurprisingly, there were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines Trail as of 4th April.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 1st April 2022 (eastern side locations) and 4th April 2022 (western side) are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the greatest depth of the winter following the storms of 22nd-23rd February 2022 given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 7-8 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 10 inches (30-36 inches on 23rd February, heavily drifted)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 0-4 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 9 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 4-6 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 0 inches, new snow largely melted by afternoon of 29th March

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 0 inches (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (15 inches on 23rd February)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all available. Thank you so much for your support.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Detailed snow conditions on the PCT are described above under “Trail Conditions”.

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could well be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be challenging, especially for those with limited experience of snow/ice hiking. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April (at least), requires crampons and ice axe, and is notoriously treacherous.

Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in April (although that is weather dependent).

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru-hikers.

Approx. PCT Mile 185.6, where Fuller Ridge Trail diverges from Deer Springs Trail. Above on 4th April 2022, and below for comparison six days earlier on 29th March 2022
Above, Wellman Divide (9700 ft) on 1st April 2022, and below the same view three days earlier on 29th March 2022 for comparison.

Minor snow storm update 29th March 2022

[UPDATE Thursday 31st March 2022: this morning we shot a short video review of the Apache Peak area (PCT Mile 169.5) available here on YouTube. PCT Miles 151-175 are now functionally clear of snow and many thru hikers will find spikes are no longer required until rounding onto the north side of Red Tahquitz at Mile 175.]

A minor storm passed over the San Jacinto mountains on Monday 28th March, with light precipitation continuing into the early hours of Tuesday 29th.

Overall precipitation was well below forecasts, with only 3-5 inches of snow in the high country (depending on elevation). There was a dusting of snow down to about 5000 ft. In Idyllwild at 5550 ft we received 0.63 in of rain, plus 1.5 in of snow, although the latter melted within a few hours. Snow depths measured on 29th March are detailed near the foot of this post, but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions underfoot.

Early on Tuesday 29th March we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails. Although I carried crampons, spikes, and ice axe, in case I encountered a variety of challenging conditions, I ultimately only used the latter in lieu of poles. I broke trail the entire way through shallow to moderate snow, in good boots with excellent traction.

We descended Deer Springs Trail, again breaking trail almost the entire way, and again with no need for additional traction in easy powder, returning to Humber Park via the Suicide Rock Trail and Suicide Rock climbers trail. I did briefly encounter some posthole tracks near the top of Marion Mountain Trail. With such shallow snow, melting was well underway by the time I descended below Strawberry Junction, despite the west slope remaining in the cloud almost all day below about 9000 ft.

This loop also facilitated survey of – and breaking trail for – the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183) plus survey of several of its side trails.

Current conditions for individual routes are discussed in detail below where known. These will change rapidly with warming temperatures and widespread melting by next weekend. Although useful tracks are now in place for some major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation remains recommended everywhere.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making. These concerns may steadily increase over the next couple of weeks with snow undergoing multiple freeze-thaw cycles, with rising temperatures, seasonally stronger insolation, and highly variable snowmelt.

Spikes are currently helpful but are not strictly essential, as thin, soft snow is providing reasonable traction to footwear suitable for mountain hiking in winter conditions. This may change over the next few days as high country trails become compacted and icier with freeze-thaw cycles. Then spikes will be recommended everywhere above about 8000ft. They are generally especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks, on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and (as always) for descending and traversing. In the high country some hikers will find crampons a suitable alternative to spikes, although they are certainly not necessary (except of course on the north faces of San Jac and Tahquitz).

Snow conditions are generally poor for snowshoeing with thin snow plus rapid melting expected. With melting and compaction caused by freeze-thaw cycles and hiker traffic, conditions will rapidly deteriorate further for snowshoeing over the next week. Nevertheless, snowshoes may be valuable off trail above about 9000ft for the next few days.

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in the next week or so, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures around freezing in the high country, and often well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for my recent observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gates at Humber Park and South Ridge Road remain open. Humber Park was clear of snow by the afternoon of 29th March.

A capricious Tahquitz Peak as seen from about PCT Mile 180 early in the morning of 29th March 2022.

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to rise rapidly to about seasonal by Wednesday 30th, and then to warm further to above seasonal on 1st April. The first week of April will be very warm and snowmelt will be rapid and widespread at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 29th March 2022 at 1040 the air temperature was 19.8°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -1.0°F (-18°C), 94% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 25.9 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 25th March 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 45.5°F (7.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.3°F (3°C), 27% relative humidity, and a light SSE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 12.7 mph. The air temperature was likely an all-time record high for this location in the month of March.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500 ft are currently partially obscured by light snow, with thin snow cover continuous above about 8000 ft. Melting was already underway on 29th March and will accelerate very rapidly over the next week.

Current snow cover on the PCT is limited from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and then increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and 175 (Red Tahquitz). The thin snow cover from this latest storm will melt within the next few days. Some shaded chutes and slopes can be tricky for those without snow/ice experience, and spikes remain recommended. Within a couple of days my video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March available here will again be accurate to the conditions due to rapid melting. Snow remains largely continuous between Miles 175-179. Snow cover will quickly become very patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 191, snow cover is currently largely continuous, although extensive exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) will very rapidly clear again, as will areas north of Mile 191. The detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March will again be accurate to conditions after melting on 30th-31st March.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and February have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Long Valley Ranger Station staff have stated that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Very shallow snow from these latest storms on the open section of trail below 5800 ft will melt very rapidly on this exposed slope.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has very indistinct steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These steps will have been largely obscured by the fresh snowfall. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are currently recommended. It is possible that spikes will be sufficient by the weekend. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-defined shallow posthole track to follow. Large sections were already clearing by the afternoon of 29th March, especially below 7700 ft.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is already largely clear of snow, and will clear completely on 30th March.

My shallow posthole track is well-defined from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, via the PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails. Above 10,400 ft my posthole track roughly follows the East Ridge Trail route.

Marion Mountain Trail has a well-defined posthole track through the snow along its entire length, however it does not follow the trail route in places.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines or Fuller Ridge trails as of early afternoon on 29th March, nor on the Strawberry Trail (approx. PCT Miles 181-183).

Deer Springs Trail has a well-defined track along its entire length. Most snow had already melted below Strawberry Junction (8100 ft) by the afternoon of 29th, and it will liekly clear completely below about 8600 ft on 30th-31st. Below Little Round Valley I (generally) made a conscious effort to accurately follow the trail route. Through and above Little Round Valley the only track is my shallow posthole route down from the Peak which does not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many hikers).

Suicide Rock Trail was functionally clear of snow by the afternoon of 29th March.

Spitler Peak Trail will very rapidly clear of snow in the next day or two. 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 2022.

Strawberry Junction (8100ft, approx PCT Mile 183) in early afternoon on 29th March 2022.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 29th March 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the new snow from the storm on 28th-29th March given in parentheses. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 12-14 inches (4-5 inches new)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 12-14 inches (4 inches new)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 4-6 inches (4 inches new)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 11 inches (3 inches new)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 8 inches (3 inches new)

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 0-1 inch (1-2 inches new, largely melted by afternoon of 29th)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 2-3 inches (2 inches new)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 1.5 inches (1.5 inches new, largely melted by afternoon of 29th)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 1.5 inches (1.5 inches new, all melted by afternoon of 29th)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to keep active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle has been added as a fee-free way to donate. Thank you for your support.

The well-known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft) on 29th March 2022 above, and the same view for comparison on 25th March below.

Brief weather and trail update 26th March 2022

[UPDATED Tuesday 29th March @ 1055: We broke trail this morning up Devil’s Slide Trail to San Jacinto Peak. Snow depths range from two inches at Saddle Junction (8070ft) to 4-5 inches here at San Jacinto Peak. Spikes are recommended but are not strictly essential. Crampons are an alternative above 9000ft for those who have them. Shallow snow and underlying icy snow generally make conditions poor for snowshoes. We will descend breaking trail down Deer Springs Trail. Main update this evening.]

[UPDATED Monday 28th March @ 1955: we hiked up Tahquitz Peak this afternoon to assess the start of the storm. It started drizzling on us at 1330. Around the Peak very light snow was slowly settling above 8500 ft, with a mix of snow, sleet and rain from 7800-8500 ft, and drizzle below that. So far 0.48 in of rain has fallen in Idyllwild at 5550 ft elevation, with a scant 0.5 in of snow settled at Tahquitz Peak (8800 ft) and in Long Valley (8600 ft). After a lull for a couple of hours, the second, colder phase of the system is imminent, lasting until pre-dawn tomorrow.]

This is a short update, hopefully useful for all readers but with the large number of thru hikers currently on the PCT in mind (we have seen and talked to dozens on hikes in recent days). For more comprehensive details of trail conditions for trails not mentioned below, Forest road closures, and other general information, see the previous report for 21st-23rd March linked here.

After days of uncertainty, the forecasts have become somewhat clearer for the storm system expected on Monday 28th March. The storm will have two phases, now so close together that essentially there will be continuous precipitation from early Monday afternoon until around sunrise on Tuesday 29th.

The first phase is particularly warm and will bring rain to lower and mid elevations on Monday afternoon, with a freeze level at 7000-7500 ft. The second phase, lasting most of Monday night, will be colder, with the freeze level dropping to about 6000 ft. Snowfall estimates above 10,000 ft for the entire system total 6-10 inches. Lower elevations will receive less snow, especially those around 5500-7500 ft that will get rain from the first phase of the storm. Idyllwild is expected to be below the snow level.

Most of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains is above 6000 ft and will some experience light snowfall. Miles 175-191 are all above 7700 ft and are expected to receive about 2-6 inches of snow. In combination with strong winds (and therefore drifting) this may be sufficient to obscure the existing track in places, complicate navigation, and make for more challenging conditions underfoot.

Shallow fresh snow on top of ice (from rain) or on top of older icy snow are conditions that have proven to be challenging for less experienced hikers in the San Jacinto mountains in recent years, and these are the conditions that are now expected for 28th-30th March at least. Fresh snow obscures the ice or icy snow underneath, and makes it harder for traction devices to grip. Considerable caution is recommended in such conditions. Melting will be relatively rapid in the days immediately after the storm, but with some freeze-thaw cycles for at least a few days.

Although useful tracks are now in place for most major trails, some of these above about 7000 ft will become obscured on Monday 28th for up to several days, and cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

I have hiked somewhere on the PCT and/or its alternates every day for the past couple of weeks. I uploaded a detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on the morning of Wednesday 23rd March. Also note that four days earlier I did a similar survey and video report for PCT Miles 168.5-179.5. Obviously these videos are only applicable until Sunday 27th March.

