Weather and water update 3rd August 2021

Just last week I wrote how encouraging the summer monsoonal rains appeared to be for the first time in about five years, then last Friday 30th July we were treated to a much heavier rainfall (plus hail) associated with an intense thunderstorm right over town. In Idyllwild at 5550ft we recorded 1.89 inches (48mm) of rain, almost all of which fell within about an hour in mid-afternoon. This was the most rain we had recorded in a day in almost two-and-a-half years, since the unprecedented storm of 14th February 2019 when 7.77 inches (197mm) fell in fewer than twenty hours.

Idyllwild was evidently right underneath a major thunderstorm cell on the south side of the mountain, as there was erosion and flooding damage littering many of the town streets, and also on lower Deer Springs Trail. While all of the San Jacinto mountains thankfully received some rain, there was generally less than an inch across the high country judging by minimal erosion on most trails and the continuing low flow of the springs.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations, usually most likely in the afternoons.

Full fire restrictions on Forest Service lands began on 23rd June, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are now prohibited.

Water conditions in the high country remain very poor, despite recent showers. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. While flow can improve briefly immediately after rain storms, the effects of monsoonal events typically only last a few days at most.

Be bear aware. Observations have been infrequent in the past two years, but 1-3 individuals remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. One was seen just east of Saddle Junction in early July, fresh tracks were on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May and dumpsters in nearby Dark Canyon were visited by a bear in July.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. Apparently it may not reopen before October. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened many months ago.

After an absence of about six months, a new summit sign was placed on 1st August. I was happy to see that for the first time in at least a decade the correct name for the Peak was used. Photo 3rd August 2021.

WEATHER A brief heatwave in the first week of the month with temperatures well above average (even for August) is forecast to give way to daytime high temperatures closer to seasonal in the second week of August. Nevertheless overnight low temperatures will continue to be about ten degrees above historical norms every day. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 3rd August 2021 at 0830 the air temperature was 58.2°F (15°C), with a windchill temperature of 52.0°F (11°C), 51% relative humidity, and a gusty ESE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 16.7 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 1st August 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 50.9°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 44.0°F (7°C), 75% relative humidity, and a steady due East wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 13.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph. This the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed at 0745 on 19th August 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees). Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) is now clear.

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

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned (but subtle) trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.5L/min). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (on 12th July the flow was good for filtering, but was the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

The well-known northernmost spring at Wellman’s Cienega, still flowing gently, 1st August 2021.

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

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and also downstream – but much more weakly – where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow well. I rework the tiny pool once or twice every week when I pass by and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry. The tiny pool, just a few inches in diameter, is not adequate for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now functionally dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when dry however there are small but invaluable fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT 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 very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

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 now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

On 29th July 2021 I was again fortunate to assist San Diego Zoo with another reintroduction of the endangered Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frog (Rana muscosa) in the San Jacinto mountains. Above and below, two of the more than one hundred captive-bred individuals released that day.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Weather and water update 28th July 2021

[UPDATE Friday 30th July: major monsoonal thunderstorms this afternoon have produced up to two inches of rain (plus large hail) across the San Jacinto mountains. Obviously the water conditions reported below are not currently relevant. When runoff has subsided, likely within a few days, conditions should revert to “normal”. The next full update to the Report will likely be 3rd August.]

With the monsoons having failed here in the San Jacinto mountains for the past 3-4 years, it is so encouraging to be writing about summer rainstorms for the second week in a row. While the storm cells on Sunday 18th produced only about 0.17in (4mm), the monsoonal system that came through in the morning of Monday 26th July, more than doubled that with 0.42in (10mm) at 5550ft in Idyllwild. While this volume of rain will not change the water conditions on the mountain, and only offers a brief respite from fire risk, we’ll take anything at this point! We had a pleasantly cool, if humid, hike in light drizzle early Monday morning via Devil’s Slide Trail, reaching San Jacinto Peak just as the cloud was breaking up, then descending Deer Springs Trail. Water sources were of course flowing a little better following the rain, but this will likely last only a day or two. As last week, it was delightful to have the dust dampened down and to smell a wet forest.

Daily survey hikes continue to include San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week, plus Tahquitz Peak weekly, both by a variety of routes facilitating regular checks of water sources. Recent trail maintenance work (alongside Forest Service volunteer Bill Rhoads) has focused on the PCT just north of Saddle Junction.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, ordinarily most common in the afternoon, are a possibility most days for the remainder of July at least. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions on Forest Service lands began on 23rd June, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are now prohibited.

Water conditions in the high country are very poor and deteriorating, despite recent showers. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. Notably creeks in Little Round Valley and Skunk Cabbage Meadow are now dry.

Be bear aware. Observations have been infrequent in the past two years, but 1-3 individuals remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. One was seen just east of Saddle Junction in early July, and fresh tracks were on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. Apparently it may not reopen until October. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened many months ago.

WEATHER The brief cooling of the past couple of days will not last, and daytime high temperatures will be at or above seasonal averages for the remainder of July, before another heating trend in the first week of August. Overnight low temperatures continue to be up to ten degrees above seasonal every day. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast (although minor monsoonal rains are a possibility as discussed above). Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 26th July 2021 at 1040 the air temperature was 45.9°F (8°C), with a windchill temperature of 37.2°F (3°C), 94% relative humidity, and a moderate SSW wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 14.3 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 24th July 2021 at 0715 the air temperature was 51.8°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.6°F (9°C), 75% relative humidity, and a light SSE wind sustained at 3 mph gusting to 7.6 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph. This the highest air temperature ever reliably recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed at 0745 on 19th August 2020.

Parish’s Catchfly (Silene parishii) at 10,700ft elevation on San Jacinto Peak. This species, endemic to the mountains of Southern California, is flowering about two months earlier at this elevation than in 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees). Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) is now clear.

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

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (other hikers kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned (but subtle) trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

Multi-layer clouds just after rain, looking south-south-easr from San Jacinto Peak, 26th July 2021. Jean Peak is to the right.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.5L/min). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (on 12th July the flow was good for filtering, but was the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

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

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and also downstream – but much more weakly – where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is very poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow well. I rework the tiny pool every week and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry. The tiny pool, just a few inches in diameter, is not adequate for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

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

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT 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 very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

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 now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Tahquitz Peak (in the cloud to the left) looking south from the PCT, early morning on 26th July 2021. The cloudbase at about 8700ft lifted to 11,000ft within two hours.

Water and weather update 21st July 2021

Daily survey hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week, plus Tahquitz Peak weekly, both by a variety of routes facilitating regular checks of water sources. Recent trail maintenance work (alongside Forest Service volunteer Bill Rhoads) has focused on the PCT just north of Saddle Junction.

Impressive early morning thunderstorms passed over us on Sunday 18th, largely to the south then west of Idyllwild. We had only 0.10in of rain in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) in that storm and from the condition of trails in the high country on 19th it was clear that there had been similarly little rain up there. We had a delightful early morning hike up South Ridge to Tahquitz Peak on 18th, initially in the warm rain, and it was so pleasant to have the dust dampened down and to smell a wet forest for the first time in months.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, most often in the afternoons, are a possibility most days for the foreseeable future, especially 25th-26th July. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions on Forest Service lands began on 23rd June, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are now prohibited. USFS enforcement has been effective, with multiple substantial fines apparently issued last week to violators along South Ridge Road.

Water conditions in the high country are very poor and deteriorating. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. Notably creeks in Little Round Valley and Skunk Cabbage Meadow are now dry.

Be bear aware. Observations have been infrequent in the past two years, but 1-3 individuals remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. One was seen just east of Saddle Junction in early July, and fresh tracks were on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. Apparently it may not reopen until October. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened many months ago.

An early morning thunderstorm passing to the north-west of Pine Cove, as seen from South Ridge Trail just below Tahquitz Peak, 18th July 2021.

WEATHER Daytime high temperatures will fluctuate around seasonal averages for the next week, but with overnight lows continuing to be some several degrees above seasonal. There is a chance of light rainfall associated with thunderstorms at all elevations on 26th July. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 19th July 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 53.2°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.7°F (10°C), 86% relative humidity, and a very light ESE breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 6.7 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 16th July 2021 at 0750 the air temperature was 56.6°F (14°C), with a windchill temperature of 53.6°F (12°C), 53% relative humidity, and a very light SSE breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 6.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph. This the highest air temperature recorded at San Jacinto Peak, shattering the previous record temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed at 0745 on 19th August 2020.

It was a rare sticky summer morning at San Jacinto Peak on 19th July with relative humidity close to 90%. The cumulus cloudbase was at 11,000ft. The view looking WNW with Black Mountain on the far left.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows for the time of year, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees). Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) is now clear.

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

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws Camp area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some other local hikers have kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail”). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned (but subtle) trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my recent survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.5L/min). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Round Valley pipe flowing gently, 12th July 2021.

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (on 12th July the flow was good for filtering, but was the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

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

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing steadily where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and also downstream – but much more weakly – where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Recently dried creekbed in Little Round Valley, 19th July 2021.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing extremely weakly and is very poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is flowing. I rework the tiny pool every week and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry. The tiny pool, just a few inches in diameter, is not adequate for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now functionally dry. All other springs on this trail are dry.

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

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT 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 very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

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 now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Lemon Lily (Lilium parryi) flowering in a San Jacinto mountains meadow, 16th July 2021.

Water and weather update 14th July 2021

Daily survey hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week, allowing for regular checks of water sources, for example on 12th descending via Round Valley, the High Trail, and Willow Creek Trail.

The astonishing air temperature I recorded at San Jacinto Peak on Monday 12th July, 67.6°F (19.8°C) at 0810, shattered the previous record Peak temperature of 62.3°F (16.8°C) observed at 0745 on 19th August 2020. I have rarely recorded high temperatures at or just above 60°F at the Peak (three times in summer 2018, but not once in 2019), but now 70 degrees seems to be a possibility. In over 500 early morning ascents of Devil’s Slide Trail, I have never known it to be so warm as on 12th, close to 80°F at Humber Park pre-dawn at 0515.

While temperatures will drop for the next few days, they will remain at or above seasonal averages (overnight lows especially tending to be high), so plan your hiking accordingly for hot, very dry conditions. There have been multiple heat-related rescues on Skyline Trail in recent weeks, and only hikers who are extremely familiar with that trail in these conditions should even be considering attempting it in summer.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a possibility for the foreseeable future, especially 18th-23rd July. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Full fire restrictions on Forest Service lands began on 23rd June, as described here. All campfires at USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites in the San Jacinto mountains are now prohibited.

Water conditions in the high country are poor and deteriorating. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. The creek in Little Round Valley is now functionally dry. Even the relatively major Antsell Rock Creek has dried up at Apple Canyon Road adjacent to the Spitler Peak trailhead.

Be bear aware. Observations have been infrequent in the past two years, but 1-3 individuals remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. One was seen just east of Saddle Junction last week, and very fresh tracks were on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It may reopen later this month. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

WEATHER Daytime high temperatures will drop to near seasonal averages on 14th-18th, although with overnight lows tending to remain as much as 10°F above seasonal. Temperatures are forecast to again be above average next week. There is no significant widespread precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 12th July 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 67.6°F (19.8°C), with a “windchill” temperature of 67.2°F (19.6°C), 38% relative humidity, and a very light NNE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph, with visibility very limited by haze/smoke.

At the Peak on Tuesday 6th July 2021 at 0825 the air temperature was 56.5°F (14°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.9°F (10°C), 31% relative humidity, and a stiff due East wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 17.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late autumn, as discussed in detail below.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees). Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards in early July.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) has been completely cleared.

Willow Creek Trail has 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite so much work last year, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, especially on the State Park section, but nevertheless remains much less challenging than in 2019.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned (but subtle) trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my recent survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.5L/min). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Round Valley pipe flowing gently, 12th July 2021.

Hidden Lake dried completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing, but very weakly, where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Willow Creek, where it crosses the trail of the same name, 12th July 2021. This is the lowest flow I have ever seen in Willow Creek, but it remains invaluable for filtering.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily 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 at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 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 very gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley has stopped flowing, there are tiny pools for about 20 feet, and it dries up long before leaving the Valley. It is currently very marginal for filtering at best. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is very poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is flowing. I rework the tiny pool every week and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is almost dry. The tiny pool, just a few inches in diameter, is not adequate for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June).

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now functionally dry. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are tiny fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is a critical source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail.

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT 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 very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Spitler Creek continues to flow gently in the upper switchbacks of Spitler Peak Trail, 5th July 2021.

