Brief trail update 29th July 2020

I have summited San Jacinto Peak four times since last week’s report via various routes including Fuller Ridge Trail. Yesterday morning Anabel and I had a lovely hike to survey conditions on Willow Creek Trail, at ten miles her longest hike since her rattlesnake bite on 2nd July.

We currently have three, possibly four, missing persons cases from 2020 in and around the San Jacinto mountains, as summarized here (note only one was known to be a hiker on public trails). Anyone with any relevant information should contact Riverside County Sheriffs Department.

The current status of water sources has not changed significantly since last week’s report. Please consult that update for the latest water conditions.

Be bear aware. As I reported belatedly in last week’s update, I had a great view of a Black Bear at 0558 on Thursday 23rd at 7800′ elevation on Devil’s Slide Trail. This is one of the two individuals that appeared in the San Jacinto mountains – where they normally do not occur – in 2017, but to the best of my knowledge there had been no sightings for about a year. This individual is very distinctive, with a bright blond upper body and dark chocolate head and legs. As a (much smaller) youngster, the same bear walked past our house in Idyllwild two years ago in broad daylight (short video here).

Be rattlesnake aware. After a slow start to the summer, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes have been active in recent weeks. As usual, the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail, and the lowest section of Deer Springs Trail, seem to be particular hotspots. For the first year ever, they are also occurring at the elevation of Wellman’s Cienega, where they are particularly hard to see on the heavily vegetated trail. For anyone interested in the story of how our dog Anabel survived, against very long odds, being bitten by a neurotoxic rattlesnake in the high country earlier this month, it is available here.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. However Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

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

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be well above seasonal averages for the next week, until about Tuesday 4th August, with record temperatures (especially overnight lows) possible this weekend. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Monday 27th July 2020, at 0840 the air temperature was 50.8°F (11°C), with a windchill of 46.9°F (8°C), 39% relative humidity, and a light SE breeze sustained at 6 mph gusting to 11.5 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Saturday 25th July 2020, when at 0715 the air temperature was 47.3°F (9°C), with a windchill of 38.9°F (5°C), 20% relative humidity, and a brisk SSE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 18.4 mph.

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

Willow Creek flowing well where it crosses its eponymous trail, early morning 28th July 2020.

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

Trail and water update 23rd July 2020

Daily hikes have included several to San Jacinto Peak, plus most of the major trails around the high country and Tahquitz Peak, in the past week. On my drive up Fern Valley Road before dawn on Monday 20th, I was very fortunate to see a relatively young Mountain Lion cub cross the road. Doubtless I had only missed seeing its mother by a minute or less. Remarkably that is the sixth time since September 2019 that I have seen a lion up here, having seen none for several years previously.

We currently have three missing persons cases from 2020 in and around the San Jacinto mountains, summarized here (although only one was a hiker on public trails). Anyone with any relevant information should contact Riverside County Sheriffs Department.

Anabel update: In another unlikely twist to the improbable story of how our dog Anabel survived a neurotoxic rattlesnake bite in the San Jacinto high country (the full story is available here), we were descending Devil’s Slide Trail early in the morning on Saturday 18th – the first day Anabel had been on that trail since she was bitten – when we passed a hiker who unexpectedly asked “what is the name of your dog?”. Remarkably the hiker proved to be Chelsea, the senior vet tech at Temecula Emergency Pet Clinic on the afternoon of 2nd July, the day Anabel was bitten and admitted! Although I had never met her, Chelsea of course recognized Anabel, having watched over her for many hours over two days. We had a long chat, Chelsea was visibly moved to see how well Anabel was doing, and it gave me the opportunity to again try to find the words to thank her, and her colleagues, for what they had done.

Be bear aware. I had a great view of a Black Bear at 0558 this morning at 7800′ elevation on Devil’s Slide Trail. This is one of the two individuals that appeared in the San Jacinto mountains – where they normally do not occur – in 2017, but to the best of my knowledge there had been no sightings for about a year. This individual is very distinctive, with a bright blond upper body and dark chocolate head and legs (“Blondie” feels like an appropriate nickname). As a youngster, the same bear walked past our house in Idyllwild two years ago (short video here). Now however, Blondie is all grown up and looked very large today, perhaps 50% larger than in the 2018 video.

Be rattlesnake aware. After a slow start to the summer, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes have been especially active in the past couple of weeks. As usual, the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail seems to be a particular hotspot. For the first year ever, they are also occurring at the elevation of Wellman’s Cienega, where they are particularly hard to see on the heavily vegetated trail.

Adult Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus [oreganus] helleri), at 7500′ elevation on Devil’s Slide Trail, 20th July 2020.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. However Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

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

WEATHER A couple of days with slightly below seasonal temperatures this week will end on about Sunday 26th July, when hot summer weather returns. Temperatures are forecast to be far above seasonal averages next week. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Monday 20th July 2020, at 0835 the air temperature was 59.7°F (15°C), with no discernible windchill, 31% relative humidity, largely calm with an occasional NE breeze gusting to 2.7 mph. This was the warmest morning I have recorded at the Peak so far in 2020.

At the Peak on Friday 17th July 2020 at 0755 the air temperature was 54.9°F (13°C), with a windchill of 50.0°F (10°C), 25% relative humidity, and a light due South wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 12.5 mph.

Coast Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis multifasciata), 6700′ elevation on South Ridge Trail, early afternoon on 15th July 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

Willow Creek Trail has 14 tree hazards (five on Forest Service land, nine on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Ten additional trees on Forest Service land east of Saddle Junction, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported previously, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

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

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is not currently flowing. The flow as been redirected to the CCC camp in Long Valley and water pressure is insufficient to also flow at the pipe. Fortunately Round Valley creek just a few yards away is flowing gently, but it will likely dry up any day now.

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

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

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

Little Round Valley creek, 17th July 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well (an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail and water update 15th July 2020

Recent hikes have included several to San Jacinto Peak, the Tahquitz area meadows today to check on water conditions on my way to Tahquitz Peak, South Ridge Trail, and a few early morning runs on the Ernie Maxwell Trail.

Anabel update: Thank you so much to the remarkable number of people who commented or contacted us about Anabel’s story. At a time of so much dismal news, her toughness, good fortune, and a happy ending, has clearly resonated with many people. It has been the most viewed posting on the Trail Report since the July 2018 Cranston Fire. If you haven’t seen the story of how our dog Anabel survived a neurotoxic rattlesnake bite in the San Jacinto high country against long odds, it is available here. She is doing great, still only ten days removed from ICU, slowly increasing her walking mileage every morning, and all neurological effects to her breathing and mobility have rapidly declined. All three of us are fortunate indeed.

Anabel recovering at home, 5th July 2020, one day removed from puppy ICU.

Be rattlesnake aware. On Monday 13th July, I saw a record (for me) four Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes in just 1.5 hours on my mid-morning descent from San Jacinto Peak to Humber Park. This was especially striking as up to now 2020 has generally been a relatively poor year for rattlesnake abundance on the mountain trails (notwithstanding what happened to Anabel last week). I came within inches of stepping on the highest of these, at 9200′ near Wellman’s Cienega, had another at 8600′ (photo below), and then two more low down on Devil’s Slide Trail at 6800′ and 6600′. All were large (at least three feet long) adults, and as usual all were relatively placid and easy to pass. With such warm weather, caution is advised for at least the next couple of months.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. USFS indicates that Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

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

San Jacinto Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus helleri) at 8600′ elevation on PCT north of Saddle Junction, 13th July 2020. The second of a record four that I encountered between Wellman’s Cienega and Humber Park on Monday morning.

WEATHER After three days of about seasonal temperatures at the beginning of this week, hot summer weather returns on Thursday 16th and will persist for the foreseeable future. Fire risk will be severe. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Temperatures over the next week will be above seasonal averages, especially the overnight lows. Heat was exceptional this past weekend, with an overnight low on 11th July some 15° above the monthly average of 54°F, and an Idyllwild high on Sunday 12th of 95°F, nearly ten degrees above average.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Monday 13th July 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 52.7°F (11°C), with a windchill of 46.6°F (8°C), 69% relative humidity, and a pleasant SW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 15.5 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Monday 29th June 2020, when at 0805 the air temperature was 35.3°F (2°C), with a windchill of 21.0°F (-6°C), 33% relative humidity, and a stiff due West wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 31.2 mph.

The warmest day of 2020 so far recorded at San Jacinto Peak remains Monday 22nd June, when at 0830 the air temperature was 57.0°F (14°C) with 37% relative humidity and a barely discernible SW wind gusting to 2.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

Willow Creek Trail has 14 tree hazards (five on Forest Service land, nine on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Ten additional trees on Forest Service land east of Saddle Junction, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported previously, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

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

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is not currently flowing. The flow as been redirected to the CCC camp in Long Valley and water pressure is insufficient to also flow at the pipe. Fortunately Round Valley creek just a few yards away is flowing gently, but it will likely dry up any day now.

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

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

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 15th July 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing well, but there is little depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is flowing gently, but will dry up very soon.

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

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well (an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long read: A dog with nine lives.

[The latest weekly Trail Report from 7th July is linked here. The following article is a long read. It is the first time since the Cranston Fire in 2018 that I have posted something only tangentially related to the trails. I hope it will become clear why I wanted to write this.]

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain

Many readers of this website, especially regular hikers to the San Jacinto mountains and Idyllwild locals, know that I often run and hike the trails with Anabel, our six year old, 35 pound, Jindo-German Shepherd mix dog. I could probably write a short book about Anabel, but in a few lines, she is a rescue who spent most of her first year of life as a street dog in the Coachella Valley, and was saved by kennel manager Edgar Santiago of the wonderful animal sanctuary Living Free literally on the day she was due to be euthanized. Since we adopted her on 14th February 2015, she has become a truly remarkable trail companion. She averages 5000 miles every year running and hiking on the trails near Idyllwild with Anne and me, and she is a tough and agile mountaineer, completing dozens of difficult winter ascents that few humans attempt. Her sweet smile and placid demeanor give no hint of her challenging past, and she seems to instantly become a firm favorite of everyone who meets her.

