Snow and trail update 14th March 2020

[UPDATED 16th March: with trail and conditions changing almost daily, this morning I recorded this video discussion from Tahquitz Peak. In addition the specific conditions for the Tahquitz Peak area trails are updated in the text below.]

Back-to-back minor storms on 10th and 12th-13th March have combined to substantially change the complexion of the trails in the San Jacinto mountains for the foreseeable future. Both storms were warm systems, with both rain and snow levels fluctuating significantly. Rain fell to at least 10,000′ elevation on 10th March, while snow settled as low as 5500′ on 12th. Between about 6500′-9200′ snow and rain fell on top of the other multiple times during the course of the storms, which made it difficult to determine exact snowfall totals in these middle elevations as snow was washed away by later rainfall.

In Idyllwild (at 5550′), 1.31″ rain fell on 9th-10th March, followed by 2.49″ on 12th-13th, some very welcome numbers following an exceptionally dry January and February.

I broke trail to San Jacinto Peak this morning, using snowshoes above 8000′ (Saddle Junction). Snow conditions were very poor up to 9200′, as rain had fallen yesterday on top of snow, leaving a thick ice layer over the snow. Higher up it had not rained, and the going was easier on pure powder.

By my descent this afternoon rapid melting and softening meant the conditions were almost unrecognizable compared to the early morning. Devil’s Slide Trail was a mix of soft snow patches and slush, and was clearing rapidly below 7000′. My morning snowshoe tracks up to 8900′ were disappearing rapidly due to melting and snow pouring off the trees onto the trail.

Currently most major trails, including most of the PCT through the San Jacinto mountains, 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. The current snow situation on the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains is outlined below, and is also discussed in a video posted yesterday.

Note that conditions will change starting 17th March when several days of further snowfall are possible, dropping snow to lower elevations than at present.

At present postholing through snow a few inches deep is relatively easy in most areas below 9000′ (including all of the PCT). Thru-hikers using good footwear and hiking poles will probably not need additional traction.

Microspikes may become increasingly useful over the next couple of 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 are currently ideal for snowshoeing almost everywhere above about 8000′ elevation, and snowshoes are strongly recommended above 9000′.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and far below freezing when considering windchill effects. The temperatures forecast for 17th-19th March will be among the lowest of this winter, and could be life-threatening.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway remains closed indefinitely since 12th March (tentatively until at least 1st April).

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open.

WEATHER Milder, brighter weather until Monday 16th will be followed by cold and very unsettled weather for at least 17th-25th March. A cold system on 17th-19th March may drop snow levels below 4000′ elevation. Initially forecast to produce major snowfall, recent forecasts suggest this storm may drop just a few inches of snow at Idyllwild elevations (5000-6000′), and a similar amount in the high country.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Saturday 14th March 2020 at 1010 the air temperature was 20.5°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of -2.9°F (-20°C), 79% relative humidity, and a wild SW wind sustained at 31 mph gusting to 41.5 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 10th March 2020 at 1130 the air temperature was 25°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 9°F (-13°C), 100% relative humidity, and a brisk due South wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 25.0 mph.

The San Bernardino mountains as seen from San Jacinto Peak this morning, 14th March 2020, with cloud pouring east through the San Gorgonio Pass.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT for continuous snow travel between approximately Miles 158 and 193, depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions. Many thru hikers using good footwear with poles may find spikes unnecessary however.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has told the Trail Report that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route. There is no current information on how snow/ice conditions may have impacted the route around this rockslide.

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6800′ are continuously snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation. Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail, and from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide. Strong winds and rapid melting in the high country may obscure tracks within hours. The closure of the Tram will result in very light hiker traffic to the highest peaks via the Peak Trail, and little or no traffic on the Long and Round Valley trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-worn track to follow. Microspikes may become useful, especially in early morning. Snow cover is still >80%.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is virtually clear of snow, with a few small soft patches remaining mainly near Humber Park.

South Ridge Trail [updated 16th March] is largely clear to Old Lookout Flat (7600′), but with some icy snow patches above 7000′. Snow cover is continuous and icy above 7600′, but there are good tracks to follow and it is easily hiked. Microspikes are not required but are useful. South Ridge Road is clear of ice.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 [updated 16th March] has no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.3 miles. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use both). Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the underlying ice.

Seven Pines Trail has had no visible signs of hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed it has only been hiked a handful of times since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail in snow. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will remain in place until summer 2020, hence there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Storm total for the past week is first, followed by current total in brackets, then comments in parentheses. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 8″ [22″]

Wellman Divide (9700′): 8″ [8″]

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 7″ [18″]

Saddle Junction (8070′): 5.5″ [6″] (already melted to <5″ by this afternoon)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 2″ [2″] (melted to <1″ by this afternoon)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0″ (minor snowfall on 12th March already melted)

Annie’s Junction – high point of the PCT at Mile 181.8, 9070′ elevation – today 14th March 2020 (above) and on 9th March 2020 for comparison (below).

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Storm updates 12th-13th March 2020

Please continue to check this page for periodic storm updates. The next full trail update will likely be in the afternoon of Saturday 14th.

UPDATED 13th March @ 1130

Current snow and PCT conditions are discussed in this video recorded earlier this morning at Saddle Junction/PCT Mile 179.8 (8100′).

Fresh snow depth at Saddle Junction is 5.5″, with 2″ at Humber Park (6500′). The gate at Humber Park remains open (for now). Settled snow level is at about 6200′.

On Devil’s Slide Trail it snowed and/or rained on us throughout the morning. It has rained in Idyllwild since 0800 today, getting heavier in the past hour. Total rainfall by 0700 in the past 24 hours was an impressive 1.69″ rain, plus 0.5″ snow.

The high country is currently above the cloud (>9000′ on the west side, >8500′ on the east side).

UPDATED 12th March @ 1815

Precipitation largely stopped at all elevations at about 1645. The 0.5″ of slush that fell in Idyllwild did not last long before it resumed raining. Long Valley (8600′) added 5-6″ of fresh snow today.

Current snow level is at about 6500′. Consequently the entire PCT from about Mile 157 to 194 is now snow-covered. Depth of fresh snow is only a couple of inches for much of that section, but may be 4-6″ in areas between Mile 172 and 191.

UPDATED 12th March @ 1610

Multiple news outlets in the Coachella Valley are reporting that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will be closed until at least the end of March due to the coronavirus crisis. Just in time for the biggest snow depths of the winter….

UPDATED 12th March @ 1505

Heavy rain in Idyllwild – a useful 1.2″ in eight hours – turned to sleety wet snow half-an-hour ago and has started to accumulate above 5500′.

Rainfall doubled in the past two hours in Long Valley (8600′), from under an inch to nearly two inches. It has recently also turned to snow, with about 4-5″ fresh accumulation today.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has apparently closed for the day due to lightning.

UPDATED 12th March @ 1250

I recently returned from a hike to the PCT at Mile 181 via Devil’s Slide Trail. Snow dusted early this morning down to about 7400′, but by mid morning had turned to heavy rain.

Fresh snowfall at Saddle Junction (8100′) was nearly one inch, but had largely melted and turned to slush by the time I descended. Rainfall was heavy up to 9000′ on the west and south sides of the mountain, and it is currently raining in Long Valley (8600′) on the east side also.

Thunderstorms started in Idyllwild about an hour ago, and since 0700 this morning there has been 0.6″ of rain at 5550′ elevation.

UPDATED 12th March @ 0630

Off-and-on light rainfall started in Idyllwild at 0530, with light snowfall starting to accumulate in Long Valley (8600′) at about 1″.

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Storm updates 10th March 2020

UPDATED 11th March @ 0500

Given the unpredictable weather situation over the next couple of days, the next full update may not be until Friday 13th. Current trail conditions below 9000′ (the high point of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains) closely resemble the previous posting linked here.

Above 9000′ there is continuous snow cover, only a couple of inches deep in areas that had previously cleared, but a little over one foot deep near the highest peaks.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was unexpectedly shut yesterday, so it is unlikely anyone made it to the Peak yesterday, and my tracks may have been obscured by a combination of melting, rain, and spindrift.

UPDATED 10th March @ 1630

Melting has been astoundingly rapid following the overnight snowfall. On my descent from San Jacinto Peak this afternoon there was partial melting everywhere below 9800′. From 8900′ down basically all snow from this morning had completely disappeared. Devil’s Slide Trail actually has less snow now than it did 24 hours ago!

The very rapid clearing is good news for the PCT, as snow from today only persists on top of pre-existing snow, and even then is only 1-2″ deep at most.

As I dropped below 7000′ on Devil’s Slide Trail at 1530 it started to rain, and has continued to do so in Idyllwild for the past hour, totaling 0.3″. However the high country remains above this precipitation (and it is certainly too warm for anything to settle anyway).

UPDATED 10th March @ 1205

Now at San Jacinto Peak which had a fresh snowfall of 4.5″ overnight. Currently the cloud level must be at approx. 11000′ as the sun is trying to emerge between occasional brief flurries of very fine grain snow (not accumulating).

Although the air temperature is relatively mild at just a few degrees below freezing, a bitter due South wind gusting to about 25mph is giving a windchill near 10°F (-12°C).

A little more detail on current trail conditions. The PCT was not significantly impacted by last night’s storm, as only 1-2″ of very wet and patchy snow fell below 9000′. It was so mild on my ascent this morning that melting was already evident everywhere below about 9500′.

Snow cover is continuous at 2-4″ deep on trails above 9000′. As the snow was so wet (and heavy), drifting has fortunately been quite limited.

The system was so warm that it rained all the way to San Jacinto Peak early this morning – after it had snowed – and there is a thick coating of verglas on all surfaces above about 8500′.

UPDATED 10th March @ 1010

Stopped raining at 0700. Snow dusted down to 7600′ on Devil’s Slide Trail, but only truly settled above 8000′. One inch of patchy melting snow at Saddle Junction (8100′), 2.5″ at Annie’s Junction (9070′), and 3.5″ at Wellman Divide (9700′).