Early on Friday 25th March we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails, descending the same way. Boots with excellent traction were sufficient all the way to the Peak. I only used spikes to descend to about 10,300 ft. Hikers with a lower comfort level on snow and icy snow will find spikes useful more widely.

Snow depths measured on 23rd-25th March are detailed near the foot of this post but note that snow depth alone is rarely indicative of the difficulty or otherwise of conditions for hiking.

Spikes are recommended (but are not essential on well-traveled trails) above about 7600 ft, as snow on trails can be icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally most valuable for traversing and for descending. Starting Monday 28th, spikes are expected to be strongly recommended everywhere above about 6000 ft for several days.

PCT hikers that leave the trail by Mile 165, and then regain the trail at Mile 191 using the Black Mountain Road alternate, currently no longer require spikes (currently spikes remain recommended for some parts of Miles 166-191). This advice may change after 28th March.

WEATHER

Specifics of the warm mixed precipitation storm on Monday 28th are given above. About an inch of rain is expected at mid elevations, with snowfall of 6-10 inches in the high country. Relatively mild, sunny conditions are expected from Wednesday 30th March onwards, and rapid snowmelt will resume.

The air temperature recorded at San Jacinto Peak on Friday 25th March – an astonishing 45.5°F (7.5°C) – was likely an all-time record high for the Peak in March.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75 in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak. Snowfall in both December 2021 and February 2022 was below seasonal for the high country. Consequently, for the tenth consecutive winter, precipitation will be below average in the San Jacinto high country (and eight of those ten winters have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Friday 25th March 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 45.5°F (7.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.3°F (3°C), 27% relative humidity, and a light SSE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 12.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 21st March 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 35.4°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 16.5°F (-9°C), 47% relative humidity, and a gusty NNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 16.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Current snow cover on the PCT is extremely limited from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and then increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and 175 (Red Tahquitz). Some shaded chutes and slopes can be tricky for those without snow/ice experience, and spikes remain recommended. See my video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March available here. Snow remains largely continuous between Miles 175-179. Snow cover is becoming very patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 191, snow cover is largely continuous, although extensive exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) are now largely clear, as are areas north of Mile 191. See the detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March.

Trails below about 7500ft are now generally clear of snow, light snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and light to moderate cover is largely continuous but melting steadily everywhere above 9000ft. Melting has been very rapid in the past two weeks.

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 this winter. In a full survey on 19th March 2022, 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.

Devil’s Slide Trail is essentially clear of icy snow to near Saddle Junction, with just a few patches mainly near the latter. Hikers may find spikes useful near Saddle, especially for descending.

The PCT for a mile north of Saddle Junction (“Angel’s Glide”) is essentially clear of snow. The Wellman Trail is now only about 50% snow-covered.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and thorough knowledge of how to use both) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

The well-traveled compacted track on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak follows the trail route. Icy snow cover remains 60%. Above 10,400ft tracks form a partially compacted route up the East Ridge. The Peak Trail itself has not been properly broken above 10,400 ft.

Marion Mountain Trail has about 50% snow cover overall, with a very well-traveled compacted track throughout. The trail is largely clear (<10% snow cover) to about 7400 ft and then snow cover averages 60% up to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail junction, with a couple of lengthy clear sections. Spikes are useful for descending. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Unsurprisingly, there were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines Trail as of 23rd March.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft, and is largely clear from there to about 8600ft (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is about 95%, with a few clear patches developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [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.] Through Little Round Valley and on up to near the Peak the most heavily traveled track follows my prior snowshoe route which did not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and is a challenging ascent for many). Cautious navigation is required as there are several alternative tracks meandering across this snow slope.

Willow Creek Trail has about 40% snow cover overall, with a posthole and snowshoe track to Long Valley through the remaining snow. There are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

The trail from Saddle Junction to near Reeds Meadow, then past Little Tahquitz Meadow to connect to the PCT is currently an ugly posthole track through soft snow that does not remotely follow the established trail routes.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well-traveled, is very sun-exposed and is clearing rapidly of snow.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

The Suicide Rock Trail is clear of snow.

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 2022.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 23rd-25th March 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the greatest depth recorded after the largest storm of this calendar year (on 22nd-23rd February 2022) given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 9 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 10-12 inches (with heavy drifting here)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 0-4 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 8 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 6 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 0 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 0-1 inch (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (15 inches on 23rd February)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle has been added as a fee-free way to donate. Thank you for your support.

Above, Wellman Divide (9700ft) on 25th March 2022, and below the same view 11 days earlier on 14th March, showing rapid snowmelt.
Above, Annie’s Junction/PCT Mile 180.8 (9070ft) on 25th March 2022, and below the same view 11 days earlier on 14th March, showing very rapid snowmelt for such a relatively shaded area.

Snow and trail update 23rd March 2022

[I have uploaded a detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on the morning of Wednesday 23rd March. Also note that four days earlier I did a similar survey and video report for PCT Miles 168.5-179.5.]

Other than brief cooler weather on Sunday 20th, warm and sunny conditions have led to rapid snowmelt at all elevations. This will accelerate further this week, with forecast temperatures far above average for March. Overall snow conditions already more closely resemble mid April (or, in a “normal” year, early May) than mid March.

Very minor precipitation on 20th included 0.11 in of rain in Idyllwild (at 5550 ft) and 0.25 in snow above 8700ft with a dusting down to 7500 ft. There was a narrow band between 8700-9800 ft on the western slope with 0.5 in snow, dropping back to just 0.25 in at the highest peaks.

Snow depths measured (largely) on 21st March are detailed near the foot of this post but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty or otherwise of conditions for hiking.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed several segments of PCT Miles 151-186 and its side trails, plus multiple Forest roads. On Saturday 19th March we hiked PCT Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) plus Spitler Peak and Devil’s Slide trails, and reported on conditions in this detailed video report.

Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. These will continue to change with rapid and widespread melting over the next week, followed by the possibility of a light to moderate snowstorm on 28th-29th March.

Early on Monday 21st March we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails. Boots with excellent traction were sufficient all the way to the Peak. Spikes were useful for descending continuously to about 8600 ft and then on some patches down to 7500 ft. Hikers with a lower comfort level on snow and icy snow will find spikes useful more widely. Although useful tracks are now in place for most major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Although snow conditions are rapidly becoming benign in the San Jacinto mountains, I continue to emphasize the critical importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making.

Spikes are recommended (but not essential on well-traveled trails) almost everywhere above about 7400 ft, as snow on trails can be icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally most valuable for traversing and for descending. PCT hikers that leave the trail by Mile 165, and then regain the trail at Mile 191 using the Black Mountain Road alternate, no longer require spikes (currently spikes remain recommended for some parts of Miles 166-191).

With the main trails now largely having compacted tracks snowshoes are no longer required but they remain very useful in off-trail areas only above about 7900ft. With continued snowmelt conditions will further deteriorate for snowshoeing over the next week.

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 11th March.

South Ridge Road is open and is largely clear of icy snow.

The following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02).

Junction of Fuller Ridge Trail and Deer Springs Trail (PCT Mile 185.6) on 21st March 2022. There is now a lightly traveled posthole track on Fuller Ridge (to the left).

WEATHER

Temperatures will yet again climb to well above seasonal, with very warm conditions forecast for 24th-26th March. There is the likelihood of a warm storm around Monday 28th, with moderate rainfall at mid elevations, and snowfall up to 10-12 inches in the high country.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak. Snowfall in both December 2021 and February 2022 was below seasonal for the high country. Consequently, for the tenth consecutive winter, precipitation will be below average in the San Jacinto high country (and eight of those ten winters have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 21st March 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 35.4°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 16.5°F (-9°C), 47% relative humidity, and a gusty NNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 16.7 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 17th March 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 29.1°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.5°F (-10°C), 19% relative humidity, and a bitter due North wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 16.5 mph.

Little Round Valley (9800ft) on 21st March 2022, averaging about 12-18 inches of snow cover but with some bare patches appearing.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7500ft are now generally clear of snow, light snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and light to moderate cover remains largely continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Icy snow from prior storms persists on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks, and Antsell Rock). Melting has been rapid in the past week and will accelerate over the next week.

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, agencies failed to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and thorough knowledge of how to use both) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route.) Long Valley Ranger Station staff have stated that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. The open section of trail below 5800 ft is clear of snow.

Current snow cover on the PCT is very limited from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and then increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and 175 (Red Tahquitz). Although limited, some shaded chutes and slopes can be tricky for those without snow/ice experience, and spikes remain recommended. See my video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March available here. Although snow remains largely continuous between Miles 175-179, this will change rapidly over the next week. Snow cover is becoming very patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 191, snow cover is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) are now largely clear, as are areas north of Mile 191. See the detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March.

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 this winter. In a full survey on 19th March 2022, 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 Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of icy snow to about 7700 ft, and then with about 40% patchy cover to Saddle Junction. Hikers will generally find spikes useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

The PCT for a mile north of Saddle Junction (“Angel’s Glide”) is already largely clear of snow. The Wellman Trail has a well-traveled posthole route that largely follows the trail and remains about 90% snow-covered, but sun-exposed sections are clearing rapidly.

The well-traveled compacted track on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak follows the trail route. Icy snow cover remains >90%. Above 10,400ft tracks form a partially compacted snowshoe route up the East Ridge. The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail has about 50% snow cover overall, with a very well-traveled compacted track throughout. The trail is largely clear (10% snow cover) to about 7400 ft and then snow cover averages 70% up to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail junction, with a couple of lengthy clear sections. Spikes are very useful for descending. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

There is now an obvious posthole track on Fuller Ridge Trail, although it does not accurately follow the PCT route in places. Spikes remain recommended for this section. I expect to fully update conditions on Fuller Ridge by 24th March.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines Trail as of 21st March.

Deer Springs Trail is functionally clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft, and is largely clear from there to about 8600ft (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is nearly continuous, with a few minor clear patches developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [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.] Through Little Round Valley and on up to near the Peak the most heavily traveled track follows my prior snowshoe route which did not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many). Cautious navigation is required as there are several alternative tracks meandering across this snow slope.

Willow Creek Trail has about 50% snow cover overall, with a posthole and snowshoe track to Long Valley through the remaining snow. There are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

The trail from Saddle Junction to near Reeds Meadow, then past Little Tahquitz Meadow to connect to the PCT is currently an ugly posthole track through soft snow that does not remotely follow the established trail routes.

The Suicide Rock Trail is clear of snow.

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 2022.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is rapidly clearing of snow up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover is about 50% to near Tahquitz Peak, and nearly continuous on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Spikes recommended. 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.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well-traveled, is very sun-exposed and is clearing rapidly of snow.