On 2nd July, as the three of us descended from a long, cool early morning hike in the San Jacinto high country, Anabel was bitten by a large rattlesnake.

We know it was a big snake as the puncture wounds on her paw were more than an inch (actually 28mm) apart, suggesting a rattlesnake about four feet long, typically about as big as they get up here. Further details of exactly what happened we’ll never know for sure. Anne and I had stopped briefly to look at a spring, and Anabel was just a few yards ahead of us, but around a slight bend in the trail. We never heard any noise, no yelp from Anabel, certainly no rattling from a snake, but within seconds she reappeared hobbling on three legs, hanging the fourth, two spots lightly oozing blood from her front left paw. The look on her face will live with us forever – she instantly knew this was really bad.

Getting bitten by a rattlesnake is extremely dangerous for any dog. Getting bitten by a rattlesnake in the San Jacinto mountains is fatal for a dog. The distinctive black, petrophilic, form of Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (SPR) found up here has an unusually potent neurotoxic venom. While the vast majority of lowland rattlesnakes in southern California have haemotoxic venom, which is itself dangerous enough, treatment for an attack on the blood system is orders of magnitude easier than treating the nervous system attack of neurotoxic venom.

To the best of our knowledge, no dog bitten by a neurotoxic rattlesnake in the San Jacinto mountains has survived. Death invariably occurs within hours. In addition to the toxin, without emergency veterinary facilities in our mountain communities, the simple practicality of getting a dog to treatment in a timely fashion precludes prompt treatment. Indeed, the extreme toxicity of San Jacinto SPRs was in part discovered due to the very rapid deaths of several local dogs bitten in the recent past. This alerted academics at Loma Linda University Medical Center, and ultimately the global venomous snake experts at University of Queensland, Australia, that something was unusual about our local rattlesnakes, which has led to studies of their unique venom. This research has even led to claims that San Jacinto SPRs may be the most lethal snake in the country.

As a combination of wildlife biologist, mountaineer, search-and-rescuer, and dog parent, I happen to be especially interested in our unique local rattlesnakes. I had researched the topic to the point that I gave a talk to Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit five years ago about the severe risk posed to humans by San Jacinto SPRs, and how potential bite cases should be treated.

Getting Anabel to urgent care in the shortest time possible was critical. We were five miles from the trailhead. When hiking with Anabel I carry the Airlift by FidoPro, a sling-style pack designed to carry a dog out of a wilderness situation. Easier said than done. Even though I routinely train with a 40lb pack, hiking with an uncooperative, unwieldy, 35lb dog strapped to your lower back is a completely different experience.

Stopping briefly at Saddle Junction to reassess the situation, Anne matter-of-factly said “I think we’re losing her”. Without going into unpleasant detail, that was probably an understatement. I basically jogged down Devil’s Slide Trail, holding Anabel’s limp body in place by putting one arm behind my back and supporting her neck. The many hikers I passed were clearly dismayed by what they saw.

Remarkably when we got to the truck at Humber Park, Anabel seemingly improved. Being out of the sling, in a less stressful situation, in a cool shady truck bed, did her some good. Anne appeared a few minutes later, jogging down with both of our day packs. Fast forward a couple of hours, and we arrived at the Emergency Pet Clinic in Temecula. This ultimately proved to be the perfect decision. (Our regular vet in Hemet didn’t have an appointment available, the Banning vet couldn’t see Anabel until the evening, and the mobile vet was closed due to the coronavirus crisis. Thankfully we established all of this by ‘phone before leaving Idyllwild, so our decision-making was relatively efficient.)

On admission, Anabel didn’t appear to be in terrible condition. When it was clear she was going to be staying for the night, we reluctantly headed back to Idyllwild. All we could do was think positive thoughts. The next 48 hours seemed to last for weeks.

My ‘phone rang just after two o’clock in the morning that night. It didn’t exactly wake us up, as we’d hardly been sleeping. The overnight doctor was requesting permission to give Anabel more VenomVet. She had had one vial shortly after arrival at the Pet Clinic, once it was clear from her very low platelet count that the snake had given her a little haemotoxic venom mixed in with the nerve toxin (which is typical). We asked the doctor to do whatever it took. In an 18 hour period, Anabel would receive six vials of VenomVet (plus one of RTLR, a similar antivenin designed for use on horses).

VenomVet is a broad spectrum antivenin which works well for haemotoxic snake bites, and as its name suggests, it is specifically designed for veterinary use. Although it is technically certified by the Food and Drug Administration for use on neurotoxic bites too, it is clearly no match for the venom of San Jacinto SPRs.

In ‘phone calls on 2nd and 3rd July, managing veterinarian Dr. Tedder started one with “well, she’s hanging in there”, and another with “she hasn’t read the book on how these rattlesnake bites go”. The straightforward honesty of her euphonious Arkansas drawl belied the fact that, despite Anabel’s blood numbers normalizing thanks to the VenomVet, there was an unspoken understanding between us that Anabel would die if we couldn’t address the neurotoxin. We both knew the answer was CroFab.

The drug CroFab is specifically designed for treating neurotoxic snakebites in humans. Treatment is supposed to start within six hours of the bite, and it can take at least a couple of dozen vials to treat a human. Although not approved for veterinary use, it has been widely used for bitten dogs, and occasionally it is stocked by vets in southern California for that purpose. Unfortunately at $5000 per vial, it has become cost prohibitive for vets to keep even single doses of CroFab on hand.

Calls to all likely veterinary clinics in southern California drew blanks. In one conversation with the doctor, I had mentioned the research I had read on SPRs by Loma Linda University Medical Center. Just before 3pm on the 3rd, Dr. Tedder called to say that miraculously they had found that the Murrieta campus of Loma Linda Health, just two freeway exits north from the Pet Clinic, had CroFab, and that the nurse in charge of the pharmacy there had agreed to sell it to us. The doctor needed our approval for such a major financial commitment, but doubtless she knew the answer before even picking up the ‘phone. She immediately dispatched one of her vet techs to drive up to Murrieta to pick up the tiny box containing the CroFab.

Anne and I are not religious people. The critical events that would ultimately save Anabel’s life occurred on 3rd July. I mention the following only for readers with different belief systems to draw their own conclusions. San Jacinto is the Spanish for Saint Hyacinth, and the San Jacinto mountains are named for Hyacinth of Caeserea, a Christian boy martyred by the Romans some 1900 years ago, who became the first (of several) Saint Hyacinth. In the Catholic calendar, the celebration day of Saint Hyacinth is, of course, 3rd July.

It was an agonizing six hours before Dr. Tedder finally called again. Anabel had received a vial of CroFab in an intravenous saline solution about two hours earlier. All vital signs and lab tests were improving. The doctor suggested we get some sleep. The ‘phone didn’t ring that night. A textbook case of no news is good news.

Dr. Tedder suggested we visit Anabel on the afternoon of 4th July. We had been told how much her condition had improved. Although we tried not to show it at the time, we subsequently agreed how shocked we were when Anabel stumbled into the visiting room, with her head hanging low to the ground, wheezing heavily with each step. It was clear she had not so much been at death’s door, but rather had had one or two paws across the threshold. She barely recognized us at first, but the vet techs were so thrilled when her tail started softly wagging as she sniffed us for the first time in two-and-a-half days. After we had laid there gently petting Anabel for an hour or more, the doctor took time from her ridiculously busy schedule, with critical cases seemingly breaking out all around her, to have a long talk with us. Dr. Tedder was so impressed with how positive her reaction was to seeing us that we ended up returning home with Anabel that night.

Dr. Tedder worked for years in Escondido, treating hundreds of dog rattlesnake bite cases. She estimates that in cases using CroFab as part of the treatment, the survival rate was about 5%. Given the much greater logistical difficulties of getting to care from Idyllwild, let alone five miles up into the mountains, Anabel’s probability of survival was perhaps a couple of percent at best.

A hugely improbable sequence of factors had to fall into place for Anabel to survive. To get bitten on the paw and apparently not get a full envenomation (those two factors being related). To recognize the gravity of the situation and have the equipment and ability to get her off the mountain as quickly as possible. To get her promptly to the right place for treatment. To have a staff that was remarkably dedicated to keeping her alive against long odds. To have a doctor with huge expertise in the field of rattlesnake bites in dogs and who was genuinely personally invested in Anabel’s health. To have someone willing to supply a very expensive human drug to save a dogs life when frankly it would have been much easier for them to say no. And perhaps ultimately, to have a dog fit enough and strong enough, mentally and physically, to withstand everything she went through.

Anabel would not be alive today but for the incomparable Dr. Belinda Tedder and her amazing staff at the Emergency Pet Clinic of Temecula. The RN working in the pharmacy at Loma Linda Health Murrieta on Friday 3rd July made the most important decision of Anabel’s recent life. The suggestion of our beloved friend Erin Riley – who has had one of her own dogs survive being bitten by a (haemotoxic) rattlesnake – led me to buy a dog carrying system a couple of years ago. There are more comfortable options on the market, but FidoPro makes a product that can save the life of a dog, and crucially it is light and compact enough that I always took it with me whenever I went into the high country with Anabel, fully expecting to never need it. Words will never adequately express our profound gratitude to all of these people.

Doubtless we will hear some criticism for having Anabel off leash. She is blessed with a wonderful life of freedom. We avoid the most snake-prone trails in season, and put her on leash as temperatures rise. Anabel has done thousands of miles without incident in conditions more likely to encounter a rattlesnake than those we experienced on 2nd July. She has had multiple rattlesnake aversion trainings, and as a result has behaved perfectly during the half-a-dozen prior encounters we have had with San Jacinto SPRs. We were well above the highest elevation where I had previously recorded rattlesnakes on the mountain, in atypical habitat, and we had deliberately hiked very early on a cool morning to minimize the chance of a snake encounter. The air temperature was below 60°F at the time and place of the incident. It was a freak accident. Thankfully after it happened, we did everything else we could about as efficiently as possible.

Anabel’s recovery may take months. Right now her health improves in leaps and bounds every day. She may never completely recover, although I wouldn’t put anything past her. Just seeing that tail wag gently as she lies on her bed at first light every morning is more than we ever could have hoped for.