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 now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs (Rana muscosa), 8th July 2021. These individuals, photographed after their release into the wild, are part of a reintroduction project in the San Jacinto mountains managed by San Diego Zoo, with which I was kindly invited to assist. Note how individuals can adjust their coloration to match the substrate.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Water and trail update 7th July 2021

Daily survey hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week, plus in recent days Spitler Peak Trail, South Ridge Trail (several times), Laws/Caramba area, South Fork Wilderness Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex. Recent trail maintenance has focused on several of the trails mentioned above.

Full fire restrictions began on Wednesday 23rd June on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires at USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites in the San Jacinto mountains are now prohibited.

Temperatures for the foreseeable future will be largely well above seasonal averages, so plan your hiking accordingly for very hot, very dry conditions.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a slim possibility for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Water conditions in the high country are poor and deteriorating. Hot, dry weather for many weeks has not helped the situation. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described in detail below. The creek in Little Round Valley was almost dry on 6th July. On 5th July I was surprised to find that Antsell Rock Creek has dried up at Apple Canyon Road adjacent to the Spitler Peak trailhead.

Be bear aware. Although sightings have been infrequent in the past two years, one was reported on Willow Creek Trail at 0745 on 3rd July just east of Saddle Junction (per David English). The size and colour reported suggest this may be a third individual, different from the “Rite Aid” bear and “Blondie” who both appeared in 2017 (see my video of the latter in Idyllwild in 2018). The Trail Report last reported very fresh tracks on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May (see this earlier Report for photo).

Mountain Lions are thankfully always common and widespread locally. One of my camera traps in the San Jacinto mountains near Idyllwild obtained great daylight video of an adult female on 24th June.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is readily passable with care by hikers (but still not by stock).

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It may reopen later this month. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and are usually available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

WEATHER Temperatures overall will be above seasonal averages for the foreseeable future, with overnight lows in particular tending to be far above seasonal. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 6th July 2021 at 0825 the air temperature was 56.5°F (14°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.9°F (10°C), 31% relative humidity, and a stiff due East wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 17.4 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 1st July 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 52.3°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.6°F (9°C), 48% relative humidity, and a light due West wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.0 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late autumn, as discussed in detail below.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees). Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards in early July.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June. Nevertheless about 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz ( PCT Miles 175-177) has been completely cleared.

Willow Creek Trail has 14 downed trees on its Forest Service section (including a couple of new ones in high winds in June), with a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. This was reported to USFS in April. There are half-a-dozen additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly nicknamed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned (but subtle) trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile, reaching Willow Creek just upstream of the former site of Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws where there are dozens of trees down. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Very cautious navigation is recommended throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my recent survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The creek in Little Round Valley, sadly reduced to a few feet of tiny pools, 6th July 2021. It will be completely dry within a couple of weeks.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing weakly (at about 0.5L/min on 28th June). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing, but relatively weakly, where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily 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 at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried some four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley has stopped flowing, there are tiny pools for about 20 feet, and it dries up long before leaving the Valley (see photo above). It is currently very marginal for filtering, and will completely dry in July. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is very poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is flowing. I rework the tiny pool every week and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is almost dry. The tiny pool is barely sufficient for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filter 0.25L in late June).

Strawberry Cienega, 24th June 2021. The tiny pool (lower left) was barely two inches deep, and about six inches across, and should not be relied upon for filtering.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now almost dry. Other springs on this trail are dry.

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

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring, about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road, continues to flow well.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT 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 very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Spitler Creek continues to flow gently in the upper switchbacks of Spitler Peak Trail, 5th July 2021.

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 now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Spectacular cumulus and altocumulus clouds as seen from Old Lookout Flat (7600ft) on South Ridge Trail, early morning 29th June 2021. Looking east (above), and west (below).

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail update 1st July 2021

Daily hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week by a variety of routes, plus in recent days South Ridge Trail, Laws/Caramba area, South Fork Wilderness Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex.

Recently I have focused on vegetation trimming along several major trail sections, notably South Ridge Trail, upper Deer Springs Trail, the “Strawberry Trail” (PCT from Annie’s Junction to Strawberry Junction, Miles 181-183), Spitler Peak Trail, and the South Fork Wilderness Trail, the latter with the help of Forest Service volunteer Bill Rhoads.

Full fire restrictions began on Wednesday 23rd June on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires at USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites in the San Jacinto mountains are now prohibited.

Relatively cool, cloudy weather with minor precipitation (0.02in in Idyllwild at 5550ft) was a pleasant relief last week on 23rd and 24th June. Temperatures for the foreseeable future will be above seasonal averages, so plan your hiking accordingly for hot, dry conditions.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a slim possibility for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate. Recent hot, dry weather has not helped the situation. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described in detail in the previous Report.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here, and has been surprisingly popular (likely because it is short and stuff blows up!). The project was a success, making this section of the PCT significantly safer, and it is now readily passable with care by hikers (but it remains impassable for stock).

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It is not expected to reopen before late July. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and are usually available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

WEATHER Temperatures overall will be at or above seasonal averages for the foreseeable future, with overnight lows in particular tending to be well above seasonal. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 1st July 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 52.3°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.6°F (9°C), 48% relative humidity, and a light due West wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.0 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 28th June 2021 at 0655 the air temperature was 58.8°F (15°C), with a windchill temperature of 54.7°F (13°C), 43% relative humidity, and a light due North wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 8.4 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 24th June 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 44.0°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.7°F (2°C), 96% relative humidity, and a fresh SSW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.3 mph.

South Fork of the San Jacinto River at 3650ft elevation where it intersects the South Fork Wilderness Trail, 25th June 2021. The riverbed was altered dramatically by the great flood event of 14th February 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late autumn. Conditions have not changed significantly since the previous Report.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

Excellent work by an ACE crew in anticipation of the rockslide blasting earlier in June resulted in the clearing of many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175). Nevertheless about 20 hazards remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. USFS volunteers had previously cleared all treefall hazards from Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 14 downed trees on its Forest Service section (including a couple of new ones in recent high winds), with a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been made aware of the problem. There are half-a-dozen additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 24th June 2021

We have been able to maintain daily hikes despite the heat, including San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week by a variety of routes, and usually Tahquitz Peak once a week. Other trails surveyed in recent days have included most of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains, South Ridge Trail, Laws/Caramba area, Willow Creek Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex several times.

Full fire restrictions come into force on Wednesday 23rd June on Forest Service lands, as described in this press release. All campfires at USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites in the San Jacinto mountains are now prohibited.

Temperatures this week will feel pleasantly cool compared to last week. Another heatwave, shorter and less severe than last week, arrives Saturday 26th June, potentially continuing until about 1st July. June 2021 is on pace to set a record for number of days >90°F recorded in June in Idyllwild history. Two hiker fatalities due to heat-related problems in the adjacent Santa Rosa mountains in recent days, including one just south of Highway 74 near PCT Mile 145, highlight the considerable risks of hiking in such weather. If you plan on hiking from 26th June onwards, please pay particular attention to forecasts and plan accordingly for very hot, very dry conditions.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a slim possibility for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here, and has been surprisingly popular (likely because it is short and stuff blows up!). The project was a success, making this section of the PCT significantly safer, and it is now readily passable with care by hikers (but it remains impassable for stock).

Water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate. The recent weather will not help the situation. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

Be rattlesnake aware. Although in general it appears to be a very poor year for them, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on multiple trails at elevations up to near 9000ft.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It is not expected to reopen until July. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain around average until Saturday 26th, when they are forecast to rise to well above seasonal (especially overnight lows), accompanied by low humidity. There is currently no significant precipitation in the forecast (although monsoonal storms are a possibility in the first few days of July). Fire risk is severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 22nd June 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 49.3°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.3°F (5°C), 44% relative humidity, and a cool WSW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 22.8 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 16th June 2021 at 0700 the air temperature was 60.9°F (16°C), with a windchill temperature of 56.3°F (8°C), 26% relative humidity, and a pleasantly fresh NE wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow in early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of autumn.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

Excellent work by an ACE crew in anticipation of the rockslide blasting last week resulted in the clearing of many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175). Nevertheless about 20 hazards remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. USFS volunteers had previously cleared all treefall hazards from Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 14 downed trees on its Forest Service section (including two new ones in recent high winds), with a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified. There are half-a-dozen additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing, but weakly (at about 0.5L/min in late June). This source may not be reliable throughout the summer. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing relatively weakly where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily 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 at approx. Mile 177.

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 14th June 2021.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly for only about fifty feet [updated 1st July] and dries up before leaving the Valley. It is currently marginal for filtering. There is unlikely to be water in LRV beyond July. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is very poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is now dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6).

The tiny, but perennial,

spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is trickling. I rework the tiny pool every week and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is almost dry. The tiny pool is barely sufficient for filtering (I nearly drained it dry trying to filer 0.25L in late June).

Strawberry Cienega, 24th June 2021. The tiny pool (lower left) was barely two inches deep, and about six inches across, and should not be relied upon for filtering.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely trickling. Other springs on this trail are dry.

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

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring, about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road, continues to flowing well.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT 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 gently). 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 steadily. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

New fire ring (above) in Little Round Valley, not much over 100 feet from rather clear signage (below) indicating campfires are not permitted there (or indeed anywhere else in the State Park). Photographed 22nd June 2021. I destroyed the fire ring to discourage anyone else from having the same idea.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Rockslide and water update 17th June 2021

Temperatures this week will continue to be exceptional for June in the San Jacinto mountains. Tuesday 15th set a record high temperature for that date in Idyllwild (99°F), while 120°F in Palm Springs broke the daily record by four degrees (both locations passing records set in a heatwave in June 1961). If you plan on hiking prior to 21st, please pay particular attention to forecasts and plan accordingly for very hot, very dry conditions.

The major trail news this week is the removal on Monday 14th June of the rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock. I have before, during (!), and after video available here. The blasting was a success, making this section of the PCT significantly safer, and thank you to USFS for inviting the Trail Report to assist with the project. The trail tread was improved both before and after the blasting by an American Conservation Experience (ACE) volunteer crew, and is now passable with care by hikers (but remains too narrow for stock).

Water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate rapidly. This week’s weather will not help the situation. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on multiple trails at elevations up to near 9000ft.

Mountain Lions are thankfully always common and widespread locally. One of my camera traps in the San Jacinto mountains near Idyllwild obtained excellent footage of a healthy adult passing by on 22nd May and again on 5th June 2021.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It is not expected to reopen before late July. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Wildflower array along the PCT at South Peak, 14th June 2021.

WEATHER Temperatures will be far above normal (especially overnight lows), and potentially dangerous, until Sunday 20th, accompanied by low humidity. Temperatures return to near seasonal averages starting Monday 21st June. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk is severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 16th June 2021 at 0700 the air temperature was 60.9°F (16°C), with a windchill temperature of 56.3°F (8°C), 26% relative humidity, and a pleasantly fresh NE wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 7th June 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 49.4°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 43.3°F (6°C), 28% relative humidity, and a brisk SSW breeze sustained at 6 mph gusting to 11.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow in early May. Water conditions are a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of autumn.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

Excellent work by the ACE crew in anticipation of the rockslide blasting resulted in the clearing of many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175). Nevertheless about 20 hazards remain, including at least seven major obstructions for hikers. USFS volunteers had previously cleared all treefall hazards from Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 12 downed trees on its Forest Service section, including a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified. There are several additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead, although the road is expected to reopen soon.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (in 2020 neither dried until August).

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily 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 at approx. Mile 177.

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 14th June 2021.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020. However about 100 yards upstream there is a little surface flow with pools just about suitable for filtering.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly for only a few hundred feet and dries up before leaving the Valley. It is currently marginal for filtering. There is unlikely to be water in LRV beyond June this year. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is now flowing very weakly but remains adequate for filtering.

The tiny spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is trickling. I reworked the tiny pool and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

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

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

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

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring, about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road, was flowing well last week.

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 about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT 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 gently). 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 steadily. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Weather and water update 10th June 2021

UPDATED 13th June: the 400 acre Flats Fire started late this morning just south of the Sugarloaf Cafe in the Pinyon area. Highway 74 is closed between Garner Valley (Hwy 371 junction) and Palm Desert. More information available here.

An ACE trail crew is working 10th-16th June on the northern Desert Divide (mainly PCT Miles 172-176). The PCT will be completely closed for critical maintenance work all day Monday 14th June between Spitler Peak Trail (Mile 168.5) and Tahquitz Creek (Mile 177). In general, hikers should expect significant delays and possible trail closures between about Apache Peak and Red Tahquitz for the next several days at least.