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 careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. 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 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on (or around) 21st March 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the greatest depth recorded after the largest storm of this calendar year (on 22nd-23rd February 2022) given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 14-15 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 16 inches (with heavy drifting here)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 4 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 14 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 6-8 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 0-2 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 2-4 inches (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (15 inches on 23rd February)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0 inches, melted by 10th March (10.5 inches on 23rd February)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle has been added as a fee-free way to donate. Thank you for your support.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be challenging, especially for those with limited experience of snow/ice hiking. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

Current snow cover on the PCT is very limited from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and then increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and 175 (Red Tahquitz). Although limited, some shaded chutes and slopes can be tricky for those without snow/ice experience, and spikes remain recommended. See my video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March available here. Although snow remains largely continuous between Miles 175-179, this will change rapidly over the next week. Snow cover is becoming very patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 191, snow cover is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) are now largely clear, as are areas north of Mile 191. See the detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March.

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved problematic for some hikers over the years is currently largely snow-covered but is not currently challenging (see video report mentioned above). Spikes are currently recommended. Every individual should make their own assessment of whether to cross based on their comfort level on angled snow, their snow/ice experience, available equipment, time of day, and current snow conditions. If in any doubt whatsoever, turn around and take the Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April (at least), requires crampons and ice axe, and is notoriously treacherous.

Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in March or April (although that is weather dependent).

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds (when open). Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru hikers.

Snow and trail update 17th March 2022

[UPDATED 20th March: very minor precipitation overnight included 0.09in rain in Idyllwild and 0.25in snow at 8600ft with a dusting down to 7500ft. Spikes remain recommended above about 7000ft.]

[UPDATED 19th March: we hiked PCT Miles 168.5-179.5 and reported on conditions in this video report.]

[I have added a section “Pacific Crest Trail” at the foot of this update. However significant sections of the main Report also have key information for thru hikers, especially the discussion of current snow/ice conditions and recommended traction equipment.]

Although temperatures have been relatively cool for most of the past week, sunny conditions have started to rapidly melt the light snowfall from 5th-6th March from exposed areas at all elevations and from much of the trail system below about 7000 ft. Snow depths measured on 14th March are detailed near the foot of this post – and were not substantially different on 17th – but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions for hiking.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have also surveyed Spitler Peak Trail, several segments of PCT Miles 151-170 and its side trails, plus multiple Forest roads. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. These will continue to change with rapid melting over the next week or two (and the possibility of light snow on Sunday 20th).

Early on Monday 14th March we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails. I went minimalist with equipment this time, which proved to be the right decision, as boots with excellent traction were sufficient all the way to the Peak. We descended the east side of the mountain, via the East Ridge, Peak, Wellman, and Devil’s Slide trails. Although I wore spikes down to about 8000 ft they were not required below about 10,400 ft as the softening snow allowed for good grip. Hikers with a lower comfort level on snow and icy snow will find spikes useful more widely. Although useful tracks are now in place for most major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

On 8th March I recorded a video report of conditions on the Desert Divide, specifically at Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) available here.

Multiple hiker falls already this year in the San Jacinto mountains, including one fatality, demonstrate the critical importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making.

Spikes are recommended (but not essential on well-traveled trails) almost everywhere above about 7000 ft, as snow on trails can be icy following freeze-thaw cycles and where compacted by hiker traffic. Spikes are generally most valuable for traversing and for descending. Thru hikers that leave the PCT by Mile 165, and then regain the trail at Mile 191 using the Black Mountain Road alternate, no longer require spikes (currently spikes remain strongly recommended for Miles 166-191).

Last week snowshoeing conditions were the best of the winter so far, thanks to the depth, structure, and low water content of the graupel snow from the early March storms. However the main trails now have compacted tracks and snowshoes are no longer required. Snowshoes remain recommended in off-trail areas only above about 8000ft. Below that elevation snow coverage is generally too shallow for snowshoeing and with continued melting, conditions are expected to deteriorate even off-trail over the next week or two.

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 11th March.

South Ridge Road is open and is largely clear of icy snow. AWD/4WD vehicle recommended.

According to the Forest Service website the following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02).

Spectacular ice- and snowscape at PCT Mile 169 on 8th March 2022. Apache Peak is the high point on the left (the PCT route goes around the east summit on the far right).

WEATHER

Temperatures have yet again climbed dramatically to well above seasonal and are expected to remain above average until Sunday 20th March, when they will very briefly dip to below seasonal. Temperatures in the last week or so of March are currently forecast to be far above seasonal. There is the possibility of a light snowfall, mainly above 7000 ft elevation, on 20th.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak. Snowfall in both December 2021 and February 2022 was below seasonal for the high country. Consequently, for the tenth consecutive winter, precipitation will be below average in the San Jacinto high country (and eight of those ten winters have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 17th March 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 29.1°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.5°F (-10°C), 19% relative humidity, and a bitter due North wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 16.5 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 14th March 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 38.8°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 30.7°F (-1°C), 47% relative humidity, and a gentle NNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.9 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 6th March 2022 at 1045 the air temperature was 17.9°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of 0.3°F (-18°C), 71% relative humidity, and a steady WNW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 15.0 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 6700ft are now generally clear of snow, light snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and light to moderate cover remains largely continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Icy snow from December 2021, with fresh powder from storms in late February and early March, persists on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks, and Antsell Rock). Melting is already well underway since the last snowfall on 6th March and will accelerate rapidly over the next week, most prominently on sun-exposed slopes and below 9000 ft.

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, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177).

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and thorough knowledge of how to use both) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route.) Long Valley Ranger Station staff have stated that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. The open section of trail below 5800 ft is clear of snow.

Current snow cover on the PCT is very limited from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and then increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz). Icy snow remains relatively deep on north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168), Apache Peak (Mile 169.5-170), and Antsell Rock (Mile 171-172). Although limited, some of these chutes and slopes are challenging and spikes (at least) are strongly recommended for the foreseeable future. See my video from the north-east slope of Apache Peak from 8th March linked here. Note that the off-trail north side of the Apache saddle is also still partly snow-covered. Although snow is largely continuous between Miles 175-192, this will continue to change rapidly over the next week or two with warm, sunny weather forecast. Snow cover is already patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 183.5 to 192, snow is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., parts of Miles 186.5-188.5) are thinning and clearing rapidly, as are areas north of Mile 191.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail [updated 16th March] is essentially clear of snow with a few tiny patches near Humber Park.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of icy snow to about 6800 ft, and then with about 60% patchy cover to Saddle Junction (mainly near the latter). Some hikers will find spikes useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

The PCT for a mile north of Saddle Junction (“Angel’s Glide”) is already 50% clear of snow. The Wellman Trail has a well-traveled posthole route that largely follows the trail and remains more than 90% snow-covered, but sun-exposed sections are clearing rapidly.

The well-traveled compacted track on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak follows the trail route. Icy snow cover remains >95%. Above 10,400ft tracks form a partially compacted snowshoe route up the East Ridge. The route of the Peak Trail from near Miller Peak to Summit Junction has not been broken. The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail [updated 17th March] has about 60% snow cover overall, with a very well-traveled compacted track throughout. The trail is largely clear to about 7100 ft and then again in sun-exposed areas above 8200 ft to Deer Springs Trail (at 8700ft). Snow cover is about 90% in the central elevations of the trail. Spikes are very useful, especially for descending. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

There are now [17th March] two sets of northbound posthole tracks on Fuller Ridge Trail. Spikes (at least) are strongly recommended for this section.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines Trail as of 17th March.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to the Suicide Rock Trail, and is rapidly clearing of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8700ft (0.2 mile south of Marion Mountain Trail) snow cover is a rapidly thinning 50%. Thereafter snow cover is nearly continuous, with a few minor clear patches developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [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.] Through Little Round Valley and on up to near the Peak the track follows my snowshoe route from last week which did not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many). Cautious navigation is required as there are several alternative tracks meandering across this snow slope.

The Suicide Rock Trail is largely clear of snow, with very obvious tracks through the rapidly melting remaining snow patches.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow on its lower half, and with some patches (totaling about 10% cover) in the upper half. Some hikers will find spikes useful for descending. 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 2022.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is rapidly clearing of snow up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover is about 80% to near Tahquitz Peak, and continuous on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Spikes recommended. 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.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well-traveled, is very sun-exposed and is clearing rapidly of snow.

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 careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Willow Creek Trail has a poor posthole track at least to the Skunk Cabbage junction. When surveyed on 11th February 2022 it had at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

Looking towards the Desert Divide from Butterfly Peak on a sublime morning, 10th March 2022. The prominent visible summit to the left is Lion Peak, with Pyramid Peak and Pine Mountain either side obscured by frigid low cloud.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 14th March 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the greatest depth recorded after the largest storm of this calendar year (on 22nd-23rd February 2022) given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 18 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 20 inches (with heavy drifting here)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 7 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 16 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 9 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 2-3 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 5 inches (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (15 inches on 23rd February)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0 inches, melted by 10th March (10.5 inches on 23rd February)

Garner Valley (at 4200 ft): 0 inches, melted by 7th March (2 inches on 24th February).

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle has been added as a fee-free way to donate. Thank you for your support.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be perilous. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved challenging over the years is currently snow-covered, but a few days ago was not unusually difficult, as discussed in the video available here. Spikes are currently recommended. Every individual should make their own assessment of whether to cross based on their comfort level on angled snow, their snow/ice experience, available equipment, time of day, and current snow conditions. If in any doubt whatsoever, turn around and take the Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April (at least), requires crampons and ice axe, and is notoriously treacherous.

Contrary to some reports, Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in March or April (although that is weather dependent).

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds (when open). Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru hikers.

Wellman Divide (9700ft) on 14th March 2022 (above), and eight days earlier on 6th March (below). In sun-exposed locations like the Divide about 4-8 inches of snow have melted in a week, and melting will accelerate with very warm temperatures over the next few days.

Minor snow storms update 8th March 2022

[UPDATED 8th March: this morning I recorded a video report of conditions on the Desert Divide, specifically at Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) available here.]

Back-to-back minor snow storms passed over the San Jacinto mountains on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th March. Both systems were so fragmented that it felt like one very patchy storm scattered across two days. Although the western slope, including Strawberry Valley where Idyllwild is located, was almost continuously shrouded in cloud for the two days, the high country was above the cloud for much of that time, so snow accumulations did not increase substantially with elevation.