Postscript: On Tuesday 7th July, I finally felt up for a hike back into the San Jacinto high country. As I loaded my daypack before dawn, Anabel was watching me from her bed near the front door. She knew the routine, having done it hundreds of times before. Only three days removed from ICU, she slowly got up, and, wobbling slightly, walked over to the door mat where she sat down, waiting for her collar to go on. It brought tears to my eyes, for the umpteenth time in the past few days. Soon enough baby girl, soon enough. The San Jacinto mountains seem to kill human hikers with no thought, and with disconcerting frequency. This time they had let a small dog live, just barely, to hike another day.

Copyright text and photographs Jon King 2020.

Trail and water update 7th July 2020

The streak of daily ascents of San Jacinto Peak finished at 63. My personal goal had always been to try to complete two months, then a couple of cool days kept me going to 2nd July. Heavy hiker traffic over the long holiday weekend, and the prospect of very hot weather starting this week made it the right time to stop. I was back up there again today, worried about the dangerous fire conditions, with very low humidity and strong gusty winds.

Snow is long gone, and water is, for now, flowing where expected, as updated in detail at the foot of this post.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. USFS indicates that Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

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

WEATHER A dramatic warming starts on 9th July, with temperatures (both daytime and overnight) forecast to be well above average for the next ten days at least. Fire risk will be severe. There is no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Tuesday 7th July 2020, at 0845 the air temperature was 53.2°F (12°C), with a windchill of 45.1°F (7°C), 15% relative humidity, and a strong SW wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 31.7 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Monday 29th June 2020, when at 0805 the air temperature was 35.3°F (2°C), with a windchill of 21.0°F (-6°C), 33% relative humidity, and a stiff due West wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 31.2 mph.

The warmest day of 2020 so far recorded at San Jacinto Peak was Monday 22nd June, when at 0830 the air temperature was 57.0°F (14°C) with 37% relative humidity and a barely discernible SW wind gusting to 2.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

Willow Creek Trail has 14 tree hazards (five on Forest Service land, nine on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Ten additional trees on Forest Service land east of Saddle Junction, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported last week, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

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

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is not currently flowing. The flow as been redirected to the CCC camp in Long Valley and water pressure is insufficient to also flow at the pipe. Fortunately Round Valley creek just a few yards away is flowing, but may well dry up later this month.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently, but flow rates have dropped considerably in recent weeks. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing very well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

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

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing well, but there is little depth in which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing, but flow rate is only 10% compared to less than a month ago. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, have functionally dried up.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well (an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail) [thanks to Anne and Anabel for checking this on their run this morning].

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail update 30th June 2020

I have continued to hike up San Jacinto Peak every morning since 1st May, today reaching two complete months (61 days). I again took a circuitous descent via Willow Creek Trail to work with Forest Service volunteer Bill Rhoads clearing thick whitethorn from the trail. Great news, we finished the final section today (photos below) and Willow Creek Trail now has no significant vegetation hazards, although downed trees remain as described below.

Water is, for now, flowing where expected, although flow rates are dropping steadily in the high country. Please see last week’s post for details of water sources and availability, which are unchanged in the past couple of weeks.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. USFS indicates that Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

Camping – with social distancing restrictions – is now available in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those discussed elsewhere in this post.

WEATHER A few pleasantly cool days to finish June will be followed by a return to very warm temperatures starting on Friday 3rd, about seasonally average for July. There is no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Tuesday 30th June 2020, at 0750 the air temperature was 40.1°F (5°C), with a windchill of 29.3°F (-1°C), 44% relative humidity, and a steady due East wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 20.2 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Monday 29th June 2020, when at 0805 the air temperature was 35.3°F (2°C), with a windchill of 21.0°F (-6°C), 33% relative humidity, and a stiff due West wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 31.2 mph.

The warmest day of 2020 so far recorded at San Jacinto Peak was Monday 22nd June, when at 0830 the air temperature was 57.0°F (14°C) with 37% relative humidity and a barely discernible SW wind gusting to 2.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

Willow Creek Trail has 14 tree hazards (five on Forest Service land, nine on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Ten additional trees on Forest Service land between Saddle Junction and Willow Creek, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported above, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

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

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

An example of our whitethorn removal work on Willow Creek Trail from today, 30th June 2020. A section of trail near the Forest Service-State Park boundary this morning (above), and this afternoon (below).

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

Trail and water update 24th June 2020

I have continued to hike up San Jacinto Peak every morning since 1st May, by as many diverse routes as possible. For example on Sunday I surveyed downed trees on Fuller Ridge Trail, and yesterday took a circuitous descent via Willow Creek Trail, where I again helped Forest Service volunteer Bill clear thick whitethorn, a project which is nearing completion.

I was encouraged by a conversation with two young hikers at San Jacinto Peak early this morning. They commented how clear of trash the trails were up here compared to other mountains they had hiked in Southern California. Clearly a hiker who systematically picks up every piece of trash they find, especially when they hike a rotation of trails every single day, can make a genuine difference to everyone’s trail experience.

Snow is now gone from the trail system, and water is, for now, flowing well where expected, as updated in detail at the foot of this post.

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

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

Limited camping is now available in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those discussed below.

WEATHER Above seasonal June temperatures continue to this weekend, followed by a very significant cooling between Sunday 28th June and Wednesday 1st July, before another rapid warming in early July. There is no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Wednesday 24th June 2020, at 0800 the air temperature was 55.8°F (13°C), with a windchill of 53.8°F (12°C), 21% relative humidity, and a light SW wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 8.2 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Friday 19th June 2020, when at 0755 the air temperature was 46.5°F (8°C), with a windchill of 37.8°F (3°C), 52% relative humidity, and a brisk due East wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 20.2 mph.

The warmest day of 2020 so far recorded at San Jacinto Peak was Monday 22nd June, when at 0830 the air temperature was 57.0°F (14°C) with 37% relative humidity and a barely discernible SW wind gusting to 2.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

Willow Creek Trail [updated 27th June] has 15 tree hazards (4 on Forest Service land, 11 on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Nine additional trees on Forest Service land between Saddle Junction and Willow Creek have been cleared since late May. Great progress has also been made on whitethorn removal, with the trail now clear on the State Park side and clear on the Forest Service section as far as the old Laws junction (see photo below).

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

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is not currently flowing. The flow as been redirected to the CCC camp in Long Valley and water pressure is insufficient to also flow at the pipe. Fortunately Round Valley creek just a few yards away is flowing, but will likely dry up in July.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently, but flow rates have dropped considerably in recent weeks. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing very well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley is flowing.

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

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail, 21st June 2020.

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

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

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

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing well, but there is little depth in which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing well, but flow rate is only 10% compared to less than a month ago. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, have functionally dried up.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well (an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail) [thanks to Anne and Anabel for checking this on their run this morning].

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

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

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

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

Willow Creek Trail at its junction with the unmaintained trail to Laws, taken 23rd June just after we had finished work (to the right). On the left, a brand new sign was installed in the past week. Of all the dilapidated signage in urgent need of replacement on the mountain, frankly this was perhaps the least important, as it applies to the essentially abandoned Cedar Trail.

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

Trail update 17th June 2020

[UPDATE 21st June: Black Mountain Road reopened yesterday. I drove it today, and it has been graded through to Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds remain closed.]

The streak continues. I have hiked daily to San Jacinto Peak since 1st May, making today 48 consecutive ascents (and also my 101st of the year). Use of many different ascent routes has allowed thorough reporting of, and work on, trail hazards, including in the past week Seven Pines, Marion Mountain, Deer Springs, Willow Creek, Peak, and Devil’s Slide trails.

Several recent days have been pleasantly cool in the morning, and I recorded a windchill temperature below freezing at San Jacinto Peak on Saturday 13th.

Snow is now completely gone from the trail system, and water is, for now, flowing steadily everywhere, so the Trail Report can be mercifully brief. The focus has been on trail maintenance work and surveying for future projects.

Limited camping is now available in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed, although faxed requests for camping permits are apparently being processed promptly. USFS facilities at Humber Park (e.g., trash and restrooms) reopened on Monday 15th June.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

WEATHER Temperatures will be about seasonal until this weekend, when considerable warming to well-above average temperatures begins, with hot weather next week. Near record-breaking temperatures in the high country are forecast late next week. There is no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Wednesday 17th June 2020, at 0735 the air temperature was 50.5°F (10°C), with a windchill of 44.2°F (7°C), 17% relative humidity, and a steady WNW wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 14.5 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Saturday 13th June 2020, when at 0705 the air temperature was 38.6°F (4°C), with a windchill of 26.3°F (-3°C), 10% relative humidity, and a brisk due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 23.4 mph.

The warmest day of 2020 to date recorded at San Jacinto Peak remains Thursday 28th May, when at 0830 the air temperature was 54.9°F (13°C).

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have new treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. The treefall mess around Saddle Junction was cut and cleaned up by USFS volunteer sawyer Steve on Monday 15th June.

Willow Creek Trail has 19 tree hazards (8 on Forest Service land, 11 on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter, based on new surveys on 8th and 11th June. Five additional trees on Forest Service land between Saddle Junction and Willow Creek have been cleared since late May. Great progress has been made on whitethorn cutting and removal, led by USFS volunteer Bill, with the trail now largely cleared on the State Park side and only a few more weeks work needed on the Forest Service section.

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

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

WATER All major creeks and springs are currently flowing well, as are some ephemeral sources. Consequently their status is not being updated in detail at this time. Flow rates have dropped dramatically in recent weeks, some 2-3 months earlier than last year, and some water challenges in late summer and autumn seem likely.

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

Trail update 10th June 2020

I have continued to hike daily to San Jacinto Peak since 1st May, making today 41 consecutive ascents. The past few days have been delightfully cool, and I recorded windchill temperatures of 18°F (-8°C) at San Jacinto Peak on both Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th. We took advantage of the cool weather on both 8th and 10th June to hike a circuitous route via Willow Creek Trail, Hidden Divide, and Round Valley to the Peak.