My daily hikes, largely surveying water resources, usually include San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week. The focus recently has transitioned to trail maintenance, fire lookout duties, and wilderness ranger patrol (a.k.a. trash pick up).

Temperatures next week are forecast to be exceptionally high in the San Jacinto mountains, near or above the records for mid June set in a heatwave in 1961. Next week’s weather is discussed in detail in this NWS San Diego video. If you are planning on hiking on 14th-20th, please pay particular attention to forecasts and plan accordingly for extremely hot, dry conditions.

Water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate rapidly. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below. Notable changes this week include Deer Springs crossing on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail which is now dry. Water flowing in Little Round Valley creek is down to only about 200ft. This will dry up in the next few weeks. The San Jacinto high country has been clear of snow since early May.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have been seen on multiple trails at elevations up to near 9000ft.

Be bear aware. Although reports have been very infrequent in the past two years, at least one Black Bear remains in the San Jacinto mountains. We found very fresh tracks on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May (see this previous Report for photo).

Mountain Lions are thankfully always common and widespread locally. One of my camera traps in the San Jacinto mountains near Idyllwild obtained excellent footage of a healthy adult passing by on 22nd May and again on 5th June 2021.

Fresh print of a relatively small (yearling?) Mountain Lion in trail at Wellman’s Cienega, 7th June 2021. The knife is 3.6″ long for scale.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It is not expected to reopen before mid July. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May. Visitors are currently unable to access fire lookouts when manned due to USFS coronavirus protocols.

WEATHER Temperatures are – pleasantly, and unusually – currently below seasonal averages, before swinging dramatically to far above normal after Saturday 12th. Temperatures on at least 14th-19th June will be well above midsummer highs, accompanied by low humidity. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk is severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 7th June 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 49.4°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 43.3°F (6°C), 28% relative humidity, and a brisk SSW breeze sustained at 6 mph gusting to 11.8 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 1st June 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 52.1°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.1°F (8°C), 41% relative humidity, and a light NE breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.6 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are clear of snow. Water conditions are a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of autumn.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT from Tahquitz Creek to the rockslide (PCT Miles 172.5-177, about 60 trees down), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

In addition to the trail crew on the PCT section Miles 172-175 mentioned above,, USFS volunteers are currently working on clearing treefall hazards between Red Tahquitz and Tahquitz Creek (PCT Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 12 downed trees on its Forest Service section, including a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified. There are several additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead, although the road is expected to reopen soon.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (in 2020 neither dried until August).

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily 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 at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020. However about 100 yards upstream there is a little surface flow with pools just about suitable for filtering.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly for only a few hundred feet and dries up before leaving the Valley. It is currently marginal for filtering. There is unlikely to be water in LRV beyond June this year. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is now flowing very weakly but remains adequate for filtering.

The tiny spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is trickling. I reworked the tiny pool and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

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

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

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

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring, about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road, was flowing well last week.

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 about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

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

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT 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 gently). 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 steadily. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Water and trail update 3rd June 2021

Daily hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week and typically Tahquitz Peak once a week, both by a variety of routes. Additional trails surveyed in the last few days have included Spitler Peak Trail, Laws area, Willow Creek Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex.

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country have been clear of snow since early May. Water conditions in the high country are deteriorating rapidly, and are reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2015 and 2016. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have already been seen on multiple trails at elevations up to near 9000ft.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake at about 4900ft near Spitler Peak Trail, 30th May 2021. Compared to higher elevation individuals, this SPR is mainly dark brown (not blackish) with buff markings (not white or pale grey). At this elevation the snake’s venom was likely haemotoxic rather than neurotoxic (the latter is normal higher up), but I decided not to personally test that hypothesis.

Be bear aware. Although reports have been very infrequent in the past two years, at least one Black Bear remains in the San Jacinto mountains. We found very fresh tracks on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May (see previous Report for photo).

Mountain Lions are of course always common and widespread locally. One of my camera traps in the San Jacinto mountains near Idyllwild obtained excellent footage of a healthy adult (probably female?) on 22nd May, available here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. It is not expected to reopen before July. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds.

Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May. Visitors are currently unable to access fire lookouts when manned due to USFS coronavirus protocols.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be above seasonal averages in the first week of June (especially overnight lows). A significant cooling trend starts Sunday 6th for several days. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk is very high.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 1st June 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 52.1°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.1°F (8°C), 41% relative humidity, and a light NE breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.6 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 26th May 2021 at 0720 the air temperature was 38.7°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.6°F (-2°C), 32% relative humidity, and a moderate WSW breeze sustained at 7 mph gusting to 13.2 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 22nd May 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 18.8°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.8°F (-15°C), 47% relative humidity, and a fresh West breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are clear of snow. Water conditions are a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late summer or autumn at best.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT from Tahquitz Creek to the rockslide (PCT Miles 172.5-177, about 60 trees down), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

A trail crew is scheduled to work on the PCT section Miles 173-175 starting later this month. USFS volunteers are currently working on clearing treefall hazards between Red Tahquitz and Tahquitz Creek (PCT Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 12 downed trees on its Forest Service section, including a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. PCT Miles 191-207) reopened on 3rd April 2021. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the roughly 17 mile section.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are misleading. However the rope is ageing and if you choose to use it you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are no imminent plans to close this section of the PCT for rock removal work. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

The State Park reminds all hikers that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (in 2020 neither dried until August).

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily 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 at approx. Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020. However about 100 yards upstream there is a little surface flow with pools just about suitable for filtering.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly for only a few hundred feet and dries up before leaving the Valley. It is currently marginal for filtering. There is unlikely to be water in LRV beyond June this year. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is poor for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is now flowing very weakly but remains adequate for filtering.

The tiny spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) is trickling. I reworked the tiny pool and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

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

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

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

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring, about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road, was flowing well last week.

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 about 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

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

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT 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 gently). 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 steadily. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 27th May 2021

Daily hikes have included San Jacinto Peak 2-3 times per week and Tahquitz Peak once a week, both by a variety of routes. Additional trails surveyed in the past week have included Seven Pines Trail, Laws area and lower Caramba Trail, Willow Creek Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex.

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country have been clear of snow since early May. Water conditions in the high country are already worryingly reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2015 and 2016. The status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have already been seen on multiple trails at elevations close to 9000ft.

Be bear aware. Although reports have been very infrequent in the past two years, at least one Black Bear remains in the San Jacinto mountains. We found very fresh tracks on lower Seven Pines Trail on 22nd May.

Fresh hindfoot print of a Black Bear descending lower Seven Pines Trail, early morning of 22nd May 2021. The knife is 3.6 inches long for scale.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. It is not expected to reopen before July. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May (having been closed for two years due to maintenance issues) along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds.

Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopens for the season on Sunday 30th May. Note that visitors are currently unable to access fire lookouts when manned due to coronavirus protocols.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be above seasonal averages into early June, with some days well above seasonal (especially overnight lows). The first week of June is forecast to have weather more typical of July-August. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk is high.

A brief but dramatic cooling on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd May provided a reminder of how quickly conditions can change in the mountains. The cooling was accompanied by strong westerly winds, with windchill temperatures far below freezing in the high country.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 26th May 2021 at 0720 the air temperature was 38.7°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.6°F (-2°C), 32% relative humidity, and a moderate WSW breeze sustained at 7 mph gusting to 13.2 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 22nd May 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 18.8°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.8°F (-15°C), 47% relative humidity, and a fresh West breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.8 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 21st May 2021 at 0830 the air temperature was 13.4°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -11.0°F (-24°C), 68% relative humidity, and a frigid due West wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 30.1 mph.

Not exactly a winter wonderland, but thick rime plastered the upper western slope in the early morning of 22nd May 2021. Photo taken at 9600ft just below Little Round Valley.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are clear of snow. Regrettably water conditions are already becoming a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late summer at best.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT from Tahquitz Creek to the rockslide (PCT Miles 172.5-177, about 60 trees down), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees). A trail crew is scheduled to work on the PCT section Miles 173-175 starting in June.

Willow Creek Trail has 12 downed trees on its Forest Service section, including a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. PCT Miles 191-207) reopened on 3rd April 2021. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the roughly 17 mile section.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are misleading. However the rope is ageing and if you choose to use it you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are no imminent plans to close this section of the PCT for rock removal work. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

The State Park reminds all hikers that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

A challenging downed tree hazard across Willow Creek Trail just west of the Willow Creek crossing, 21st May 2021.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (last year neither dried until August).

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily 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 at approx. PCT Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020. However about 100 yards upstream there is some flow, with pools suitable for filtering.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly for only a few hundred feet and dries up before leaving the Valley. There will not be water in LRV beyond June this year. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

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

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

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling. I reworked the tiny pool and there is just adequate depth from which to filter water.

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

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

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is already dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is 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 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

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

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

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

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Seven Pines Trail, 22nd May 2021. I estimate flow is about 25-35% compared to the same time last year, when water was flowing over the rocks in the foreground.

Trail and water update 20th May 2021

Daily hikes have allowed for continued assessment of water and trail conditions, including San Jacinto Peak most recently on 18th May ascending via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails, and descending via Deer Springs Trail. On Sunday 16th May we enjoyed an early morning hike out to Caramba, returning off-trail directly up the Tahquitz Creek drainage. For the second time in just five days we found fresh Mountain Lion tracks on the way down to Laws.

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are now clear of snow. Water conditions in the high country are already worryingly reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2015 and 2016. The status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

The live fuel moisture content of our forest is reportedly already – in May – some 10% below the level required for ignition. A long and challenging fire season appears to be inevitable.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have already been seen on multiple trails at higher elevations than is typical for this early in the summer, despite cooler weather in recent days. For example one was sunning itself in the PCT close to Strawberry Cienega near 8400ft as early as 0915 on Sunday 16th May before cooling cloud cover rolled in (thanks to Robert Schy for that observation).

Despite generally warm weather hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country on 21st-23rd May (well below freezing when considering wind chill effects).

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. It is not expected to reopen before late June. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April. With virtually no rainfall this winter, the grading undertaken last year through to the Fuller Ridge campground has held up well. It is anticipated that Boulder Basin campground will reopen on 22nd May, along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds.

WEATHER Although temperatures are forecast to largely remain at or above seasonal averages (especially the overnight lows), another brief but significant cooling is expected for Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd. Windchill temperatures in the high country will be far below freezing on 21st and 22nd. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk is high.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 18th May 2021 at 0800 the air temperature was 43.8°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 36.9°F (3°C), 53% relative humidity, and a steady NW breeze sustained at 6 mph gusting to 9.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are clear of snow and spikes are no longer required. Regrettably water conditions are already becoming a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late summer at best.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT from Tahquitz Creek to the rockslide (PCT Miles 172.5-177, about 60 trees down), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees), and Skunk Cabbage Meadow trail (one large tree down).

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat (PCT Mile 178) is clear of snow and no longer requires spikes between the PCT and Tahquitz Peak.

The East Ridge Trail on the east flank of San Jacinto Peak is essentially clear, with just a few tiny snow patches remaining.

Willow Creek Trail has 12 downed trees on its Forest Service section, including a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been notified.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had minimal hiker traffic since November 2018. There are over 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple recent surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not completely familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. PCT Miles 191-207) reopened on 3rd April 2021. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the roughly 17 mile section.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are misleading. However the rope is ageing and if you choose to use it you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are no imminent plans to close this section of the PCT for rock removal work. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

The State Park reminds PCT hikers that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

Beautiful falls on a remote section of Tahquitz Creek below its confluence with Willow Creek, 16th May 2021.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley are already dry (last year neither dried until August).

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily 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 at approx. PCT Mile 177.

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry where it crosses the trail, four months earlier than in 2020. However about 100 yards upstream there is some flow, with pools suitable for filtering.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing weakly for only a few hundred feet and dries up before leaving the Valley. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

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

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

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling, but there is barely adequate depth from which to filter water.

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

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

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is already dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is 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 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

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

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

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

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 13th May 2021

Daily hikes, including San Jacinto Peak most recently on 6th and 10th May by different routes, have allowed for thorough surveys of water sources and trail conditions. Other hikes in the past few days have included much of the PCT locally plus Willow Creek Trail, the Laws and Caramba areas (twice), and Tahquitz Peak.