A light snow early on the morning of Friday 4th produced one inch of snow in Idyllwild and we measured two inches of fresh snow at Saddle Junction (8070ft, PCT Mile 179) on a hike that morning. The former largely melted that afternoon however. It then rained periodically in Idyllwild that afternoon. Overnight 0.25in snow fell in Idyllwild, but the main snowfall on Saturday 5th came in the late afternoon with an intense graupel storm which deposited 3-6 inches at all elevations above 5000 ft within 2-3 hours. There was a dusting of snow down to about 4000 ft. Snow depths measured on 6th March are detailed near the foot of this post, but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions underfoot.

Early on Sunday 6th March I ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails. As usual after a patchy and unpredictable storm, I carried snowshoes, poles, crampons, ice axe, and spikes, in case I encountered a variety of challenging conditions. I had to break trail the entire way, initially just in light mountaineering boots to Saddle Junction, and then in snowshoes from there to the Peak. Snowshoeing conditions were the best of the winter so far. I was able to cruise across through a relatively thin layer of fresh powder on top of a firm layer of snow underneath. In addition graupel has such a low water content that combined with its circular shape it just falls off the shoes.

I descended Deer Springs Trail, again breaking trail almost the entire way, continuing to use snowshoes from the Peak down to about 6800ft just below the Suicide Rock Trail junction. By late morning the snow was already becoming sticky on sun-exposed slopes, and rapid melting was underway below 7500 ft. I did briefly encounter some posthole tracks (but not the hikers, oddly) near the top of Marion Mountain Trail.

This loop also facilitated survey of – and breaking trail for – the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183) plus survey of several of its side trails.

Current conditions for individual routes are discussed in detail below where known. After a few cool days, a steady warming trend will accelerate melting. These conditions will lead to steady melting of snow and freeze-thaw cycles that will combine to change trail conditions and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain. Although useful tracks are now in place for some major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making. These concerns may steadily increase over the next couple of weeks with snow undergoing multiple freeze-thaw cycles, with rising temperatures, seasonally stronger insolation, and highly variable snowmelt.

Snow conditions are currently ideal for snowshoeing everywhere above about 8000ft. With steady melting and compaction caused by freeze-thaw cycles and hiker traffic, conditions will rapidly deteriorate for snowshoeing over the next week or so. Nevertheless, snowshoes may be valuable anywhere off trail above about 8000ft for the next couple of weeks (depending on temperatures).

Spikes are currently not especially helpful, as snow is generally too soft and spikes will not enhance traction significantly. This will change over the next week or so as trails become compacted and icier with freeze-thaw cycles. Then spikes will be recommended everywhere above about 6000ft. They are generally especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks, on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and (as always) for descending and traversing. In the high country some hikers will find crampons a suitable alternative to spikes, although currently they are not necessary (except of course on the north faces of San Jac and Tahquitz).

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park closed on 22nd February. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces immediately below the gate. Vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are “Road Closed” signs further down – as was the case on recent weekends – then those nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking.

Tahquitz Rock (with Tahquitz Peak in the cloud to the right) as seen from near Deer Springs Trail, afternoon of 6th March 2022.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to rise slowly to about seasonal by Saturday 12th, and then to warm rapidly to well above seasonal on 12th-15th March at least. There is the possibility of a further minor snow storm on Thursday 17th.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Sunday 6th March 2022 at 1045 the air temperature was 17.9°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of 0.3°F (-18°C), 71% relative humidity, and a steady WNW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 15.0 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 28th February 2022 at 0905 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 19.2°F (-7°C), 35% relative humidity, and a persistent NNE wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 23.5 mph.

The current state of the PCT at about Mile 183.5 (elevation 8200ft) on afternoon of 6th March 2022.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 5500 ft are currently obscured by light to moderate snow. Rapidly melting and increasingly patchy snow remains in sheltered locations down to 4500 ft. Melting was already underway on 6th March and will accelerate rapidly over the next week, most prominently on sun-exposed slopes and below 8000 ft.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and February have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Long Valley Ranger Station staff have stated that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Very shallow snow from these latest storms on the open section of trail below 5800 ft will melt very rapidly on this exposed slope.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Current snow cover on the PCT will become increasingly patchy from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and remain largely continuous between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), especially deep on north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168) and Apache Peak (Mile 169.5-170). Note that in addition to the challenging north-east side of Apache Peak, the off-trail north side of the Apache saddle is also still largely snow-covered (also requiring spikes). Snow is also continuous between Miles 175-193. Snow cover will become patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184 in the next few days, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 183.5 to 193, snow is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., parts of Miles 186.5-188.5) are thinning rapidly, as are areas north of Mile 191.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-defined posthole track to follow.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail has a well-defined snowshoe and footprint track to follow along its entire length.

My snowshoe track is well-defined from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, via the PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails. Above 10,400 ft my snowshoe track roughly follows the East Ridge Trail route.

Marion Mountain Trail has a well-defined posthole track through the snow along its entire length, however it does not follow the trail route in places.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines or Fuller Ridge trails as of 6th March.

Deer Springs Trail has a well-defined track along its entire length. This consists of a well-traveled posthole track to the Suicide Rock turning, and then my snowshoe track from 6th to the Peak. Below Little Round Valley I (generally) made a conscious effort to accurately follow the trail route. Through and above Little Round Valley the only track is my snowshoe route down from the Peak which does not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many).

There is well-defined posthole track on the Suicide Rock Trail through the rapidly melting snow from Deer Springs Trail.

Spitler Peak Trail will rapidly clear of snow on its lower half. Spikes will be useful for descending for about the next week. 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 2022.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 6th March 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth followed by the amount of new snow in these latest storms, with the greatest depth recorded after the storm of 22nd-23rd February given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and widespread differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 24-25 inches, 7 inches new (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 24-28 inches, 6 inches new (with heavy drifting here)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 12 inches, 6 inches new (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 24 inches, 8 inches new (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 11 inches, 5.5 inches new

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 6 inches, 4-5 inches new

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 12 inches, 6 inches new (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 4 inches, all new (was 15 inches on 23rd February)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 3.5 inches, all new, rapidly melting (10.5 inches on 23rd February)

Garner Valley (at 4200 ft): <1 inch, all new, completely melted by 7th March (was 2 inches on 24th February).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

The condition of the east side trails on the morning of 6th March 2022. Above, the Wellman Trail with 12-15 inches of snow at about 9500ft. Note that by 0900 most snow had already melted off the bushes. Below, the Peak Trail under 20-24 inches of snow, at about 10,300ft.

Snow, trail and weather update 1st March 2022

[UPDATE Saturday 5th March @ 1745: having had negligible precipitation all day we are in the middle of a relatively brief but intense graupel storm. At Humber Park (6300ft) just now I measured 1.5 inches that has accumulated in the past hour, but it is forecast to continue snowing heavily for at least another hour. The next comprehensive Report will be tomorrow afternoon, Sunday 6th March.]

[UPDATE Friday 4th March @ 1835: a dusting of snow early this morning produced one inch of snow in Idyllwild, which then largely melted in the afternoon. We measured 2.0in fresh snow at Saddle Junction (8070ft, PCT Mile 179) on our hike this morning, for a total depth there of about 10 inches. It rained on/off in Idyllwild this afternoon, but the high country was above the cloud for much of the day, with a scant 1.5in of snow falling in Long Valley (8600ft). Similar light snow is expected tomorrow. There is no significant change to the equipment recommendations discussed below.]

Conditions immediately after the moderate storm of 22nd-23rd February were summarised in the previous Report. Snowmelt has been very rapid in recent days even by our Southern California standards, and small patches of lower Devil’s Slide Trail around 6600 ft elevation were clear of snow before dawn on 28th February where I had measured 12-15 inches of snow just five days earlier. Similarly sun-exposed areas around San Jacinto Peak and Wellman Divide had already lost nearly one foot of snow knee photos below). Snow depths measured on 28th February are detailed near the foot of this post, but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions underfoot.

Early on Monday 28th February I ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails to San Jacinto Peak – in boots with excellent traction – without needing spikes (although I always carry them in winter). Hikers less familiar with very uneven (and at times icy) snow travel will prefer to use the latter. I descended Deer Springs Trail, using snowshoes from the Peak down to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft, initially because the trail had not been broken from 10,700 ft down to about 9400 ft. This loop also facilitated survey of the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183) plus several of its side trails. Since 25th February I have also hiked PCT Miles 151-154 and many miles near Mile 165 to assess conditions in those area also.

Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. Note that trail conditions will change significantly in multiple ways over the next week or two. A few days of very warm sunny weather will accelerate the already rapid melting underway. Then some further fresh snowfall is now expected around 4th-6th March (at least). The latter will be accompanied by cold temperatures that will persist for a few days after the snowfall. Finally a period of roughly seasonal temperatures will lead to steady melting of snow and freeze-thaw cycles that will combine to change trail conditions yet again and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain.

Recently I have mentioned the challenges of hard, icy snow underfoot and the value of using spikes especially for descending and traversing. Snow at all elevations will become increasingly firm and icy following multiple freeze-thaw cycles, and I cannot overemphasize the importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making. These concerns may steadily increase over the next couple of weeks with dramatically rising then falling temperatures, seasonally stronger insolation, and highly variable snowmelt.

Although useful tracks are now in place for some major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Light snowfall possible around 4th-6th March, accompanied by strong winds and extensive drifting, may well be of sufficient depth to obscure some of the existing tracks in the high country.

Spikes are strongly recommended for the foreseeable future everywhere above about 6000ft, potentially lower on colder days and following fresh precipitation. They are especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks, on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and (as always) for descending and traversing. In the high country some hikers will find crampons a suitable alternative to spikes, although currently they are not strictly necessary (except on the known challenging north faces of San Jac and Tahquitz).

Snow conditions are currently ideal for snowshoeing everywhere above about 8000ft but generally not on compacted, well-traveled, or postholed trails. With steady melting already well advanced and compaction caused by freeze-thaw cycles and hiker traffic, conditions will rapidly deteriorate for snowshoeing over the next couple of days, before then potentially becoming more useful again after fresh snowfall. Nevertheless, snowshoes may be valuable anywhere off trail above about 8000ft for the foreseeable future.

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

Snow depth and structure are both currently insufficient for significant avalanche risk in the high country, with the exception of the traditionally unstable north face of San Jacinto Peak (and possibly the north face of Tahquitz Peak). Some interesting wind slabs that I dislodged on my descent on 23rd have melted and/or stabilized.

The USFS gate at Humber Park closed on 22nd February. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces immediately below the gate. Vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are “Road Closed” signs further down – as was the case at the weekend – then those nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking. Exercise considerable caution when parking anywhere in this area especially during snowy weekends.