UPDATED 10th March @ 0630

Rainfall started in Idyllwild at about 2130 last night, and has so far added up to an impressive 0.84″ (at 5550′ elevation). Fresh snowfall overnight in Long Valley (8600′) was about 3-4″.
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Trail and weather update 5th March 2020

[UPDATE 9th March: With an unpredictable weather situation over the next few days, rather than post a new Report today I recorded this short video discussion at San Jacinto Peak this morning.]

[UPDATE 8th March: Weather discussion below has been revised reflecting the greatly reduced forecasts of precipitation next week.]

[UPDATE 6th March: information for South Ridge and the Tahquitz Peak trails is updated below based on our hike this morning.]

Temperatures well above historic averages have rapidly melted much of the snow that fell earlier this week in a minor snow storm discussed in the last Report. We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak the past two mornings, and it has felt like the snow conditions have been changing by the hour. In many areas below 8000′ almost all fresh snow has melted, and in areas that had previously cleared this winter and/or are sun-exposed below about 9500′ have lost almost all the fresh snowfall. Icy, reliable snow in the early morning is turning to the consistency of warm ice cream by late morning in many areas, which can help or hinder hiking depending on your preference.

Current conditions, and especially the forecast storm coming next week, are discussed in detail in a YouTube video recorded this morning at San Jacinto Peak.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Very strong Santa Ana winds in the high country overnight immediately after the snow storm caused very heavy drifting, even eliminating our tracks during the storm from Monday. There has been very little hiker traffic in the high country during this week, so very cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Equipment recommendations are changing almost as quickly as the snow conditions. Microspikes remain useful in some areas (see below) for hikers who are less comfortable on snow and ice, on compacted well-traveled trails, and in particular for descending. Hikers with suitable footwear and hiking poles will often not need any additional traction, depending on temperature as discussed above. Shallow snow depths largely preclude any use for snowshoes now, except in some areas off-trail above about 9500′ elevation, and on the western side in and above Little Round Valley.

Starting this weekend, hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects.

WEATHER [updated Sunday 8th] A storm system is forecast to impact the San Jacinto mountains for several days next week (10th-13th March) with a high likelihood of precipitation on Tuesday 10th. Revised forecasts have reduced likely snowfall to a few inches in the high country and less than one inch of rain at mid elevations. This storm system will be much warmer than others this winter, with an initial snow level above 8000′, eventually dropping to 7000′ or lower. Another minor storm is possible on about 16th-17th March.

The latest video from NWS San Diego (posted on 6th March) discusses the forecast storm in detail.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Thursday 5th March 2020, at 1010 the air temperature was 37.3°F (3°C), with a windchill of 29.5°F (-1°C), 32% relative humidity, and a light ESE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.5 mph.

In stark contrast, at the Peak on Monday 2nd March 2020, at 1020 the air temperature was 12.8°F (-11°C), with a windchill of -10.4°F (-24°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp NNW wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 24.7 mph, while lightly snowing.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has told the Trail Report that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT for patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 160 and 191, depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions. Most thru hikers using poles will probably find spikes unnecessary however. See below for conditions on some specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

Current snow cover on the PCT is patchy and thin between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), mainly confined to certain north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168) and Apache Peak (Mile 169.5). Snow is then continuous between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). The Trail is then largely clear to about Mile 184, except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-191 is snow-covered, although exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly. North from about Mile 191 to Snow Creek is clear.

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 9000′ remain largely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below) but exposed slopes are clearing very rapidly (e.g., around Wellman’s Cienega). Some sections of trails above about 7700′ have limited icy snow cover.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge is partly clear of snow to about 8500′ elevation (south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction), then there is extensive snow cover thereafter, currently with no track to follow. To Little Round Valley and onward to San Jacinto Peak there is no fresh track and heavy drifting in places. Snowshoes may be useful above about 9500′ and microspikes can be useful for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) has been clearing quickly, especially on sun-exposed slopes, mainly Miles 186.5-188.5. There are no tracks to follow through the snow.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been lighlty traveled and a track through the snow exists.

Devil’s Slide Trail has limited icy snow cover in patches, mainly in the 0.5 mile nearest to Saddle Junction. Due to snow and ice compaction caused by hiker traffic, microspikes are helpful in some areas above 7700′, especially for descending, but are not required.
Ernie Maxwell Trail is virtually clear of snow, with just a few tiny patches, mainly near Humber Park.

The notoriously treacherous Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is clearing surprisingly quickly, the snow drifts are softening (on warm days), and crampons are no longer required. There is a set of tracks to follow, however overnight spindrift and freeze-thaw cycles can partly obscure tracks some mornings. Microspikes are strongly recommended, ideally in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it).

South Ridge Trail is clear of snow to Tahquitz Peak. A few tiny icy patches are easily hiked. Microspikes are not required. South Ridge Road is clear.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has only been hiked a handful of times 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 on 5th March 2020. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 16″ (was 47″ on 27th December 2019)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 2″ (was 27″ on 27th December 2019)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 12″ (was 25″ on 27th December 2019)

Long Valley (8600′): 2″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 1″ (was 19″ on 27th December 2019)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (was 11″ on 27th December 2019)

North spring at Wellman’s Cienega today Thursday 5th March 2020 (above) and on Monday 2nd March 2020 (below).


San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While thousands of hours of labor are volunteered, the Report depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). With a busy PCT season underway, every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow storm update 2nd March 2020

[UPDATE 4th March: melting has been very rapid as expected, and conditions, especially below 9000′, already resemble the previous Report from 27th February. I broke trail again today to the Peak, as it had been eliminated by extensive spindrift the previous day and apparently no one hiked up from the Tram yesterday. There are currently no tracks on the PCT between Mile 181.8 (Annie’s Junction) and about Mile 191 where the continuous snow cover ends.]

[UPDATE 3rd March: last night Kyle Eubanks reported that my tracks to the Peak had been almost eliminated by drifting snow. Very strong Santa Ana winds overnight will likely have obscured almost all tracks above 8000′ elevation by this morning. Very cautious navigation is recommended everywhere, and it is typical for hiking times to almost double in heavily drifted snow.]

A very brief update on the thirteenth storm of this winter (the sixth of 2020), partly because it has been a long day, but mainly because conditions are expected to change quickly with rapid melting.

I recorded this video discussion of the conditions near San Jacinto Peak late this morning.

Contrary to many forecasts, this storm lasted well into today, with snowfall continuing to mid-afternoon, and produced more snow than was generally predicted (4-6″ in most of the high country). I hiked to San Jacinto Peak breaking trail from Humber Park early this morning, ascending in near blizzard conditions, and then broke the trail again on my descent as fresh snowfall and strong winds had largely obliterated my tracks.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Other than Devil’s Slide Trail, most trails remain largely or completely obscured by fresh snowfall and spindrift, so very cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

I ascended and descended San  Jacinto Peak from Humber Park in just boots this morning, as the footing in 2-6″ of fresh snow was reasonable. Hiking poles are currently more useful than spikes. Microspikes may be useful, but are not required, above about 7500′ elevation, especially on the snow overlying compacted icy trails. Exposed trails with southerly aspects (e.g., South Ridge, PCT north of Saddle Junction, lower Deer Springs) are already melting rapidly up to 7600′. Snowshoes may be of limited use off-trail above about 9500′ elevation.

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures this week, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchil effects (see below for weather recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

[Updated 4th March] Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 4th March having been briefly closed 1st-3rd March.

WEATHER Temperatures will be above seasonal for the remainder of this week, and very rapid snow melt is expected, especially on sun-exposed slopes. A potentially significant storm is currently forecast for 10th-12th March, with rainfall (>1″) below 7000′ elevation, and at least several inches of snow at higher elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 2nd March 2020, at 1020 the air temperature was 12.8°F (-11°C), with a windchill of -10.4°F (-24°C), 100% relative humidity, and a sharp NNW wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 24.7 mph, while lightly snowing.

At the Peak yesterday, Sunday 1st March 2020 at 0845 the air temperature was 16.6°F (-9°C), with a windchill of -3.6°F (-20°C), 92% relative humidity, and a bitter WSW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 25.6 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes are not required, but may be useful (especially cold early mornings) on the PCT for snow travel between approximately Miles 158 and 192, depending upon your comfort level on fresh powder and icy snow.

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500′ are snow-covered. However melting is rapid today, and will be even faster over the next few days, so conditions will ameliorate very quickly.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a good track to follow, and microspikes are useful but not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clearing rapidly of snow. A few patches remain, mainly near Humber Park. No spikes required.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows, with snow accumulation from this latest storm given first, followed by current total average depth in parentheses. Please note that averages are given; drifts are much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 6″ (17″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 6″ (7″)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 5″ (12″)

Long Valley (8600′): 4″ (4.5″)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 4″ (5″)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 3″ (already largely melted to <1″)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 1.5″ (completely melted by this afternoon)

Peak Trail at 9800′ just above Wellman Divide today 2nd March 2020 (above) and the same view yesterday 1st March (below).


San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While thousands of hours of labor are volunteered, the Report is wholly dependent on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). With a busy PCT season coming soon, every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Textbook example of “mountaineers beard” from this morning. Blizzard-like weather combined with a sub zero windchill are perfect growing conditions for this occupational hazard!

Trail update 27th February 2020

[UPDATE 1st March @ 1845: It snowed gently in Idyllwild today from 1530 to 1730, just under 1.0″ settling at 5550′ elevation. It was lightly snowing in Long Valley from 1300 to 1700 (also about 1.0″ total). At San Jacinto Peak this morning I recorded a windchill of -4°F (-20°C) although the high peaks remained largely above the cloud all morning at least. The full extent of this minor storm will be updated tomorrow. ]

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak six of the last nine days, including today, affording a check of snow and trail conditions on most major routes around the mountain. South Ridge and the Tahquitz Peak area were hiked on 25th, and the PCT on the Desert Divide on 26th.

Temperatures far above historic averages – it was an astonishing 47°F (9°C) in Idyllwild at dawn yesterday – have meant that compacted icy snow below 8000′ (e.g., Devil’s Slide Trail) is slick in places. Unseasonably warm temperatures make the snow soft by mid morning at all elevations, the only positive being that postholing renders microspikes of limited use. The light snow that fell on 22nd February was almost completely gone within two days. Intense melting this week rapidly reduced snow depths to their lowest of the winter at all elevations.


Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Very strong Santa Ana winds in the high country yesterday caused spindrift to obscure parts of even heavily traveled trails. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Microspikes remain useful in some areas (see below) for hikers who are less comfortable on snow and ice, on compacted well-traveled trails, in particular for descending. Hikers with suitable footwear (plus hiking poles as preferred) will largely not need any additional traction, depending on temperature as discussed above. Shallow snow depths largely preclude any use for snowshoes now, even in areas off-trail above about 9500′ elevation.

Despite warm conditions on most days, hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchill effects, especially on 1st-2nd March (see below for weather recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 5th February.

WEATHER Above average temperatures this week will continue until Friday 29th. A minor storm system is forecast to impact the San Jacinto mountains over the weekend (1st-2nd March) with the possibility of light precipitation including a couple of inches of snow in the high country. However temperatures will recover to well-above-seasonal immediately after the storm, so impacts to the trails will likely be limited to a day or two at most.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Thursday 27th February 2020, at 0840 the air temperature was 32.4°F (0°C), with a windchill of 18.7°F (-8°C), 30% relative humidity, and a persistent NE wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 21.0 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 24th February 2020, at 0945 the air temperature was 31.6°F (0°C), with a windchill of 21.9°F (-6°C), 54% relative humidity, and a light due North wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.6 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has told the Trail Report that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT for patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 168 and 191, depending upon your comfort level on icy snow. Most thru hikers using poles will probably find spikes unnecessary however. See below for conditions on some specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

Current snow cover on the PCT is very limited between Miles 165 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), mainly confined to certain north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168) and Apache Peak (Mile 169.5). Snow is then largely continuous between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). The Trail is then largely clear to about Mile 184, except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-191 is snow-covered, although exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly. North from about Mile 191 to Snow Creek is clear.

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

Currently I am not updating the water situation in the San Jacinto mountains as the main springs and creeks are all flowing adequately. This may change soon as extremely low precipitation so far in 2020 is already causing flow rates far below average.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 9000′ remain largely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below) but sun exposed slopes are clearing rapidly (e.g., around Wellman’s Cienega). Some sections of trails above about 7700′ have limited icy snow cover.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge is largely clear of snow to about 8700′ elevation (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction), then there is extensive snow cover thereafter, with a well-traveled, consolidated track to follow. A track above 9000′ to Little Round Valley is consolidated, but be advised that it does not follow the established trail in places. Above Little Round Valley there is a direct (i.e. steep) track to follow to San Jacinto Peak. Microspikes can be useful for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) has been clearing quickly, especially on sun-exposed slopes, mainly Miles 186.5-188.5. There are tracks to follow through the snow.

Marion Mountain Trail has been traveled and has a consolidated track to follow. Microspikes are useful, but not required, for descending the uppermost 0.5 mile. Note the road to Marion Mountain trailhead has been open all winter and is clear of snow.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow, onward to San Jacinto Peak.

Devil’s Slide Trail has limited icy snow cover in patches, mainly in the 0.5 mile nearest to Saddle Junction. Due to snow and ice compaction caused by hiker traffic, microspikes are helpful in some areas above 7700′, especially for descending, but are not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is virtually clear of snow, with just a few tiny patches, mainly near Humber Park.

The notoriously treacherous Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is clearing surprisingly quickly, the snow drifts are softening (on warm days), and crampons are no longer required. There is a good set of tracks to follow. Microspikes are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). In the morning, overnight wind conditions and the freeze-thaw cycle can partially obscure the existing steps through the angled icy snow for 0.1-0.2 mile.

South Ridge Trail is almost clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with some remnant short, thin snow patches. Snow cover is fairly patchy (<20%) higher up, and the small patches are easily hiked. Microspikes are not required. South Ridge Road is clear of ice.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has only been hiked a handful of times 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 on 27th February 2020. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 11″ (was 47″ on 27th December 2019)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 1″ (was 27″ on 27th December 2019)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 7″ (was 25″ on 27th December 2019)

Long Valley (8600′): 1″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 1″ (was 19″ on 27th December 2019)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (was 11″ on 27th December 2019)

Wellman Divide (9700′) today 27th February 2020 (above), and the same view almost exactly one year earlier on 25th February 2019 (below).
San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While thousands of hours of labor are volunteered, the Report depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). With a busy PCT season underway, every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Minor snow storm update 23rd February 2020

[UPDATE 24th February: our hike this morning to San Jacinto Peak showed that melting has been even faster than expected. Most trail conditions already more closely resemble the Report from 17th Feb available below. Note that due to compaction by hiker traffic over the weekend Devil’s Slide Trail had tricky ice in patches, especially early this morning.]

Just a brief update on the twelfth storm of this winter (the fifth of 2020) which passed over the San Jacinto mountains yesterday, 22nd February. Melting is happening so fast that conditions will largely revert to similar to the previous report (linked here) within a couple of days, so I will not go in to too much detail.

A short video from San Jacinto Peak this morning discusses current and future conditions.

Snowfall was 2-4″ in the high country (depending on location more than elevation), and just over an inch at Idyllwild, where we also had a mix of rain (0.2″) and hail (0.25″). Unlike the storm 12 days earlier, the snow was very wet, with large flakes, and there was much less wind associated with the storm, so drifting was minimal.


Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Most major trails have already been traveled and melting is so rapid already today that few trails are obscured by snowfall. Nevertheless cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.


I ascended and descended San  Jacinto Peak from Humber Park in just boots this morning, as the footing in 2-4″ of fresh snow was reasonable. Although large sections of trail, especially below 9000′, are already wet and slushy, these are not expected to refreeze overnight this week. Consequently ice formation should be limited and the need for additional traction minimal. Hiking poles are currently more useful than spikes.

Microspikes may be useful, but are not required, above about 7500′ elevation, especially on the snow overlying compacted icy trails. Exposed trails with southerly aspects (e.g., South Ridge, PCT north of Saddle Junction, lower Deer Springs) are melting very rapidly up to 8600′. Snowshoes may be of limited use off-trail above about 9500′ elevation.

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures this week, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchil effects (see below for weather recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 5th February.

North face of Tahquitz Rock at dusk on 22nd February 2020.

WEATHER Temperatures will be well above seasonal for the next week, and very rapid snow melt is expected, especially on sun-exposed slopes. A potentially significant snow storm is currently forecast for 1st-2nd March. The remainder of the spring (March to May) is otherwise expected to be warmer and drier than average, as discussed in the latest NWS San Diego video.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Sunday 23rd February 2020, at 0910 the air temperature was 24.8°F (-4°C), with a windchill of 9.8°F (-12°C), 82% relative humidity, and a moderate NNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 15.6 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 21st February 2020 at 0825 the air temperature was 30.8°F (-1°C), with a windchill of 15.4°F (-9°C), 55% relative humidity, and a sharp SSE wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 22.2 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes are not required, but may be useful (especially cold early mornings) on the PCT for increasingly patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 158 and 192, depending upon your comfort level on fresh powder and icy snow.

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500′ are snow-covered. However melting is rapid today, and will be even faster over the next few days, so conditions will ameliorate very quickly.

Reliable tracks are currently in place for Devil’s Slide Trail, Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, from the Tram through to Wellman Divide, Deer Springs Trail to at least Strawberry Junction, and Marion Mountain Trail to Deer Springs Trail and onward to San Jacinto Peak.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a good track to follow, and microspikes are useful but not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely clear of snow. A few patches remain, mainly near Humber Park. No spikes required.

South Ridge Trail is rapidly clearing to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with some remnant snow patches. Snow cover is becoming fairly patchy (<50%) higher up, and the soft thin snow is easily hiked. Microspikes are not required.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is clearing surprisingly quickly, snow drifts are softening, and crampons are no longer required (but some hikers may prefer them). Microspikes are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). In the morning, overnight wind conditions and the freeze-thaw cycle may well have covered the existing steps through the angled icy snow for 0.1-0.2 mile.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows, with snow accumulation from this latest storm given first, followed by current total average depth in parentheses. Please note that averages are given; drifts are much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 3″ (17″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 2″ (4″)(already largely melted)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 4″ (13″)

Long Valley (8600′): 2″ (3″)(already largely melted)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 3″ (4″)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 2″ (2″) (already largely melted)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 1.2″ (completely melted by this afternoon)

Wellman Divide early this morning 23rd February 2020 (above), and for comparison on Friday 21st February 2020 (below).



San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While thousands of hours of labor are volunteered, the Report is wholly dependent on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). With a busy PCT season coming soon, every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail update 17th February 2020

[UPDATE 22nd February @ 1730: a minor storm system is passing over the San Jacinto mountains today. Two inches of snow had fallen at San Jacinto Peak by dusk today. In Idyllwild (at 5550′) there was a mix of rain, hail, and snow, currently about 1.3″ of the latter. Snow accumulation on lower Devil’s Slide Trail this evening was only 1.0″. Long Valley (8600′) has had a couple of brief dustings of snow totalling <1″. Very rapid warming (and therefore melting) over the next couple of days means that the conditions described below will still apply.]

I have hiked to San Jacinto Peak three of the past six mornings, including today, affording a check of snow and trail conditions on most major routes. South Ridge and the Tahquitz Peak area have also been hiked twice in the same period. I hope to fully survey the PCT again this week.

Cool early mornings like Saturday make for pleasant hiking on firm snow, and I ascended San Jacinto Peak without microspikes. In contrast this morning very mild temperatures – 40°F in Idyllwild – meant that icy snow below 8000′ (e.g., Devil’s Slide Trail) was very slick in places. Unseasonably warm temperatures make the snow soft by late morning at all elevations, the only positive being that postholing renders microspikes of limited use.

The light snow that fell a week ago in the early hours of the morning of Monday 10th was almost completely gone within days. Rapid melting this weekend has already reduced snow depths to the levels seen in early February at all elevations.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Strong winds in the high country may cause spindrift to obscure parts of even heavily traveled trails. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Microspikes remain useful in some areas (see below) for hikers inexperienced on snow and ice, on compacted, well-traveled trails, in particular for descending. Hikers with suitable footwear (plus hiking poles as preferred) will largely not need any additional traction, depending on temperature as discussed above. Snowshoes may be useful in some areas off-trail above about 9500′ elevation.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchill effects (see below for weather recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 5th February.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain above average this week, cooling to below seasonal next week (after 24th February). There is a possibility of light precipitation overnight on Friday 21st into early Saturday 22nd, including perhaps a couple of inches of snow in the high country. Otherwise there is little sign of precipitation into March.

