Trail update 23rd November 2020

Following the moderate snow storm on 7th-8th November, a dramatic swing to temperatures far above seasonal over the past ten days has resulted in rapid and extensive melting at all elevations. Most trails below 8000′ are already clear, and at higher elevations snow is very patchy, especially on sun-exposed slopes. Where icy snow remains, most major trails have now been well traveled and have reliable, compacted tracks to follow. No new snow depth data are given here, as almost all measurements are zero or negligible. I have continued to average at least three ascents into the San Jacinto high country every week, with mid-elevation trails being hiked on the intervening days.

Spikes remain recommended for parts of all trails above about 8000′ elevation for at least the next week or so as consolidated snow undergoes freeze-thaw cycles, creating localized icy conditions. Even when not needed for ascending, spikes are invariably useful for descending trails where they are icy and compacted.

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 recent temperatures recorded at San Jacinto Peak).

Wilderness and dispersed camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest. For further information contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

Day hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are both open. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. Seasonal developed campgrounds – Stone Creek, Marion Mountain, and Fern Basin – closed on 10th November for the winter.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has reopened at reduced capacity, limited days, and shortened hours. See their website for further details.

WEATHER Following temperatures well above seasonal in recent days, the next few days will be typically cool for November, before again warming up after Saturday 28th. Temperatures in the high country will remain above average (i.e. near or above freezing) into early December, so steady snowmelt will continue. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. The latest video discussion from NWS San Diego reviews the summer, and includes medium term (December) and longer term (into February) weather projections.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 23rd November 2020 at 0825 the air temperature was 28.2°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 11.3°F (-12°C), 54% relative humidity, and a sharp due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 23.1 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 20th November 2020 at 0815 the air temperature was 43.3°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 39.1°F (4°C), 51% relative humidity, and a light due West breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 6.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8000′ are now almost completely snow-free, with most areas at higher elevations also clearing very rapidly. Snow on trails largely persists in traditional areas that are colder and/or less sun-exposed, such as the north face of Tahquitz Peak, in Little Round Valley, Deer Springs Trail between Marion Mountain and Fuller Ridge trails, either side of Annie’s Junction, around 10,000′ on the Peak Trail, between Round Valley and Wellman Divide, and around the summit of San Jacinto Peak.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has a well-defined track to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes remain recommended.

Devil’s Slide Trail is basically clear of snow. Most hikers will not need spikes on the handful of tiny icy snow patches that remain near Saddle Junction. The major new treefall hazard just past the second switchback was removed on Friday 20th November.

South Ridge Trail is almost completely clear and spikes are no longer required all the way to Tahquitz Peak.

Deer Springs Trail is basically clear of snow up to and past Strawberry Junction to about 8600′, just before the Marion Mountain Trail junction (no spikes required). Snow is nearly continuous from there to the Fuller Ridge Trail junction. Thereafter snow cover averages 40% depending on exposure, but it is 100% in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley the consolidated track through the snow does not accurately follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, but is adequate. Spikes are useful, especially for descending in some sections, as snow is icy and compacted.

Marion Mountain Trail is clear to 7600′ (no spikes required). There is extensive icy snow for about 0.5 mile from 7600′-8100′, before clearing again until just below the PCT junction. Spikes are useful, especially for descending.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is completely clear of snow.

Removal of the dozen or so fallen tree hazards on Spitler Peak Trail was completed earlier this month.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic since the last snowfall, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018, initially due to snowfall, then the road closure from February 2019. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Looking north-west toward the San Bernardino range from San Jacinto Peak, on Monday 23rd November 2020 (above), and two weeks earlier on 9th November (below).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. In an especially challenging year, and a busy winter already underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and snow update 18th November 2020

[UPDATE Friday 20th November: Melting continues to be widespread at all elevations, especially on sun-exposed slopes. The route from Devil’s Slide Trail to San Jacinto Peak via the Wellman and Peak trails was largely clear of snow and ice this morning. The usual two stubborn areas of continuous icy snow remain, an extended area of about 0.6 mile either side of Annie’s Junction, and again for about 0.4 mile near 10,000′ elevation on the Peak Trail. Spikes are useful in those sections, especially for descending. Devil’s Slide Trail is basically clear of snow.]

I have continued to average at least three ascents into the San Jacinto high country every week. Our speedy ascent on Monday 16th from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak required no spikes on a well-consolidated trail, although spikes were very helpful for most of the descent on somewhat patchy, compacted, icy snow. I used spikes more extensively on today’s fast hike up and down via Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails.

With a dramatic swing to temperatures far above seasonal, melting has been rapid at all elevations. Most areas below 7000′ are largely clear, and the snow on sun-exposed slopes all the way to the high peaks, but especially below 10,000′, is melting rapidly. We started this morning and on Monday before first light in an air temperature ten degrees above average, and descended to Idyllwild late morning in a temperature more than 20 degrees above seasonal. Melting will continue to be very fast this week.

Most major trails have now been traveled and have reliable compacted snow tracks to follow (of varying quality, depending on hiker traffic volume), which are also clearing rapidly of course lower down. Cautious navigation is nevertheless recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured Monday are listed at the foot of this posting.

Spikes remain strongly recommended in most areas above about 7000′ elevation for at least the next week or so as consolidated snow undergoes freeze-thaw cycles, creating dangerous icy conditions. Even when not needed for ascending, spikes are especially useful for descending trails where they are icy and compacted. Snowshoes remain useful for off trail travel only in the high country above about 9000‘, potentially lower on colder slopes.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather on average, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and at or below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for recent temperatures recorded at San Jacinto Peak).

For details regarding hiking permits, camping restrictions, ranger station access, and the Tramway, please see this previous Report, or contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

WEATHER After a couple of remarkably warm days at the beginning of this week, the next ten days starting Wednesday 18th are forecast to be consistently slightly above seasonal both overnight and by day. Extensive snowmelt will continue at all elevations. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 16th November 2020 at 0850 the air temperature was 43.1°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 33.9°F (1°C), 33% relative humidity, and a surprisingly cool SSE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 18.9 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 13th November 2020 at 0835 the air temperature was 34.4°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.4°F (-5°C), 36% relative humidity, and a moderate NW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 12.5 mph.

At the Peak last Monday, 9th November 2020, at 1005 the air temperature was 19.0°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.3°F (-11°C), 51% relative humidity, and a very light due North breeze sustained at 1.0 mph gusting to 5.3 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 7500′ remain largely snow-covered. Most areas below 7500′ are clear or rapidly clearing of snow. Reliable tracks are now in place for most major trails including: Devil’s Slide, Deer Springs, Marion Mountain, Peak, Wellman, Long and Round Valley through to Wellman Divide, Skyline, South Ridge, Tahquitz Peak, and the Tahquitz area meadows.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes are recommended.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow to 7600′. Snow is patchy but more continuous above that elevation, becoming continuous near Saddle Junction. The trail is hard and icy and spikes are very useful for descending. [The major new treefall hazard just past the second switchback was cut on 20th November.]