WEATHER Temperatures have steadily warmed over the past couple of days and will be above seasonal on 1st-3rd March, with continued rapid and extensive melting of snow expected. Temperatures will then drop quickly to below seasonal from 4th March onwards, with unsettled conditions expected. Especially cold conditions are forecast for the high country on 4th-7th March with moderate snowfall possible above about 4500 ft from the evening of Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th March. Current forecasts are for about 2-3 inches of snow in Idyllwild increasing to 6-10 inches around the highest peaks, mainly on Friday 4th.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 28th February 2022 at 0905 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 19.2°F (-7°C), 35% relative humidity, and a persistent NNE wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 23.5 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 22nd February 2022 at 1130 the air temperature was 12.6°F (-11°C), with a windchill temperature of -16.4°F (-27°C), 93% relative humidity, and a bitter WSW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 33.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 21st February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 20.1°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.6°F (-20°C), 36% relative humidity, and a brutal due West wind sustained at 25 mph gusting to 32.2 mph.

The snowy San Jacinto mountains as seen from the PCT near Mile 152, 26th February 2022.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500 ft are largely or completely snow-covered. Increasingly patchy snow remains in sheltered locations down to 4500 ft. Melting has been very rapid at all elevations since 25th February, most prominently on sun-exposed slopes and below 8000 ft.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and February have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Long Valley Ranger Station staff have stated that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Snow on the open section of trail below 5800 ft will melt very rapidly on this exposed slope.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Current snow cover on the PCT is increasingly patchy from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and largely continuous between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), especially deep on north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168) and Apache Peak (Mile 169.5-170). Note that in addition to the challenging north-east side of Apache Peak, the off-trail north side of the Apache saddle is also still largely snow-covered (also requiring spikes). Snow is also continuous between Miles 175-193. Snow cover will become patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184 in the next few days, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 183.5 to 193, snow is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., parts of Miles 186.5-188.5) are thinning rapidly, as are areas north of Mile 191.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled compacted track to follow.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail has a well-defined snowshoe and footprint track to follow along its entire length (thanks to Anne and Anabel for this information from 28th February).

There are no tracks from Saddle Junction out on the Willow Creek Trail. There are well-traveled snowshoe tracks heading toward Reed’s Meadow and Chinquapin Flat however.

The Peak Trail has a well-defined, but very uneven, posthole track from Wellman Divide to about 10,400 ft elevation near Miller Peak, which vaguely follows the trail route and my snowshoe track from 23rd February. However there are multiple tracks, some snowshoe and some posthole, for the 0.5 mile between 9900 ft and 10,100 ft, none of which accurately follow the trail route, and cautious navigation is required. Above 10,400 ft the Peak Trail has not been broken, and there is only a posthole track directly up the East Ridge.

There are two well-defined snowshoe tracks from Long Valley towards San Jacinto Peak, one following the “Sid Davis Trail” and then directly up from Tamarack Valley, and another that roughly follows the Round Valley Trail route emerging near Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail has a well-traveled track through the snow along its entire length, however it does not follow the trail route in places, especially near Deer Springs Trail.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines or Fuller Ridge trails as of 28th February.

Deer Springs Trail has increasingly patchy snow below the Suicide Rock Trail junction, but almost continuous snow above that. There is a generally excellent snowshoe and posthole track to follow through the snow to about 9400 ft (about one mile below Little Round Valley) which largely follows the established trail route. Through and above Little Round Valley the only track is my snowshoe route down from the Peak on 28th February which is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many).

There is well-defined track on the Suicide Rock Trail through the patchy snow from Deer Springs Trail.

Spitler Peak Trail [updated 2nd March] is clear of snow for its lower half, and the upper half has less than 10% snow cover. Most hikers will not need spikesfor the handful of snow patches that remain.

Little Round Valley (9800ft) under 2-3 feet of snow, 28th February 2022.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 28th February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, including the snow remaining from storms in late December (and from 15th February at higher elevations) while the greatest depth immediately after the storm on 22nd-23rd February is given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and widespread differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 20-24 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 24-30 inches (heavy drifting here)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 12 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 20 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 11 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 6 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 11 inches (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0-8 inches (was 15 inches on 23rd February)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0-3 inches (10.5 inches on 23rd February)

Mountain Center (4400 ft): 0-2 inches (was 4-5 inches on 24th February)

Garner Valley (at 4200 ft): 0 inches (was 2 inches on 24th February).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Evidence of dramatic melting in just five days. Wellman Divide (9700ft) on 28th February 2022 (above) and the same view on 23rd February (below).
Anabel in her element, high on a snowy Fobes Trail (near PCT Mile 166), 25th February 2022. Thomas Mountain is in the distance to the right.

Snow storm summary 23rd February 2022

This is a brief summary of conditions following the second snow storm in February 2022. This storm proved to be unexpectedly significant, and may well prove to be the most substantial of this winter.

It started snowing very lightly at mid elevations on the morning of Tuesday 22nd, with the high country initially above the cloud. Snow started falling at San Jacinto Peak in early afternoon, getting steadily heavier throughout the night. Although originally forecast to stop snowing on the morning of Wednesday 23rd, it continued off-and-on until late afternoon at all elevations.

Snowfall totals were well above the upper end of forecasts, especially for the high country where I measured snow depths generally double what had been expected. To be fair to the meteorological community, they don’t get this stuff too wrong, too often (at least in Southern California).

With such a cold storm, the snow was exceptionally fine, light, and dry, some of the best powder I have ever seen up here. The quality was more typical of continental snow (as in the Rockies) rather than the maritime snow more typical of California and the Cascades.

Snow depths measured on my descent this afternoon are listed at the foot of this posting. However because of the extremely light powder, in combination with very strong winds before, during, and after the snowfall, there is massive drifting everywhere, and in particular drifts are deep in the trails where snow tends to accumulate.

Snow level was initially down to about 4500 ft on the eastern slope (Skyline Trail) but then fell during the course of Wednesday much lower, with a dusting down to 2500 ft on the Maynard Mine Trail (many thanks to Florian Boyd for these observations from the Palm Springs side).

Currently no major trails have been traveled and all are totally obscured by snowfall and heavily drifted snow. My tracks from this afternoon descending from San Jacinto Peak via the East Ridge, Peak, Wellman, and Devil’s Slide trails will have already been largely obliterated by drifting snow (and in some places I did not follow the established trail routes). There were no other tracks anywhere above Humber Park, not even on lower Devil’s Slide Trail. Extremely cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

Snowshoes are very strongly recommended for at least the next few days everywhere above at least 6000 ft (lower in places), and in the high country for the foreseeable future (at least for off trail travel once trail routes become established). Spikes will become increasingly useful above 4000 ft as trails become more heavily traveled and hence compacted, and as they become icy with freeze-thaw cycles as temperatures warm. By next week spikes may only be needed above about 6000 ft.

Note that a return to unseasonably warm temperatures is forecast within a few days. This will lead to significant melting, especially on sun-exposed slopes and below 9000 ft, plus freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to steadily change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain. While trails are currently under deep snow, by next week be prepared for very icy trails (especially mornings) but also very wet, slushy trails especially on sun-exposed mid elevation slopes (e.g., lower Deer Springs and Devil’s Slide trails).

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park was closed on Tuesday 22nd February.

WEATHER Temperatures will be well below seasonal (i.e. very cold) for the next few days, before rapidly warming to well above seasonal starting 28th February and lasting for the first few days of March.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 22nd February 2022 at 1130 the air temperature was 12.6°F (-11°C), with a windchill temperature of -16.4°F (-27°C), 93% relative humidity, and a bitter WSW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 33.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 21st February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 20.1°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.6°F (-20°C), 36% relative humidity, and a brutal due West wind sustained at 25 mph gusting to 32.2 mph.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 23rd February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, including the snow remaining from storms in late December (and from 15th February at higher elevations) while the new snow added in this latest storm is given in parentheses. Due to strong winds accompanying this and previous storms, and widespread differential melting between snowfalls events, note that there is huge variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 33-37 inches (20 inches added 22nd-23rd February)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 25 inches (18 inches added 22nd-23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 28 inches (18 inches added 22nd-23rd February)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 15-16 inches (15 inches added 22nd-23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 15 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 10.5 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February).

Mountain Center (4400 ft): 4-5 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February, melting rapidly by 25th).

Garner Valley (4200 ft): 2 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February, melting rapidly by 25th).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Wellman Divide (9700ft) on the afternoon of 23rd February 2022 (above) and the same view a day earlier on 22nd February (below).
The Peak “Trail” at 9800ft on 23rd February 2022 (above), and the same view late morning on 22nd February (below).

Weather and snow update 21st February 2022

[UPDATE Wednesday 23rd February 2022 at 0800: I have posted a short video from San Jacinto Peak (available here) discussing current knowledge of conditions after the overnight snowstorm.]

[UPDATE Wednesday 23rd February 2022 at 0650: Snowfall in the high country was well above forecast with initial measurements around 20 inches fresh powder at San Jacinto Peak (on top of an average of 12 inches already on the ground). It is some of the finest, lightest powder I have ever seen up here. Snow depth in Idyllwild is almost exactly as expected at about 8 inches (thank you Anne). On the eastern slope, snow fell down to 4500ft on Skyline Trail (thank you Florian).]

[UPDATE Tuesday 22nd February 2022 at 1940: It started snowing very lightly between 6000-9000ft at 0730 this morning. The high country was initially largely above the cloud, but it started snowing at San Jacinto Peak after 1230, getting heavier throughout the afternoon (about 5.0in accumulation so far). Air temperature at 1130 was 12°F, with a windchill of -16.4°F (-27°C). Snow accumulation in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) is currently 2.0in.]

Warm and sunny conditions in the past few days have largely melted the light snowfall from 15th February from exposed slopes and from much of the trail system below 8600 ft. Consequently trail and overall snow conditions on Monday 21st looked remarkably similar to 14th February. This will change on Tuesday 22nd when another minor storm will cover all tracks again, with 5-9 inches of snow expected at mid and upper elevations, accompanied by severe winds.

Multiple hiker falls already this year in the San Jacinto mountains, including one fatality, demonstrate the critical importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making. Further snowfall expected on 22nd February will make conditions more complex as underlying icy areas are obscured, and as hiking traction devices struggle to grip through the surface powder into the harder icy snow below.

Early on Monday 21st February we ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails to San Jacinto Peak, needing spikes only for the final three hundred feet of ascent on the East Ridge as the route was disappearing under spectacular spindrift in a very strong and gusty wind (sustained close to 30mph) near the Peak. We descended via Deer Springs Trail, and spikes were useful down to about 8700ft on the largely icy, compacted track. Hikers with a lower comfort level on snow and ice will find spikes useful more widely.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have also surveyed South Ridge Trail, several segments of the PCT and its side trails, plus multiple Forest roads. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. Again, these will change first with fresh snowfall expected on 22nd, followed by rapid melting into the first week of March.