The latest video report from NWS San Diego (issued on 14th February) describes the dire moisture situation we are now experiencing. Having been at c.200% of average at the end of 2019, the two wettest months of the water year (January and February) have been so poor in 2020, at <10% of average, that overall the San Jacinto mountains have dropped far below average precpitation already. The Sierra Nevada is faring no better, with snowpack at only 50-60% of average.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 17th February 2020, at 0750 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill of 18°F (-8°C), 42% relative humidity, and a very gusty NW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 28.7 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 15th February 2020, at 0800 the air temperature was 32.4°F (0°C), with a windchill of 17.7°F (-8°C), 23% relative humidity, and a chilly WNW wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 23.3 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has told the Trail Report that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT for patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 168 and 191, depending upon your comfort level on icy snow. Most thru hikers using poles will probably find spikes unnecessary however. See below for conditions on some specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

Current snow cover on the PCT is very limited between Miles 151 (Highway 74) and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), mainly confined to certain north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168) and Apache Peak (Mile 169.5). Snow is then largely continuous between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). The Trail is then largely clear to about Mile 184, except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-191 is snow-covered, although exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly. North from about Mile 191 to Snow Creek is clear.

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

Currently I am not updating the water situation in the San Jacinto mountains as the main springs and creeks are all flowing adequately. This may change soon as extremely low precipitation so far in 2020 is already causing flow rates far below average.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 9000′ remain largely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below) but sun exposed slopes are clearing rapidly (e.g., around Wellman’s Cienega). Some sections of trails above about 7700′ have limited snow cover.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge is quickly clearing of snow to about 8700′ elevation (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction), then there is continuous snow cover thereafter, with a well-traveled, consolidated track to follow. A track above 9000′ to Little Round Valley is consolidated, but be advised that it does not follow the established trail in places. Above Little Round Valley there is a direct (i.e. steep) track to follow to San Jacinto Peak. Microspikes can be useful for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) has been clearing quickly, especially on sun-exposed slopes, mainly Miles 186.5-188.5. There are tracks to follow through the snow.

Marion Mountain Trail has been traveled and has a consolidated track to follow. Microspikes are useful, but not required, for descending the uppermost 0.5 mile. Note the road to Marion Mountain trailhead has been open all winter and is clear of snow.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow, onward to San Jacinto Peak.

Devil’s Slide Trail has limited icy snow cover in patches, mainly in the 0.5 mile nearest to Saddle Junction. Microspikes may be helpful in some areas above 7700′, especially for descending, but are not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is virtually clear of snow, with just a few tiny patches, mainly near Humber Park.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The notoriously treacherous Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is clearing surprisingly quickly, the snow drifts are softening (on warm days), and crampons are no longer required. Microspikes are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). In the morning, overnight wind conditions and the freeze-thaw cycle often cover the existing steps through the angled icy snow for 0.1-0.2 mile. Please do not attempt to cross this section without adequate equipment and knowledge. The consequences of a fall here can be very severe.

South Ridge Trail is clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with some remnant very thin snow patches. Snow cover is fairly patchy (<50%) higher up, and the soft thin snow is easily hiked. Microspikes are not required. South Ridge Road is clear of ice.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has only been hiked a handful of times 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 on 17th February 2020. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 16″ (was 47″ on 27th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 16″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 2″ (was 27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 11″ (was 25″ on 27th December)

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 185.5) at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 12″

Long Valley (8600′): 1″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 1″ (was 19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (was 11″ on 27th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′) today 17th February 2020 (above), and one week earlier on 10th February 2020 (below).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While thousands of hours of labor are volunteered, the Report depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). With a busy PCT season underway, every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow storm 10th February 2020

[UPDATED 13th February: current status of trails either side of Tahquitz Peak is updated below, based on our hike up from home this morning.]

[UPDATED 12th February: I have amended gear advice below following my hike today to San Jacinto Peak, when I broke trail from Saddle Junction to the Peak, almost entirely just in boots (with no additional traction gear). Melting has been even more rapid than expected, and conditions may start to resemble the Report from 4th February (below) perhaps as soon as this weekend.]

A brief update on the eleventh storm of this winter (but the first significant storm of 2020) which hit the San Jacinto mountains overnight and this morning. A short video from San Jacinto Peak this morning gives a feel for current conditions.

In general forecasters had a terrible time accurately predicting the timing and impact of this storm due to its unusual track and fragmentation in storm cells. Overall snowfall was less than had been expected, with fewer than 6″ in the high country, and less than an inch at Idyllwild, but snowfall may vary more by location than elevation.

Winds were very strong so drifting in trails is considerable. Snow fell as graupel and rounded grains, and as we descended this morning Kyle Eubanks accurately described it as like walking through bird seed. Depths were not sufficient to completely obscure tracks in most places. However winds remain strong for the next 24+ hours, so extensive drifting is expected.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Currently most major trails have not been traveled and may be partly obscured by snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

Microspikes are useful, but not required, above about 7500′ elevation, especially on the snow overlying compacted icy trails. Exposed trails with southerly aspects (e.g., South Ridge, PCT north of Saddle Junction, lower Deer Springs) are melting very rapidly up to 8500′, and spikes may not be needed much below 9000′. [Updated 15th Feb: I ascended San Jacinto Peak easily with no microspikes early this morning.]

Crampons (with an ice axe) may be useful, but certainly not required, in compacted areas above about 9500′. Snowshoes are of limited use only off-trail above about 9500′ elevation.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchil effects (see below for weather recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 5th February. Humber Park has been plowed, so it is unlikely that the gate will be closed again soon.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be at or even slightly below seasonal for the next week. Steady daytime snow melt is expected, especially on exposed slopes. No additional precipitation is in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 10th February 2020, at 0845 the air temperature was 15.3°F (-9°C), with a windchill of -7.8°F (-22°C), 99% relative humidity, and a sharp NNE wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 28.1 mph.

In marked contrast, at the Peak on Thursday 6th February 2020 at 0955 the air temperature was 31.9°F (0°C), with a windchill of 23.7°F (-5°C), 69% relative humidity, and a light WSW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.0 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes are not required, but may be useful (especially cold early mornings) on the PCT for increasingly patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 158 and 192, depending upon your comfort level on fresh powder and icy snow.

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


TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail. From Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, and from the Tram through to Wellman Divide, trails have been hiked but tracks will be largely obscured by wind-driven snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a good track to follow, and microspikes are useful but not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely clear of snow. A few tiny icy patches remain, mainly near Humber Park. No spikes required.

South Ridge Trail [updated 13th Feb] is  clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with some remnant very thin snow patches. Snow cover is fairly patchy (<50%) higher up, and the soft thin snow is easily hiked. Microspikes are not required.


Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 [updated 13th Feb] is clearing surprisingly quickly, snow drifts are softening, and crampons are no longer required (but some hikers may prefer them). Microspikes are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). In the morning, overnight wind conditions and the freeze-thaw cycle may well have covered the existing steps through the angled icy snow for 0.1-0.2 mile.


SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows, with snow accumulation from this latest storm given first, followed by total average depth in parentheses. Please note that averages are given; drifts are much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.
Many thanks to Kyle Eubanks for data from Round and Long valleys.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 5″ (21″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 4″ (6″)

Round Valley (9100′): 4″ (8″)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 3.5″ (14″)

Long Valley (8600′): 4″ (5″)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″ (3″)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 1.5″ (1.5″)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0.5″ (already melted by this afternoon)
Wellman Divide late morning today, 10th February 2020 (above), and the afternoon of the previous day, 9th February 2020 (below).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While thousands of hours of labor are volunteered, the Report is wholly dependent on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). With a busy PCT season coming soon, every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trails and weather 4th February 2020

[UPDATED 7th February to include the latest forecast for the storm on 9th-10th, and new information from my hike today around Tahquitz Peak, and from yesterday to San Jacinto Peak.]

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak four of the past five mornings, affording a check of most major routes. South Ridge and the Tahquitz Peak area have also been hiked twice in the past four days. Delightfully frigid temperatures made for solid hiking on icy snow yesterday and today. Chilly conditions at San Jacinto Peak this morning are discussed in a short video available on YouTube.

In the early hours of the morning of Monday 3rd, we had 0.04″ rain in Idyllwild, with <0.25″ snow between 6400′-9100′ elevation. There was no fresh snowfall in the high country, which was above the cloud. By the time I descended from the Peak late morning, the fresh snow had already disappeared below 7600′, and almost all of it was gone today.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Strong winds in the high country may cause spindrift to obscure parts of even the heavily traveled trails. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Microspikes remain useful in some areas (see below) for hikers inexperienced on snow and ice, on compacted, well-traveled trails, in particular for descending. Hikers with suitable footwear and hiking poles will likely not need spikes. Snowshoes may be useful in limited areas off-trail above about 9500′ elevation. This information only applies through Sunday 9th (when fresh snowfall is expected).

Despite unseaonably warm weather on some days, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially far below freezing when considering windchil effects (see below for weather recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 5th February.