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are now functionally clear of snow and spikes are no longer required (a handful of very minor snow patches remain on trails above 9000ft). Off-trail travel in some areas (e.g. northerly slopes of Jean Peak and Marion Mountain) will still encounter more extensive shallow snow cover.

Drying of ephemeral creeks and springs has been early and rapid, and water conditions in the high country are already worryingly reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2015 and 2016. The status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

I found collections of firewood near San Jacinto Peak and in Little Round Valley on 6th May, and fire rings in the Laws area on 9th and at Tahquitz Peak on 12th. With so many human-caused fires in southern California in recent years, it is beyond discouraging that some hikers evidently need to be reminded that campfires are completely prohibited in wilderness at all times.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have already been seen on multiple trails up to about 7000ft this summer, several weeks earlier than they usually emerge at these elevations.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. It is not expected to reopen before late June. Hiking and camping permits are required for USFS lands, and are available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April. With virtually no rainfall this winter, the grading undertaken last year through to the Fuller Ridge campground has held up well. It is anticipated that Boulder Basin campground (currently closed) will reopen on 22nd May, along with other USFS campgrounds.

WEATHER Temperatures will be above average until Saturday 15th May, when a pleasantly cool weekend is predicted (notably on Sunday 16th). Temperatures then return to above seasonal (especially the overnight lows) from Monday 17th. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk is high.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 10th May 2021 at 0850 the air temperature was 41.4°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 35.1°F (2°C), 35% relative humidity, and a very light SW breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 6.9 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 6th May 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 41.4°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.2°F (-2°C), 39% relative humidity, and a stiff SSE wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 29.6 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are essentially clear of snow and spikes are no longer required. Regrettably water conditions are already becoming a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late summer at best.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT from Tahquitz Creek to the rockslide (PCT Miles 172.5-177, about 60 trees down), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat (PCT Mile 178) is clear of snow and no longer requires spikes between the PCT and Tahquitz Peak.

Deer Springs Trail is essentially completely clear of snow to San Jacinto Peak. Snow cover is 20% in Little Round Valley but the trail route itself is virtually clear.

The East Ridge Trail on the east flank of San Jacinto Peak remains about 30% snow-covered. There are sufficient cleared areas between snow patches that it is almost possible to ascend from near Miller Peak without having to cross any snow.

Willow Creek Trail has 12 downed trees on its Forest Service section, including a couple of large, heavily-branched challenges. USFS has been notified.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality significant parts of these trails no longer exist; sections of both are so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first mile east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had minimal hiker traffic since November 2018. There are over 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple recent surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not completely familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. PCT Miles 191-207) reopened on 3rd April 2021. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the 16+ mile section.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are misleading. However the rope is ageing and if you choose to use it you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are currently no imminent plans to close this section of the PCT for rock removal work. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

The State Park reminds PCT hikers that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Flow has periodically been redirected to the work camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe. The nearby Round Valley creek is already dry (it didn’t dry until August last year). The small creek in Tamarack Valley is also dry already.

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily 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 at approx. PCT Mile 177. The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry, four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing for only a few hundred feet and dries up before leaving the Valley. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

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

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

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling, but there is barely adequate depth from which to filter water.

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

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

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is already dry where it crosses the trail. However, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is 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 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

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

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

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

Stone Creek where it crosses Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT Mile 183.7), 10th May 2021. What would typically be a briskly flowing creek at this time of year is instead little more than a stagnating puddle.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail update 6th May 2021

Intensive trail surveys have continued daily, including San Jacinto Peak most recently on 3rd and 6th May by different routes. Other hikes in the past few days have included much of the PCT locally plus some side trails (Willow Creek Trail, Zen Center Trail, South Ridge Trail, Tahquitz Peak area). An early morning hike to the Laws Camp area on 4th was rewarded with a beautifully lit, protracted view of a large adult Mountain Lion. This was my tenth (and best) lion sighting in just the past 20 months in the San Jacinto mountains.

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are almost entirely clear of snow and spikes are generally not required. There are some exceptions discussed below. As expected, the very light dusting of snow from 26th and 27th April completely melted within a couple of days. What little snow remains (from storms earlier in the winter) is now so patchy that snow depth measurements are no longer meaningful and they have been omitted from this report.

Drying of ephemeral creeks and springs has continued steadily, and water conditions in the high country are already worryingly reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2015 and 2016.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake at 6300ft near Deer Springs Trail shortly before noon on 3rd May 2021. This is the earliest date I have ever seen one at this elevation on the trails. Another was seen on Devil’s Slide Trail at 6600ft the next day.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be above average (especially the overnight lows) for at least the next two weeks. There is no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 6th May 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 41.4°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.2°F (-2°C), 39% relative humidity, and a stiff SSE wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 29.6 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 3rd May 2021 at 0820 the air temperature was 34.3°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.6°F (-4°C), 55% relative humidity, and a moderate WNW wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 13.5 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 28th April 2021 at 0840 the air temperature was 27.3°F (-3°C), with a windchill temperature of 13.9°F (-10°C), 61% relative humidity, and a gusty due North wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 12.5 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country are almost entirely clear of snow and spikes are generally not required. There are some exceptions discussed below. See “Pacific Crest Trail” below for details of that trail. Regrettably water conditions are already becoming a concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late summer.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 no longer requires spikes between the PCT and Tahquitz Peak, depending on your comfort level hiking on angled icy snow. Hiking poles and considerable caution are useful. There are good steps to follow through the small remaining patches for which some hikers will be more comfortable using spikes.

Deer Springs Trail is almost completely clear of snow to San Jacinto Peak. There are a few short snow patches below Little Round Valley, averaging only about 5% cover. Snow cover is 40% through Little Round Valley but the trail route is obvious and not challenging. Above Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak the trail has cleared very rapidly, with a handful of tiny snow patches only.

South Ridge Trail is clear to Tahquitz Peak. South Ridge Road is open.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April and is clear of snow.

Wellman Trail (from Annie’s Junction to Wellman Divide) is largely clear of snow, except for about 20% cover for 0.3 mile immediately north of Annie’s Junction.

The Peak Trail (Wellman Divide to San Jacinto Peak) is clear of snow except for the 0.2 mile patch between 9900-10,100ft, where snow cover is about 30%.

The East Ridge Trail on the east flank of San Jacinto Peak remains about 40% snow-covered. There is an ugly posthole track to follow in places but it can be easier to hike across the top of the compacted icy snow patches (at least in the early morning and on cold days).

Fuller Ridge Trail has limited stubborn snow patches around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-189.6).

Seven Pines Trail has been hiked very little since November 2018. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not completely familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Round Valley Trail to Wellman Divide has about 10% patchy snow cover. Long Valley is clear of snow.

Snow cover on the PCT: The PCT is clear of snow from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 175 (Red Tahquitz). A few small snow patches remain between Miles 175-177. Miles 177 to 185 are almost clear of snow with the exception of the notoriously stubborn 0.5 mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 180.8. Snow cover is about 10% from Mile 184 to 185.5, although spikes are not required. From Mile 185.5 to 191, snow is increasingly patchy. Stubborn sections remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). North of Mile 190 is clear of snow.

Additional trails completely clear of snow include: Devil’s Slide, Marion Mountain, Ernie Maxwell, Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, Skyline, and all Garner Valley trails.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist. Long sections of both are so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Multiple experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and completely avoids all of the very challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead coordinates N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”). The trail descends largely on well-cairned deer tracks for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is very close on the left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Throughout this area cautious navigation is advised.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

All Mile numbers are approximate. The main Report (above) is updated at least weekly or during/after any storm and contains significant additional information relevant to PCT hikers.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

This has been a far below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country. Given accelerating climate change here, depending on your start date there may be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be perilous. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

Spikes remain useful for those hikers less comfortable hiking on snow for very limited parts of the Trail between about Miles 165 and 191, although at this time most individuals hiking with poles will find spikes unnecessary. Please always practice safe decision-making based on your own comfort level (not that of your hiking partners), experience, ability, available equipment, time of day (which can greatly affect traction on snow and ice), and current snow and weather conditions.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. Miles 191-207) reopened on 3rd April 2021. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the 16+ mile section.

PCT hikers – thanks for taking the time to read this. The San Jacinto Trail Report depends entirely on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a busy winter overlapping with a complex PCT season, every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you, and safe hiking.

Coming off at Mile 168.5 (the well-signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate) may still be a good option for some this nobo season. There are nearly 60 trees down across the Trail between Miles 169-177, plus the rock slide at Mile 172.5. Spitler Peak Trail itself clears of snow (as is now the case) long before the PCT north of that point. The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved challenging over the years is now clear of snow, with good steps to follow. Spikes are no longer required, although hiking poles and caution are always useful.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are completely misleading. However the rope is not in new condition, and if you choose to use it, you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT for removal work before summer 2021 at the earliest. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179). It is recommended that you do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak remains partly ice-covered and is notoriously treacherous.

Little Round Valley at 9800ft on 3rd May 2021 (above), and the same view five days earlier on 28th April following a light dusting of snow the previous day.

Minor storm update 28th April 2021

[Information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail is included at the foot of this Report. However much of the main Report is also applicable to PCT hikers.]

The past two days were a pleasant reminder of what April should feel like, with light precipitation at all elevations on/off on Monday 26th, followed by further brief precipitation on the afternoon of Tuesday 27th. Snowfall was minimal on both days, with about 0.5 inch at San Jacinto Peak on 26th (described in this short video), and about the same on 27th. By the time we descended the east slope from the high country late morning on 26th, some of what had settled below 10,000ft had already melted. On 27th snow dusted patchily down to about 6300ft on the west slope of the mountain, but struggled to settle below 9000ft on the eastern side. Total rainfall in Idyllwild across the two days was 0.3 inch. Although the high country had a dusting of about an inch of fresh snow, temperatures well above seasonal starting Thursday 29th April will cause very rapid melting, and will also accelerate melting of what little snow remains from earlier in the winter.

Daily hikes have continued to survey many of the major trails in the high country, including San Jacinto Peak most recently on 26th and 28th April, plus the PCT throughout the San Jacinto mountains and some of its side trails.

April 2021 will likely be the driest for that month in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, and among the warmest and driest recorded in Idyllwild. Drying of ephemeral creeks and springs has continued steadily, and water conditions in the high country are already worryingly reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2015 and 2016.

Carrying spikes will remain useful for some hikers on some traveled trails, mainly above about 8700ft, but is no longer required depending on individual comfort level on patchy compacted or soft snow.

WEATHER Temperatures rise rapidly starting 28th April to well above seasonal averages, and largely stay atypically warm throughout the first week of May. Temperatures at all elevations on 30th April and 1st May are forecast to be more typical of midsummer.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 28th April 2021 at 0840 the air temperature was 27.3°F (-3°C), with a windchill temperature of 13.9°F (-10°C), 61% relative humidity, and a gusty due North wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 12.5 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 26th April 2021 at 0855 the air temperature was 20.1°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of 2.8°F (-17°C), 99% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 16.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Once the light dusting of fresh snow has melted, trails on the east and south flanks of the high country will be completely or largely clear of snow to San Jacinto Peak. Trails on the west side are clear to near 8700ft, with snow cover increasingly patchy from there to San Jacinto Peak. There are some exceptions discussed below. See “Pacific Crest Trail” below for details of that trail.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 [updated 30th April] no longer requires spikes between the PCT and Tahquitz Peak, depending on your comfort level hiking on angled icy snow. Hiking poles are useful. There are good steps to follow through the small remaining patches for which some hikers will be more comfortable using spikes.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of snow to Saddle Junction.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow past Strawberry Junction to about 8650ft, near its junction with Marion Mountain Trail. Snow is increasingly patchy from there to Little Round Valley, averaging only about 10% cover, but with several extended icy snow sections. Snow cover is 70% through Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak the trail has cleared very rapidly and is easy to follow, averaging only 10% snow cover. Some hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail is clear to Tahquitz Peak. South Ridge Road is open.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April. There is patchy snow that may be challenging for vehicles (but not for hikers) beyond Farview Point.

Wellman Trail (from Annie’s Junction to Wellman Divide) is largely clear of snow, except for nearly continuous snow for about 0.3 mile immediately north of Annie’s Junction.

The Peak Trail (Wellman Divide to San Jacinto Peak) is clear of snow except for the 0.2 mile patch between 9900-10,100ft, where snow cover is about 60% and some hikers may find spikes useful.

The East Ridge Trail on the east flank of San Jacinto Peak remains about 60% snow-covered. There is an ugly posthole track to follow, but it can be easier to hike across the top of the compacted icy snow (at least in the early morning and on cold days).