Spikes are useful almost everywhere above about 7700ft as snow on trails can be icy following weeks of freeze-thaw cycles (and where compacted by hiker traffic). Spikes are especially valuable for traversing and for descending.

Trails remain snow-covered above 9000 ft, with thinning and increasingly patchy snow down to about 7700ft, and generally clear below that elevation (with some notable exceptions at lower elevations on the PCT). Overall snow conditions on the trails are already more typical of April or May than February. These conditions will change over the next few days with minor snowfall expected in the high country.

Thereafter warm, dry weather is forecast with temperatures well above seasonal at all elevations starting on 28th February. Rapid melting of snow and freeze-thaw cycles will combine to change trail conditions yet again and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain.

Snow from 15th February, overlying the remaining icy snow from December 2021, has melted rapidly. Snow depths measured on 21st are detailed at the foot of this post.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak). Forecast temperatures for the high country for 22nd-23rd February are dangerously cold.

May Valley Road was closed by Forest Service to all traffic, including foot traffic, on Friday 28th January due to hazardous trees. USFS social media states “there currently is no timeline for the road’s reopening”. There was minimal evidence of significant work in progress by 18th February.

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 21st January having been closed since 13th December 2021. South Ridge Road (5S11) reopened in the second week of February. It is expected that both will close again on 22nd February following the fresh snowfall.

According to the Forest Service website the following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), San Jacinto Truck Trail (5S09), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02).

A storm is coming….. Looking south-east from the Peak Trail toward the Desert Divide and Santa Rosa mountains, 21st February 2022. A marine layer with a ceiling at about 8000ft was pouring over the Desert Divide, driven by a howling west wind.

WEATHER

In a very similar pattern to last week relatively warm temperatures over the weekend will rapidly drop to below seasonal with the passage of a brief but energetic (although not very moist) storm system on 21st-23rd February. Strong winds and very cold temperatures will accompany light snowfall, the latter expected mainly on the night of Tuesday 22nd, with 4-9 inches of snow forecast at various elevations in Idyllwild-Pine Cove and 6-9 inches in the high country (note that the high country may be above the cloud for longer, hence the similar snowfall totals). The freeze level will be down to 3500 ft so at least some snow is expected at almost all elevations of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains.

Temperatures will yet again climb dramatically to well above seasonal by 28th February. Current forecast temperatures for San Jacinto Peak on 1st March, more than five degrees Centigrade above freezing, would be at or near a record high for the Peak in March.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak, and among the driest ever recorded in Idyllwild.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 21st February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 20.1°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.6°F (-20°C), 36% relative humidity, and a brutal due West wind sustained at 25 mph gusting to 32.2 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 16th February 2022 at 0955 the air temperature was 20.3°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -0.2°F (-18°C), 74% relative humidity, and a stiff due North wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 21.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7600ft are now generally clear of snow, snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and remains largely continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Icy snow from December 2021, with fresh powder from 15th February, persists at elevations below 7700ft in particular on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks, and Antsell Rock).

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and February have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Long Valley Ranger Station staff are speculating that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Signage was posted at the relevant trailheads on 3rd February.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow [updated 20th February]. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Current snow cover on the PCT is patchy between Miles 168 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), largely confined to certain north- or east-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168), Apache Peak (Mile 169.5), and Antsell Rock (Mile 171-172). Although limited, some of these chutes and slopes are challenging and spikes are strongly recommended. Snow is then largely continuous between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). Snow on the Trail is limited to about Mile 184.5, except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-191 is snow-covered, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now functionally clear of icy snow to about 7700ft, and then with about 50% cover to Saddle Junction (mainly near the latter). Some hikers will find spikes useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is functionally clear of snow up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover is about 5% to near Tahquitz Peak, increasing to about 35% on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. 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 (surveyed February 2022).

The predominant compacted tracks on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak now generally approximate to the trail route. Icy snow cover remains >95%. Above 10,400ft most tracks form a compacted posthole route up the East Ridge. However the route of the Peak Trail also has a lightly used track, which is challenging in one short section before Summit Junction (spikes recommended). The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail is functionally clear of snow to about 7500ft. Icy snow cover is 40% from 7500-8200ft. From 8200ft to Deer Springs Trail (at 8700ft) snow cover is only about 30%. Most hikers will find spikes useful for ascending parts of the upper half of the trail, and they are invaluable for descending in the same areas. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Unsurprisingly, there continue to be no visible hiker tracks on the upper sections of Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails.

Deer Springs Trail is functionally clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8700ft (0.2 mile south of Marion Mountain Trail) snow cover is barely 10%. Thereafter snow cover is nearly continuous, with a few minor clear patches developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [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.] Through Little Round Valley and on up to the Peak the track is direct and does not follow the trail route. Cautious navigation is required as there are many alternative tracks meandering across this icy snow slope.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) is very sun-exposed and is largely clear of snow.

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 bush-whacking 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 careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area. The King Trail still has 50% icy snow cover (spikes required), but the Caramba Trail east of Willow Creek is clear of snow (10th February survey).

Spitler Peak Trail is largely clear of snow. Nearly 40 downed trees from ice storms in December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report in January 2022. Further trail trimming continues steadily.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

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, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described above and below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail, resurveyed on 11th February 2022, has at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Nearly 30 of these are on the Forest Service section.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

Junction of Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 185.5) and Deer Springs Trail at about 8950ft, 21st February 2022. Note the absence of tracks heading north on Fuller Ridge Trail.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 21st February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 (to date the greatest snow depth of the season) following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 12-13 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 9-10 inches (was 25 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 5 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 10 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail/PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 7 inches (was 11 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 0 inches (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 0-1 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0 inches (was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Minor snow storm summary 16th February 2022

This is a brief summary of conditions following the only snow storm so far in February 2022 (and only the second storm of the calendar year to date). For full details of trail closures, Forest road closures, trail conditions (other than their current snow situation), and weather, please see the previous Report linked here.

The snowfall overnight was at the upper end of forecast projections. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting, but note that due to strong winds associated with the storm (that continued today) drifted snow is often deeper in the trails themselves.

As is increasingly the trend with a rapidly changing climate in recent years, there was little difference in snowfall between the mid and upper elevations, with 2.25 inches measured in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) through to 5.0 inches at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft). The storm system was colder than forecast at lower elevations, with a dusting of snow down to about 4000ft.

Early this morning we broke trail through light snow from Devil’s Slide to San Jacinto Peak via the PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails, descending the same way. Based on the anticipated snow conditions and depths I carried crampons, ice axe, and spikes. I did not use the latter, but eventually put on crampons at 9300 ft on the ascent, using them down to about 8800 ft on the descent. Crampons were essential as underlying icy snow areas were obscured by the fresh powder, and only crampons could grip through the surface powder into the harder icy snow below.

By early afternoon very rapid melting was already underway below 9000 ft and on sun-exposed slopes. Parts of the PCT north of Saddle Junction, and much of Devil’s Slide Trail below 7700 ft, both of which had had a solid covering of several inches of fresh snow in the morning, were already clear by this afternoon. Conversely above 9000 ft many of my tracks from the morning were already disappearing under spindrift in persistent gusty winds.

Spikes are recommended for at least the next few days everywhere above about 6000 ft, and in the high country for the foreseeable future. As described above crampons are recommended for many areas above about 9000 ft for at least the next few days. Anywhere that crampons are needed, an ice axe is also needed (along with the knowledge of how to use this equipment). Snow depths are currently insufficient for snowshoeing even in the high country. Indeed snowshoes are potentially dangerous in any angled terrain at present due to the presence of underlying ice.

Note that relatively warm temperatures are forecast for the next few days. This will lead to significant melting and freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to steadily change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain. Be prepared for very icy trails (especially mornings) but also very wet, slushy trails (as was the case this afternoon on Devil’s Slide).

Currently very few major trails have been traveled and all are completely or largely obscured by snowfall and/or drifting snow. On my descent early this afternoon mine were the only tracks beyond Saddle Junction. The significance of this is that there are currently no tracks on Willow Creek Trail, to Chinquapin Flat or Tahquitz Peak, or around the meadows. Beyond Saddle Junction, at the time of writing my posthole tracks to San Jacinto Peak are the only traveled high country trail. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below or near freezing in the high country, and generally well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for conditions at San Jacinto Peak today).

The USFS gate at Humber Park remains open and the parking area was already essentially clear of snow by the afternoon of 16th.

WEATHER For details of the forecast for the next week or so, please see the previous Report.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 16th February 2022 at 0955 the air temperature was 20.3°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -0.2°F (-18°C), 74% relative humidity, and a stiff due North wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 21.1 mph.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 16th February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, with most of the snow remaining from storms in late December, while the new snow added in this latest storm given in parentheses. Due to strong winds accompanying this and previous storms, and rapid and differential melting, there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 17 inches (5 inches added on 15th February)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 11 inches (5 inches added on 15th February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 11 inches (4 inches added on 15th February)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 4-5 inches (4 inches added on 15th February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 3 inches (all added on 15th February, but already largely melted by afternoon of 16th)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 2.25 inches (all added on 15th February, but almost completely melted by afternoon of 16th).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Looking south across the San Jacinto high country from San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 16th February 2022 (above), and two days earlier on 14th February (below).
The best known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega on 16th February 2022 (above), and on 7th February 2022 for comparison (below).

Weather and trail update 15th February 2022

Dramatic fluctuations in temperatures forecast over the next two weeks will result in many freeze-thaw cycles and further hazardous hardening of already icy snow. Light snowfall is likely on 15th and 21st February and could make conditions more complex as underlying icy areas are obscured, and as hiking traction devices struggle to grip through the surface powder into the harder icy snow below.

Multiple hiker falls already this year in the San Jacinto mountains, including one fatality, demonstrate the critical importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making.

Early on Monday 14th February I hiked Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to and from San Jacinto Peak. Spikes were not required for ascending (in boots with excellent traction on crisp, cold icy snow) but were invaluable descending down Deer Springs Trail to the top of Marion Mountain Trail, and then for one short section part way down the latter. Similarly on 10th I ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails, needing spikes for the last few hundred feet of ascent as icy snow was becoming wet on the surface due to the warm temperature and direct sun. Spikes were useful for descending down to about 9000ft for the same reasons. Hikers with a lower comfort level on snow and ice will find spikes useful more widely.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have also surveyed several segments of the PCT, Willow Creek, Caramba, South Ridge and Spitler Peak trails, plus multiple Forest roads. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Trails remain at least 95% snow-covered above 9000ft, with thinning and increasingly patchy snow down to about 7700ft, and generally clear below that elevation (with some notable exceptions at lower elevations on the PCT). Overall snow conditions on the trails are already more typical of April or May than early February. These conditions will likely change over the next ten days with two minor waves of snowfall currently expected in the high country.