WEATHER Following the current short but severe cold spell, there will be yet another rapid swing to above average temperatures (mainly 7th-8th February). The new video from NWS San Diego (issued on 7th Feb) indicates a good chance of precipitation at the beginning and end of next week (9th-14th February), before a return to warmer, dry conditions in the second half of the month. Current forecasts anticipate a light snowfall above about 4000′, with a few inches possible in the high country, mainly on 9th-10th February.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 4th February 2020, at 1010 the air temperature was 2.5°F (-16°C), with a windchill of -28.1°F (-33°C), 52% relative humidity, and a sharp due North wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 29.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 3rd February 2020, at 0910 the air temperature was 18.4°F (-7°C), with a windchill of -2.5°F (-19°C), 22% relative humidity, and a chilly WSW wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 23.9 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. The video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes may be useful, but certainly not essential, on some of the PCT for patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 165 and 191, depending upon your comfort level on icy snow. See below for conditions on some specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 9000′ remain largely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below). Some sections of trails above about 7800′ may have limited snow cover.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few tiny patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge is almost clear of snow to about 8700′ elevation (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction), then there is  continuous snow cover thereafter, with a well-traveled, consolidated track to follow. A track above 9000′ to Little Round Valley is consolidated, but be advised that it does not follow the established trail in places. Above Little Round Valley there is a direct (i.e. steep) track to follow to San Jacinto Peak. Microspikes are useful for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) has been clearing quickly, especially on sun-exposed slopes, mainly Miles 186.5-188.5. There are tracks to follow through the snow.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled and has a good consolidated track to follow. Microspikes are useful, but not required, for descending the uppermost 0.5 mile. Note the road to Marion Mountain trailhead has been open all winter and is clear of snow.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow, on to San Jacinto Peak.

Devil’s Slide Trail has limited icy snow cover in patches, mainly in the 0.1 mile nearest to Saddle Junction. Microspikes may be helpful in some areas above 7700′, but are not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is clearing surprisingly quickly, the snow drifts are softening (on warm days), and crampons are no longer required. Microspikes are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). In the morning, overnight wind conditions and the freeze-thaw cycle may well have covered the existing steps through the angled icy snow for 0.1-0.2 mile.

My freshly cut steps 0.2 mile north of Tahquitz Peak, mid morning on 7th February 2020.

South Ridge Road is clear of ice. South Ridge Trail is basically clear to Tahquitz Peak, but with a few easily-traversed tiny remnant icy snow patches. Microspikes are no longer required.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has only been hiked a handful of times since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail in snow.

The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road remains in place, hence there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 4th February 2020 (except where otherwise indicated). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 20″ (was 47″ on 27th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 19″ (on 29th January 2020)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 2″ (was 27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 11″ (was 25″ on 27th December)

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 185.5) at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 12″ (on 29th January 2020)

Long Valley (8600′): <1″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 1″ (was 19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 0″ (was 11″ on 27th December)

A very icy north spring at Wellman’s Cienega early this morning, 4th February 2020.

 

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While thousands of hours of labor are volunteered, the Report is wholly dependent on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). With a busy PCT season coming soon, every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail update 29th January 2020

[UPDATE Monday 3rd February: in the early hours of this morning we had 0.04″ rain in Idyllwild. On my morning hike to San Jacinto Peak there was <0.25″ snow between 6400-9100′ elevation. No fresh snowfall in the high country, which was above the cloud. By the time I descended late morning, the fresh snow had already disappeared below 7600′. Trail conditions are unchanged from the report below. Note that the windchill at the Peak this morning was -3°F (-19°C).]

[UPDATE Saturday 1st February: based on hikes to San Jacinto Peak today and yesterday, recent strong winds – it was gusting up to 43 mph this morning – have not generated sufficient spindrift to obscure any established trails.]

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak three of the past four mornings, affording a check of most major routes, including a full east-west circuit today. South Ridge and the Tahquitz Peak area has also been hiked three times in the past week.

Relatively mild weather for late January is forecast to get even warmer briefly this weekend. Steady melting will continue unabated. Current trail conditions are more reminiscent of April than late January. In general the snow softens rapidly during the day but postholing doesn’t get too bad until after noon.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. On days with strong winds in the high country drifting snow may obscure parts of even the heavily traveled trails. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Microspikes can be useful on-trail for compacted, well-traveled trails, in particular for descending. Crampons are an option above about 9000′ both on- and off-trail, but generally less practical than spikes. Snowshoes remain useful off-trail above about 9000′ elevation.

Despite warmer conditions on some days, hikers should prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill (see below for temperatures recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park remains (inexplicably) closed. There are nine legal parking spaces – available for all uses – just below the gate and near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead. The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be on a rollercoaster into early February. After a couple of colder and windy days today and tomorrow, this weekend (1st-2nd Feb) will be unseasonably warm. A short but very severe cold spell early next week (3rd-5th Feb) will be immediately followed by another rapid swing to well-above average temperatures.

There is a possibility of very light precipitation at mid-elevations on Sunday night. The latest video summary from NWS San Diego indicates a chance of precipitation in the second week (8th-14th) of February, before a return to warm, dry conditions in the second half of the month.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 29th January 2020, at 0820 the air temperature was 21.1°F (-6°C), with a windchill of 5.5°F (-15°C), 46% relative humidity, and a gusty NNW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 16.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 27th January 2020, at 0940 the air temperature was 32.1°F (0°C), with a windchill of 22.3°F (-5°C), 39% relative humidity, and a steady North wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 11.6 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL NOTES

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. My video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes are useful, but not essential, on most of the PCT for patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 165 and 191, depending upon your comfort level on icy snow. They are most useful if you plan to leave the PCT to summit San Jacinto Peak. See below for conditions on some specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 9000′ remain largely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below). Some sections of trails above about 7800′ may be snow-covered. Limited icy snow patches remain in places above 6600′.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few tiny patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge is almost clear of snow to about 8700′ elevation (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction), then there is  continuous snow cover thereafter, with a well-traveled, consolidated track to follow. A track above 9000′ to Little Round Valley is consolidated, but be advised that it does not follow the established trail in places. Above Little Round Valley there is a direct (i.e. steep) track to follow to San Jacinto Peak. Microspikes are useful for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) is clearing quickly, especially on sun-exposed slopes, mainly Miles 186.5-188.5. There are tracks to follow through the snow.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled and has a good consolidated track to follow. Microspikes are useful, but not required, for descending the uppermost 0.5 mile. Note the road to Marion Mountain trailhead has been open all winter and is clear of snow.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow, on to San Jacinto Peak.

Skyline Trail has well-traveled tracks through the rapidly melting patchy icy snow above about 7300′.

Devil’s Slide Trail has very limited icy snow cover in patches, mainly in the 0.1 mile nearest to Saddle Junction. Microspikes may be helpful for some hikers but are not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has not been visibly traversed through to the fire lookout in 2020. There are no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles. However the trail is clearing surprisingly quickly, the snow drifts are softening rapidly, and crampons are no longer required. Microspikes are recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). Snowshoes are not advised.

South Ridge Road is clear of ice.

South Ridge Trail is virtually clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with small remnant icy snow patches in its first 0.5 mile. Snow cover is very limited (<10%) higher up, but is almost continuous on the final six switchbacks close to Tahquitz Peak. Microspikes are useful, but not required, above about 8500′.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has only been hiked a handful of times since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail in snow.

The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road remains in place, hence there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today, 29th January 2020. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 22″ (was 47″ on 27th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 19″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 4″ (was 27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 13″ (was 25″ on 27th December)

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 185.5) at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 12″

Long Valley (8600′): 1″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″ (was 19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 0″ (was 11″ on 27th December)

Strawberry Junction (PCT Mile 183.1) at 8100′ elevation on 28th January 2020 (above) and about a month earlier on 30th December 2019 for comparison (below).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While thousands of hours of labor are provided for free, the Report is wholly dependent on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). With a busy PCT season coming soon, every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you very much.

Snow and trail update 22nd January 2020

[UPDATE 25th January: information for the Tahquitz Peak and South Ridge areas is updated below, based on hikes in the last two days.]

Early this morning I hiked briskly to San Jacinto Peak, ascending and descending via the east side. The minor storm in the early hours of Tuesday 21st that produced 0.19″ rain in Idyllwild also generated a tiny snowfall in the high country, with snow level near 9000′ elevation, and a maximum of 1.5″ snow at San Jacinto Peak. With a slightly loose layer of fresh snow on top of icy snow, microspikes were useful above 9000′. However even descending I had removed them by 8500′.

With mild conditions returning for the remainder of January, the snow softens rapidly during the day but postholing doesn’t get too bad until after noon. Conditions underfoot will broadly remain similar for the foreseeable future. Melting will continue to be steady at all elevations.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Strong winds in the high country may cause drifting snow to obscure parts of even the heavily traveled trails. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere. For most of my 13 ascents so far this month, the quarter-mile of trail either side of Annie’s Junction, and some short sections of the Peak Trail above 9800′, were partly obscured by overnight spindrift.

Microspikes are recommended on-trail for compacted, well-traveled trails. They are especially useful for descending. Crampons are a good option, but generally less convenient than spikes, both on- and off-trail above about 9000′. Snowshoes are currently useful off-trail almost everywhere above about 9000′ elevation.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects (see below for temperatures I have recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park remains closed. There are nine legal parking spaces (available for all uses) just below the gate and near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead. The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

Tahquitz Ridge at sunrise today, 22nd January 2020, as seen from the top of Angel’s Glide (PCT Mile 181).

WEATHER Temperatures at all elevations are forecast to be above seasonal for the remainder of January. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast, and according to the latest outlook from NWS San Diego prospects for snow in early February are poor.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 22nd January 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 28.2°F (-2°C), with a windchill of 9.3°F (-13°C), 75% relative humidity, and a stiff NW wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 29.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 20th January 2020, at 0925 the air temperature was 31.3°F (0°C), with a windchill of 16.5°F (-9°C), 24% relative humidity, and a brisk SSE wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 20.3 mph, under completely cloudy skies.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL NOTES

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has stated there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. My video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes are useful on most of the PCT for snow travel between approximately Miles 165 and 192. Depending upon your comfort level on icy snow, spikes are not currently essential however. See below for conditions on some specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 9000′ remain completely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below). Long sections of trails above about 7800′ may be snow-covered. Limited icy snow patches remain in places above 6500′.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge has patchy snow to about 8500′ elevation, then continuous snow cover thereafter, with a reasonable consolidated track to follow. A track above 9000′ to Little Round Valley is reasonably consolidated (in the early morning at least), but be advised that it does not follow the established trail in places. Above Little Round Valley there is a very direct (i.e. steep) track to follow to San Jacinto Peak. Microspikes are useful for descending. Snowshoes may be useful after late morning and on warm days.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) has one set of posthole tracks through the snow. I have not yet assessed how accurately these conform to the PCT route.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled and has a good consolidated track to follow. Microspikes are useful, especially for descending.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow, on to San Jacinto Peak.