It is that time of year when the Trail Report is brief. Snow is now completely gone from the trail system, and water is, for now, flowing steadily everywhere. My focus has been on trail maintenance work and surveying for future projects.

Limited camping is now available in Mount San Jacinto State Park. See their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station remains closed, although faxed requests for camping permits are being processed promptly. There is a tentative reopening date of 18th June for USFS operations.

The closure of Black Mountain Road has been extended to 1st July, per the Forest Service order issued last week. Grading work may be finished sooner. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

WEATHER Temperatures will be slightly above seasonal – especially the overnight lows – for the next ten days, averaging coolest this weekend (13th-14th June). There is no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Wednesday 10th June 2020, at 0815 the air temperature was 50.4°F (10°C), with a windchill of 47.3°F (8.5°C), 33% relative humidity, and a very light ESE wind sustained at 1.0 mph gusting to 4.8 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Sunday 7th June 2020, when at 0720 the air temperature was 34.0°F (1°C), with a windchill of 18.1°F (-8°C), 22% relative humidity, and a brisk WNW wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 29.0 mph.

The warmest day of 2020 to date recorded at San Jacinto Peak was Thursday 28th May, when at 0830 the air temperature was 54.9°F (13°C).

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails are clear of snow. Off-trail travel will still encounter minor drifts, e.g., on the north side of Jean Peak.

Many trails have new treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has 19 tree hazards (8 on Forest Service land, 11 on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter, based on new surveys on 8th and 11th June. Five additional trees on Forest Service land between Saddle Junction and Willow Creek have been cleared since late May. Great progress has been made on whitethorn removal, with the trail now cleared on the State Park side and only a few more weeks work needed on the Forest Service section.

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

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

WATER All major creeks and springs are currently flowing well, as are some ephemeral sources. Consequently their status is not being updated in detail at this time. Flow rates have dropped dramatically in recent weeks, some 2-3 months earlier than last year, and some water challenges in late summer and autumn seem likely.

The newly repaired faucet in Round Valley, flowing erratically at a rate of about 2gpm (photo 11th June 2020)

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

Trail update 3rd June 2020

I have hiked to San Jacinto Peak daily since 1st May. For those keeping score at home, today’s ascent marked 34 days in a row, breaking by one day the record set last year. Early this morning around 9800′ elevation I could smell smoke from the Smoketree fire that burned in the hills near the Shannon Trail on 2nd June, just south of Palm Springs.

Using many different ascent routes has allowed a thorough assessment of trail conditions, including in the past week Seven Pines, Marion Mountain, Deer Springs, Willow Creek, and Devil’s Slide trails. Other than the few extremely limited patches described below, snow is now completely gone from the trail system.

As indicated on their website, Mount San Jacinto State Park headquarters in Idyllwild has reopened to issue day hiking permits. All camping in the State Park, including in wilderness, remains closed. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station remains closed, although faxed requests for camping permits are processed promptly.

The closure of Black Mountain Road has been extended to 1st July. While grading work might be finished sooner, the Forest Service order issued this week continues the road closure. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

Between 5th-9th June hikers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing above 10,000′ elevation (below freezing when considering windchill effects) .

WEATHER Temperatures remain well above seasonal until Friday 5th June when they drop to, or even below, average. Temperatures then rapidly rise again to above average from Tueday 10th June. There is no precipitation in the forecast. So far in 2020, January, February, and May have been the warmest and/or driest on record for those months ever in the San Jacinto high country.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Wednesday 3rd June 2020, at 0820 the air temperature was 51.4°F (11°C), with a windchill of 46.7°F (8°C), 41% relative humidity, and a gusty NE wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 12.7 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 2nd June 2020, at 0850 the air temperature was 50.7°F (10°C), with a windchill of 45.7°F (8°C), 46% relative humidity, and a light SE wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 12.8 mph.

The warmest day of 2020 to date recorded at San Jacinto Peak was Thursday 28th May, when at 0830 the air temperature was 54.9°F (13°C).

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails are clear of snow, other than very limited patches as described below. Off-trail travel will encounter more extensive drifts in places, e.g., on the north side of Jean Peak.

Many trails have new treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

The Peak Trail above Wellman Divide is clear of snow, except for tiny patches for 0.1 mile around 10,000′ and at San Jacinto Peak. The East Ridge Trail has only 5% drifted snow cover but the trail is obscured in a few places.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow with the exception of Little Round Valley. There is a new major double treefall hazard next to the Deer Springs crossing. Snow cover through Little Round Valley is 10%. The trail is obvious, with excellent steps, through the handful of tiny snow patches.

Willow Creek Trail is clear of snow, but has 19 tree hazards (8 on Forest Service land, 11 on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Five additional trees on Forest Service land between Saddle Junction and Willow Creek have been cleared in the past two weeks.

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

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since June 2019. Both trails are very indistinct and heavily overgrown with challenging whitethorn in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should exercise extremely cautious navigation. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is quite obvious for about a mile, becoming less distinct as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge).

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

WATER All major creeks and springs are currently flowing well, as are some ephemeral sources. Consequently their status is not being updated in detail at this time. Flow rates dropped dramatically in May, some 2-3 months earlier than last year, and some water challenges in late summer and autumn seem likely.

Little Round Valley at 9800′ elevation on 30th May 2020 (above) and the same view on 2nd May 2020 for comparison (below)

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

Trail update 27th May 2020

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak every day so far in May, using many different routes, for example in the past week alternating between Seven Pines/Marion Mountain trails and the Devil’s Slide/Peak Trail routes.

Other than the few remaining patchy areas described in detail below, snow has gone from the trail system, and microspikes are no longer required. On warm days, caution is advised on soft snow melting away from rocks and logs, and over running water.

As indicated on their website, Mount San Jacinto State Park headquarters in Idyllwild is now open to issue day hiking permits. All camping in the State Park, including in wilderness, remains closed.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. Black Mountain Road is closed by Forest Service order until 31st May. Reopening has been delayed until 7th June at the earliest for grading work.

Fire lookouts at Tahquitz Peak and Black Mountain should be operational starting 31st May and 7th June, respectively. When manned the structures will be closed to all visitors due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Despite warm weather at mid elevations, in the first week of June hikers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing at the highest peaks, and possibly below freezing when considering windchill effects.

WEATHER This week will be dominated by hot summer temperatures, 10-20 degrees above seasonal. Temperatures in the first week of June are forecast to drop, although remaining above seasonal most days. There is no precipitation in the forecast. The May storms of recent years failed us in 2020.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Wednesday 27th May 2020, at 0755 the air temperature was 52.0°F (11°C), with a windchill of 49.9°F (10°C), 39% relative humidity, and a light SE wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 12.3 mph.

In stark contrast, just eight days ago at the Peak on Tuesday 19th May 2020, at 0815 the air temperature was 17.9°F (-8°C), with a windchill of -1.5°F (-19°C), 51% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 19.8 mph.

The warmest day of the year to date recorded at the Peak remains Thursday 7th May 2020, when at 0810 the air temperature was 53.1°F (12°C), with a “windchill” of 50.5°F (10°C), 17% relative humidity, and a very light due West wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Other than a few very limited high country areas detailed below, all trails are clear of snow. Many trails have new treefall hazards from this winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

The Peak Trail above Wellman Divide is clear of snow, except for patches for 0.1 mile around 10,000′, and tiny patches at San Jacinto Peak. The East Ridge Trail [updated 29th May] still has 20% drifted snow cover.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Little Round Valley. There is a new major double treefall hazard next to the Deer Springs crossing. Snow cover through Little Round Valley is 20%. Up to San Jacinto Peak snow cover is <5%. The trail is obvious, with excellent steps, through the handful of tiny snow patches.

Willow Creek Trail is clear of snow, but has 24 new tree hazards (13 on Forest Service land, 11 on State Park) between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide from this past winter, based on a full survey undertaken 13th May and repeated on 26th May. None are as large or as challenging to get around as in 2019.

Round Valley Trail is clear from Long Valley to Round Valley, but from the latter to Wellman Divide still has about 10% coverage of shallow snow patches. The High Trail has a few tiny snow drifts still across the trail, and one major treefall hazard.

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

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since June 2019. Both trails are very indistinct and heavily overgrown with challenging whitethorn in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should exercise extremely cautious navigation. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is quite obvious for about a mile, becoming less distinct as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge).

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

WATER All major creeks and springs are currently flowing well, as are some ephemeral sources. Consequently their status is not being updated in detail at this time. Flow rates have dropped dramatically in May, some two months earlier than last year, and a dry late summer and autumn seem likely.

Looking south from San Jacinto Peak toward Jean Peak and Marion Mountain, 27th May 2020 (above), and for comparison on 27th May 2019 (below).

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

Trail update 20th May 2020

We have continued to hike to San Jacinto Peak every day so far in May, using many different routes, today for example ascending via Devil’s Slide Trail and descending via Tahquitz Peak and South Ridge Trail.

Other than the few remaining patchy areas described in detail below, the snow has almost completely gone from the trail system. Consequently snow depths are no longer reported. Pleasantly cool weather so far this week has resulted in firm icy snow in the mornings, with easy hiking conditions where areas of snow remain. On warmer afternoons and days, caution is advised on soft snow melting away from rocks and logs, and over running water. Potentially ankle-breaking posthole conditions remain in such areas. Where snow remains in the high country, reliable tracks are now in place for all major routes on the mountain.

Hikers uncomfortable on limited patches of icy snow may find that microspikes remain useful in some areas on colder early mornings and/or for descending. Otherwise microspikes are no longer required on the trail system.

The trails have felt rather “wild west” in recent weeks, with huge numbers of hikers, especially at weekends, many clearly not familiar with wilderness regulations. I have several examples, but early this morning I extinguished an active campfire right next to the trail about 0.5 mile south of Annie’s Junction. It was a good learning opportunity for the camper, who was genuinely ignorant of the Forest camping and fire regulations. Thankfully the breeze today was much lighter than yesterday. Although California is clearly still in the depths of the coronavirus crisis, we urgently need the agencies to restore the permit and enforcement systems, such as they are. Otherwise I fear the next indirect consequence of Covid-19 could be a forest fire up here.