South Ridge Trail is largely clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′. Snow cover is largely continuous from there to the Peak, other than on sun-exposed sections of trail. Remaining snow will melt dramatically over the next few days. Spikes are useful for descending especially early in the morning. South Ridge Road (open) is clear of ice.

Deer Springs Trail is clear (or clearing rapidly) of snow up to and past Strawberry Junction to about 8600′, just before the Marion Mountain Trail junction. Snow is nearly continuous from there to the Fuller Ridge Trail junction. Thereafter snow cover averages 50% depending on exposure, but it is 100% in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley the consolidated track through the snow does not accurately follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, but is adequate. Spikes are very useful, especially for descending, as snow is icy and compacted.

Marion Mountain Trail is basically clear to 7600′ (no spikes required). There is largely continuous icy snow for about 0.5 mile from 7600′-8100′, before clearing again until just below the PCT junction. Spikes are useful, especially for descending.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is almost clear of snow, with a few icy patches remaining on the upper end near Humber Park.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic since the snowfall, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has only been hiked ery little since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today, 16th November 2020, are as follows. Note that average depth is given; extensive drifting and differential melting has led to uneven depths. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 4″ (was 9″ on 9th November)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 1″ (was 8″ on 9th November)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 4″ (was 8″ on 9th November)

Long Valley (8600′): 2″ (was 5″ on 9th November)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 3″ (was 8″ on 9th November)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (was 8″ on 9th November)

View south to Marion Mountain from San Jacinto Peak, 16th November 2020 (above), and a week earlier on 9th November (below).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. In an especially challenging year, and a busy winter already underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Peak Trail at 9800′ just above Wellman Divide, 16th November 2020 (above), and the same view on 9th November (below).

Snow storm summary 9th November 2020

[UPDATED 13th November 2020: There is now a single snowshoe track up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide. This helps with navigation, although postholing will be challenging and snowshoes remain preferable on that section. Above Wellman Divide the Peak Trail is consolidated and spikes are sufficient.]

[UPDATED 11th November 2020: greatly increased hiker traffic on today’s Veterans Day holiday has changed the condition of several trails. My snowshoe track to San Jacinto Peak via the Wellman and Peak trails will be far more consolidated by the 17 people we passed during our descent today. There is still no broken trail up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide. Three people put in a (very ugly looking) posthole trail up Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to the Peak yesterday.]

This is an update on conditions following the first snow storm of winter 2020/21, with most of the snow falling on Saturday 7th, followed by a little more on Sunday 8th.

I had a very pleasant day in the high country today, breaking trail from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak. Conditions were near perfect, with unusually little wind. I recorded a rambling video summary at San Jacinto Peak – complete with ice in the beard! – late this morning, which gives a feel for conditions around the high peaks. As discussed in the video, the storm produced an unusually even snowfall almost everywhere from 6000′ upwards. Snow level was at about 4700′.

On my descent this afternoon I was surprised to see no tracks other than my own up to 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.

Currently most major trails have not been traveled and are somewhat obscured by snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting, but note that due to drifting, snow is often deeper in the trails themselves.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing in the high country above about 8000‘, potentially lower on less traveled trails. Spikes are recommended for at least the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They may be especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted (e.g. Devil’s Slide, Ernie Maxwell, and lower Deer Springs trails).

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

For details regarding hiking permits, camping restrictions, ranger station access, and the Tramway, please see this previous Report, or contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

The USFS gate at Humber Park remains open, and the parking area was plowed on Sunday 8th.

The “bowl” just above 10,000′ on the Peak Trail, early morning 9th November 2020.

WEATHER For the remainder of ths week, every day is forecast to be progressively warmer. Temperatures currently forecast to be well above seasonal next week (15th-20th) will result in rapid and extensive snowmelt at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 9th November 2020 at 1005 the air temperature was 19.0°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.3°F (-11°C), 51% relative humidity, and a very light due North breeze sustained at 1.0 mph gusting to 5.3 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 7th November 2020 at 1005 the air temperature was 15.4°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -6.6°F (-21°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 23.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 5500′ are snow-covered. By this afternoon, rapid melting was already underway below 7000′. Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail through to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide, and for the Ernie Maxwell Trail. The greatly reduced hours and capacity of the Tram will result in very light hiker traffic to the highest peaks via the Peak Trail, and limited traffic on the Long and Round Valley trails.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 [updated 11th November] has steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes are strongly recommended. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled track to follow. A major new treefall hazard just past the second switchback is readily passable for hikers and has been reported to USFS.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today, 9th November 2020, are as follows. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds there is extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 9″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 8″

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 8″

Long Valley (8600′): 5″

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 8″

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 8″ early this morning, already melted to 2-4″.

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 6.5″, melting steadily today.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. In an especially challenging year, and a busy winter already underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Looking south toward Marion Mountain from San Jacinto Peak, 9th November 2020.

First snow storm of winter 7th November 2020

[UPDATED 8th November 2020: In Idyllwild and the high country it continued snowing yesterday afternoon. At mid elevations on the western slope it also snowed briefly overnight and again this morning. Total snow accumulation as of late this morning: Idyllwild 5.75″, Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park 7.0″. The high country has been periodically above the cloud this morning. Snow accumulation as of late yesterday afternoon: San Jacinto Peak 8″, Wellman Divide 6″, Long Valley 4″ (many thanks to Kyle Eubanks for data from yesterday.) The next detailed update is expected to be tomorrow afternoon.]

This is a brief update on conditions following the first snow storm of winter 2020/21. We apparently completely bypassed autumn, heading straight from summer-like conditions just two days ago (it was nearly 80°F in Idyllwild on Thursday!) into temperatures far below seasonal for the first week of November.

I recorded a short video on my hike to San Jacinto Peak this morning, which gives a feel for conditions in the high country. The storm today produced at least 3-4 inches of snow at all elevations above about 6000′ (it was still actively snowing at most of the locations where I recorded depths this afternoon, so depths will likely increase).

Currently almost all major trails have not been traveled and are obscured by snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting, but note that due to heavy drifting, snow is often deeper in the trails themselves.

At present postholing through shallow snow is relatively easy in most areas, especially below 10,000′. I used spikes this afternoon to assist with descending from San Jacinto Peak, although they were not essential. Spikes are recommended for at least the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted (e.g. Devil’s Slide and lower Deer Springs trails). Snow depths may be suitable for snowshoeing in the high country by tomorrow, especially above about 9500‘.

For the foreseeable future, hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, with potentially dangerous cold when considering windchill effects (see below for temperatures at San Jacinto Peak today).

For links and details regarding hiking permits, camping restrictions, ranger station access, and the Tramway reopening, please see the previous Report.

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open. The parking area had not been plowed as of this afternoon.