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow to the PCT.

Fuller Ridge Trail has snow along about 30% of its 5.0 miles length. Stubborn sections in particular remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4).

Seven Pines Trail has had no visible hiker traffic this winter, with no tracks to follow where small snow patches remain. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not completely familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Round Valley Trail to Wellman Divide has about 30% patchy snow cover. Long Valley is clear of snow.

Skyline Trail is virtually clear of snow. Spikes are no longer required.

Snow cover on the PCT: The PCT is clear of snow from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 175 (Red Tahquitz). A few small snow patches remain between Miles 175-177. Miles 177 to 185 are almost clear of snow with the exception of the notoriously stubborn 0.5 mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 180.8. Snow cover is about 60% from Mile 184 to 185.5, although spikes are not required. From Mile 185.5 to 191, snow is increasingly patchy. Stubborn sections remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). Miles 191-207 are clear of snow.

Additional trails completely clear of snow include: all Garner Valley trails, Ernie Maxwell Trail, Spitler Peak Trail, Cedar Spring Trail, and May Valley Road.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 26th April 2021. Note that average depth is given first, followed in parentheses by the depth recorded on 16th March after the last significant storms on 10th-15th March. Due to past drifting, and variable melting due to differential sun exposure, depths now vary greatly even in small areas. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 0-2 inches (38 inches on 16th March)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 0-6 inches (29 inches on 16th March)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 0 inches (19 inches on 16th March)

Annie’s Junction (9070ft): 0-2 inches (24 inches on 16th March)

Deer Springs Trail at Seven Pines Trail junction/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 0-2 inches (14 inches on 16th March)

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183.1 (8100ft): 0 inch (8 inches on 16th March)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 0 inch (17 inches on 16th March)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550ft): 0 inch (12 inches on 16th March)

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

All Mile numbers are approximate. The main Report (above) is updated at least weekly or during/after any storm and contains significant additional information relevant to PCT hikers.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

This has been a far below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country. Given accelerating climate change here, depending on your start date there may be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be perilous. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

Spikes remain useful for those hikers less comfortable hiking on snow for parts of the Trail between about Miles 165 and 191, although at this time most individuals hiking with poles will find spikes unnecessary. Please always practice safe decision-making based on your own comfort level (not that of your hiking partners), experience, ability, available equipment, time of day (which can greatly affect traction on snow and ice), and current snow and weather conditions.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. Miles 191-207) reopened on Saturday 3rd April. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the 16+ mile section.

PCT hikers – thanks for taking the time to read this. The San Jacinto Trail Report depends entirely on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a busy winter overlapping with a complex PCT season, every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you, and safe hiking.

We undertook a thorough survey of the Fuller Ridge section (Miles 185.5-191) of the PCT on 6th April 2021, discussed in detail in this video. Considerable additional melting has occurred since then. Spikes are not required for hikers comfortable with travel across moderate patches of snow.

We surveyed the PCT section from Spitler Peak Trail to Saddle Junction (approx. Miles 168.5-179.5) on 9th April, as described in this video. Spikes are no longer required around Apache Peak, or elsewhere on this section, although some hikers might find spikes useful for increasingly patchy snow travel on Miles 175-178.

Coming off at Mile 168.5 (the well-signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate) may still be a good option for some this nobo season. In addition to any possible snow/ice issues ahead, there are nearly 60 trees down across the Trail between Miles 169-177, plus the rock slide at Mile 172.5. Spitler Peak Trail itself clears of snow (as is now the case) long before the PCT north of that point. The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved challenging over the years is now clear of snow, with good steps to follow. Spikes are no longer required, although hiking poles and caution are always useful.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are completely misleading. However the rope is not in new condition, and if you choose to use it, you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT for removal work before summer 2021 at the earliest. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak remains partly ice-covered and is notoriously treacherous.

Wellman Divide (9700ft) at about 0800 on 26th April 2021. About two hours later the dusting of snow and rime on the trees had largely melted.

Trail update 21st April 2021

UPDATED Monday 26th April: A very minor storm is passing over the San Jacinto mountains today. Snowfall has been minimal (<0.5 inch), as I report from San Jacinto Peak in this short video. By the time we descended late morning, most of what had settled below 10,000ft had already melted. The next full update to the Report is expected tomorrow or on Wednesday.

[Information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail is included at the foot of this Report. However much of the main Report is also applicable to PCT hikers.]

A full schedule of daily hikes has included most of the major trails in the high country, including San Jacinto Peak on 20th April ascending via east side trails (Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak) then descending Deer Springs Trail, plus the PCT throughout the San Jacinto mountains and several of its side trails. Snow conditions have not changed substantially (and certainly not for the worse) since the thorough survey of the PCT section from Spitler Peak Trail to Saddle Junction (Miles 168.5-179.5) on 9th April, as described in this video, nor on Fuller Ridge (Miles 185.5-191) as discussed in the video available here from 6th April.

April 2021 is on track to be the warmest and driest for that month in recorded history in Idyllwild and the San Jacinto high country. Snow melt, and the drying of ephemeral creeks and springs, has continued steadily with conditions now more reminiscent of late May or June. Carrying spikes remains useful for some hikers on traveled trails above about 8700ft but is no longer required depending on individual comfort level on patchy compacted or soft snow (with some important caveats discussed below). Off trail travel currently involves post-holing in areas that retain extensive snow cover.

Despite temperatures periodically above seasonal, hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for weather data recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

WEATHER The remainder of April will be something of a rollercoaster ride for temperatures. The 21st and 22nd will be somewhat cloudy with temperatures below seasonal, followed by a quick return to typical April warmth on 23rd-25th. A cold day on Monday 26th April might be accompanied by very light precipitation. Any moisture will have no significant impact however as temperatures immediately rise to well above seasonal, with the last few days of April forecast to be more reminiscent of midsummer.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Sunday 18th April 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 22.7°F (-5°C), with a windchill temperature of -0.2°F (-18°C), 58% relative humidity, and a sharp NNE wind sustained at 20 mph gusting to 31.0 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 13th April 2021 at 0850 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 18.7°F (-7°C), 28% relative humidity, and a chilly due West wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 26.0 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails on the east and south flanks of the high country are completely or largely clear of snow to San Jacinto Peak. Trails on the west side are clear to near 8700ft, with snow cover increasingly patchy from there to San Jacinto Peak. There are some important exceptions discussed below. See “Pacific Crest Trail” below for details of that trail.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has challenging steps to follow through the angled icy snow, the route in places not following the trail. These slopes are notoriously treacherous. Spikes remain strongly recommended.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of snow to Saddle Junction.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow past Strawberry Junction to about 8650ft, near its junction with Marion Mountain Trail. Snow is increasingly patchy from there to Little Round Valley, averaging only about 20% cover, but with several extended icy snow sections. Snow cover is 80% through Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak the trail has cleared very rapidly and is easy to follow, averaging only 30% snow cover. Some hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail is clear to Tahquitz Peak. South Ridge Road is open.

Wellman Trail (from Annie’s Junction to Wellman Divide) is largely clear of snow, except for nearly continuous snow for about 0.3 mile immediately north of Annie’s Junction.

The Peak Trail (Wellman Divide to San Jacinto Peak) is clear of snow except for a nearly continuous 0.2 mile patch between 9900-10,100ft, where some will find spikes useful.

The East Ridge Trail on the east flank of San Jacinto Peak remains about 80% snow-covered. There is an ugly posthole track to follow, but it is easier to hike across the top of the compacted icy snow (at least in the early morning).

Marion Mountain Trail is almost completely clear of snow to the PCT, with a few small icy patches between 7500-8500ft. Spikes are not required for ascending, some hikers may find them useful in places for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail has snow along about 30% of its 5.0 miles length. Stubborn sections in particular remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). See the detailed video survey conducted on 6th April for more information.

Seven Pines Trail has had no visible hiker traffic this winter, with no tracks to follow where small snow patches remain. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not completely familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Round Valley Trail to Wellman Divide has about 50% patchy snow cover. Long Valley is essentially clear of snow.

Skyline Trail is virtually clear of snow. Spikes are no longer required.

Snow cover on the PCT: The PCT is clear of snow from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow is patchy but extensive between Miles 175-177. Miles 177 to 185 are almost clear of snow with the exception of the notoriously stubborn 0.5 mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 180.8. Snow cover is about 80% from Mile 184 to 185.5, although spikes are not required. From Mile 185.5 to 191, snow is increasingly patchy. Stubborn sections remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). See the video review of this section from 6th April for details, and to decide whether the Black Mountain Road alternate is a better option for hikers less comfortable on extended angled snow. Miles 191-207 are clear of snow.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April. There is snow challenging for vehicles beyond Farview Point.

Additional trails completely clear of snow include: all Garner Valley trails, Ernie Maxwell Trail, Spitler Peak Trail, Cedar Spring Trail, and May Valley Road.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 18th April 2021. Note that average depth is given first, followed in parentheses by the depth recorded on 16th March after the last significant storms on 10th-15th March. Due to past drifting, and variable melting due to differential sun exposure, depths now vary greatly even in small areas. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 4 inches (38 inches on 16th March)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 6 inches (29 inches on 16th March)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 0 inches (19 inches on 16th March)

Annie’s Junction (9070ft): 3 inches (24 inches on 16th March)

Deer Springs Trail at Seven Pines Trail junction/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 2 inches (14 inches on 16th March)

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183.1 (8100ft): 0 inch (8 inches on 16th March)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 0 inch (17 inches on 16th March)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550ft): 0 inch (12 inches on 16th March)

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

All Mile numbers are approximate. The main Report (above) is updated at least weekly or during/after any storm and contains significant additional information relevant to PCT hikers.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

Spikes remain useful for those hikers less comfortable hiking on snow for parts of the Trail between about Miles 165 and 191, although at this time most individuals hiking with poles will find spikes unnecessary. Please always practice safe decision-making based on your own comfort level (not that of your hiking partners), experience, ability, available equipment, time of day (which can greatly affect traction on snow and ice), and current snow and weather conditions.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. Miles 191-207) reopened on Saturday 3rd April. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the 16+ mile section.

We undertook a thorough survey of the Fuller Ridge section (Miles 185.5-191) of the PCT on 6th April 2021, discussed in detail in this video. Spikes are not required for hikers comfortable with travel across moderate patches of snow.

We surveyed the PCT section from Spitler Peak Trail to Saddle Junction (approx. Miles 168.5-179.5) on 9th April, as described in this video. Spikes are no longer required around Apache Peak, or elsewhere on this section, although some hikers may find spikes useful for snow travel on Miles 175-178.

PCT hikers – thanks for taking the time to read this. The San Jacinto Trail Report depends entirely on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a busy winter overlapping with a complex PCT season, every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you, and safe hiking.

This has been a far below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country. Given accelerating climate change here, depending on your start date there may be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be perilous. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

Coming off at Mile 168.5 (the well-signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate) may still be a good option for some this nobo season. In addition to any possible snow/ice issues ahead, there are nearly 60 trees down across the Trail between Miles 169-177, plus the rock slide at Mile 172.5. Spitler Peak Trail itself clears of snow (as is now the case) long before the PCT north of that point. The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved challenging over the years is now clear of snow, with good steps to follow. Spikes are no longer required, although hiking poles and caution are always useful.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are completely misleading. However the rope is not in new condition, and if you choose to use it, you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT for removal work before summer 2021 at the earliest. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak is currently ice-covered and is notoriously treacherous.

Snow cover on the PCT: The PCT is clear of snow from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow is patchy but extensive between Miles 175-177. Miles 177 to 185 are almost clear of snow with the exception of the notoriously stubborn 0.5 mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 180.8. Snow cover is about 80% from Mile 184 to 185.5, although spikes are not required. From Mile 185.5 to 191, snow is increasingly patchy. Stubborn sections remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). See the video review of this section from 6th April for details, and to decide whether the Black Mountain Road alternate is a better option for hikers less comfortable on extended angled snow. Miles 191-207 are clear of snow.

Last winter was dry, but this winter has been far worse. The Peak Trail at about 9800ft just above Wellman Divide on 18th April 2021 (above), and the same view exactly one year earlier, 18th April 2020 (below).

Trail update 15th April 2021

[Information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail is included at the foot of this Report. However much of the main Report is also applicable to PCT hikers.]

