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.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. Reopening Black Mountain Road has been delayed until at least 5th June for grading work.
Despite warm weather at mid elevations, between 5th-9th June hikers should be prepared for temperatures near freezing at the highest peaks, and possibly below freezing when considering windchill effects.
WEATHER Temperatures remain well above seasonal until Friday 5th June when they drop to, or even slightly 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).
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.
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