Despite mild weather at lower elevations, for the next several days hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or near freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering windchill effects (for example see weather data below for Tuesday 19th May!).

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. Black Mountain Road remains closed by Forest Service order until 31st May. It is expected to reopen on 1st June.

Fire lookouts at Tahquitz Peak and Black Mountain will be operational starting 31st May and 1st June, respectively. The structures will be closed to visitors due to Covid-19 restrictions.

WEATHER For the next few days temperatures are forecast to be close to seasonal. Starting on Monday 25th, the last week of May sees a return to very hot summer temperatures. Regrettably, there is no precipitation in the forecast. The seemingly reliable May storms of recent years have failed us in 2020.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Wednesday 20th May 2020, at 0830 the air temperature was 31.4°F (0°C), with a windchill of 23.4°F (-5°C), 22% relative humidity, and a cool due West wind sustained at 3 mph gusting to 8.4 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 19th May 2020, at 0815 the air temperature was 17.9°F (-8°C), with a windchill of -1.5°F (-19°C), 51% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 19.8 mph.

The warmest day of the year to date recorded at the Peak remains Thursday 7th May 2020, when at 0810 the air temperature was 53.1°F (12°C), with a “windchill” of 50.5°F (10°C), 17% relative humidity, and a very light due West wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails below about 9000′ are clear of snow, while higher trails have only very short sections with limited (<30%) snow-cover (see details below).

The following trails are completely clear of snow: Ernie Maxwell, Devil’s Slide, Willow Creek, South Ridge, Marion Mountain, and Seven Pines. The Desert Divide south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Mile 175), including side trails such as Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, Apache Spring, Zen Centre, and Live Oak Spring trails, is all clear of snow. All of the latter have new treefall hazards from this winter, passable for hikers but not stock.

The Peak Trail above Wellman Divide is clear of snow, except for patches for 0.2 mile around 10,000′, and tiny patches very close to San Jacinto Peak. The East Ridge Trail still has 70% drifted snow cover. The Wellman Trail is largely clear, except for <10% cover in the first 0.4 mile north from Annie’s Junction (the State Park boundary).

Deer Springs Trail [updated 23rd May] is virtually clear of snow to Little Round Valley. There is a new major double treefall hazard next to the Deer Springs crossing. Snow cover is <10% on the 0.4 mile from 9500′ to the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River, and it is then clear again for the final 0.2 mile ascent to Little Round Valley. Snow cover through Little Round Valley is 30%. Up to San Jacinto Peak snow cover is <10%. The trail is now obvious, with excellent steps, through the snow patches.

Willow Creek Trail is completely clear of snow, but has 24 new tree hazards (13 on Forest Service land, 11 on State Park) between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide from this past winter, based on a full survey undertaken 13th May. None are as large or as challenging to get around as in 2019, but some caution is recommended.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) is clear of snow, although a few minor patches remain, especially near the north end.

Round Valley Trail is largely clear from Long Valley to Round Valley, but from there to Wellman Divide still has about 30% coverage of shallow snow patches. Trail finding is a little tricky on that 1.0 mile section. The High Trail has a few minor snow drifts still across the trail, and one major treefall hazard.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is virtually clear of snow. It is easy to hike around the edges of the two tiny patches that remain. Microspikes are no longer required.

Seven Pines Trail [updated 23rd May] has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are at least 25 treefall hazards on the trail, based on multiple May 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those who are unfamiliar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue until 2021, consequently there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since June 2019. Both trails are very indistinct and heavily overgrown with challenging whitethorn in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should exercise extremely cautious navigation. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly named it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is quite obvious for about a mile, becoming less distinct as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge).

WATER All major creeks and springs are currently flowing well, as are some ephemeral sources. Consequently their status is not being updated in detail at this time.

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. All hikers this spring are reporting having no significant difficulty here.

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

Wellman Divide (9700′) today 20th May 2020 (above), and almost exactly one year ago on 23rd May 2019 (below).
Little Round Valley (9800′) on 18th May 2020 (above), and for comparison about four weeks earlier on 21st April 2020 (below).

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

Trail update 13th May 2020

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak every day so far in May, using several different routes, including an east-west loop ascending the Peak Trail and descending Deer Springs Trail on Monday, via Marion Mountain Trail yesterday, and a circuitous route via Willow Creek and Round Valley trails today.

Very warm weather last week caused extensive snowmelt at all elevations, with all trails partly or completely clearing. Pleasantly cool weather so far this week has resulted in firm icy snow in the mornings, with easy hiking conditions where areas of snow remain. On sunny afternoons, snow can still be soft, and caution is advised on soft snow melting away from rocks and logs, and over running water. Potentially ankle-breaking posthole conditions remain widespread in such areas.

Where snow remains in the high country, useable tracks through the snow are now in place for all major routes on the mountain. Measured snow depths, with comparison to the recent maximum depth, are listed at the foot of this posting.

Microspikes remain useful in some areas (discussed below) on colder early mornings, and for descending. Many hikers with suitable footwear (and hiking poles if preferred) may not need additional traction, depending on your willingness to potentially posthole in softening snow later in the day.

Despite mild weather at lower elevations, hikers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering windchill effects.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. Black Mountain Road is closed by Forest Service order until 31st May.

The creek in Little Round Valley, early morning on 12th May 2020.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to largely remain pleasantly cool – at or slightly above seasonal – into next week. There is no significant precipitation forecast for the foreseeable future, although there is the possibility of light drizzle at mid elevations on the afternoon of Monday 18th May.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Wednesday 13th May 2020, at 1020 the air temperature was 37.7°F (4°C), with a windchill of 31.8°F (0°C), 49% relative humidity, and a cool due West wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 11.4 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 12th May 2020, at 0810 the air temperature was 31.0°F (-1°C), with a windchill of 15.1°F (-9°C), 76% relative humidity, and a biting due West wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 31.8 mph.

The warmest day of the year to date recorded at the Peak was on Thursday 7th May 2020, when at 0810 the air temperature was 53.1°F (12°C), with a “windchill” of 50.5°F (10°C), 17% relative humidity, and a very light due West wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails below about 9000′ are clear of snow, while higher trails have less than 50% snow-cover (see details below).

The following trails are now completely clear of snow: Ernie Maxwell, Devil’s Slide, Willow Creek, South Ridge, Marion Mountain, and Seven Pines. The Desert Divide south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Mile 175), including side trails such as Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, Apache Spring, Zen Centre, and Live Oak Spring trails, is all clear of snow. All of the latter have new treefall hazards from this winter, passable for hikers but not stock.

The Peak Trail above Wellman Divide is clear of snow, except for largely continuous drifted snow up to 1-2 feet deep for 0.2 mile around 10,000′, and in patches for 0.2 mile above 10,500′. The East Ridge Trail still has 90% drifted snow cover. The Wellman Trail is largely clear, except for 30% cover in the first 0.4 mile north from Annie’s Junction (at the State Park boundary).

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to 9500′, except for a handful of tiny patches between the Seven Pines Trail and Fuller Ridge Trail junctions. There is a new major double treefall hazard right by the Deer Springs crossing. Snow cover is about 40% on the 0.4 mile from 9500′ to the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River, and it is then >95% clear for the final 0.2 mile ascent to Little Round Valley. Snow cover through Little Round Valley is 50%, and the tracks are somewhat meandering. Up to San Jacinto Peak snow cover is 30%. Although the trail above Little Round Valley is clearing rapidly, snow drifts make it hard to follow, while conversely melting makes it hard to follow the tracks through the snow. Microspikes are useful, especially for descending. San Jacinto Peak has barely 20% snow cover.

Willow Creek Trail is completely clear of snow, but has 24 new tree hazards between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide from this past winter, based on a full survey undertaken 13th May. None are as large or as challenging to get around as in 2019, but some caution is recommended. The agencies have been notified.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) is largely clear of snow, although as usual extensive patches remain especially at the north end (Miles 188.6-190).

Round Valley Trail is largely clear to Round Valley, but from there to Wellman Divide still has about 60% coverage of shallow snow patches. Trail finding is currently tricky on that 1.0 mile section. The High Trail has about a dozen minor snow drifts still across the trail, and one major treefall hazard.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 [updated 16th May] is virtually clear of snow and has good steps to follow through the tiny patches that remain. Microspikes are no longer required.

Seven Pines Trail has a few very minor snow drifts near its junction with the PCT. 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.

WATER All major creeks and springs are currently flowing well, as are many ephemeral seasonal sources. Consequently I am not updating the water situation in detail at this time.

Willow Creek, where it crosses the trail of the same name, flowing strongly with snowmelt, 13th May 2020.

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. All hikers this spring are reporting having no significant difficulty here.

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 (additionally, due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park).

SNOW DEPTHS measured 11th-12th May 2020 (with depth on 10th-12th April 2020 in parentheses for comparison where known). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 5″ (was 40″ on 12th April)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 10″ (was 35″ on 12th April)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 0″ (was 32″ on 12th April)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): <1″ (was 35″ on 12th April)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail (8700′): 0″ (was 31″ on 11th April)

Long Valley (8600′): 0″ (was 16″ on 11th April)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″ (was 25″ on 11th April)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 0″ (was 26″ on 11th April)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (was 14″ on 11th April)

Little Round Valley (9800′) on 12th May 2020 (above) and the same view three weeks earlier on 21st April 2020 (below).

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

Trail update 5th May 2020

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak every day so far in May, via several different routes, including loops ascending the Peak Trail and descending Deer Springs Trail today and on Saturday.

A couple of cooler days last weekend produced excellent firm icy snow in the early morning, and fast ascent conditions. By today, warmer temperatures kept the snow soft overnight, and the snow was quite unpleasant underfoot especially descending the western side from Little Round Valley to the top of Marion Mountain Trail. Over the next week or so, considerable caution is advised on soft snow melting away from rocks and logs, and over running water. Potentially ankle-breaking posthole conditions are currently widespread in such areas.