WEATHER Another storm system tomorrow (Sunday 8th) is forecast to produce another light snowfall at mid and upper elevations (possibly less snow than today). Milder, brighter weather on 9th-13th will lead up to temperatures well above seasonal on 14th-16th, which will doubtless result in rapid and extensive snowmelt.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Saturday 7th November 2020 at 1005 the air temperature was 15.4°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -6.6°F (-21°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 23.9 mph.

For comparison, at the Peak on Wednesday 4th November 2020 at 0600 the air temperature was 42.2°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 39.1°F (4°C), 16% relative humidity, and a light ESE wind sustained at 3 mph gusting to 4.3 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6000′ are snow-covered, with depth increasing somewhat with elevation. Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail. My track to and from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide was disappearing within minutes due to strong winds. The partial closure of the Tram will result in very light hiker traffic to the highest peaks via the Peak Trail, and limited traffic on the Long and Round Valley trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled track to follow. A major new treefall hazard just past the second switchback is readily passable for hikers and has been reported to the agencies.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely under a continuous 1-2″ of snow cover.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Total measured is first, followed by time of day and comments in parentheses. Note that average depth is given, drifting was deeper in the trails due to strong winds and light snow. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 4″ (by 1100)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 3″ (by 1145)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 2.5″ (by 1215)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 2.5″

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 2″ settled (at 1345, but judging by snow on my truck, as much as 4″ may have fallen)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 1.25″ (again, more had fallen but not settled)(also 0.14″ rain fell overnight)

Wellman Divide (9700′) at about noon on 7th November 2020.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With such a challenging year, and a busy winter already underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Wellman’s Cienega North Spring (9300′) early this afternoon, 7th November 2020.

Weather, water, and trail update 4th November 2020

Although we are currently in the midst of yet another unseasonably warm spell, a dramatic change in the weather is forecast starting Friday 6th. Significant snowfall is now expected above 5000′ elevation on both Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th. Total accumulation at 6000′ may be several inches, with 8-10″ possible around the highest peaks. Temperatures will be below seasonal everywhere, and 20-30 degrees below freezing on 7th-9th in the high country.

Almost daily ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past ten days have included surveys of Fuller Ridge, Willow Creek, and the Tahquitz area, among many other trails.

Starting Friday 6th November, hikers should be prepared for temperatures well below freezing in the high country, and far below freezing when considering windchill effects (see also below for range of recently recorded temperatures).

Due to continuing exceptional fire risk, all wilderness and dispersed camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest. All wilderness camping, including anywhere along the PCT, and camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) is currently prohibited.

Day hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are both open. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, partially reopened on 9th October. Trams are operating at greatly reduced capacity, reduced times, and on limited days; see the Tramway website for details.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021. South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

WEATHER The first week of November has seen temperatures far above seasonal averages. Thursday 5th in particular will see very warm temperatures with extremely low relative humidity. As discussed above, very cold weather is forecast starting Friday 6th, lasting into the following week. There is a chance of precipitation throughout this weekend. Significant snowfall is now forecast above 5000′ elevation on both Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th. Total accumulation at 6000′ may be several inches, with 8-10″ possible around the highest peaks.

Air quality has largely returned to normal above about 4000′ elevation, thanks to several days of steady north and easterly winds.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Tuesday 3rd November 2020, at 0930 the air temperature was 44.3°F (7°C), with a windchill of 41.5°F (5°C), 36% relative humidity, and a light SW wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 1st November 2020, at 0735 the air temperature was 45.4°F (7°C), with a windchill of 40.7°F (5°C), 26% relative humidity, and a light SSW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.2 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 26th October 2020, at 0840 the air temperature was 23.3°F (-5°C), with a windchill of -0.4°F (-18°C), 13% relative humidity, and a blustery due North wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 24.8 mph.

Moonlit night sky over Suicide Rock as seen from Devil’s Slide Trail, 1st November 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was burned on both sides by the Snow Fire (17th-19th September 2020). A closure order for the burn scar means that the Trail remains closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (PCT Miles 191-206).

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. A video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that 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 “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire) despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

Sunrise from PCT Mile 180, north of Saddle Junction, 1st November 2020.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing very gently for a short distance further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – has nearly dried up in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail, and Stone Creek and its tributaries on Deer Springs Trail, are all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly, and it dries up at the mouth of the valley. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing gently.

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring stopped flowing in the first week of October. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, as it has since August, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is now largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Weather and trail update 27th October 2020

Recent hikes have included four ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past six days via several routes, plus Tahquitz Peak and a check of water sources in the Tahquitz area meadows. Wild North winds overnight produced a lot of branches down on the trails today (I removed those I found). Assessment of any new downed trees forestwide may take a few weeks, but be aware of the possibility of new tree fall hazards.

Although yet another warming trend starts tomorrow, hikers should now be prepared for temperatures around freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering windchill effects (see recent recorded temperatures below). Cloudy conditions at mid elevations in recent days failed to produce significant precipitation in the mountains.

Due to continuing exceptional fire risk, all dispersed camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest. No wilderness camping (including anywhere along the PCT) or camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) is permitted. Day hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are both open. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, partially reopened on 9th October. Trams are operating at greatly reduced capacity, reduced times, and on limited days; see the Tramway website for details.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021. South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

Water conditions have not significantly changed from those described in last week’s Report.

WEATHER After a long, hot summer, including much of October, we had a delightful, if brief, hint of winter, with temperatures falling to well below seasonal average over the past four days. However, temperatures will rise rapidly this week, and especially in the first week of November they are forecast to be well above average yet again. There continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

An extremely light drizzle was reported in some areas around Idyllwild-Pine Cove on Sunday 25th, with 0.02″ measured at 5550′ elevation. The high country was above the cloud, with no precipitation above about 6500′.

Air quality had largely returned to normal in the high country, but strong North winds on Monday 26th stirred up all the smoke, ash, and dust again. Ash was flying around San Jacinto Peak yesterday morning, having blown up the north face from the Snow Fire scar 6000 feet below. Conditions had started to improve today (see comparison photos below).

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Tuesday 27th October 2020, at 0900 the air temperature was 24.6°F (-4°C), with a windchill of 4.1°F (-16°C), 46% relative humidity, and a bitter due North wind sustained at 20 mph gusting to 27.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 26th October 2020, at 0840 the air temperature was 23.3°F (-5°C), with a windchill of -0.4°F (-18°C), 13% relative humidity, and a blustery due North wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 24.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was burned on both sides by the Snow Fire (17th-19th September 2020). A closure order for the burn scar means that the Trail remains closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (approx. Miles 191-206).

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that 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 “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire) despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

A comparison of air quality looking towards the San Bernardino mountains from San Jacinto Peak. Above, on Monday 26th October 2020 (at 0830) and below the next day, Tuesday 27th 2020 (at 0900).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Weather, water, and trail update 22nd October 2020

Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest partially reopened on 9th October. All trails are open, except for the Pacific Crest Trail between Black Mountain Road and Snow Creek (Miles 191-206, closed due to the Snow Fire). Due to exceptional fire risk, all dispersed camping remains prohibited forestwide, meaning wilderness camping (including along the PCT) and camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) are not permitted. All wilderness camping in the State Park is also prohibited.

Hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are open. Please see the State Park website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

With a significant change in the weather imminent, hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country (potentially well below freezing when considering windchill effects), especially on 25th-28th October.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, partially reopened on 9th October. Trams are operating at greatly reduced capacity, reduced times, and limited days; see the Tramway website for details.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

WEATHER After a long, hot summer, including much of October, it looks like we may briefly bypass autumn and head straight into winter in the next few days. Temperatures are forecast to fall rapidly to well below seasonal average for several days. This may be accompanied by some light precipitation at mid elevations on Sunday 25th and Monday 26th October, with one or two tenths of an inch of rain possible. By the end of October, temperatures are forecast to be at or above average again, initially driven by strong Santa Ana winds.

The latest video report from NWS San Diego nicely summarizes the weather complexities of the next few days.

Air quality has not yet returned to normal, but may do so over the next few days given the forecast winds and rain. Until the high country receives significant precipitation, fire risk remains severe.

Another recent video from NWS San Diego is informative, including the latest projection for the winter overall (spoiler alert: not good news). Data show the three months July- September 2020 were the hottest in Idyllwild history, and that Idyllwild’s ten hottest summers have all occurred since 2002.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Tuesday 20th October 2020, at 0830 the air temperature was 51.4°F (10°C), with a windchill of 49.7°F (10°C), 17% relative humidity, and a very light WNW breeze gusting to 3.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 19th October 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 50.6°F (10°C), with a windchill of 46.8°F (8°C), 22% relative humidity, and a steady NW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 9.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was extensively burned on both sides of the Trail by the Snow Fire (17th-19th September 2020). A closure order for the burn scar means that the Trail remains closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (approx. Miles 191-206).

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that 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 “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire) despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing very gently for a short distance further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

Tahquitz Creek at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 20th October 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – has nearly dried up in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail, and Stone Creek and its tributaries on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing weakly, and it dries up just below the mouth of the valley. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing gently.

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring stopped flowing in the first week of October. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, as it has since August, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is now largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Sunrise from upper Angel’s Glide (8700′, roughly PCT Mile 180) on 19th October 2020.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and weather update 15th October 2020

Both Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest partially reopened on 9th October. All trails are open, except for the Pacific Crest Trail between Black Mountain Road and Snow Creek (Miles 191-206, closed due to the Snow Fire). All camping remains prohibited forestwide, meaning wilderness camping (including along the PCT) or camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) is not permitted. All wilderness camping in the State Park is also prohibited. In the Forest, only developed campgrounds that were previously open – Pinyon, Marion Mountain, Fern Basin – have reopened (the latter two are scheduled to close for the season on 10th November anyway). Details of the Forest Service reopening are available here.

Hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are open. Please see the State Park website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, partially reopened on 9th October. Trams are operating at greatly reduced capacity, reduced times, and limited days; see the Tramway website for full details.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

Water conditions – as confirmed by multiple hikes in the high country in the past few days via most major routes – are not significantly different from those described in last week’s Report (available here).

On a minor personal note, on Sunday 11th October, far off trail on the north face of San Jacinto Peak, I passed one million feet of elevation gain for 2020, achieved entirely within the San Jacinto mountains. My previous record for a calendar year was about 820,000 feet. Before anyone asks, the hard part about hiking/running over a million feet of elevation gain in a year? Descending one million feet.

WEATHER Other than a brief interlude around last weekend, temperatures have been well above seasonal for the month of October so far. Autumn finally arrives late next week, around Thursday 22nd, when temperatures are forecast to fall rapidly below seasonal average for several days. Air quality has not yet returned to normal, but in the past week has been the best in the San Jacinto mountains since mid August. There is currently no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains extreme.

The latest video from NWS San Diego is very informative, including the latest projection for the winter (spoiler alert: bad news). Data show the three months July- September 2020 were the hottest in Idyllwild history, and that Idyllwild’s ten hottest summers have all occurred since 2002.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Thursday 15th October 2020, at 0850 the air temperature was 50.3°F (10°C), with a windchill of 43.7°F (7°C), 33% relative humidity, and a fresh NNE wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 16.5 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 11th October 2020, at 1530 the air temperature was 44.9°F (8°C), with a windchill of 36.3°F (2°C), 47% relative humidity, and a steady NNE wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 15.8 mph.

The warmest temperature I have ever recorded at San Jacinto Peak remains Wednesday 19th August 2020, when at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measurable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

Parish’s Catchfly (Silene parishii) still just in flower, 11th October 2020, at 10,100 feet on the remote north face of San Jacinto Peak. This flower is endemic to the mountain ranges of Southern California.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was extensively burned on both sides of the Trail by the Snow Fire (17th-19th September 2020). A closure order for the burn scar means that the Trail remains closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (approx. Miles 191-206).

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that 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 “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow – for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire – despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

North spring at Wellman’s Cienega still flowing steadily, 13th October 2020.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Forest and Park update 9th October 2020

The San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest partially reopened today. Forest Service has indicated this is primarily a day use reopening. All trails are open, except for the Pacific Crest Trail between Black Mountain Road and Snow Creek (closed due to the Snow Fire). Dispersed camping remains prohibited forestwide, meaning wilderness camping (including along the PCT) or camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) is not permitted. Only those developed campgrounds that were previously open – Pinyon, Marion Mountain, Fern Basin – have reopened (the latter two are scheduled to close for the season on 10th November anyway). Details of the Forest Service reopening are available here.

The wilderness of Mount San Jacinto State Park has also reopened. Hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations. All camping in the State Park wilderness remains prohibited. Please see the State Park website for details.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which has been closed since 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, reopened today. Trams are operating at less than 25% capacity and reservations are required. Tram riders should be aware that all camping in the State Park wilderness remains prohibited. Full details of the Tram reopening are available at the Tramway website.

The unprecedented Forest and Park closures, in place for 31 days, were indicative of the exceptional fire risk and the associated resource challenges. Although conditions have ameliorated somewhat, please note that fire risk remains extreme. The wisdom of the closure decision was demonstrated by the outbreak of the Snow Fire in mid September, which burned 6200 acres, largely in the Snow Creek and Falls Creek drainages.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

WEATHER After temperatures well above seasonal for the first week of October, cooler autumnal weather finally arrived on 7th October. Regrettably it will last less than a week, with temperatures rising again to well above average from 12th October onwards. With a shift from easterly to westerly winds, air quality today was the best in and around the San Jacinto mountains since mid August. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains extreme.