Skyline Trail has well-traveled tracks through the patchy snow above about 7000′.

Devil’s Slide Trail has increasingly patchy icy snow cover at only about 40% below 7700′, but higher up snow cover remains 80%. Microspikes are useful but not required.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow, with just a few persistent thin icy snow patches near Humber Park. Microspikes not required.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined snowshoe tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been lightly traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has not been visibly traversed through to the fire lookout in 2020 [updated 24th January]. There are no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles. However the trail is clearing surprisingly quickly, the snow drifts are softening rapidly, and crampons are no longer required. Microspikes are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). Snowshoes are not advised.

South Ridge Road [updated 25th January] is clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail [updated 24th January] is almost clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with some remnant icy snow patches in its first 0.5 mile. Snow cover is very limited (<10%) higher up, but becomes almost continuous on the final six switchbacks close to Tahquitz Peak. Microspikes are useful above about 8500′, or lower if descending.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has only been hiked a handful of times since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail in snow.

The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road remains in place, hence there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 22nd January 2020 are as follows (or on 16th January where indicated). Please note that average depth is given; drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 27″ (was 47″ on 27th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 22″ (on 16th January)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 6″ (was 27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 17″ (was 25″ on 27th December, heavy drifting here)

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 185.5) at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 14″ (on 16th January)

Long Valley (8600′): 2″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 4″ (was 19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): <1″ (was 11″ on 27th December)

Wellman Divide on 20th January 2020 (above) and ten days earlier on 10th January for comparison (below)

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While thousands of hours of labor are provided for free, this Report is wholly dependent on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). With a busy PCT season coming soon, every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you find the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail update 16th January 2020

[UPDATE 17th January: all three of us hiked to San Jacinto Peak today to assess last night’s “storm”. Drizzle fell in Idyllwild (0.05 inch at 5550′) up to about 6000′. It fell as freezing rain to 9000′. Also between about 7500′-9000′ there was barely a dusting of fresh snow (<0.25″) under the verglas. The high country had some rime on the trees, but no fresh snowfall.]

Very early this morning I hiked briskly to San Jacinto Peak, ascending the east side and descending via the west side. Today I did not put on microspikes until Wellman’s Cienega, but frankly could have summited without them. They were useful for descending however. Although I carried snowshoes for uppermost Deer Springs Trail, that early in the morning I postholed very little down to 9000′, and not at all thereafter, so only used microspikes.

With persistent spring-like conditions in the high country (>8500′), the snow softens rapidly during the day but postholing doesn’t get too bad until after noon. Snowshoes remain helpful for any off-trail travel. Conditions underfoot will broadly remain similar for the foreseeable future, but will be more challenging on warmer days (such as this weekend, 18th-19th January). Despite cool overnight temperatures, melting has been steady at all elevations, and at an alarming rate for early January.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Strong winds this week in the high country may cause drifting snow to obscure parts of even the heavily traveled trails. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere. For most of my nine ascents so far this month, the quarter-mile of trail either side of Annie’s Junction, and some short sections of the Peak Trail above 9800′, were partly obscured by overnight spindrift.

Microspikes are recommended on-trail for compacted, well-traveled trails. They are especially useful for descending. Crampons are an option, but less convenient than spikes, for firm trails above about 9000′. Snowshoes are currently recommended off-trail almost everywhere above about 8500′ elevation.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects (see below for temperatures I have recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park remains closed. There are nine legal parking spaces (available for all uses) just below the gate and near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead. The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

WEATHER Temperatures at mid-elevations are forecast to be near or above seasonal for the remainder of January (above seasonal in the high country). Light precipitation is possible for the evening of Thursday 16th (rain at Idyllwild elevation, little or no snow in the high country). Regrettably, long term forecasts for a very dry January seem to be increasingly accurate, a scary prospect for what is historically one of the wettest months of the year.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Thursday 16th January 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 26.3°F (-3°C), with a windchill of 7.7°F (-14°C), 27% relative humidity, and a stiff SW wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 27.0 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 14th January 2020, at 0940 the air temperature was 32.1°F (0°C), with a windchill of 15.6°F (-9°C), 23% relative humidity, and a gusty due West wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 29.2 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 12th January 2020 at 0815 the air temperature was 29.2°F (-2°C), with a windchill of 11.1°F (-12°C), 42% relative humidity, and a frigid WNW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 31.2 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL NOTES

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS informed me last week that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT during spring 2020. My updated video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Microspikes are useful on most of the PCT for snow travel between approximately Miles 165 and 192. Depending upon your comfort level on icy snow, they may not currently be essential however. See below for conditions on specifc sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 8500′ are completely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge has patchy snow to about 8500′ elevation, then continuous snow cover thereafter, with a reasonable consolidated track to follow. The track above 9000′ to Little Round Valley is easy to follow and reasonably consolidated (in the early morning at least), but be advised that it does not follow the established trail in many places. Above Little Round Valley there is a very direct (i.e. steep) single set of snowshoe and posthole tracks to follow to San Jacinto Peak. Microspikes are useful for descending. Snowshoes will be useful after late morning and on warm days.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) has one set of posthole tracks through the snow. I have not yet assessed how accurately these conform to the PCT route.

Marion Mountain Trail has been heavily traveled and has a good consolidated track to follow. Microspikes are useful, especially for descending.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow, on to San Jacinto Peak.

Skyline Trail has been traveled since the last snowfall, and tracks exist through the increasingly patchy snow above about 7000′.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a very well-worn track to follow. Icy snow cover is increasingly patchy and only about 50% below 7700′, but higher up snow cover remains 90%. Microspikes are useful later in the day and for descending, but are not essential.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely clear, with about 30% cover of thin icy snow at the upper end near Humber Park. Microspikes are not required.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined snowshoe tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been lightly traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has not been reliably traversed through to the fire lookout in 2020. There limited or no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles, depending on recent drifting. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons are recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use both). Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the underlying ice.

South Ridge Road is mostly clear but with a few icy snow patches in its upper half (passable with 4WD/AWD).

South Ridge Trail [updated 18th January] is almost clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, but with some stubborn icy snow patches in its first 0.5 mile. Higher up there is about 50% snow cover to Tahquitz Peak. Microspikes are useful above about 8000′, mainly for descending.

The Peak Trail above 10,300′ has not been traversed since before the late November storms. The only defined trail to San Jacinto Peak from the east is the steep option up the East Ridge.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic so far this winter, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has only been hiked a handful of times since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail in snow.

The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road remains in place, hence there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 16th January 2020 are as follows. Please note that average depth is given; drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 29″ (47″ on 27th December)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 22″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 8″ (27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 19″ (25″ on 27th December, heavy drifting here)

Fuller Ridge Trail southern end at junction with Deer Springs Trail (8950′): 14″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 1″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 7″ (19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): <1″ (11″ on 27th December)

Peak Trail at 9800′ elevation just above Wellman Divide on 14th January 2020 (above), and two weeks earlier on 1st January 2020 (below) for comparison.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers.
While thousands of hours of labor are provided for free, this Report is wholly dependent on small private donations to cover its direct costs (e.g., gear, gas, web space). We are having another busy winter, with an even busier PCT season coming soon. Every contribution is invaluable, and your donation helps subsidise the thousands of thru-hikers who also use the Report. If you find the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow and trail update 8th January 2020

[UPDATE 10th January: I hiked to San Jacinto Peak this morning, and conditions were not significantly different from the Report from 8th below. However I did record a rambling video from the Peak discussing yesterday’s minor storm and current snow situation.]

[UPDATE 9th January: light snow today produced 1.2″ depth in Idyllwild (at 5550′). The high country was above the cloud almost all day, with Long Valley (8600′) receiving only 0.25″ fresh snow. This storm is unlikely to have significantly altered the conditions described below. ]

A brief update on snow and trail conditions based on hikes on three of the past four days to San Jacinto Peak. Leaving well before dawn on each day in order to make the most of colder, firmer snow, I was able to use microspikes without significant postholing all the way from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak. Today was the first day in many weeks that I did not carry snowshoes on my pack. Although snow conditions on descent a couple of hours later were softer, it was early enough to minimise postholing. Nevertheless as usual the ascents were more fun than the descents. Snow conditions will continue to firm up with much colder weather from today into next week.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Some major trails have not been traveled this year, and remain obscured by heavy snowfall. Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere. Melting has been rapid in recent days, mainly below 9000′, with the first week of January among the warmest in recorded Idyllwild history.

Microspikes are strongly recommended on-trail for compacted, well-traveled trails (see below). They are especially useful for descending. Crampons are an option, but less convenient than spikes, for firm trails above about 9000′. Snowshoes are currently strongly recommended off-trail almost everywhere above about 8000′ elevation.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and potentially far below freezing when considering windchill effects (see below for the temperatures I recorded at San Jacinto Peak this morning).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park remains closed. There are nine legal parking spaces (available for all uses) just below the gate and near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead. The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

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

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be at or below seasonal for the remainder of January. There is a possibility of very light precipitation on the afternoon of Thursday 9th (<1″ snow at Idyllwild, 1-2″ in the high country).

According to the latest NWS San Diego video, there are chances for precipitation in the second half of January, but it is unclear whether storms may largely pass to the north. Otherwise a relatively dry month is a possibility (a scary prospect for what is historically the wettest month of the year).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 8th January 2020, at 0925 the air temperature was 23.8°F (-5°C), with a windchill of 0.3°F (-18°C), 19% relative humidity, and a wild WNW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 46.7 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 7th January 2020 at 0845 the air temperature was 38.7°F (3°C), with a windchill of 27.7°F (-3°C), 22% relative humidity, and a pleasant SSW breeze sustained at 8 mph gusting to 11.0 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500′ are largely or completely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Reliable tracks are currently in place for Devil’s Slide Trail, from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, from the Tram through to Wellman Divide, and on South Ridge Trail.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow, on to San Jacinto Peak.

Skyline Trail has been traveled since the last snow, and tracks exist through the continuous snow above about 7000′. However not all the snow tracks are reliable, so cautious navigation is recommended.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-worn track to follow, and microspikes are very useful. Snow cover is patchy and spikes are not essential below 7000′, but higher up snow cover remains >90%.