Summer-like temperatures on most days since about 25th April have radically changed hiking conditions. Most snow has gone below 9000′, with trails also clearing rapidly up to 10,000′, and in patches all the way to the highest peaks. Where snow remains in the high country, useable tracks through the snow are now in place for almost all major routes on the mountain.

Further temperatures more typical of July over the next few days mean that snowmelt will continue very rapidly, with most trails even at the highest elevations likely to be largely clear in the next ten days. Measured snow depths, with comparison to the recent maximum depth, are listed at the foot of this posting.

Microspikes can still be useful in some areas (discussed below) for hikers who are less comfortable on snow and ice, and in particular for descending. Many hikers with suitable footwear (and hiking poles if preferred) will not need additional traction, depending on your willingness to posthole in soft snow after early morning.

Due to apparent contradictions among, and inconsistent enforcement of, the various county, state, and federal rules and regulations during the coronavirus crisis, I recommend contacting relevant agencies directly for their latest information. According to their website, Mount San Jacinto State Park remains open only for local residents able to walk or bike to trailheads. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March).

WEATHER Temperatures overall remain unseasonably warm, over the next few days about 10-20°F above average for early May, according to the latest information from NWS San Diego. Very rapid snowmelt will continue at all elevations. Temperatures are forecast to drop to seasonal next week. There is no precipitation forecast for the foreseeable future.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Tuesday 5th May 2020, at 0900 the air temperature was 49.2°F (10°C), with a windchill of 45.5°F (8°C), 21% relative humidity, and a light SW wind sustained at 3 mph gusting to 7.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 4th May 2020, at 0555 the air temperature was 44.3°F (7°C), with a windchill of 37.4°F (3°C), 8% relative humidity, and a steady due West wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 11.8 mph.

The most recent cool day at the Peak was on Saturday 2nd May 2020, when at 0830 the air temperature was 34.3°F (1°C), with a windchill of 23.4°F (-5°C), 49% relative humidity, and a chilly due West wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 13.9 mph.

Snow Plant (Sarcodes sanguinea) emerging at about 6800′ elevation near Deer Springs Trail on 30th April 2020. The name comes from the plant often pushing through the remaining snow cover in spring. In recent years, climate change has resulted in the snow invariably being gone before the plants emerge.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 8900′ remain partly snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below). Exposed slopes much higher – e.g. Wellman’s Cienega to Wellman Divide – are now clear. Some short sections of trails above about 8000′ may have remnant icy snow patches, depending on exposure.

The Desert Divide south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Mile 175), including side trails such as Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, Apache Spring, Zen Centre, and Live Oak Spring trails, is all clear of snow. All have new treefall hazards from this winter, passable for hikers but not stock.

The Peak Trail above Wellman Divide has about 30% snow cover, except for continuous cover of drifted snow about 1-2 feet deep around 10,000′ and again above 10,500′. The East Ridge Trail still has continuous drifted snow cover, also 1-2 feet deep. The Wellman Trail is largely clear, except for 90% cover in the first 0.4 mile north from Annie’s Junction.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction, and north on the PCT almost to the Marion Mountain Trail junction (Mile 185) at about 8700′. Snow cover is about 50% from there to 9400′, where it increases to 80%. Snow cover through Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak is 90%, but melting has been dramatic even in the last four (coolish) days. Tracks through the snow do not follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, but are adequate. Microspikes are useful for descending.

Marion Mountain Trail is basically clear of snow to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail, with just a few small patches remaining above 8500′.

South Ridge Trail is clear to Tahquitz Peak, other than a few tiny snow patches above 8600′. Microspikes are no longer required.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) is rapidly clearing of snow, although as usual extensive patches remain especially near the south (185.5-186.5) and north (188..6-190) ends.

Round Valley Trail is largely clear, but through to Wellman Divide still has extensive shallow snow patches above Round Valley.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of snow to Saddle Junction. In four locations there are new significant treefall hazards.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 is clearing rapidly and now has reasonable steps to follow through the angled icy snow. Microspikes are recommended especially for descending and in the morning when the snow is icy.

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 this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Current snow cover on the PCT is increasingly patchy between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). The Trail is very rapidly clearing to about Mile 184 (one mile north of Strawberry Junction) 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 184-190 has patchy snow cover, although exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly.

Microspikes may still be useful on some of the PCT for increasingly patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 174 and 190, depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions. Hikers willing to posthole and using poles may find spikes unnecessary in most areas however. See above for conditions on some specific sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

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. All hikers this spring are reporting having no significant difficulty here.

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 (additionally, due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park).

SNOW DEPTHS measured 5th May 2020 (with depth on 10th-12th April 2020 in parentheses for comparison where known). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 9″ (was 40″ on 12th April)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 16″ (was 35″ on 12th April)

Wellman Divide (9700′): <2″ (was 32″ on 12th April)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 6″ (was 35″ on 12th April)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail (8700′): 5″ (was 31″ on 11th April)

Long Valley (8600′): 0″ (was 16″ on 11th April)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″ (was 25″ on 11th April)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 0″ (was 26″ on 11th April)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (was 14″ on 11th April)

Annie’s Junction (9070′), approx. PCT Mile 180.8, today 5th May 2020 (above), and on 21st April 2020 for comparison (below).

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

Trail update 27th April 2020

[UPDATE 1st May 2020: hikes today and on 29th April to San Jacinto Peak have confirmed very rapid snowmelt at all elevations, especially below 10,000′. Snow conditions were dreadful on 29th, with deep postholing in places above 9000′, but were much better this morning despite similar temperatures both days. Microspikes remain useful in places, but not essential, above 9000′.]

This morning we hiked to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and the Peak Trail route, having been up Deer Springs Trail the previous day. On 25th I checked the Tahquitz Peak area trails, and Apache Peak and the Desert Divide on 23rd.

Current conditions underfoot were discussed in a short video recorded this morning at San Jacinto Peak. Summer-like temperatures in recent days have radically changed hiking conditions. Snow melt has been considerable below 9000′, with trails clearing rapidly, but somewhat less so in the high country. Useable tracks through the snow are now in place for most major routes on the mountain. Cautious navigation is still recommended as many tracks do not accurately follow the trail routes.

Snow conditions will continue to change rapidly over the next week or so, depending on a complex combination of elevation, time of day, slope exposure, temperature, and cloud cover. In summary, little or no snow will be left below 9000′ soon, and most snow will be gone even from the high country by early May. Measured snow depths, with comparison to the recent maximum depth, are listed at the foot of this posting.

Inevitably, gear recommendations change almost as quickly as the snow conditions. Microspikes can be useful in some areas (see below) for hikers who are less comfortable on snow and ice, and in particular for descending compacted trails. Hikers with suitable footwear and hiking poles may not need additional traction, depending on your willingness to posthole in soft snow, and on temperature/time of day as mentioned above. Snowshoes remain marginally useful for another few days in areas off-trail above about 10,000′ elevation.

Due to some apparent contradictions among, and inconsistent enforcement of, the various county, state, and federal rules and regulations during the coronavirus crisis, I recommend contacting relevant agencies directly for their latest information. According to their website, Mount San Jacinto State Park remains open only for local residents able to walk or cycle to trailheads. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway remains closed indefinitely (since 12th March).

Skunk Cabbage Meadow flooded with snowmelt, 24th April 2020.

WEATHER The last few days of April will continue to be more reminiscent of late June. Temperatures moderate slightly in early May, but overall remain unseasonably warm. Rapid snowmelt will continue at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 27th April 2020, at 0850 the air temperature was 46.0°F (8°C), with a windchill of 37.5°F (3°C), 21% relative humidity, and a steady WNW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.5 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 21st April 2020, at 0755 the air temperature was 21.8°F (-6°C), with a windchill of 4.4°F (-15°C), 68% relative humidity, and a bitter NNE wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.8 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The icy slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) that had multiple incidents in late March is now clear of snow.

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. All hikers this spring are reporting having no significant difficulty here.

Microspikes may still be useful on some of the PCT for increasingly patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 174 and 190, depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions. Hikers willing to posthole and using poles may find spikes unnecessary in most areas however. See below for conditions on some specific sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

Current snow cover on the PCT is extensive but increasingly patchy between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). The Trail is very rapidly clearing to about Mile 184 (one mile north of Strawberry Junction) 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 184-190 is snow-covered, although exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly.

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 (additionally, due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park).

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 9000′ remain largely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below) but exposed slopes much higher (e.g. Wellman’s Cienega to Wellman Divide) are clearing rapidly. Some short sections of trails above about 7900′ may have remnant icy snow patches, depending on exposure.

The Desert Divide south of Red Tahquitz, including side trails such as Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, Apache Spring, Zen Centre, and Live Oak Spring trails, are all clear of snow. All have new treefall hazards from this winter, passable for hikers but not stock.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction, and north on the PCT to about 8600′. Snow is largely continuous from about Mile 184 (just south of Marion Mountain Trail junction). Tracks through the snow do not accurately follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, but are adequate. Microspikes are useful for descending.

South Ridge Trail is clear to Tahquitz Peak, other than a few tiny snow patches above 8600′. Microspikes are no longer required.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5). There are tracks to follow through the snow, although these do not currently match the route of the trail in some places.

Round Valley Trail through to Wellman Divide has not been visibly traveled since the Tram closure in mid March.

Devil’s Slide Trail is virtually clear of snow to Saddle Junction, with just a few minor icy patches above 8000′. Microspikes are no longer required. In four locations there are new significant treefall hazards. Several more minor obstructions have been removed.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently crampons are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use both).

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 26-27th April 2020 (with depth on 10th-12th April 2020 in parentheses for comparison where known). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 21″ (was 40″ on 12th April)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 7″ (was 32″ on 12th April)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 11″ (was 35″ on 12th April)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail (8700′): 9″ (was 31″ on 11th April)

Long Valley (8600′): <1″ (was 16″ on 11th April)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1″ (was 25″ on 11th April)

Saddle Junction (8070′): <2″ (was 26″ on 11th April)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (was 14″ on 11th April)

Peak Trail at 9800′ elevation just above Wellman Divide, 27th April 2020 (above), and on 21st April 2020 for comparison (below).
Strawberry Junction (8100′) on 26th April 2020 (above) and approximately the same view on 11th April 2020 (below).