Snow remaining from December 2021 has continued to melt slowly but steadily. Snow depths measured in recent days are detailed at the foot of this post.

Spikes are recommended everywhere above at least 7700ft as snow on trails is very icy following weeks of freeze-thaw cycles (and where compacted by hiker traffic). Spikes are especially valuable for traversing and for descending. Based on tracks I am seeing in the high country some hikers are preferring to use crampons, and those are an option in areas of continuous icy snow above about 9000ft (potentially lower in steeper terrain). Traction devices will become increasingly important over the next week or two at least, starting on 15th.

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

May Valley Road was closed by Forest Service to all traffic, including foot traffic, on Friday 28th January due to hazardous trees. USFS social media states “there currently is no timeline for the road’s reopening”. There was little evidence of significant work in progress by 13th February.

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 21st January having been closed since 13th December 2021. South Ridge Road (5S11) reopened in the second week of February.

According to the Forest Service website the following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), San Jacinto Truck Trail (5S09), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02). All are currently free of snow and ice.

Sunrise from Sam Fink Peak, 10th February 2022. One of the more remote named peaks in the San Jacinto mountains, which affords a unique vista of the Desert Divide (where the late, great Sam established the route of what is now the Pacific Crest Trail).

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to fluctuate dramatically over the next two weeks associated with the passage of energetic (but relatively dry) storm systems. Record warm temperatures this past week have resembled April or even May rather than the first half of February (as discussed here for example). The jet stream plunges southward on Monday 14th, with much colder air arriving on Tuesday 15th. However the air flow will track far enough west then south of us that oceanic moisture will be largely cut off from the system, and a cold, windy storm is expected, rather than a wet one. Only a few inches of snow are forecast for the high country.

Temperatures then rapidly rise again to above seasonal (although not as unusually warm as recent days) for 18th-19th February, before another storm system passes through on 21st-23rd February. The latter is forecast to be cold and windy as on 15th, with at least as much precipitation (perhaps 3-6 inches of snow in Idyllwild, 4-7 inches in the high country).

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak (at least 2-3 feet of snow would be normal). No snow and only 0.32in rain fell in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) last month, making it about the sixth driest January for combined precipitation in Idyllwild since systematic records began in the 1940s. There has also been no measurable precipitation in the first half of February 2022.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 14th February 2022 at 0845 the air temperature was 38.3°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.9°F (-2°C), 14% relative humidity, and a light WSW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 10.9 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 10th February 2022 at 1015 the air temperature was 29.6°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 10.9°F (-12°C), 42% relative humidity, and a severe NNE wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 33.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7700ft are now generally clear of snow, snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and remains continuous (or >95% cover) everywhere above 9000ft. Snow persists at elevations below 7700ft in particular on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks, and Antsell Rock). Melting has been steady at all elevations recently, but will be limited over the next ten days week with generally colder temperatures.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and February have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Long Valley Ranger Station staff are speculating that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Signage was posted at the relevant trailheads on 3rd February. There is no snow on the open section of trail below 5800 ft.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Current snow cover on the PCT is very patchy between Miles 168 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), mainly confined to certain north- or east-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168), Apache Peak (Mile 169.5, see photo below), and Antsell Rock (Mile 171-172). Although limited, some of these chutes and slopes are challenging and spikes are recommended. Snow is then largely continuous between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). Snow on the Trail is very limited to about Mile 184.5, except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-191 is snow-covered, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly. My next thorough assessment of snow conditions on the PCT will likely be in late February.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now clear of icy snow to about 7800ft, and then with about 20% cover to Saddle Junction (mainly near the latter). Some hikers will find spikes useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover is about 5% to near Tahquitz Peak, increasing to about 15% on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Most hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending. 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 (surveyed February 2022).

The predominant compacted tracks on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak now generally approximate to the trail route. Icy snow cover remains >90%. Above 10,400ft most tracks form a compacted posthole route up the East Ridge. However the route of the Peak Trail also has a lightly used track, which is challenging in one short section before Summit Junction (spikes recommended). The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail is functionally clear of snow to about 7700ft. Icy snow cover is 40% from 7700-8200ft. From 8200ft to Deer Springs Trail (at 8700ft) snow cover is only about 10%. Most hikers will find spikes useful for ascending parts of the upper half of the trail, and they are invaluable for descending in the same areas. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Unsurprisingly, there continue to be no visible hiker tracks on the upper sections of Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails. The latter is largely clear of snow to the State Park boundary, and then snow cover is increasingly patchy above the North Fork crossing to about 7700ft (but see below regarding tree hazards and trail maintenance).

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8700ft (0.2 mile south of Marion Mountain Trail) snow cover is barely 10%. Thereafter snow cover is nearly continuous, with a few minor clear patches developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [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.] Through Little Round Valley the track is more direct and only vaguely follows the trail route. The most heavily traveled track from LRV to near San Jacinto Peak largely follows, unfortunately for most ascending hikers, my original snowshoe route from 31st December, which is direct and steep. Cautious navigation is required as there are many alternative tracks meandering across this icy snow slope.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) is very sun-exposed and is 90% clear of snow.

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 bush-whacking 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 careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area. The King Trail still has 50% icy snow cover (spikes required), but the Caramba Trail east of Willow Creek is clear of snow (10th February survey).

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Nearly 40 downed trees from ice storms in December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report in January 2022. Further trail trimming continues steadily.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

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, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described above and below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail, resurveyed on 11th February 2022, has at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Nearly 30 of these are on the Forest Service section.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 14th February (west side) and 10th February (east side) are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 12 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 9 inches (was 25 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 6 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 7 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail/PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 5 inches (was 11 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 0 inches (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 0-1 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0 inches (was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

PCT Mile 169.5 on the north-east flank of Apache Peak, 6th February 2022. Spikes are strongly recommended and it is relatively straightforward to work around the most challenging snow patches. Spitler Peak Trail (at Mile 168.5) remains an excellent alternate for those less comfortable on icy snow.
Relatively fresh Mountain Lion scat, entirely composed of deer hair, 11th February 2022, between Laws Camp and Willow Creek Trail. The knife is 3.6in long for scale, so clearly this was not a small lion.
And finally Happy 8th “Birthday” to Anabel, our rescue pup who we adopted on 14th February 2015 at an estimated age of one. Seen here taking a well-deserved nap midway through a lengthy hike in the San Jacinto mountains last week.

Trail update 9th February 2022

Recently I have mentioned the challenges of hard, icy snow underfoot from evidence of various hiker falls and challenging incidents, and the value of using spikes especially for descending and traversing. Snow at all elevations has been firm and icy following more than a month of freeze-thaw cycles, and I cannot overemphasize the importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making. These concerns may diminish over the next week with warming temperatures and accelerating melting.

Early on Monday 7th February we ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails to San Jacinto Peak – in boots with excellent traction – without needing spikes. Hikers less familiar with icy snow travel will prefer to use the latter. We descended Deer Springs Trail, and spikes were invaluable from the Peak down to 8700ft. On Wednesday 2nd February, we hiked Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to and from the Peak. Spikes were not required for ascending until about 10,000ft elevation (above Little Round Valley) but were invaluable descending down Marion Mountain Trail to about 7500ft.

Note that warm, dry weather is forecast with temperatures far above seasonal at all elevations in the second week of February. Rapid melting of snow and freeze-thaw cycles will combine to change trail conditions and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain. As early as 0830 on the morning of Monday 7th icy snow on sun-exposed slopes high on the east flank of San Jac was already getting watery on the surface, making it more slippery. Warmer afternoons will soften snow, generally (but not always) improving the grip underfoot.

Snow remaining from December 2021 has continued to melt slowly but steadily. Snow depths measured on 7th February are detailed at the foot of this post.

In addition to ascents of San Jacinto Peak by various routes in recent days we have also surveyed several segments of the PCT, plus South Ridge and Spitler Peak trails, and several Forest roads. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Trails remain almost completely snow-covered above 9000ft, with thinning and increasingly patchy snow down to about 7700ft, and generally clear below that elevation. Overall snow conditions on the trails are already more typical of April or May than early February. Tracks at the highest elevations (>9800ft) currently only approximate to the routes of established trails (especially Deer Springs Trail above Little Round Valley). Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Spikes are recommended everywhere above about 7700ft as trails are icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are especially valuable on colder mornings when conditions are particularly icy, and for descending. Based on tracks I am seeing in the high country some hikers are preferring to use crampons, and those are an option in areas of continuous icy snow above about 9000ft (potentially lower in steeper terrain).

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

May Valley Road was closed by Forest Service to all traffic, including foot traffic, on Friday 28th January due to hazardous trees. USFS social media states “there currently is no timeline for the road’s reopening”. There was no evidence of any work in progress by 4th February.

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 21st January having been closed since 13th December 2021. Note that Humber will be temporarily closed for up to three days starting at 1800 on Sunday 6th February for hazardous tree removal.

South Ridge Road (5S11) reopened in the second week of February.

According to the Forest Service website the following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), San Jacinto Truck Trail (5S09), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02). All are currently free of snow and ice.

Stone Creek where it crosses Deer Springs Trail (approx PCT Mile 183.7), 7th February 2022. It has already stopped flowing. Unless something exceptional happens in the next couple of months, it will be a very challenging year for water resources on the mountain.

WEATHER All elevations will rapidly warm to far above seasonal averages until Tuesday 15th February, when temperatures will plunge briefly to below seasonal before swinging above average yet again late next week. Temperatures this week are forecast to more closely resemble April (or even May for overnight lows) rather than the first half of February.

There continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecasts. However a minor storm system with the possibility of a very light dusting of snow is forecast for Tuesday 15th February. Long term projections tentatively suggest an increasing probability of storm systems from late February into April, but Southern California is not predicted to receive “drought-busting” precipitation.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak (at least 2-3 feet of snow would be normal). No snow and only 0.32in rain fell in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) last month, making it about the sixth driest January for combined precipitation in Idyllwild since systematic records began in the 1940s.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 7th February 2022 at 0915 the air temperature was 34.4°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 21.7°F (-6°C), 24% relative humidity, and a steady NNE wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 16.0 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 2nd February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 14.4°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -9.5°F (-23°C), 26% relative humidity, and a bitter due North wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 22.6 mph.