The past month was the hottest September in recorded Idyllwild history. Remarkably, 27 of the 30 days recorded average temperatures above the historic average for the month. This followed an exceptionally hot and dry August, the hottest ever recorded for California. Overall the summer period (July-early September) was the sixth hottest in Idyllwild history, with the top ten hottest summers all occurring since 2002.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Thursday 8th October 2020, at 0900 the air temperature was 48.3°F (9°C), with a windchill of 40.6°F (5°C), 32% relative humidity, and a cool WSW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 15.9 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 6th October 2020, at 0840 the air temperature was 48.4°F (9°C), with a windchill of 41.5°F (5°C), 29% relative humidity, and a light SE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 13.6 mph.

The warmest temperature I have ever recorded at San Jacinto Peak was on Wednesday 19th August 2020, when at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measurable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was extensively burned on both sides of the Trail by the Snow Fire (September 17th-19th). A closure order expected for the burn scar means that the Trail will remain closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (approx. Mile 191).

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that 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 “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire) despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing very gently further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – has nearly dried up in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail, and Stone Creek and its tributaries on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing weakly, and it dries up just below the mouth of the valley. The flow rate has dropped substantially in recent weeks. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily, but flow rate dropped markedly in September.

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring stopped flowing in the first week of October. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, as it has since August, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is now largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Forest closure update 1st October 2020

[UPDATE 6th October: The Forest will reportedly reopen on Friday 9th October for day use. Wilderness camping will remain prohibited. Some forest roads may remain closed. Full details will be available shortly.]

The closure of the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, which began on Monday 7th September, has been extended until at least 8th October (see revised closure order here).

Notices posted at trailheads such as Humber Park and Ernie Maxwell Trail were amended by hand on 22nd September to simply say “extended, see website for details”. Apparently, “the closure will be reevaluated daily”, although the previous three closure orders have all run through to their expiration date. The Forest Service does have a relatively useful FAQs regarding the closure.

In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step has been taken due to exceptional fire risk, for public and firefighter safety, and due to lack of adequate emergency response resources. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests in Southern California, are included in the closure.

As indicated on the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. As public trails into the Park largely pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

The Snow Fire, which started on 17th September, was held initially at 6013 acres (see prior posting for discussion). On 22nd September that acreage was revised up to 6254, apparently due to improved mapping, rather than additional burning. Given the enormous challenges with almost all the other fires in the state at this time, we are extremely fortunate that the Snow Fire was not ultimately many times larger, or more destructive. The principal formal trail impacted was the PCT. About eight miles were burned (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) although damage to the trail is minimal due to the gentle gradient on this section and the relatively short, light chaparral in this area.

Black Mountain Road is closed (at the gate by Highway 243), possibly for the remainder of the year. All fire lookouts in the San Bernardino National Forest are currently closed, apparently for the protection of the volunteers who operate them and due to scarce resource availability in the event of any emergency.

Air quality on the mountain has varied from day-to-day, but in general has been poor. The smoke/smog level has visibly fluctuated between about 7000′ to 12,000′, although overall air quality has improved significantly in the San Jacinto mountains in recent days.

WEATHER Although temperatures cooled somewhat earlier this week, they have climbed again to well above seasonal. Temperatures are forecast to fall significantly next week. The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 23rd (59.9°F) was the highest ever recorded at that location in the second half of September. There is no precipitation in the forecast. The prospects for the remainder of 2020, discussed in an earlier video from NWS San Diego, are not encouraging.

Please stay safe everyone. I will continue to post updated information as it becomes available.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers.While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Forest and fire update 24th September 2020

[The next update to the Trail Report is scheduled for Thursday 1st October, when the Forest and Park closures will either be lifted or extended.]

The closure of the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, which began on Monday 7th September, has now been extended until at least 30th September (see revised closure order here).

Notices posted at trailheads such as Humber Park and Ernie Maxwell Trail were amended by hand on 22nd to simply say “extended, see website for details”. Apparently, “the closure will be reevaluated daily”. The Forest Service does have a relatively useful FAQs regarding the closure.

In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step has been taken due to exceptional fire risk. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests in Southern California, are included in the closure.

As indicated on the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. As public trails into the Park largely pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

The Snow Fire was held initially at 6013 acres (see prior posting for discussion). On 22nd that acreage was revised up to 6254, apparently due to improved mapping, rather than additional burning. There has been no visible sign of smoke or smoldering for the past few days, and containment percentage increases every day. Given the enormous challenges with almost all the other fires in the region at this time, we are extremely fortunate that the Snow Fire was not ultimately many times larger, or more destructive. The principal formal trail impacted was the PCT. About eight miles were burned (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) although damage to the trail is limited due to the gentle gradient on this section and the relatively short, light chaparral in this area.

Black Mountain Road is closed (at the gate about 1.7 miles up from Highway 243), possibly for the remainder of the year. One unfortunate consequence of this action is that the Black Mountain Fire Lookout is also now closed, potentially for the season. Indeed all fire lookouts in the San Bernardino National Forest are currently closed, apparently for the protection of the volunteers who operate them and due to scarce resource availability in the event of any emergency.

Air quality on the mountain has varied from day-to-day, but in general has been poor. This past weekend was the best air quality this month, but it has subsequently deteriorated again somewhat in the past couple of days (but remains better now than earlier in September).

WEATHER Although temperatures have cooled somewhat, overnight lows in particular remain above average. Temperatures well above seasonal are forecast to return for the last couple of days of September into the first few days of October (as discussed in the latest briefing from NWS San Diego).

The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 23rd (59.9°F) was the highest ever recorded at that location in the second half of September. There is no precipitation in the forecast. The prospects for the remainder of 2020, discussed in an earlier video from NWS San Diego, are not encouraging.

Please stay safe everyone. I will continue to post updated information as it becomes available.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers.While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow Fire update 19th September 2020

[The entire National Forest and State Park remain closed due to exceptional fire risk, with full details in an earlier posting, available here.]

UPDATED at 0915

Encouraging news. Total spread looks to have been held under 6000 acres and the fire is largely extinguished. Viewed from above, the western flank (in the vicinity of the PCT) appears to be completely extinguished. A very solid retardant line held the spread right around 5000ft elevation in chaparral, and there is no sign of smoldering or smoke.

Minor smoke plumes are still visible on the east flank of Blaisdell Ridge at about 5000ft elevation, about two miles due north of Mountain Station of the Tramway. Although there is a spotter plane in the air, there is no active air attack, so I assume there is no significant flare-up in that area. This could change at any time of course.

There is minor smoldering and smoking low down in the Falls Creek drainage. Otherwise all the spot fires in the drainages appear to have died down.

Wind in the high country is very similar to yesterday, from WSW sustained above 10 mph gusting to 18 mph. Especially those of us living in Idyllwild-Pine Cove been very fortunate to have predominantly SW winds, and everyone has been helped by having relatively weak winds. Air quality is the best today in two weeks, with the San Gabriel and Santa Ana mountains clearly visible this morning fom the San Jacinto high country.