Ernie Maxwell Trail [updated 11th January] has about 50% cover of thin icy snow.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined snowshoe tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been lightly traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has not been traversed through to the fire lookout in 2020. There no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use both). Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the underlying icy snow.

South Ridge Road is mostly clear but with a few icy snow patches in its upper half (passable with 4WD/AWD).

South Ridge Trail is patchily snow-covered (<50%) to Old Lookout Flat at 7800′, with 90% snow cover from there to Tahquitz Peak. This trail has received little hiker traffic so far this year. Microspikes recommended above about 8000′.

The Peak Trail above 10,300′ has not been traversed since before the late November storms. The only defined trail to San Jacinto Peak from the east is the steep option up the East Ridge.

Deer Springs Trail The trail up to the Suicide Rock turning is excellent and well-defined. There has been very little hiker traffic further up the trail.

Seven Pines Trail and Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) have had no visible signs of hiker traffic so far this winter, and no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed Seven Pines Trail has only been hiked a handful of times since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking these trails in snow.

The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road remains in place, hence there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 8th January are as follows. Please note that average depth is given; drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 31″ (47″ on 27th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 11″ (27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 22″ (25″ on 27th December, heavy drifting here)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 8″ (19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 1″ (11″ on 27th December)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0″ (6.75″ on 27th December)

North spring at Wellman’s Cienega on 8th January 2020 (above), and for comparison on 1st January (below).

Snow and trail update 3rd January 2020

[UPDATE 5th January: Anne and Anabel hiked up South Ridge and have revised information for trails either side of Tahquitz Peak. I had the easy assignment, hiking in the pre-dawn hours to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide. That early the trails were icy enough to summit and descend using only microspikes, but trails were softening by noon.]

A brief update on snow and trail conditions based on my hike to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman Divide today (and the same route hiked on 1st January).

Leaving well before dawn today, I was able to use microspikes without postholing to 9000′ (top of “Angel’s Glide”), where I switched to snowshoes. On that same section on my descent a few hours later I was postholing in snowshoes in soft, treacle-like snow, which made for ugly snowshoeing. I used microspikes for descending Devil’s Slide Trail this afternoon, but was still slipping and sliding in the soft, melting snow. Suffice to say that the ascent was much more fun than the descent.

Unfortunately these poor snow conditions are unlikely to improve over the next few days, with warm weather into early next week.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. With the exception of specific trails mentioned below, currently some major trails have not been traveled and are obscured by heavy snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing almost everywhere above about 7500′ elevation off-trail, and are recommended on-trail above 8500′ (except early mornings). Microspikes are recommended on several well-traveled trails (see below). They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted.

Notwithstanding the next few warm days, hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and potentially below freezing when considering windchill effects.

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park is closed. There are nine legal parking spaces (available for all uses) just below the gate and near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead. The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain well above seasonal in the high country for the next few days, leading to rapid snowmelt at all elevations. Strong winds forecast for Monday 6th may eliminate the existing well-defined snow tracks in the high country. Temperatures drop to more typical for January on about Wednesday 8th, then there is a slim possibility of precipitation by the following weekend (Sunday 12th).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Friday 3rd January 2020, at 1025 the air temperature was 36.3°F (2°C), with a windchill of 27.6°F (-3°C), 44% relative humidity, and a light due North wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 9.4 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 1st January 2020 at 1155 the air temperature was 37.1°F (3°C), with a windchill of 26.2°F (-4°C), 51% relative humidity, and a fresh due North wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 19.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Reliable tracks are currently in place for Devil’s Slide Trail, from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, and from the Tram through to Wellman Divide.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow. Note however that Tram hikers on New Year’s Day put through various confusing and steep trails directly from Round/Tamarack valleys toward San Jacinto Peak.

Skyline Trail has been traveled since the last snow, and tracks exist through the continuous snow above 6500′. However not all the snow tracks are reliable, so cautious navigation is recommended.

There is still no sign that anyone has ascended San Jacinto Peak from the west side, and my track to Little Round Valley and on to upper Deer Springs Trail from Monday no longer exists (due to high winds on Tuesday).

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-worn track to follow, and microspikes are very useful. Snow cover is still >95%.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is now largely clear of snow. Microspikes are useful at least for descending, but not required. Snow cover is 50% near Humber Park, decreasing to 10% near Tahquitz View Drive.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined snowshoe tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has been lightly traveled to Chinquapin Flat.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has not been traversed through to the fire lookout in 2020 [updated Sunday 5th January]. There no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use both). Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the underlying icy snow.

South Ridge Road is mostly clear but with icy snow patches in its upper half (passable with 4WD/AWD).

South Ridge Trail is patchily snow-covered (c.50%) to Old Lookout Flat at 7800′. Virtually 100% snow cover from there to Tahquitz Peak. Until Sunday 5th January this upper section had only been hiked by one snowshoer. Microspikes recommended above about 8000′ [many thanks to Anne and Anabel King for this update from 5th].

The Peak Trail above 10,300′ has not been traversed since before the late November storms. The only defined trail to San Jacinto Peak from the east is the steep option up the East Ridge.

Deer Springs Trail See my comments above regarding the route toward San Jacinto Peak. The trail up to the Suicide Rock turning is excellent and well-defined.

Seven Pines Trail and Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) have had no visible signs of hiker traffic so far this winter, and no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed Seven Pines Trail has only been hiked a handful of times since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking these trails in snow.

The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will remain in place into 2020, hence there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Please note that average depth is given; drifts are much deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 40″ (heavily drifted)(47″ on 27th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 22″ (27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 26″ (25″ on 27th December, increase is due to heavy drifting here)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 12″ (19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 2″ (11″ on 27th December)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0″ (6.75″ on 27th December)

Wellman Divide today 3rd January 2020 (above), and the same view on 27th December 2019 (below).

Fresh Mountain Lion track near lower Deer Springs Trail, 30th December 2019. The knife is 3.75 inches long for scale.

Snow conditions update 1st January 2020

A very brief update on snow and trail conditions based on my hike to San Jacinto Peak from home in Idyllwild today. Information in the Report from 30th December 2019 is largely still applicable, except as described below. Snow depths measured today were not significantly changed from the previous Report, although drifting has been dramatic in places.

Strong NE winds yesterday resulted in heavy drifting above 8000′ elevation. I was dismayed to find that my tracks from Monday above Saddle Junction had been largely obliterated, so I had to break trail between Saddle Junction and San Jacinto Peak for the third time in six days.

Snow conditions above 8000′ were very poor, with relatively warm temperatures resulting in moist, heavy, clumping snow which made for grim snowshoeing. Unfortunately this is unlikely to improve over the next few days, with a marked warming trend into early next week.

There is now also good trail between the Tram and Wellman Divide. Note however that Tram hikers have put through various confusing and steep trails directly from Round/Tamarack valleys toward San Jacinto Peak.

No one ascended San Jacinto Peak from the west side today, and my track to Little Round Valley and on to upper Deer Springs Trail no longer exists.

Devil’s Slide Trail remains in excellent condition, with icy snow that is ideal for microspikes.

Ernie Maxwell Trail was also firm and largely snow-covered before dawn today. I did not use microspikes ascending, but they are useful at least for descending. Snow cover is 90% near Humber Park, decreasing to 60% near Tahquitz View Drive.

Weather At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Wednesday 1st January 2020 at 1155 the air temperature was 37.1°F (3°C), with a windchill of 26.2°F (-4°C), 51% relative humidity, and a fresh due North wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 19.7 mph.

For those readers interested in my brief end-of-2019 summary and thank you to donors message posted yesterday, it is available here.

End of 2019 Thank You

Yesterday I posted the final trail update (available here) for 2019, which has been a truly unique year for weather, for the San Jacinto mountains, and for Idyllwild. The Trail Report has certainly been kept busy. In December the website passed 100,000 views for the year, literally ten times more views than I would have ever expected.

Never have the effects of long-term changes to the climate been so clear in the San Jacinto mountains. The winters at both the beginning and end of 2019 have been marked by wild fluctuations from unusually warm temperatures to frigid storm and back again, often all in the same week, an effect especially noticeable at the highest elevations.

The weather year was bookended by two dramatic events. Valentine’s Day brought a once-in-a-lifetime rainfall and flood event that left it’s mark on mountain life for the entire year (and likely beyond) with closed roads, closed campgrounds, and quiet trails. It then ended with the heaviest November snowstorm in recorded local history right over Thanksgiving. In between, we had the largest ever northbound Pacific Crest Trail season, which combined with the aftermath of our strongest winter in years, brought considerable challenges.

At a personal level, new all-time records were established for the number of ascents of San Jacinto Peak in a calendar year (147) and consecutive days with an ascent (33). While all these ascents were great fun (and pretty good exercise!), they were also done while patrolling as a State Park wilderness ranger, and gathering information for both the Trail Report and the local PCTA trail crew. I have a feeling both records may get broken again in 2020.

Now to the real purpose of this note. Reporting on the trail conditions during the remarkable year of 2019 was made possible with the help of the donors listed on the Supporters page. Also listed there are many other folk who have assisted the Report in various ways. A huge THANK YOU to all.

Particular mention must be made of the invaluable recurring donors without whom the Trail Report could not continue in its current format: Chris Singer (Silver Pines Lodge & Village), Marc Oberlin, Christine Vanek, Constance Brunig, Charles Phelan and Marcia Harlan, Florian Boyd, Christine Rheaume and Mark Gumprecht, Steven Morris and Martha Ludlum, Brian Green, Brad Marston, Ron Brown, Don Line, Natalie Mikecz/Nat Nak Eng, LLC, Pamela VanZandt, Cris Hazzard, Andrea Lankford, Cathy Tarr (on behalf of the David O’Sullivan search team), Ross Craft, and Sean Reed.

Thank you all again, and let’s see what 2020 brings to the San Jacinto mountains!

Trail and snow update 30th December 2019

The seventh storm of this winter passed through today. It was forecast to be quite significant a few days ago, then in recent days it seemed like little or no snow was expected. I was unconvinced either way, so I ascended San Jacinto Peak via the east side (Devil’s Slide to East Ridge Trail) and descended the west side (Deer Springs Trail), affording a reasonable survey of the snow and trail conditions around the mountain.