A busy past week or so of daily hikes has included a loop from home of Tahquitz Peak on 15th, San Jacinto Peak on 13th April ascending via east side trails (Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak) then descending Deer Springs Trail, South Ridge Trail on 10th and 11th, a thorough survey of the PCT section from Spitler Peak Trail to Saddle Junction (Miles 168.5-179.5) on 9th April, as described in this video, and Marion Mountain Trail plus Fuller Ridge (Miles 185.5-191) of the PCT on 6th April, the latter discussed in detail in the video available here.

Pending final data, the first half of April may have been the warmest in recorded history in Idyllwild and the San Jacinto high country. Melting has of course been very rapid with conditions now more reminiscent of May or even June. Further warm temperatures forecast for next week will simply accelerate the process. Carrying spikes remains useful on traveled trails above about 8700ft but is no longer required depending on individual comfort level on compacted or soft snow (with some important caveats discussed below). Off trail travel currently involves post-holing in areas that retain extensive snow cover.

Despite temperatures above seasonal averages at upper elevations, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and potentially below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for weather data recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake at 5100ft near Idyllwild on 10th April 2021. Just a baby at ten inches long, this was our first of the season. Unsurprising to see one given recent temperatures but depressingly early at this elevation nonetheless.

WEATHER Following an unusually warm first couple of weeks of April, we are being treated to a very pleasant (if all too brief) cooling for a few days until about Friday 16th, when temperatures are forecast to warm once again to above seasonal. There is no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 13th April 2021 at 0850 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 18.7°F (-7°C), 28% relative humidity, and a chilly due West wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 26.0 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 7th April 2021 at 0825 the air temperature was 38.8°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 24.9°F (-4°C), 58% relative humidity, and a strong WNW wind sustained at 22 mph gusting to 31.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails on the east and south flanks of the high country are completely or largely clear of snow to San Jacinto Peak. Trails on the west side are clear to near 8700ft, with snow cover increasingly patchy from there to San Jacinto Peak. There are some important exceptions discussed below. See “Pacific Crest Trail” below for details of that trail.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has very challenging steps to follow through the angled icy snow, the route in places not following the trail. These slopes are notoriously treacherous. Spikes are very strongly recommended, preferably used in conjunction with an ice axe.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of snow to Saddle Junction.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow past Strawberry Junction to about 8650ft, shortly before the junction with Marion Mountain Trail. Snow is increasingly patchy from there to Little Round Valley, averaging only about 30% cover, but with several extended icy snow sections. Snow cover is 90% through Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak the trail has cleared very rapidly and is easy to follow, averaging only 40% snow cover. Some hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail is essentially clear to Tahquitz Peak, with just a few tiny snow patches on the half-a-dozen switchbacks closest to the Peak. Spikes are no longer required. South Ridge Road is open.

Wellman Trail (from Annie’s Junction to Wellman Divide) is largely clear of snow, except for nearly continuous snow for about 0.3 mile immediately north of Annie’s Junction.

The Peak Trail (Wellman Divide to San Jacinto Peak) is clear of snow except for a nearly continuous 0.2 mile patch between 9900-10,100ft, where some will find spikes useful.

The East Ridge Trail on the east flank of San Jacinto Peak remains about 60% snow-covered but there is a reasonable track to follow.

Marion Mountain Trail is clear below 7500ft and again above 8500ft, with about 20% patchy snow cover between those elevations. Spikes are not required for ascending, but can be useful in places for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail has snow along about 35% of its 5.0 miles length. Stubborn sections in particular remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). See the detailed video survey conducted on 6th April for more information.

Seven Pines Trail has had no visible hiker traffic this winter, with no tracks to follow where snow remains. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not completely familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Where the trail is not readily visible, there is a clear track through the snow up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide. In addition Long Valley is largely clear of snow.

Skyline Trail is clear of snow to about 7200ft, thereafter there are small, shallow snow patches to Grubb’s Notch (8600ft). Spikes are no longer required.

The PCT is clear of snow from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow is then more-or-less continuous between Miles 175-177 (see this video review of that section from 9th April). Snow cover is very patchy between Miles 177 to 185, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn 0.5 mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 180.8. Snow cover is almost continuous from Mile 184 to 185.5, although spikes are not essential. From Mile 185.5 to 191, snow is increasingly patchy. Stubborn sections remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). See the video review of this section for details, and to decide whether the Black Mountain Road alternate is a better option for hikers less comfortable on extended angled snow. Miles 191-207 are clear of snow.

Black Mountain Road (closed to vehicles 1.7 miles from Hwy 243) is clear of snow for 5.0 miles to the Boulder Basin turning. The 3.0 miles to Fuller Ridge campground average only 5% snow cover, with a few short soft snow sections increasing in frequency closer to Fuller Ridge.

Trails completely clear of snow include: all Garner Valley trails, Ernie Maxwell Trail, Spitler Peak Trail, Cedar Spring Trail, and May Valley Road.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 13th April 2021. Note that average depth is given first, followed in parentheses by the depth recorded on 16th March after the last significant storms on 10th-15th March. Due to past drifting, and variable melting due to differential sun exposure, depths now vary greatly even in small areas. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 5 inches (38 inches on 16th March)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 8 inches (29 inches on 16th March)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 0 inches (19 inches on 16th March)

Annie’s Junction (9070ft): 4 inches (24 inches on 16th March)

Deer Springs Trail at Seven Pines Trail junction/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 3 inches (14 inches on 16th March)

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183.1 (8100ft): 0 inch (8 inches on 16th March)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 0 inch (17 inches on 16th March)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550ft): 0 inch (12 inches on 16th March)

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

All Mile numbers are approximate. The main Report (above) is updated at least weekly or during/after any storm and contains much additional information relevant to PCT hikers.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. Miles 191-207) reopened on Saturday 3rd April. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the 16+ mile section.

We undertook a thorough survey of the Fuller Ridge section (Miles 185.5-191) of the PCT on 6th April 2021, discussed in detail in this video.

We surveyed the PCT section from Spitler Peak Trail to Saddle Junction (approx. Miles 168.5-179.5) on 9th April, as described in this video. Spikes are no longer required around Apache Peak, or elsewhere on this section, although some hikers may find spikes useful for snow travel on Miles 175-178.

Spikes remain useful for those hikers less comfortable hiking on snow for parts of the Trail between about Miles 165 and 191, although at this time most hikers will find spikes unnecessary. Please always practice safe decision-making based on your own comfort level (not that of your hiking partners), experience, ability, available equipment, time of day (which can greatly affect traction on snow and ice), and current snow and weather conditions.

PCT hikers – thanks for taking the time to read this. The San Jacinto Trail Report depends entirely on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a busy winter overlapping with a complex PCT season, every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you, and safe hiking.

This has been a far below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country. Given accelerating climate change here, depending on your start date there may be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be very perilous. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

Coming off at Mile 168.5 (the well-signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate) may still be a good option for some this nobo season. In addition to snow/ice issues ahead, there are nearly 60 trees down across the Trail between Miles 169-177, plus the rock slide at Mile 172.5. Spitler Peak Trail itself clears of snow (as is now the case) long before the PCT north of that point.

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved challenging over the years is virtually clear of snow, with good steps to follow. Spikes are no longer required, although hiking poles and caution are always useful. 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 whatsoever, turn around and take the very well signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are completely misleading. However the rope is not in new condition, and if you choose to use it, you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT for removal work before summer 2021 at the earliest. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak is currently ice-covered and is notoriously treacherous.

Current snow cover on the PCT is minimal from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow is then more-or-less continuous between Miles 175-177 (see this video review of that section from 9th April). Snow cover is very patchy between Miles 177 to 185, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn 0.5 mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 180.8. Snow cover is almost continuous from Mile 184 to 185.5, although spikes are not essential. From Mile 185.5 to 191, snow is increasingly patchy. Stubborn sections remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). See the video review of this section for details, and to decide whether the Black Mountain Road alternate is a better option for hikers less comfortable on extended angled snow. Miles 191-207 are clear of snow.

Little Round Valley (9800ft) on 13th April 2021 (above) and the same view less than a month earlier on 16th March (below).
Cardamine californica on Spitler Peak Trail, 9th April 2021. Typically the flower is white or whitish, this deep pink form is known only from Spitler Peak.

PCT and snow update 9th April 2021

[Please note that information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail is included at the foot of this Report. However much of the main Report is also applicable to PCT hikers.]

We undertook a thorough survey of the PCT section from Spitler Peak Trail to Saddle Junction (approx. Miles 168.5-179.5) on 9th April, as described in this video. Spikes are no longer required around Apache Peak, or elsewhere on this section, although some hikers may find spikes useful for snow travel on Miles 175-178.

We also surveyed the Fuller Ridge section (Miles 185.5-191) of the PCT on Tuesday 6th April, discussed in detail in the video available here.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. Miles 191-207) reopened on Saturday 3rd April. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, and USFS is not permitting camping along the 16+ mile section.

Our hikes every day this year have focused on parts of the PCT and/or its side trails for the past two months or so. We had a swift ascent of San Jacinto Peak on 7th April via the east side (Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails).

We have had a major warm spell in the first week of April. Temperatures are forecast to remain at or above seasonal averages at all elevations for at least the next week. Snowmelt has been rapid at all elevations, with sun-exposed slopes in particular clearing rapidly. Conditions have already become more reminiscent of a “normal” May or even early June. Carrying spikes remains recommended on well-traveled trails above about 8500ft (lower in places discussed below). They can be useful in the morning and for descending, as established trails are icy and compacted by hiker traffic and freeze-thaw cycles.

Despite temperatures well above seasonal norms at upper elevations, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and potentially below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for weather data recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 19th March when the area was also plowed.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to remain above seasonal until about Tuesday 13th, when they drop slightly to average for April (but remaining relatively warm and dry). There is no significant precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 7th April 2021 at 0825 the air temperature was 38.8°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 24.9°F (-4°C), 58% relative humidity, and a strong WNW wind sustained at 22 mph gusting to 31.2 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 1st April 2021 at 0850 the air temperature was 41.9°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.3°F (1°C), 16% relative humidity, and a steady (and rare) due South wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 11.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8600ft are completely or largely clear of snow (with some important exceptions discussed below). On sun-exposed slopes, substantial sections of trail at higher elevations are also partly or largely clearing of snow.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has limited steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These slopes are notoriously treacherous. Spikes (or even crampons) used in conjunction with an ice axe remain strongly recommended. Do not attempt to use snowshoes due to the angle of the icy snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is essentially clear of snow to Saddle Junction, with just a few dirty snow patches remaining. Some hikers may continue to find spikes useful.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction and essentially clear to about 8600ft. Snow is largely continuous from there to San Jacinto Peak, with an excellent track to follow. Above Little Round Valley the track through the snow does not follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, and is steep and direct. Spikes are recommended, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail is clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, with just a couple of tiny icy patches low down. Snow cover is a patchy 20% on the traverse at 7600-7800ft. The 18 switchbacks up to Tahquitz Peak are largely clear, but snow cover is about 60% on the half-a-dozen switchbacks closest to the Peak. Spikes can be useful close to Tahquitz Peak especially for descending. South Ridge Road is open.

Wellman Trail (from Annie’s Junction to Wellman Divide) is largely clear of snow, except for continuous snow for about 0.3 mile immediately north of Annie’s Junction.

The Peak Trail (Wellman Divide to San Jacinto Peak) is largely clear of snow, except for extended sections between 9900-10,100ft, and again above 10,500ft. Many hikers may find spikes useful in these areas.

The East Ridge Trail on the east flank of San Jacinto Peak remains completely snow-covered at 1-2 feet deep, but there is a reasonable track to follow through the snow.

Marion Mountain Trail is largely clear below 7500ft and again above 8500ft, with about 30% icy snow cover between those elevations. Spikes are not required for ascending, but are useful in places for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail has snow along about 40% of its 5.0 miles length. Stubborn sections in particular remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). See the video survey conducted on 6th April for details.

Seven Pines Trail has had no visible hiker traffic this winter, nor since the most recent snowfall, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of ice and snow.

There is a clear track up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide, which does not always follow the established trail route for some of its length. Long Valley is largely clear of snow.

Skyline Trail is clear of snow to about 7200ft, thereafter snow is shallow and increasingly patchy to Grubb’s Notch (8600ft). There is a well-worn but icy track to follow. Some hikers will find spikes useful.

Current snow cover on the PCT is minimal from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow is then more-or-less continuous between Miles 175-177. Snow cover is steadily becoming increasingly patchy between Miles 177 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn 0.5 mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 180.8. Snow cover is almost continuous from Mile 184 to 185.5, although spikes are not essential. From Mile 185.5 to 191, snow is increasingly patchy. Stubborn sections remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). See the video review of this section for details, and to decide whether the Black Mountain Road alternate is a better option for you. Miles 191-207 are almost completely clear of snow.