Retardant line roughly perpendicular to the PCT at about 5000′ elevation, in the West Fork drainage about two miles north of Fuller Ridge, 19th September 2020, as seen from near San Jacinto Peak. The previous morning the fire had been moving rapidly from right to left.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers.While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow Fire update 18th September 2020

UPDATED 18th September @ 1710. Mixed news. Containment remains 5%. Reportedly air attack indicated 4500 acres burned at about 1600 (Cal Fire later put the figure at 4200 acres). The fire is holding on the east sides within the retardant and ridges to the west, but is spreading to the south and up the drainages/canyons.

UPDATED 18th September @ 1520. The latest report indicates 3500 acres burned at 5% containment. That acreage is roughly what I saw visibly burned this morning, as described below, suggesting that while the level of formal containment may be low, the fire has not changed dramatically in the past few hours and is not burning out-of-control. This could change at any time of course.

The Snow Fire started near the village of Snow Creek yesterday 17th September at about 1440. The cause was apparently a vehicle problem on Snow Creek Road that led to a vegetation fire. Gusty afternoon winds quickly dispersed embers widely onto the sides of the canyon, including just above Snow Creek community and on Blaisdell Ridge. By dusk last night, the fire was 1200 acres, burning in at least four separate spots. Special thanks to Florian Boyd for on-location information on 17th.

This fire is now impacting the lower north face of San Jacinto Peak up to about 5000ft in multiple canyons between the PCT to the west and approaching Blaisdell Canyon to the east.

UPDATED 18th September @ 0950. Currently the official estimate is at 2500 acres. A big fire front made a significant run up the West Fork drainage below the PCT, up to near 5000ft elevation, between 0830-0930. The fire crossed the PCT in that area at about 0900. With up to four air tankers in the air, including a DC-10 type, there were multiple retardant drops roughly perpendicular to the PCT at or above about 5000ft. Although the fire got into thicker chaparral creating lots of smoke, it appeared to be slowing down in that area by about 0945.

The entire isthmus (between Snow Creek East Fork and Falls Creek) burned overnight to its narrowest point at about 4200ft elevation. Spot fires remain smoldering in Snow Creek and Falls Creek drainages below about 4000ft, although almost all of the riparian vegetation survived unburned. The community of Snow Creek and the DWA facilities appear to be undamaged.

All morning the fire was burning in small patches on both flanks of Blaisdell Ridge up to c.5000ft. Prior to 0900, the focus of retardent drops was on the east flank of this ridge, slowing progress of the fire toward Palm Springs and the Tramway area. By 0930 the fire seemed to be petering out on Blaisdell in part because it is so rocky with relatively little fuel.

Although by late morning the prognosis for containment appeared to be somewhat positive, obviously this could change dramatically at short notice, as we have seen in so many other places in recent weeks. While the perimeter of the burned area may be several thousand acres, actual burning has been patchy within that due to rocky terrain and sparse vegetation in many areas.

In addition to the fire movement at its east end towards the Windy Point area (NW of Palm Springs), the main area of concern will be any movement westward up the West Fork drainage. By late morning there was an active fire front less than a mile from One Horse Ridge, and little more than two miles from the Fuller Ridge campground and trailhead.

Forest closure extended 14th September 2020

The entire San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest closed on Monday evening, 7th September. The initial closure order has now been extended to Monday 21st September (see closure order extension here).

In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step has been taken due to exceptional fire risk. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests statewide, are included in the closure. According to USFS, the closure situation is reevaluated daily.

As indicated on the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. Prior trail and camping permits have been revoked. As public trails into the Park largely pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

Black Mountain Road is closed (at the gate about 1.7 miles up from Highway 243), possibly for the remainder of the year. One unfortunate consequence of this action is that the Black Mountain Fire Lookout is also now closed, potentially for the season. Indeed all fire lookouts in the San Bernardino National Forest are currently closed, for the protection of the volunteers who operate them and due to scarce resource availability in the event of any emergency.

Air quality on the mountain has varied from day-to-day, but in general has been poor. Most of the past week has seen two layers of smoke, one at high elevation (>14,000′), the other closer to ground level (often <4000′). With prevailing winds from northerly directions for most of the past week, the higher elevation smoke was likely from fires in northern California (or even Oregon), the lower smoke from the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles NF and from the El Dorado Fire in the Yucaipa/Forest Falls area. This morning, winds had shifted (and strengthened) to the south-east, clearing out the upper elevation smoke, but raising the lower level smoke to nearly 12,000′ around the San Jacinto mountains.

Please stay safe everyone. I will continue to post updated information as it becomes available.

“Sunrise” at nearly 0900 over Little Round Valley, 8th September 2020, by far the worst day of air quality in the closure period.
Above, San Gorgonio as seen from San Jacinto Peak early morning on 4th September 2020, and below, the same view, exactly same time of day, on 7th September 2020.

Forest closure 7th September 2020

The entire San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest is closing effective at 1700 (5:00pm) today, Monday 7th September. In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step is being taken due to exceptional fire risk. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests in Southern California, are included in this closure (see USFS closure notice here). It is not clear at this time when the Forest will reopen, the situation is being reevaluated daily (although the initial closure order is for one week until 14th September).

According to the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. All current trail and camping permits are being revoked. As all public trails into the Park pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

Black Mountain Road is now closed (at the gate about 1.7 miles up from Highway 243), likely for the remainder of the year. One unfortunate consequence of this action is that the Black Mountain Fire Lookout is also now closed for the season.

The Santa Ana wind event expected for 8th and 9th September is described in detail in the latest video discussion from NWS San Diego.

Air quality on the mountain this morning was extremely poor (comparable to when we have had local fires burning within the San Jacinto mountains). From San Jacinto Peak at about 0740, I was completely unable to see San Gorgonio or the Coachella Valley, Black Mountain only a few miles away was barely visible, and looking south (where the visibility was best) I could only just make out Apache Peak.

Please stay safe everyone. Obviously I will post more information as soon as it comes available.

Above, San Gorgonio as seen from San Jacinto Peak early morning on 4th September 2020, and below, the same view, exactly same time of day, taken today 7th September 2020.

Weather and water update 3rd September 2020

Hikes every day, including four ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past five days by different routes, have allowed for a thorough check of water sources and trail conditions. A brief period of relatively cool weather (although still above seasonal averages!) in recent days included, on Monday 31st August, the first windchill temperature below 40°F recorded at San Jacinto Peak in exactly two months. Regrettably, these few cool days will be short-lived, with another spell of record heat forecast starting Friday 4th September until Tuesday 8th.

Hikers should be prepared for unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures far above seasonal, the overnight low temperatures in particular 15-22°F above average this weekend. Please give considerable extra thought to route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements. Air quality in the mountains had improved markedly in recent days, but then deteriorated again dramatically today (3rd September) with a switch in wind direction.

Although monsoon conditions are not forecast for the foreseeable future, hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in late summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, most likely in the afternoon or evening, can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required again for the San Jacinto wilderness starting 1st September, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. USFS has indicated that a permit quota will not be enforced for Devil’s Slide Trail for Labor Day weekend. USFS campgrounds are open, except those mentioned elsewhere in this update.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. The Tram has brought forward the normal September maintenance program into August this year, although no tentative reopening date has been approved.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year.