Trail update 21st April 2020

[UPDATE 23rd April: conditions for the PCT at Apache Peak and South Ridge Trail are updated below, based on hikes yesterday and this morning, respectively.]

Today I made the most of what was likely the last true snow hike for the foreseeable future, doing a full circuit of the mountain, ascending the east side trails and descending Deer Springs Trail. Starting well before sunrise, conditions underfoot were ideal, with hard refrozen snow everywhere. This allowed me to ascend in just boots, using only the melted remains of my snowshoe tracks from three days ago for grip on slopes. Microspikes were essential for a very direct descent.

Exceptionally warm summer-like temperatures for the remainder of April will radically change hiking conditions in a couple of days starting tomorrow. Snow melt has been rapid even with moderate temperatures over the last few days, with 1-2 feet of snow lost (depending on elevation) in just a week (see photos below).

Snow conditions will continue to change very rapidly, depending on a complex combination of elevation, time of day, slope exposure, temperature, and cloud cover. The bottom line is that remarkably little snow may be left at most elevations by the end of April. Snow depths measured today, with comparison to the recent maximum depth, are listed at the foot of this posting. There has been no other hiker traffic above 9100′, and tracks disappear rapidly with melting, so very cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Inevitably, gear recommendations are changing almost as quickly as the snow depths and conditions. Microspikes can be useful in some areas (see below) for hikers who are less comfortable on snow and ice, on the few compacted trails, and in particular for descending. Hikers with suitable footwear and hiking poles may not need any additional traction, depending on your willingness to posthole in soft snow, and on temperature/time of day as mentioned above. Snowshoes remain useful, but for only another few days, in areas above about 9000′ elevation.

Due to the apparent contradictions and inconsistent enforcement of various county, state, and federal rules and regulations during the coronavirus crisis, I recommend contacting relevant agencies directly for their latest information. According to their website, Mount San Jacinto State Park remains open only for locals visiting from near their primary residences. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway remains closed indefinitely (since 12th March).

WEATHER Regrettably – for those of us concerned about fire risk, water, and forest health – summer apparently begins tomorrow. For the remainder of April, overnight low temperatures are forecast to resemble early July averages, and daytime highs will be more typical of June. Extremely rapid snowmelt is expected at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Tuesday 21st April 2020, at 0755 the air temperature was 21.8°F (-6°C), with a windchill of 4.4°F (-15°C), 68% relative humidity, and a bitter NNE wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.8 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 18th April 2020, at 0930 the air temperature was 23.7°F (-5°C), with a windchill of 9.6°F (-12°C), 100% relative humidity, and a cool WNW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 14.2 mph.

Looking SSE from San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 18th April 2020, with dense low cloud rolling over the Desert Divide.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The short icy snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) that had multiple incidents in late March has greatly improved. The very limited remaining snow is soft with obvious tracks, and is melting rapidly (see photo below).

NE slope of Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) on 22nd April 2020.

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. All hikers this spring are reporting having no significant difficulty here.

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT for increasingly patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 173 and 191, depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions. Hikers willing to posthole extensively and using poles may find spikes unnecessary in most areas however. See below for conditions on some specific 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). Snow is then largely continuous between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). The Trail is rapidly clearing to about Mile 184 (just north of Strawberry Junction) 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) will start 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 (additionally, due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park).

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 8000′ remain largely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below) but exposed slopes much higher are clearing rapidly. Some sections of trails above about 7000′ have may patchy icy snow cover, depending on exposure.

The Desert Divide south of Red Tahquitz, including side trails such as Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, Apache Spring, Zen Centre, and Live Oak Spring trails, are all clear of snow. All have new treefall hazards from this winter, passable for hikers but not stock.

Deer Springs Trail is basically clear of snow to Strawberry Junction, with just a few tiny soft patches remaining. North on the PCT to about 8500′ is melting very rapidly. Snow is continuous from about Mile 184 (just south of Marion Mountain Trail junction). Snowshoes are currently useful above about 9500′ and microspikes can be useful for descending.

South Ridge Trail [updated 23rd April] is clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′. Snow cover is soft and extremely limited from there to about 8600′, after which cover is about 50% to the Peak. This will melt dramatically over the next few days. Microspikes can be useful for descending the uppermost 5-7 switchbacks early in the morning. South Ridge Road (currently closed) is clear of ice.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5). There are tracks to follow through the snow, although these do match the route of the regular trail in many places.

Round Valley Trail through to Wellman Divide has not been visibly traveled since the Tram closure in mid March.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of snow below 7200′, largely clear below 8000′, and icy snow cover is increasingly patchy from there to Saddle Junction. Microspikes can be useful, especially for descending, but are not essential. In three locations there are new significant treefall hazards. Several more minor obstructions have been removed.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently 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 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 21st April 2020 (with depth on 10th-12th April 2020 in parentheses for comparison where known). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 31″ (was 40″ on 12th April)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 30″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 14″ (was 32″ on 12th April)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 21″ (was 35″ on 12th April)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail (8700′): 15″ (was 31″ on 11th April)

Long Valley (8600′): 4″ (was 16″ on 11th April)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1″ (was 25″ on 11th April)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 7″ (was 26″ on 11th April)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (was 14″ on 11th April)

Strawberry Junction (8100′) on 21st April 2020 (above) and approximately the same view ten days earlier on 11th April 2020 (below).
Seven Pines Trail junction (8700′) with Deer Springs Trail on 21st April 2020 (above) and approximately the same view on 11th April 2020 (below).

Trail update 15th April 2020

[UPDATE 18th April: I discuss current gear recommendations, snow conditions, and forthcoming weather in a video recorded this morning at San Jacinto Peak. In the text below, conditions for some trails are updated based on hikes in the past two days.]

Anabel and I have been very busy in the days since the multi-day snow storm last week surveying as many different trails as possible. We hiked to the Apache Peak area this morning to assess conditions there (discussed below and in this short [breezy] video).

Snow conditions are changing very rapidly at present, and depend on many factors, as discussed in today’s video. Icy, reliable snow in the early morning can turn to the consistency of warm ice cream by mid/late morning in many areas, depending on exposure, temperature, and cloud cover, which can help or hinder hiking depending on your preference. Most areas below 7000′ have lost over a foot of snow in just three days, and some sun-exposed slopes have experienced even faster melting rates.

Snow depths measured in recent days, with comparison to the maximum depth a few days earlier, are listed at the foot of this posting. There has been little hiker traffic in the high country, so very cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Equipment recommendations are changing almost as quickly as the snow depths and conditions. Microspikes can be useful in some areas (see below) for hikers who are less comfortable on snow and ice, on the very few compacted trails, and in particular for descending. Hikers with suitable footwear and hiking poles may not need any additional traction, depending on your willingness to posthole in soft snow, and on temperature/time of day as discussed above. Snowshoes remain useful, but likely only for another few days depending on slope aspect, in areas above about 8000′ elevation.

Despite the strong warming trend at all elevations, hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchill effects.

All trailhead parking is closed by county public health order. Enforcement was strong this weekend by multiple law enforcement agencies. I was sceptical if this would persist on weekdays, but there was clear evidence of it continuing yesterday at least. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway remains closed indefinitely (since 12th March).

Multiple treefall hazard on Devil’s Slide Trail just below Powderbox Spring, 14th April 2020.

WEATHER Largely sunny conditions and warmer – but still below average – temperatures are forecast for the remainder of April. Extensive and rapid melting will accelerate at all elevations, especially on sun-exposed slopes.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The short icy snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) that had multiple incidents in late March has greatly improved. This morning – as described in this video – snow was relatively soft and is melting rapidly. Microspikes are recommended, but it is possible to traverse without them securely. Every individual should make their own assessment of whether to cross based on their comfort level on angled snow, their experience, available equipment, time of day, and current snow conditions. If in any doubt, turn around and take the Spitler Peak Trail alternate route at Mile 168.5.

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. All hikers this spring are reporting having no significant difficulty here.

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT for continuous snow travel between approximately Miles 173 and 192, depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions. Hikers willing to posthole extensively and using poles may find spikes unnecessary in most areas however. See below for conditions on some specific sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

Current snow cover on the PCT is patchy and thin between Miles 166 and about 173 (Red Tahquitz), mainly confined to certain north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168) and Apache Peak (Mile 169.5). Snow is currently continuous between Miles 174-192 (north end of Fuller Ridge). Short sections of the Trail will start to clear rapidly in the next few days (e.g., around Strawberry Junction Mile 183). 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 normally permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds, although due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 7500′ remain snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below) but exposed slopes much higher are clearing rapidly. Some sections of trails above about 7000′ have may patchy icy snow cover, depending on exposure.

Spitler Peak Trail is virtually clear of snow, with just a few small thin patches remaining near the PCT. There are ten treefall hazards, most of which remain since last year.

Cedar Spring Trail is clear of snow to the PCT, but still largely snow-covered to the spring.

Apache Spring Trail was about 50% snow-covered this morning but was clearing very rapidly. There are two new treefall hazards.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to the Suicide Rock junction (microspikes not required). From there to Strawberry Junction and north on the PCT to about 8500′ is melting very rapidly. Snowshoes may be useful above about 8500′ and microspikes can be useful for descending.

South Ridge Trail is virtually clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′. Snow cover is currently continuous higher up, but that will change dramatically over the next few days. Microspikes are useful. South Ridge Road (currently closed) is clear of ice.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5). There are tracks to follow through the snow, although these do match the route of the regular trail in many places.

Round Valley Trail through to Wellman Divide has not been visibly traveled since the Tram closure in mid March.

Devil’s Slide Trail [updated 18th April] is clear of snow below 7200′, and is becoming patchy below 7700′. Icy snow cover is currently continuous from there to Saddle Junction. Microspikes can be useful, especially for descending, but are not essential. In three locations there are new significant treefall hazards, caused by sheer weight of heavy wet snow (USFS and PCTA have been notified).