Black Mountain Road (closed to vehicles 1.7 miles from Hwy 243) is clear of snow for 5.0 miles to the Boulder Basin turning. The 3.0 miles to Fuller Ridge campground averages about 5% snow cover, with a few lengthy soft snow sections increasing in frequency closer to Fuller Ridge [surveyed 2nd and 6th April 2021].

Spitler Peak Trail and Cedar Spring Trail are both clear of snow.

May Valley Road, a major component of the PCT Mile 168.5 alternate route, is clear of snow.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 7th April 2021. Note that average depth is given first, followed in parentheses by the depth recorded on 16th March after the last significant storms on 10th-15th March. Due to past drifting, and variable melting due to differential sun exposure, depths now vary greatly, especially in trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 12 inches (38 inches on 16th March)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): <2 inches (19 inches on 16th March)

Annie’s Junction (9070ft): 6 inches (24 inches on 16th March)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 1 inch (17 inches on 16th March)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550ft): 0 inch (12 inches on 16th March)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inch (6 inches on 16th March)

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Following a general discussion, this information is organized roughly south to north (all Mile numbers are approximate). The main Report (above) is updated at least weekly or during/after any storm.

The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. Miles 191-207) reopened on Saturday 3rd April. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, USFS is not permitting camping along the 16+ mile section.

We undertook a thorough survey of the Fuller Ridge section (Miles 185.5-191) of the PCT on 6th April 2021, discussed in detail in this video.

We surveyed the PCT section from Spitler Peak Trail to Saddle Junction (approx. Miles 168.5-179.5) on 9th April, as described in this video. Spikes are no longer required around Apache Peak, or elsewhere on this section, although some hikers may find spikes useful for snow travel on Miles 175-178.

Spikes remain recommended, but are no longer required for those comfortable hiking on snow, for parts of the Trail between about Miles 165 and 191. Please always practice safe decision-making based on your own comfort level (not that of your hiking partners), experience, ability, available equipment, time of day (which can greatly affect traction on snow and ice), and current snow and weather conditions.

This has been a far below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (but, oddly, above average snowfall for mid elevations, 4000-6000ft). Given accelerating climate change here, depending on your start date there may be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be very perilous. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

We undertook a thorough survey of the PCT section from Spitler Peak Trail to Saddle Junction (approx. Miles 168.5-179.5) on 9th April. Spikes are no longer required around Apache Peak, or elsewhere on this section, although some hikers may find them useful for snow travel on Miles 175-178.

Coming off at Mile 168.5 (the well-signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate) may still be a good option for some this nobo season. In addition to snow/ice issues ahead, there are nearly 60 trees down across the Trail between Miles 169-177, plus the rock slide at Mile 172.5. Spitler Peak Trail itself clears of snow (as is now the case) long before the PCT north of that point.

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved challenging over the years is virtually clear of snow, with reasonable steps to follow. Spikes are no longer required, although hiking poles and caution are always useful. 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 whatsoever, turn around and take the very well signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

PCT hikers – thanks for taking the time to read this. The San Jacinto Trail Report depends entirely on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a busy winter overlapping with a complex PCT season, every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you, and safe hiking.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are completely misleading. However the rope is not in new condition, and if you choose to use it, you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT for removal work before summer 2021 at the earliest. This video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

If you take an alternate further south, it is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak is currently ice-covered and is notoriously treacherous.

Current snow cover on the PCT is minimal from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow is then more-or-less continuous between Miles 175-177. Snow cover is steadily becoming increasingly patchy between Miles 177 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn 0.5 mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 180.8. Snow cover is almost continuous from Mile 184 to 185.5, although spikes are not essential. From Mile 185.5 to 191, snow is increasingly patchy. Stubborn sections remain around the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River (Mile 186), and on the northerly slopes of Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. Miles 187.5-187.8 and 188.6-190.4). See the video review of this section for details, and to decide whether the Black Mountain Road alternate is a better option for you. Miles 191-207 are almost completely clear of snow.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. This is especially critical during the coronavirus pandemic as it is impossible to adequately clean and sterilize the shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds. Strawberry Junction (approx. Mile 183) is a good option for thru-hikers.

The Peak Trail at 9800ft not far above Wellman Divide on 7th April 2021 (above), and the same view about three weeks earlier on 16th March 2021 (below).

Snow and PCT update 1st April 2021

UPDATED 6th April 2021: a thorough new video survey of Fuller Ridge (PCT Miles 185.5-191) was undertaken today. Spikes are generally recommended for parts of this section, other than for hikers who are very comfortable on angled snow/ice.

UPDATED 2nd April 2021: The PCT through the Snow Fire closure area (approx. Miles 191-207) will reopen on Saturday 3rd April. Only the tread of the Trail has reopened, meaning no camping is permitted along the 16+ mile section.

[Please note that information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail is included at the foot of this Report. However much of the main Report is also applicable to PCT hikers. Important PCT note: We surveyed the challenging north-east flank of Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) on 29th March, as summarised in this video.]

Almost all of our recent daily hikes have focused on parts of the PCT and/or its side trails. We had a swift ascent of San Jacinto Peak this morning via Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails, and on Sunday 28th via the east side (Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails). Spikes were required almost the entire way today, but hardly at all on Sunday.

The weather recorded at San Jacinto Peak this morning is, regrettably, not an April Fool’s joke (details below). With even the “windchill” above freezing, and a relative humidity of only 16%, conditions were more reminiscent of June than of 1st April. The omens for this year’s fire season are not good at all.

We had unusual “thundersnow” events in the San Jacinto mountains on both 21st and 23rd March, then a more conventional dusting mainly in the early morning of 26th. All three events produced just 0.25-1.0 inch of snow, depending on elevation, which promptly largely melted off within hours.

More significantly, we have a major warming spell for the next week (it is 71°F in Idyllwild as I write this). Temperatures will be well above seasonal averages at all elevations. This will be especially pronounced at the highest elevations with air temperatures (even at night) expected to remain at or above freezing at San Jacinto Peak for almost all of the first half of April.

With the obvious exception of the light dusting events of the previous week, snowmelt has been steady at all elevations. Melting will accelerate dramatically over the next week. Sun-exposed slopes in particular are clearing rapidly, with conditions expected to become more reminiscent of a “normal” May or even early June in the first week of April. Spikes are recommended on all well-traveled trails above about 7500ft (lower in places discussed below), especially in the morning and for descending, as established trails are now compacted by hiker traffic and freeze-thaw cycles. Snowshoes are recommended only for off-trail travel above and around about 9000ft.

Despite temperatures well above seasonal norms at upper elevations, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and potentially below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for weather data recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 19th March when the area was also plowed.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to remain well above seasonal until about Tuesday 6th April, when slight cooling is expected to near average temperatures. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 1st April 2021 at 0850 the air temperature was 41.9°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.3°F (1°C), 16% relative humidity, and a steady (and rare) due South wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 11.9 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 28th March 2021 at 0815 the air temperature was 36.1°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.8°F (-2°C), 26% relative humidity, and a light SE wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 8.0 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 22nd March 2021 at 0950 the air temperature was 25.5°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 7.2°F (-14°C), 39% relative humidity, and a frigid NW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 23.8 mph.

The Pacific Crest Trail (the snow-covered line through the middle of the image) as seen from Butterfly Peak early on 26th March 2021. The dusting melted within a few hours.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 8600ft remain largely or completely snow-covered. Areas below 7500ft are largely clear of snow, with the exception of north-facing slopes (down to about 6500ft). Areas between those elevations are clearing of snow. Rapid clearing at all elevations, especially on sun-exposed slopes, will accelerate this week.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently crampons (or at least spikes) used in conjunction with an ice axe are strongly recommended. Do not attempt to use snowshoes due to the angle of the icy snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is rapidly clearing of snow to 7600′ with a few extended icy snow patches remaining. Snow is widespread but increasingly patchy above that elevation to Saddle Junction. The trail is hard and icy and spikes are useful.

Deer Springs Trail is essentially clear of snow up to Strawberry Junction and largely clear to about 8600ft. Snow is virtually continuous from there to San Jacinto Peak, with an excellent track to follow. Above Little Round Valley the track through the snow does not follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, and is steep and direct. Spikes are recommended, especially for descending, as snow is icy and compacted.

South Ridge Trail [updated 30th March] is clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, with just a couple of tiny icy patches low down. Snow cover is a patchy 40% on the traverse at 7600-7800ft. The 18 switchbacks up to Tahquitz Peak are largely clear, but snow cover is almost continuous on those closest to the Peak. Spikes are useful close to Tahquitz Peak especially for descending. South Ridge Road (open) is clear of snow and ice.

Marion Mountain Trail has extensive, icy, snow cover to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail junction. The trail is largely clear to about 6800ft, but thereafter cover is roughly 50% below 7500ft and again above 8500ft. Icy snow is nearly continuous between those elevations. Spikes are strongly recommended throughout.

Fuller Ridge Trail has tracks to follow through the icy snow. They do not accurately follow the PCT route in several places.

Seven Pines Trail has had no visible hiker traffic this winter, nor since the most recent snowfall, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is essentially clear of ice and snow, with a few icy snow patches near Humber Park. Spikes are not required.

There is a clear but lightly-traveled track up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide, which does not closely follow the established trail route for much of its length.

Skyline Trail is clear of snow to about 7200ft, thereafter snow is generally shallow and increasingly patchy to Grubb’s Notch (8600ft). There is a well-worn but icy track to follow, spikes are recommended.

Current snow cover on the PCT is minimal from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 165, and increasingly patchy, but nevertheless very challenging in places, between Miles 165 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow is then more-or-less continuous between Miles 175-178. Snow cover is steadily becoming patchy between Miles 178 to 183.5, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 181. From Mile 183.5 to 191, snow is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., parts of Miles 186.5-188.5) are thinning rapidly.

Black Mountain Road (closed to vehicles 1.7 miles from Hwy 243) is clear of snow for 5.0 miles to the Boulder Basin turning. The 3.0 miles to Fuller Ridge campground averages about 10% snow cover, with some lengthy soft snow sections increasing in frequency closer to Fuller Ridge [surveyed 2nd April 2021].

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Spikes are not required.

Cedar Spring Trail is clear of snow from Morris Ranch Road to the PCT, with some small patches remaining on the east side of the PCT down to the spring itself.

May Valley Road, a major component of the PCT Mile 168.5 alternate route, is clear of snow.

Anabel surveying a snowy Garner Valley from New Hemet Bell Mine, early morning of 26th March 2021.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 1st April 2021 (San Jacinto Peak and Little Round Valley) or 28th March 2021. Note that average depth is given first, followed in parentheses by the depth recorded on 16th March after the last significant storms on 10th-15th March. Due to past drifting, and variable melting due to differential sun exposure, depths now vary greatly, especially in trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 14 inches (38 inches on 16th March)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 10 inches (29 inches on 16th March)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 4 inches (19 inches on 16th March)

Annie’s Junction (9070ft): 18 inches (24 inches on 16th March)

Strawberry Junction (8100ft): <1 inch (8 inches on 16th March)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 5 inches (17 inches on 16th March)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550ft): <1 inch (12 inches on 16th March)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (6 inches on 16th March)

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Following a general discussion, this information is organized roughly south to north (all Mile numbers are approximate). The main Report (above) is updated at least weekly or during/after any storm.

Spikes are currently recommended between about Miles 165 and 191, and they are essential if you attempt Miles 169-178 and 185-190 at least. Currently, an ice axe could be very useful in these areas in conjunction with your spikes, but only if you know how to use it. Challenging sections of angled icy snow requiring this equipment exist north of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5), so if you are not comfortable with the snow conditions in that area, use the Spitler Peak Trail alternate. Please always practice safe decision-making based on your own comfort level (not that of your hiking partners), experience, ability, available equipment, time of day (which can greatly affect traction on snow and ice), and current snow and weather conditions.

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (but, oddly, above average snowfall for mid elevations, 4000-6000ft). Given accelerating climate change here, depending on your start date there may be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be very perilous. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

Coming off at Mile 168.5 (the well-signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate) may be a good option for many this nobo season. In addition to snow/ice issues ahead, there are nearly 60 trees down across the Trail between Miles 169-177, plus the rock slide at Mile 172.5. Spitler Peak Trail itself clears of snow (as is now the case) long before the PCT north of that point.