WEATHER As mentioned above, relatively cool weather ends on Thursday 3rd September, after which record-breaking hot temperatures are forecast until about 9th September. A couple of cool days will be followed by yet another warming starting 11th. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Regrettably, for the fourth year in a row, the late summer monsoons have largely missed us, with only 0.08″ rain measured in Idyllwild in August. Fire risk remains severe.

The National Weather Service has issued an excellent video discussion of the record-breaking heatwave expected over the Labor Day weekend. The video includes a brief summary of an exceptionally hot and dry August, the hottest ever recorded for much of Southern California.

The past month was likely the hottest August in recorded Idyllwild history (pending final National Weather Service data). Remarkably, 24 of the 31 days in August recorded an overnight low temperature of at least 60°F. Historically the average low for Idyllwild in August is 54°F.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Thursday 3rd September 2020, at 0745 the air temperature was 53.7°F (12°C), with a windchill of 47.1°F (8°C), 37% relative humidity, and a steady due East wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 20.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 31st August 2020, at 0745 the air temperature was 47.4°F (9°C), with a windchill of 39.7°F (5°C), 58% relative humidity, and a firm SW wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 17.6 mph.

The warmest temperature I have ever recorded (to date) at San Jacinto Peak was on Wednesday 19th August 2020, when at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measurable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that 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 “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing again. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August.

Round Valley pipe flowing, 26th August 2020

The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing well at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

Tahquitz Creek where it crosses the PCT near Mile 177, immediately below its source at Grethe Spring, 27th August 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily, but flow rate dropped markedly in August.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is now dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring continues to trickle gently. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, as it has for much of August, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Illegal camp fire, near Deer Springs crossing, 24th August 2020. No form of camp fire is ever permitted in the San Jacinto wilderness, but given the current fire conditions locally and statewide, this seems to be particularly thoughtless (to put it politely).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Weather and water update 26th August 2020

Six ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past ten days, by a variety of routes, have allowed for a thorough check of water sources, including Willow Creek, Deer Springs, Round Valley, and Fuller Ridge trails, among others.

Hikers should be prepared for relatively hot and humid weather well into September. Although temperatures have dropped compared to the previous two weeks, they remain above seasonal averages, especially overnight. Please give extra thought to route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Although monsoon conditions seem to have passed for the foreseeable future, hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in late summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, most likely in the afternoon or evening, can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations. A localized storm around Tahquitz Peak and Saddle Junction on 21st August included dangerous hail, up to one inch in diameter, falling for 20 minutes, while brief rain fell throughout the high country (but not in Idyllwild) on 22nd.

Air quality was very poor last week, mainly due to ozone smog and of course smoke. In the past week visibility from San Jacinto Peak has been some of the worst I have ever seen, and was so bad on 21st and 26th that the Coachella Valley was invisible. With a drop in atmospheric pressure, a subtle cooling trend, and increasing high altitude winds, air quality has been slowly improving in recent days.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits will be required again for the San Jacinto wilderness starting 1st September. A permit quota will be in place for Devil’s Slide Trail for Labor Day weekend. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can currently be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those mentioned elsewhere in this update.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. The Tram has brought forward the normal September maintenance program into August this year, although no tentative reopening date has been approved.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year.

WEATHER As mentioned above, temperatures will largely remain above average, especially overnight. A subtle cooling trend in the last couple of days of August will be followed by temperatures well above average in the first week of September. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Regrettably, for the fourth year in a row, the late summer monsoons have largely missed us, other than a couple of brief storms in the high country, with only 0.02″ rain measured in Idyllwild in August. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Wednesday 26th August 2020, at 0730 the air temperature was 52.3°F (11°C), with a windchill of 44.5°F (7°C), 50% relative humidity, and a strong SW wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 24.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 24th August 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 55.7°F (13°C), with a windchill of 50.6°F (10°C), 50% relative humidity, and a variable SW breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 18.2 mph.

The warmest temperature I have ever recorded at San Jacinto Peak was on Wednesday 19th August 2020, when at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measurable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

Salvia pachyphylla (“Blue Sage”), in bloom on Willow Creek Trail, 26th August 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that 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 “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing again. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August.

Round Valley pipe flowing, 26th August 2020

The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing well at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

Little Round Valley, 24th August 2020.

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily, but flow rate dropped markedly in August.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is now dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring continues to trickle gently. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, as it has for much of August, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Illegal camp fire, near Deer Springs crossing, 24th August 2020. No form of camp fire is ever permitted in the San Jacinto wilderness, but given the current fire conditions statewide, this seems to be particularly thoughtless (to put it politely).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first half of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Weather and water update 19th August 2020

[UPDATED 22nd August with air quality information, and description of hail storm from 21st.]

Despite the weather, I continue to average 3-4 hikes per week to San Jacinto Peak, usually all by different routes. Other hikes/runs to check on conditions since the last report have included the Tahquitz area meadows, and South Ridge and Ernie Maxwell trails.

Hikers should be prepared for hot and humid weather for the remainder of August, even at the highest elevations. I observed a record temperature at San Jacinto Peak on Monday 17th (62.1°F), and then promptly broke that again today (62.3°F). Granted it’s not exactly Furnace Creek, but it is unusually warm night and day throughout the high country at present, often combined with high humidity. Please give considerable extra thought to route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in late summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, most likely in the afternoon or evening, can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations. A localized storm around Tahquitz Peak and Saddle Junction on 21st August included dangerous hail, up to one inch in diameter, falling for 20 minutes.

Air quality is currently very poor, mainly due to ozone smog and of course smoke. On Friday 21st, the AQI in Idyllwild was 120 in the morning, rising to 168 later in the day. Visibility has been very poor from San Jacinto Peak this week (so bad on 21st that I couldn’t even see Palm Springs airport). With a subtle cooling trend and increasing winds, air quality may steadily improve over the next week.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits will be required again for the San Jacinto wilderness starting 1st September. A permit quota will be in place for Devil’s Slide Trail for Labor Day weekend. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can currently be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those mentioned elsewhere in this update.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. The Tram has brought forward the normal September maintenance program into August this year, to allow for a theoretical reopening date of 1st September. However that requires approvals that will likely depend on significant improvement of the coronavirus crisis.

Be rattlesnake and bear aware. As described previously, potentially hazardous wildlife is active at present. As always, if you respect them, they will respect you.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake, 6700′ elevation on Devil’s Slide Trail, 14th August 2020.

WEATHER As mentioned above, hot record (or near-record) temperatures are forecast for most of the rest of August. Overnight “low” temperatures in particular have been 15-20 degrees above seasonal. A slight cooling trend is forecast from 22nd August, but temperatures will remain well above average, especially overnight. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast (although thunderstorms are possible). Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Wednesday 19th August 2020, at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measureable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

At the Peak on Monday 17th August 2020 at 0740 the air temperature was 62.1°F (17°C), with a windchill of 61.2°F (16°C), 50% relative humidity, and a light ESE wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 9.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has nine tree hazards on State Park land between the USFS boundary and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Fourteen additional trees on Forest Service land, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that 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 “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing again. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe. This water source is inconsistent and should not be relied upon. The nearby Round Valley creek is now dry.