It started snowing steadily while I was at San Jacinto Peak late morning, and continued gently as I descended Deer Springs Trail. The hiking was delightful, but there was minimal new accumulation, with <0.5″ below 8000′, only an inch above 9000′, and perhaps two inches at the highest peaks. Much of the afternoon as I descended through snow clouds, I could see the high peaks above me in blue sky, and the cloud band was at 6000-10,000′ for much of the afternoon.

Hiking conditions were perfect early this morning, with a firm icy snow track up Devil’s Slide Trail, ideal for microspikes. I switched to snowshoes at 9000′ elevation on the ascent, and kept them on down to about 6500′ on the descent. Unfortunately these conditions will likely change this week with rapid warming expected at all elevations.

I was surprised to find no evidence of any tracks on Deer Springs Trail from San Jacinto Peak down through Little Round Valley to the PCT. I would not recommend following my track from today as I took a very direct largely off-trail route. I also broke trail from the top of Marion Mountain Trail through to Strawberry Junction, but that track accurately follows the trail.

Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. With the exception of trails mentioned below, currently some major trails have not been traveled and are obscured by heavy snowfall. A wild SE gale on the night of 25th resulted in very extensive drifting of snow, and it was windy again today, especially above 9000′ elevation. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing almost everywhere above about 7500′ elevation off-trail, and strongly recommended on-trail above 8500′. Microspikes are recommended on several well-traveled trails (see below) and will become increasingly useful at all elevations over 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.

Notwithstanding the warming forecast for the first week of January, hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering windchill effects (see my weather data from the Peak below).

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park is closed. There are nine legal parking spaces (available for all uses) just below the gate and near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead. The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

WEATHER Rapid warming is forecast for the first week of 2020, with temperatures above seasonal likely for Idyllwild and the high country especially by next weekend (3rd-5th January 2020), leading to snowmelt at all elevations. Medium term forecasts show no storm activity for the first half of January.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 30th December 2019 at 1110 the air temperature was 17.6°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of -4.1°F (-20°C), 94% relative humidity, and a dangerously bitter NE wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 25.8 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 27th December 2019 at 0655 the air temperature was 12.3°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -4.9°F (-21°C), 74% relative humidity, and a brisk due North wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 16.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6000′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below).

Reliable tracks are currently in place for Devil’s Slide Trail, from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, and from the Tram through to Wellman Divide.

Round Valley Trail from the Tram through to Wellman Divide has been well-traveled and a good track through the snow is easy to follow.

Skyline Trail has been traveled since the last snow, and tracks exist through the continuous snow above 6500′. However not all the snow tracks are reliable, so cautious navigation is recommended.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-worn (but increasingly icy) track to follow, and microspikes are especially useful for descending. Trees down on the trail about 1.7 miles up (just below Powderbox Spring) are easily passable. At Saddle Junction, trees are also down across the starts of the Caramba Trail and the PCT southbound.

The parts of Willow Creek Trail and Caramba Trail nearest to Saddle Junction have well-defined snowshoe tracks, likely heading around Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

The PCT southbound from Saddle Junction has hardly been traveled, with only a couple of snowshoe tracks to follow.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 There are no steps to follow through the angled icy snow for at least 0.25 miles. Do not attempt to cross these ice slopes without additional traction. Crampons are currently recommended, ideally in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use it). Snowshoes are not advised as the fresh snow is not consolidated with the earlier hard icy snow underneath, making for a very treacherous footing.

The Peak Trail above 10,300′ has not been traversed since before the late November storms. The only defined trail to San Jacinto Peak from the east is the steep option up the East Ridge.

Deer Springs Trail See my comments above regarding the route above the PCT. The trail up to the Suicide Rock turning is excellent and well-defined. From there to Strawberry Junction there is a reasonable snowshoe track to follow. Beyond that the track is less well-traveled and more likely to be obscured by drifting snow.

Marion Mountain Trail has been traveled by one person and has a reasonable snowshoe track to follow.

Seven Pines Trail and Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) have had no visible signs of hiker traffic so far this winter, and no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed Seven Pines Trail has only been hiked a handful of times since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking these trails in snow.

The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will remain in place into 2020, hence there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is completely snow-covered but has an excellent, defined track. Microspikes are recommended but are not essential (many thanks to Anne King and Anabel for this update from today).

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Please note that average depth is given; drifts are much deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 47″ (very heavily drifted)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 26″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 25″ (27″ on 27th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 23″ (25″ on 27th December)

Fuller Ridge Trail south end (8980′): 24″

Marion Mountain Trail junction with PCT (8800′): 22″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 11″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 17″ (19″ on 27th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 7″ (11″ on 27th December)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 2″ (6.75″ on 27th December)

The upper end of Little Round Valley (9850′) this afternoon, 30th December 2019, under just over two feet of snow.

Strawberry Junction (8100′) this afternoon, 30th December 2019, with an average of just under one foot of snow.

Snow storm update 27th December 2019

The sixth storm of this winter came rapidly after the fifth (described here), with significant snowfall more-or-less continuously from the afternoon of 25th December until early afternoon on 26th. At San Jacinto Peak, an additional inch of snow fell in the early hours of 27th.

Ultimately snow quantities were below forecasts, especially in the high country. It was a cold system, with single digit (Fahrenheit) air temperatures in the high country. Although the snow level dropped below 4000′, depths at low elevations did not rival the Thanksgiving snowstorm of last month.

A short video describing the conditions from San Jacinto Peak at sunset on 26th December is available on YouTube.

Snow depths measured on 27th are listed at the foot of this posting. With the exception of trails mentioned below, currently many major trails have not been traveled and are obscured by heavy snowfall. A wild SE gale on the night of 25th resulted in very extensive drifting of snow, especially above 9000′ elevation. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing almost everywhere above about 6000′ elevation. Microspikes will become increasingly useful at lower and mid-elevations over the next two 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.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and far below freezing when considering windchill effects.

Note that the USFS gate at Humber Park is closed. There are nine legal parking spaces – available for all uses – just below the gate (near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead). The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

Sunrise over the Salton Sea as seen from San Jacinto Peak on 27th December 2019, with moody clouds over the Santa Rosa mountains and the eastern deserts.

WEATHER The seventh winter storm of 2019/20 is forecast for Monday 30th December. It will again be a cold system with a low (4000′) snow level, but little (or no?) snowfall in the San Jacinto mountains.

Looking into 2020 it may warm fairly rapidly in the first week of the New Year, with considerable snowmelt at all elevations. Medium term forecasts currently show no storm activity for the first half of January.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Friday 27th December 2019 at 0655 the air temperature was 12.3°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -4.9°F (-21°C), 74% relative humidity, and a brisk due North wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 16.7 mph.

At the Peak on Boxing Day, Thursday 26th December 2019, at 1640 the air temperature was 9.9°F (-13°C), with a windchill temperature of -10.6°F (-23°C), 76% relative humidity, and a chilly due West wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 17.0 mph.

San Bernadino mountains from San Jacinto Peak at sunrise on 27th December 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 4500′ are covered with between 2″ and 40+” of snow, depending on elevation. This includes the Pacific Crest Trail from south of Mile 151 (the Hwy 74 crossing) to about Mile 197.

Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail, from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, and from the Tram through to Wellman Divide. While this situation will likely change over the coming weekend, be advised that the storm on Monday 29th may again obliterate some tracks (at least above 8000′).

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Average depth is given. With strong winds during this storm, drifts are significantly deeper than the average in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 49″ (but very heavily drifted)(23″ on 20th December)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 27″ (5″ on 20th December)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 25″ (9″ on 20th December)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 19″ (2″ on 20th December)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6520′): 11″

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 6.75″ (storm total, but already melting rapidly today)

Annie’s Junction (approx. 9070 feet elevation) on 27th December 2019 (above), and for comparison on 20th December 2019 (below).

Snow storm 25th-26th December 2019

Please continue to check this page for periodic storm updates throughout the next 48 hours.

Sunset from San Jacinto Peak, 26th December 2019.

UPDATED @ 1820 Thursday 26th

Despite a few minor flurries in the late afternoon, San Jacinto Peak did not add any signficant new snow to the update below. The clouds largely cleared near dusk, producing a spectacular, if frigid, sunset. I recorded a short video, available here on YouTube.

UPDATED @ 1320 Thursday 26th

It continues to snow off-and-on lightly in the high country, with San Jacinto Peak having added about three more inches today, for a storm total of right around 15″. A good snowfall, but well below most projections. Grand total at the Peak is about four feet, but with enormous variation due to drifting (although it is now almost calm).

Snowfall has been similarly light in Idyllwild, where an additional 1.5″ today takes the storm total to 7″ (at 5550′), closer to, but still below, most forecasts.

UPDATED @ 0905 Thursday 26th

A howling south-east gale in the high country overnight produced about 8-10″ of fresh snowfall at San Jacinto Peak. Massive drifting has obliterated all tracks, certainly at least above about 8000′.

On the east side the snow level is down to 4500′ elevation on Skyline Trail, with a dusting as low as 2500′ in Andreas Canyon (Maynard Mine). Clouds are starting to break over Palm Springs. (Many thanks to Florian Boyd for that information.)

In Idyllwild at 5550′ elevation another 4.5″ of snow fell overnight, for a current storm total of 5.5″ there (many thanks to Anne King for that information).

UPDATED @ 1645 Wednesday 25th

Off-and-on light snow overnight resulted in a fresh inch in Idyllwild, and a white Christmas (the third in the last four years). Further snow today added up to another 1.75″ (at 5550′ elevation).

I snowshoed to San Jacinto Peak again today, in a mix of blue sky and blizzard conditions. Most of my broken trails from yesterday were gone, filled in with fresh snow and spindrift from the strong winds. An additional 2″ snow was on Devil’s Slide Trail and at Saddle Junction, with a consistent 3″ everywhere above 9000′. Later this afternoon the Peak was right at the top of the cloud, and the sun put in a couple of brief appearances. Temperatures were very similar to yesterday, with a windchill of -11°F (-24°C) from a harsh SW wind gusting to 29.8 mph.