Major treefall on Marion Mountain Trail exactly at the Forest/State Park boundary, 2nd February 2022. Thankfully it is relatively easy to climb over, despite its four feet diameter.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7700ft are now clear (or largely clear) of snow, snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and remains largely continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Snow persists at elevations below 7700ft in particular on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks). Melting has been steady but slow at all elevations recently, but will accelerate rapidly this week with warm temperatures.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and early February will have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Signage was posted at the relevant trailheads on 3rd February. There is no snow on the open section of trail below 5800 ft.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Current snow cover on the PCT is patchy and steadily thinning between Miles 168 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), mainly confined to certain north- or east-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168), Apache Peak (Mile 169.5, see photo below), and Antsell Rock (Mile 171-172). Snow is then largely continuous between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). Snow on the Trail is very limited patchy to about Mile 184.5, except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-191 is snow-covered, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly. My next thorough assessment of snow conditions on the PCT will likely be around 20th February.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now clear of icy snow to about 7800ft, and then with about 20% cover to Saddle Junction (mainly near the latter). Spikes can be useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover remains about 10% to near Tahquitz Peak, increasing to about 20% on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Most hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending. The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has 12 trees down, many of which are significant obstructions.

The predominant compacted tracks on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak now generally approximate to the trail route. Above 10,400ft most tracks form a compacted posthole route up the East Ridge. However the route of the Peak Trail also has a lightly used track, which are challenging in one short section before Summit Junction (spikes recommended). The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail is functionally clear of snow to about 7600ft. Icy snow cover is 80% from 7600-8200ft, and there is an obvious compacted track through the snow. From 8200ft to Deer Springs Trail (at 8700ft) snow cover is only about 50%. Most hikers will find spikes useful for ascending the upper half of the trail, and they are invaluable for descending. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Unsurprisingly, there continue to be no visible hiker tracks on the upper sections of Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails. The latter is largely clear of snow to the State Park boundary, and then snow cover is increasingly patchy above the North Fork crossing to about 7700ft (but see below regarding tree hazards and trail maintenance).

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8700ft (0.2 mile south of Marion Mountain Trail) snow cover is barely 20%. Thereafter snow cover is essentially continuous. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [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.] Through Little Round Valley the track is more direct and only vaguely follows the trail route. The most heavily traveled track from LRV to near San Jacinto Peak largely follows, unfortunately for ascending hikers, my original snowshoe route from 31st December, which is direct and steep. Cautious navigation is required as there are many alternative tracks meandering across this slope.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well traveled and there tracks to follow where snow patches remain. Overall this very sun-exposed section of trail is 90% clear of snow.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow and spikes are not required. Nearly 40 downed trees from ice storms in December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report in January 2022. Further trail trimming continues steadily.

The Suicide Rock Trail and the Ernie Maxwell Trail are both clear of ice and snow.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

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, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described above and below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite much work in 2020 by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has likely added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed between February 2019 and 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 7th February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 14 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 12 inches (was 25 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 7-8 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 7 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail/PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 6 inches (was 11 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 0 inches (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 0-2 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0 inches (was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

PCT Mile 169.5 on the north-east flank of Apache Peak, 6th February 2022. Spikes are strongly recommended and it is relatively straightforward to work around the most challenging snow patches. Spitler Peak Trail (at Mile 168.5) remains an excellent alternate for those less comfortable on icy snow.
The Trail Report placed a new summit register box (lower right) at Apache Park on 6th February. The previous one – in my personal local trail memorabilia collection- was burned and melted by the July 2013 Mountain Fire.

Trail update 2nd February 2022

IMPORTANT NOTE: Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 Mt. San Jacinto State Park has closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction. The District Superintendents Order (#954-22-007) states “Skyline Route conditions are unsafe …. due to dangerous ice accumulation” and that “Skyline Route is closed until further notice from the 5800′ State Park boundary to its intersection with the Desert View Trail”. (In my experience the boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, between Rescue 2 and Flat Rock.) Updates on the closure will be posted on State Park social media and webpage. Signage was posted at the relevant trailheads on 3rd February. I was informed that this closure is a direct consequence of multiple challenging rescues in this section of trail in recent weeks. Please see my comments immediately below, that I posted the day before this announcement.

Last week I alluded to the challenges of hard, icy snow underfoot from evidence of hiker falls on uppermost Deer Springs Trail, and the value of using spikes, and in places an ice axe, especially for descending and traversing. There have been multiple serious incidents in recent days, including on Sunday 30th January a fatal hiker fall on the short section of South Ridge Trail on the notoriously treacherous north side of Tahquitz Peak.

Snow at all elevations has become firm and very icy due to a month of freeze-thaw cycles, and I cannot overemphasize the importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making.

In addition to ascents of San Jacinto Peak in recent days we have also surveyed several segments of the PCT, plus South Ridge, Spitler Peak (twice), Seven Pines, and Stone Creek trails, and May Valley and Sawmill Flats roads. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Early on Monday 31st January I ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails to San Jacinto Peak – in boots with excellent traction – without needing spikes, although hikers less familiar with icy snow travel would prefer to use the latter. Not being much of a user of hiking poles, in recent weeks I have found an ice axe handy traversing the slopes high on the east flank of San Jac. I descended the same route, and spikes were invaluable from the Peak down to about 8500ft. On Wednesday 2nd February, we ascended Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to the Peak. Spikes were not required for ascending until above Little Round Valley, but were invaluable descending down to about 7500ft.

Snow remaining from December 2021 has continued to melt slowly but steadily. Snow depths remeasured on 31st January and 2nd February are detailed at the foot of this post.

Trails remain completely snow-covered above 9000ft, with thinning and increasingly patchy snow down to about 7500ft, and generally clear below that elevation. Overall snow conditions on the trails are more typical of April (or even May) than late January. Tracks at the highest elevations (>9800ft) currently only approximate to the routes of established trails (especially Deer Springs Trail above Little Round Valley). Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Spikes are recommended everywhere above about 7500ft as trails are icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are especially valuable on colder mornings when conditions are particularly icy, and for descending. Based on tracks I am seeing in the high country some hikers are preferring to use crampons, and those are an option in areas of continuous icy snow above about 9000ft (potentially lower in steeper terrain).

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and often well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak). Forecast temperatures in the first week of February will be severely cold at the highest elevations.

May Valley Road was closed by Forest Service to all traffic, including foot traffic, on Friday 28th January due to hazardous trees. USFS social media states “there currently is no timeline for the road’s reopening”. There was no evidence of any significant work in progress by 4th February.

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 21st January having been closed since 13th December 2021. Note that Humber will be temporarily closed for up to three days starting at 1800 on Sunday 6th February for hazardous tree removal.

The following Forest Service roads are in winter closure: South Ridge Road (5S11), Black Mountain (4S01), San Jacinto Truck Trail (5S09), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02). All are currently free of snow and ice.

Sign on closed gate on May Valley Road about 0.2 mile above Cowbell Alley, 29th January 2022.

WEATHER Temperatures at all elevations will be below seasonal averages for the first four days of February, before quickly warming to well above average next week. There continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecasts.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak. Only 0.32in rain and no snow fell in Idyllwild at 5550ft, making it about the sixth driest January for combined precipitation in Idyllwild since systematic records began in 1943.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 2nd February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 14.4°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -9.5°F (-23°C), 26% relative humidity, and a bitter due North wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 22.6 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 31st January 2022 at 0850 the air temperature was 33.1°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 17.1°F (-8°C), 24% relative humidity, and a sharp NW wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 26.4 mph.

The San Jacinto high country as seen from Tahquitz Peak, 30th January 2022. The distribution of snow is more reminiscent of April or even May than January.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7700ft are now clear (or largely clear) of snow, snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and is continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Snow persists at elevations below 7700ft in particular on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks). Melting has been steady but slow at all elevations and will slow further over the next week with cool temperatures.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Spitler Peak Trail, Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees very heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees on the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds on 22nd January will have brought down further trees and branches.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required.

Skyline Trail is currently closed above about 5800ft (the State Park boundary), see discussion at top of this posting and the State Park website for any updates. There is no snow on the open section of trail below the State Park boundary.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now functionally clear of icy snow to about 7800ft, and then with about 50% cover to Saddle Junction. Spikes can be useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is functionally clear of snow to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover remains about 10% to near Tahquitz Peak, increasing to about 25% on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Most hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending.

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has 12 trees down, most of which are major obstructions.

The predominant compacted tracks on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak now generally follow the trail route. However careful navigation is still required as the slopes between 9800ft and 10,400ft remain covered with various (rapidly melting) meandering tracks. Above 10,400ft most tracks form a compacted posthole route up the East Ridge. However the route of the Peak Trail also has a very lightly used track, which are challenging in one short section before Summit Junction (spikes required).

There are well-traveled compacted tracks to follow from Long Valley though Round Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail is functionally clear of snow to about 7600ft. Icy snow cover is 80% from 7600-8200ft, and there is a well-traveled track through the snow. From 8200ft to Deer Springs Trail (at 8800ft) snow cover is about 50%. Most hikers will find spikes useful for ascending the upper half of the trail, and they are invaluable for descending. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Unsurprisingly, there continue to be no visible hiker tracks on the upper sections of Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails. The latter is largely clear of snow to the State Park boundary, and then snow cover is increasingly patchy above the North Fork crossing to about 7700ft (but see below regarding tree hazards and trail maintenance).

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8600ft (just before the Marion Mountain Trail junction) snow cover is an increasingly patchy 40%. Above 8600ft snow cover is essentially continuous. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [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.] Through Little Round Valley the track is more direct and only vaguely follows the trail route. The most heavily traveled track from LRV to near San Jacinto Peak largely follows, unfortunately for ascending hikers, my original snowshoe route from 31st December, which is direct and steep. Cautious navigation is required as there are many alternative tracks meandering across this slope.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well traveled and there tracks to follow. Most of this very sun-exposed section of trail is clear of snow.

The Suicide Rock Trail is clear of snow, with only a handful of tiny patches remaining.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of ice and snow.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow and spikes are not required. Nearly 40 downed trees from ice storms in December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report in January 2022.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

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, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described above and below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite much work in 2020 by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has likely added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed between February 2019 and 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. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 31st January 2022 are as follows (or on 2nd February for Deer Springs Trail locations). The first number is the current average depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 16 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 14 inches on 2nd February (was 25 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 9 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 8 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail/PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 6 inches on 2nd February (was 11 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 0-1 inches on 2nd February (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 1-2 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0 inches (was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide on 31st January 2022 (above), and one month earlier on 31st December 2021 (below).