The small creek in Tamarack Valley is functionally dry.

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

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

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is now dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring continues to trickle gently. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, [updated 20th August] the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is flowing again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, as it had for much of August, there are small pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Above, Summit Junction, 17th August, below, Wellman Divide, 14th August. New, unfortunately inaccurate, signage has been installed by the State Park over the past week on the east side from Long Valley to Summit Junction. This replaced the existing 1960s era signage. There are too many errors to detail them all here, but, for example, from the sign above, the correct distance to the PCT is 2.8 miles (not 2.3), and from the sign below the distance to Saddle Junction is 3.2 miles (not 2.8). Hopefully such errors will not prove life-threatening, although they are substantial in percentage terms.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first half of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 12th August 2020

I continue to average four hikes per week to San Jacinto Peak, surveying water sources on as many different routes as possible, recently including Deer Springs, Fuller Ridge, and Marion Mountain trails, plus the east side routes. The 33,000 acre Apple Fire on the south side of the San Bernardino mountains was no longer showing significant smoke by Sunday 9th, although yesterday from Black Mountain I watched a minor flare-up in Wood Canyon. The damage to an area where Anne and I used to hike regularly is catastrophic. In happier news, the story of how our dog Anabel recently survived a neurotoxic rattlesnake bite in the San Jacinto high country continues to attract considerable attention and encouraging feedback. Thank you so much for all the kind comments and positive thoughts.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits will be required again for the San Jacinto wilderness starting 1st September. A permit quota will be in place for Devil’s Slide Trail for Labor Day weekend. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can currently be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those mentioned in this post.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, most likely in the afternoon or evening, are forecast to be a possibility every day for at least the next week.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. The Tram has brought forward the normal September maintenance program into August this year, to allow for a theoretical reopening date of 1st September. However that requires approvals that will likely depend on significant improvement of the coronavirus crisis.

Be rattlesnake and bear aware. As described previously, potentially hazardous wildlife is active at present. As always, if you respect them, they will respect you.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year.

WEATHER Starting Wednesday 12th August, very hot record high temperatures are forecast for at least the next week. Overnight “low” temperatures in particular may be 15-20 degrees above seasonal averages. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Tuesday 11th August 2020, at 0830 the air temperature was 50.4°F (10°C), with a windchill of 41.5°F (5°C), 35% relative humidity, and a strong SW wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 32.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 10th August 2020 at 0805 the air temperature was 52.4°F (11°C), with a windchill of 47.9°F (9°C), 24% relative humidity, and a moderate SW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 10.6 mph.

The warmest morning I have recorded at San Jacinto Peak so far in 2020 was on Monday 20th July, when at 0835 the air temperature was 59.7°F (15°C), with no discernible windchill, 31% relative humidity, largely calm with an occasional NE breeze gusting to 2.7 mph.

Smoke from the Apple Fire as seen from San Jacinto Peak on Friday 7th August. Smoke spread southeast beyond the Salton Sea.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has nine tree hazards on State Park land between the USFS boundary and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Fourteen additional trees on Forest Service land, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported previously, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that 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 “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing again. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe. This water source is inconsistent and should not be relied upon. The nearby Round Valley creek is now dry.

The small creek in Tamarack Valley is barely trickling and will dry up this month.

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley continues to flow gently.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing steadily.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail, 11th August 2020.

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is now dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing gently. Other creeks and springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is now dry where it crosses the trail. However there are small pools just upslope from the trail (this is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first half of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 5th August 2020

I have been averaging four hikes per week to San Jacinto Peak, via as many different routes as possible, plus most other major trails around the high country such as Willow Creek, South Ridge, and Caramba. Just 32 days since leaving ICU, Anabel accompanied me into the high country for the first time today with no apparent difficulty (for those unfamiliar with the full story of how our dog survived a neurotoxic rattlesnake bite in the San Jacinto high country, it is available here).

There are several current missing persons cases in and around the San Jacinto mountains. Only one, Roy Prifogle, was known to be hiking public trails at the time of his disappearance. Anyone with any relevant information should contact Riverside County Sheriffs Department.

Be rattlesnake and bear aware. As described last week potentially hazardous wildlife is active at present. As always, if you respect them, they will respect you.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. However Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. The Tram has brought forward their normal September maintenance program into August this year, to allow for a theoretical reopening date of 1st September. However that requires a variety of approvals that will likely depend on significant improvement of the coronavirus crisis.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those discussed elsewhere in this post.

The Apple Fire in the San Bernardino mountains as seen from San Jacinto Peak on 3rd August 2020. The fire scar is visible on upper Banning Bench (far left) through to Burro Flat (just right of centre). The mushroom cloud of smoke marks the active fire front near Yucaipa Ridge. Folly Peak is in the foreground (lower left corner). This nearly 30,000 acre fire was caused by a diesel vehicle emitting burning carbon from its exhaust as it drove along Oak Glen Road.

WEATHER Starting today, four days of below average temperatures will provide welcome relief from the heat. By Sunday 9th August, temperatures are forecast to return to summer seasonal averages, before moving well above average starting about Wednesday 12th. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Wednesday 5th August 2020, at 0805 the air temperature was 48.8°F (9°C), with a windchill of 41.4°F (5°C), 22% relative humidity, and a steady due West wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 3rd August 2020 at 0745 the air temperature was 55.5°F (13°C), with a windchill of 52.9°F (12°C), 18% relative humidity, and a light but steady WNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 8.5 mph.

The warmest morning I have recorded at San Jacinto Peak so far in 2020 was on Monday 20th July, when at 0835 the air temperature was 59.7°F (15°C), with no discernible windchill, 31% relative humidity, largely calm with an occasional NE breeze gusting to 2.7 mph.

The Apple Fire as seen from San Jacinto Peak on Wednesday 5th August. Even from nearly 20 miles away, a large active fire front was visible to the naked eye today far to the east of Snow Peak.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have new treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has nine tree hazards on State Park land between the USFS boundary and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Fourteen additional trees on Forest Service land, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported previously, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that 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 “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). 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, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing again. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe. This water source is inconsistent and should not be relied upon. The nearby Round Valley creek is now dry.

The small creek in Tamarack Valley is barely flowing and will likely dry up this month.

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

Wellman’s Cienega North spring flowing gently on 3rd August 2020.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley continues to flow gently.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing steadily.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry (for filtering at least).

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek is flowing weakly where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing strongly.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is now functionally dry and should not be relied upon for filtering.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing very gently. Other creeks and springs on this trail have functionally dried up.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is now dry where it crosses the trail, however there are small pools just upslope from the trail (this is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing well). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

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