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

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently 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 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 13th-15th April 2020 (with depth on 10th-12th April 2020 in parentheses). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 36″ (was 40″ on 12th April)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 27″ (was 32″ on 12th April)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 33″ (was 35″ on 12th April)

Long Valley (8600′): 8″ (was 16″ on 11th April)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 12″ (was 25″ on 11th April)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 18″ (was 26″ on 11th April)

Spitler Peak Trail at PCT Mile 168.5 (7040′): <1″ (was 10″ on 10th April)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): <2″ (was 14″ on 11th April)

Strawberry Junction (8100′) on 11th April 2020 (above) and for comparison approximately the same view on 7th April 2020 (below).

Snow storm update 10th April 2020

[UPDATE 11th April: I recorded a short video on Deer Springs Trail at the top of Seven Pines Trail late this morning. Snow was deep – for an April storm – on the west side, but I forgot to mention in the video that on the eastern side at similar elevation (Long Valley) there is less than half the depth of snow.]

We just returned from a hike to Humber Park, where current snow depth is 14″ at Devil’s Slide trailhead (6500′). A short video recorded there gives a feel for current conditions.

This protracted, mild, five day storm system feels like it is coming to an end, although it is still snowing off-and-on today, and a few more inches may fall in the next few hours.. We have hiked somewhere on the trail system every day this week, monitoring the changing conditions.

Settled snow level is at about 5000′ elevation, although this relatively warm system has consistently produced rain up to 6000′, and started on 6th/7th April with freezing rain up to 8500′. Consequently snow cover is thin and patchy below about 6000′.

Since Sunday night, Idyllwild (at 5550′) has recorded 2.49″ rain plus 8.0″ snow. Only about 2-4″ remains patchily settled at that elevation as melting has often exceeded snowfall.

Deepest fresh snow accumulation is expected between 6000-9000′, especially on southern and western sides of the mountain range. For most of the past five days, the high country has been above the cloud level, with for example Long Valley (8600′) so far receiving only about 8″ fresh snow (for a total of about 12″).

Hopefully it goes without saying that the entire trail system above about 5500′ elevation is heavily obscured by fresh snowfall. Extremely cautious navigation is required everywhere.

The current closure of the trailheads, status of the trail system, and other important Covid-19 related links are given in the previous Report.

Rapid warming – and melting – is expected starting tomorrow, with sunny days and overnight low temperatures well above freezing at almost all elevations forecast for the next ten days at least.

Saddle Junction (8100′) on 8th April 2020 (above) and the same view for comparison on 6th April 2020 (below).

Trail update 5th April 2020

[UPDATE 8th April: I recorded a short video summary of the current storm situation this morning at Saddle Junction. Current snow depths are 5″ in Idyllwild (plus 2.3″ rain earlier), 8″ at Humber Park, and 14″ at Saddle Junction.]

The extent to which the Covid-19 crisis is impacting hiking in the San Jacinto mountains continues to evolve rapidly. Idyllwild-Pine Cove had its first confirmed case yesterday, with three in nearby Anza. All trailhead parking is now closed (see paragraph i on Page 2 of the Public Health Order now dated April 6th).

Adjacent National Forests such as the Angeles and Cleveland have closed parts of their trail systems, and this may happen here in the San Bernardino NF soon. Mount San Jacinto State Park “remains open for locals…visiting parks near their primary residences”. As trails are now open only to local residents who can walk to access them, the Trail Report will reduce its level of coverage accordingly.

This rapidly evolving situation coincides with the arrival of a potentially dangerous multi-day spring snow storm. The conditions are reminiscent of the May 2005 storm that famously led to the disappearance and subsequent death of PCT hiker John Donovan. PCT hikers who remain anywhere near the San Jacinto mountains are strongly advised to leave the trail and find safe shelter for the duration of this storm. I posted a video discussion of the major snow storm, and some frank and honest suggestions for PCT hikers to safely deal with the conditions, on YouTube a few days ago, which seems to have been well-received. In addition to weather considerations, unequivocal statements by the PCTA and US Forest Service regarding the Covid-19 situation, plus numerous federal, state, and county orders, should give any remaining PCT hikers abundant reason to reconsider their hike at this time.

We have hiked to San Jacinto Peak three of the previous five days, with hikes on the Ramona and South Ridge trails on the intervening days, to assess conditions. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting.

Trail conditions have not significantly changed since the last update available here. Starting tonight this situation will change dramatically however, with substantial snowfall expected everywhere above 6000′ elevation between 6th-9th April.

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

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March). The USFS gate at Humber Park has been closed since 18th March.

WEATHER A dramatic spring snow storm (including an “atmospheric river” event) arrives tonight, and is forecast to last up to four days. Snowfall in Fern Valley (6000′) may be as much as 6-9 inches, with 1-2 feet possible at San Jacinto Peak. Snow may be mixed with periods of rainfall from 5000′-7000′, potentially creating very challenging conditions underfoot in that elevation range. Predictably, this storm will be followed by rapid warming, accompanied by considerable melting, starting on Saturday 11th and extending into the following week.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Sunday 5th April 2020, at 1055 the air temperature was 27.4°F (-3°C), with a windchill of 10.4°F (-12°C), 78% relative humidity, and a sharp SW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 19.8 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 3rd April 2020, at 0850 the air temperature was 30.3°F (-1°C), with a windchill of 19.2°F (-7°C), 32% relative humidity, and a cool WNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 11.9 mph.

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

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 20″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 7″

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 14″

Long Valley (8600′): 2″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (0″)

These signs appeared at several trailheads in the San Jacinto mountains this weekend, this one at Devil’s Slide Trail photographed today 5th April 2020.

Trail update 31st March 2020

[UPDATED 3rd April 2020: a new discussion of the major snow storm expected next week, and some suggestions for PCT hikers to safely deal with the conditions, is available on YouTube. I have also updated some trail information below based on recent hikes.]

We hiked to the Apache Peak area this morning to assess conditions there (discussed below and in the short video available here), and to San Jacinto Peak two of the previous three days. A very light snow storm on Sunday night produced a barely measurable 0.25″ of graupel everywhere above 7000′, which briefly greatly helped traction early yesterday morning.

Otherwise, a cool and very unsettled March is giving way to a warmer April, and it has felt like the snow conditions have almost been changing by the hour on recent hikes. Icy, reliable snow in the early morning can turn to the consistency of warm ice cream by late morning in many areas, depending on exposure, temperature, and cloud cover, which can help or hinder hiking depending on your preference.

Snow depths measured yesterday are listed at the foot of this posting. There has been little hiker traffic in the high country, so cautious navigation is recommended everywhere, although most major trails, including the entire PCT, have reliable tracks to follow through the snow.

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 perhaps in some areas off-trail above about 9500′ elevation, and on the western side in and above Little Round Valley.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering windchill effects.

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway remains closed indefinitely since 12th March (currently until at least 30th April).

The USFS gate at Humber Park has been closed since 18th March. 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 as seen from about PCT Mile 180 at sunrise, 28th March 2020.

WEATHER Warmer – but still below average – temperatures are forecast for the first few days of April, followed by a return to cold weather with a moderate storm system around Monday 6th April, potentially lasting several days. Melting will continue to be rapid this week, especially on sun-exposed slopes and below 9000′ elevation.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) yesterday, Monday 30th March 2020, at 0950 the air temperature was 31.2°F (-0.5°C), with a windchill of 21.0°F (-6°C), 39% relative humidity, and a light NNW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 9.7 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 28th March 2020, at 0910 the air temperature was 21.4°F (-6°C), with a windchill of 8.2°F (-13°C), 41% relative humidity, and a fresh due W wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 11.4 mph.

Pacific Crest Trail at Mile 169.5 this morning, 31st March 2020.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

The short icy snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) that had multiple incidents a few days ago has greatly improved. This morning snow was relatively soft, and steps were large, flat, and well-formed. Most hikers passing through were using spikes, but it was possible to traverse without them securely. Every individual should make their own assessment of whether to cross based on their comfort level on angled snow, their experience, available equipment, time of day, and current snow conditions. If in any doubt, turn around and take the Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

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. All hikers this spring are reporting having no significant difficulty here.

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT for patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 160 and 192, depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions. Many thru-hikers using poles will probably find spikes unnecessary in most areas however. See below for conditions on some specific 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 clear in large patches 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 some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are starting to clear 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 normally permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds, although due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park.

Peak Trail (9800′) just above Wellman Divide on 30th March 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 8000′ remain largely snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation (see below) but exposed slopes much higher are clearing rapidly (e.g., around Wellman’s Cienega). Some sections of trails above about 7000′ have patchy icy snow cover, depending on exposure.

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 an adequate track to follow. From Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak there may be drifting in places after strong winds. Snowshoes may be useful above about 9500′ and microspikes can be useful for descending.

South Ridge Trail [updated 4th April] is completely clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′. Snow cover is patchy (<20%) higher up, and the small patches are easily hiked. Microspikes may be useful but are not required. South Ridge Road is clear of ice.

Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Miles 185.5-190.5) has been clearing, especially on sun-exposed slopes, mainly Miles 186.5-188.5. There are tracks to follow through the snow, although these do match the route of the regular trail in places.

Round Valley Trail through to Wellman Divide has not been visibly traveled since the Tram closure in mid March.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow below 7700′. Icy snow cover is about 50% from there to Saddle Junction. Microspikes can be useful mainly above 7600′, especially for descending, but are not essential.

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

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 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 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 3rd April 2020 (with depth on 31st March 2020 in parentheses). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 22″ (27″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 8″ (12″)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 16″ (18″)

Long Valley (8600′): 3″ (6″)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″ (1″)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 4″ (7″)

Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (0″)

This appeared near the lower trailhead of the Ernie Maxwell Trail over the weekend. The Trail Report does not condone either this form of communication, or with placing graffiti in a natural area. This is an indication however that our small community is getting increasingly frustrated at the number of day hikers visiting from elsewhere especially at weekends.