The detailed video report for PCT Miles 169-179 from 1st March is again accurate to current conditions. Although there will be significant melting over the next week or so, challenging conditions will persist around Apache Peak (and in the 7-8 miles immediately north) for the foreseeable future. Please exercise very cautious decision-making in this area.

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved challenging over the years is currently snow-covered. This area was resurveyed on 29th March as discussed in this short video. Snow is hard and icy in the early mornings, but with reasonable steps to follow. Spikes, ideally in combination with an ice axe, and knowledge of how to use this equipment, are currently recommended. 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 whatsoever, turn around and take the very well signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

PCT hikers – thanks for taking the time to read this. The San Jacinto Trail Report depends entirely on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a busy winter overlapping with a complex PCT season, every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you, and safe hiking.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are inaccurate. However the rope is not in new condition, and if you choose to use it, you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT for removal work before summer 2021 at the earliest. The latest video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

It is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179) then hike on through to Mile 190.5 (Fuller Ridge campground). Currently this would involve significant snow travel, but nothing challenging, as snow is relatively shallow and melting steadily, including Fuller Ridge Trail (Miles 185.5-190.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak is currently ice-covered and is notoriously treacherous.

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

Little Round Valley at 9800ft on 1st April 2021 (above) and a couple of weeks earlier on 16th March (below).
The Peak Trail at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide on 28th March 2021 (above), and the same view just 12 days earlier on 16th March 2021 (below).

Snow and PCT update 22nd March 2021

[Please note that information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail is included at the foot of this Report. However much of the main Report is applicable to PCT hikers also.]

[UPDATE 26th March: a very light dusting of snow last night included 0.5 inch at and above 5000ft, and a very uniform 0.25 inch throughout Garner Valley down to 4000ft. By late morning today, all new snow below 6000ft had already melted, and it was disappearing rapidly at higher elevations in all sun-exposed areas. Equipment recommendations and trail conditions discussed below are unaffected.]

We have continued to hike daily on the mountain this year, with almost all recent hikes focused on subsections of the PCT. We had a relatively easy ascent of San Jacinto Peak on Monday 22nd, ascending via the east side trails (Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails) and descending the west side via Deer Springs Trail.. No spikes were required on the ascent, but they were useful on the descent down to about 9000ft.

Yesterday evening we had an unusual “thundersnow” event in the San Jacinto mountains. For less than an hour around 1800 we had a thunderstorm produce a snowfall of up to an inch, with large, wet, snowflakes accumulating even though the temperature was well above 40 degrees Fahrenheit in Idyllwild. At the same time, the temperature plummeted more than ten degrees in about half-an-hour. Snow accumulation in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) was 0.7 inch, and 1.0 inch throughout the high country. Before dusk, we were back to blue skies. The event was a perfect demonstration of how fickle (and potentially perilous) the weather can be in an isolated mountain range. Similar events are forecast to be possible in the evenings of Tuesday 23rd and Thursday 25th.

With the obvious exception of the light dusting yesterday, melting has been steady at all elevations. Sun-exposed slopes in particular are clearing rapidly, with conditions expected to become more reminiscent of a “normal” May in the next week or so. At San Jacinto Peak on 22nd, I measured an average of about 27 inches, a loss of nearly one foot in a week, despite recent temperatures not being notably warm. Spikes are recommended on all well-traveled trails above about 7500ft (lower in places discussed below), especially in the morning and for descending, as established trails are now compacted by hiker traffic and freeze-thaw cycles. Snowshoes are recommended only for off-trail travel above and around about 8000ft.

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 19th March when the area was also plowed.

The Santa Rosa mountains as seen from near PCT Mile 153 at sunrise on 20th March 2021. Spectacular cap clouds driven by strong, moist, west winds, adorn the high peaks.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to fluctuate around seasonal averages for the next few days, before warming significantly starting Saturday 27th March and continuing into early April. With warm, sunny, days snow melt will rapidly accelerate and will likely be particularly fast below 8000ft and also on sun-exposed slopes at all elevations. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast, although minor precipitation is possible in the afternoon on Tuesday 23rd and Thursday 25th. Medium term forecasts from NWS San Diego suggest above average precipitation is probable in the first half of April.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 22nd March 2021 at 0950 the air temperature was 25.5°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 7.2°F (-14°C), 39% relative humidity, and a frigid NW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 23.8 mph.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 16th March 2021 at 1145 the air temperature was 21.2°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 2.8°F (-16°C), 71% relative humidity, and a gusty NNW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 20.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 8600ft remain continuously snow-covered. Areas below 7500ft are patchy or rapidly clearing of snow, with the exception of north-facing slopes (down to about 6500ft). Areas between those elevations are largely snow-covered, but with rapid clearing on sun-exposed slopes that will accelerate this week.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently crampons, or at least spikes (used in conjunction with an ice axe) are essential. Do not attempt to use snowshoes due to the angle of the icy snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is rapidly clearing of snow to 7600′ with a few extended icy snow patches remaining. Snow is largely continuous above that elevation to Saddle Junction. The trail is hard and icy and spikes are useful.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to the Suicide Rock junction, and rapidly clearing of snow up to Strawberry Junction and beyond to about 8500ft. Snow is continuous from there to San Jacinto Peak, with an excellent track to follow. Above Little Round Valley the track I broke last week through the snow does not follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, and is steep and direct. Spikes are useful, and invaluable for descending, as snow is icy and compacted.

Marion Mountain Trail has extensive, icy, snow cover to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail junction. Snow cover is roughly 50% below 7000ft and again above 8500ft, but is nearly continuous between those elevations. Spikes are strongly recommended.

Fuller Ridge Trail has not be traveled recently and there are no tracks to follow.

Seven Pines Trail has had no visible hiker traffic this winter, nor since the most recent snowfall, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely clear of ice and snow, with icy snow patches increasingly frequent near Humber Park. Spikes are not required.

South Ridge Trail is essentially clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, with a few persistent icy patches low down. Snow cover is becoming increasingly patchy on the traverse at 7600-7800ft. Snow cover is more extensive in the 18 switchbacks up to Tahquitz Peak, but this will change markedly this week, dropping to less than 50% cover except on the uppermost six switchbacks. Spikes are useful especially for descending, mainly close to Tahquitz Peak. South Ridge Road (open) is clear of snow and ice.

There are now visible tracks up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide, although they do not appear to closely follow the established trail route.

Skyline Trail is clear of snow to near 7000ft, thereafter snow is generally shallow but continuous to Grubb’s Notch (8600ft). There is a well-worn but icy track to follow, spikes are strongly recommended.

Current snow cover on the PCT is minimal from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and increasingly patchy, but nevertheless very challenging in places, between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz). Snow is then more-or-less continuous between Miles 175-178. Snow cover is steadily becoming patchy between Miles 178 to 183.5, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 181. From Mile 183.5 to 191, snow is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., parts of Miles 186.5-188.5) will be thinning rapidly.

Spitler Peak Trail is basically clear of snow, with a few icy patches remaining largely on the upper switchbacks.

Cedar Spring Trail is clear of snow from Morris Ranch Road to the PCT, with some small patches remaining on the east side of the PCT down to the spring itself.

May Valley Road, a major component of the PCT Mile 168.5 alternate route, is clear of snow.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 22nd March 2021. Note that average depth is given first, followed in parentheses by the depth recorded on 16th March after the last notable series of storms from 10th-15th March. Due to past drifting, and variable melting due to differential sun exposure, depths now vary greatly, especially in trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 27 inches (38 inches on 16th March)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 24 inches (29 inches on 16th March)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 6 inches (19 inches on 16th March)

Annie’s Junction (9070ft): 20 inches (24 inches on 16th March)

Deer Springs Trail at Seven Pines Trail junction (8700ft): 11 inches (14 inches on 16th March)

Strawberry Junction (8100ft): 3 inches (8 inches on 16th March)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 13 inches (17 inches on 16th March)

Deer Springs Trail at Suicide Rock Trail junction (6950ft): 0 inches (3 inches on 16th March)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550ft): 5 inches (12 inches on 16th March)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (6 inches on 16th March)

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Following a general discussion, this information is organized roughly south to north (all Mile numbers are approximate). The main Report (above) is updated at least weekly or during/after any storm.

Spikes are currently recommended between about Miles 163 and 191, and they are essential if you attempt Miles 169-178 at least. Currently, an ice axe could be very useful in these areas in conjunction with your spikes, but only if you know how to use it. Challenging and unpredictable weather is forecast for the next couple of weeks, with two or three minor snow storms possible, but warm weather in between the storm systems. This pattern will result in freeze-thaw cycles that can lead to tricky icy conditions, but also with steady snow melt so this advice may change. Please always practice safe decision-making based on your own comfort level (not that of your hiking partners), experience, ability, available equipment, time of day (which can greatly affect traction on snow and ice), and current snow and weather conditions.

There are complications this season beyond the usual challenges of snow and ice, such as a major fire closure, and the coronavirus crisis, the latter resulting in poorly maintained trails. Some of these factors may change (hopefully for the better) as the spring progresses, probably at short notice. Considerable patience and caution are recommended.

The bottom line is, if everything remains snowy/icy, and if the Snow Fire closure section doesn’t reopen soon (both of which are very big “ifs”), this will be an even more challenging year than usual to hike the PCT through the San Jacinto mountains section. Many folks may choose to skip parts or even all of this section.

To date, this has been a below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (but, oddly, above average snowfall for mid elevations, 4000-6000ft). Given accelerating climate change here, depending on your start date there may be relatively little snow and ice by the time you reach the San Jacinto mountains. Nevertheless even small, isolated sections of icy snow can be very perilous. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks and months.

Coming off at Mile 168.5 (the well-signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate) may be a good option for many this nobo season. In addition to snow/ice issues ahead, there are nearly 60 trees down across the Trail between Miles 169-177, plus the rock slide at Mile 172.5. Spitler Peak Trail itself often clears of snow long before the PCT north of that point.

On Thursday 18th March I resurveyed Apache Peak. The detailed video report for PCT Miles 168-179 from 1st March is not currently accurate, due to the recent additional snowfall on 10-15th March. However, with significant melting likely over at least the next ten days, that video report will again become increasingly relevant within the next few days. I intend to resurvey the area soon. Unfortunately, as I speculated in the video, the challenging Apache Peak area is currently more tricky, with an unstable layer of fresh snow sitting over, and obscuring, the pre-existing icy snow. Please exercise very cautious decision-making in this area.

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has had incidents in recent years is currently snow-covered. Snow is hard and icy in the early mornings. Spikes and an ice axe, and knowledge of how to use this equipment, are currently very strongly recommended. 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 whatsoever, turn around and take the very well signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

PCT hikers – thanks for taking the time to read this. The San Jacinto Trail Report depends entirely on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a busy winter overlapping with a complex PCT season, every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found the Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you, and safe hiking.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). Reports that the assisting rope around the rockslide is “in tatters” are inaccurate. However the rope is not in new condition, and if you choose to use it, you do so completely at your own risk. USFS has told the Trail Report that responsibility for removing the rockslide is currently with the PCTA, and that there are currently no plans to close this section of the PCT for removal work before summer 2021 at the earliest. The latest video report (recorded on 1st March 2021, starts at minute 9.05) may be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide.

It is possible to regain the PCT from Idyllwild via Devil’s Slide Trail at Saddle Junction (about Mile 179) then hike on through to Mile 190.5 (Fuller Ridge campground). Currently this would involve significant snow travel, but nothing challenging, as snow is relatively shallow and melting steadily, including Fuller Ridge Trail (Miles 185.5-190.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak is currently ice-covered and is notoriously treacherous.

Good news (possibly) regarding the Snow Fire closure (Miles 191-206). US Forest Service has indicated to the Trail Report that if there is no new major weather impact in this area during March, the Pacific Crest Trail through this fire closure area may reopen in April.

Miles 191-206 of the PCT are currently closed, in theory until October 2021, due to the Snow Fire closure (closure order document here). Until this section reopens, it will be necessary to leave the trail at Black Mountain Road (about Mile 191) and hike the eight miles down Black Mountain Road to Highway 243. Currently the upper 3.5 miles of Black Mountain Road are largely snow-covered, with limited patches lower down also.

Black Mountain Road is open to hikers, it is only closed to vehicles at the gate 1.7 miles above Highway 243. This is a seasonal closure, and it might reopen to vehicles again in April (although that is weather dependent).

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

Strawberry Junction (PCT Mile 183; 8100ft) on 22nd March 2021 (above) and the same view on 16th March 2021 (below).