Trail update 20th May 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

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

Trail update 13th May 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Pines Trail has a few very minor snow drifts near its junction with the PCT. This trail has only been hiked a handful of times since November 2018. Extremely cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road continues, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds (additionally, due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail update 5th May 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Current snow cover on the PCT is increasingly patchy between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). The Trail is very rapidly clearing to about Mile 184 (one mile north of Strawberry Junction) except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-190 has patchy snow cover, although exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly.

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

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

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds (additionally, due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail update 27th April 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

Current snow cover on the PCT is extensive but increasingly patchy between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). The Trail is very rapidly clearing to about Mile 184 (one mile north of Strawberry Junction) except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-190 is snow-covered, although exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds (additionally, due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park).

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail update 21st April 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT for increasingly patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 173 and 191, depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions. Hikers willing to posthole extensively and using poles may find spikes unnecessary in most areas however. See below for conditions on some specific sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

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

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds (additionally, due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park).

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently crampons are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use both). Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the underlying ice.

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured 21st April 2020 (with depth on 10th-12th April 2020 in parentheses for comparison where known). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

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

Little Round Valley (9800′): 30″

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail update 15th April 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

Current snow cover on the PCT is patchy and thin between Miles 166 and about 173 (Red Tahquitz), mainly confined to certain north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168) and Apache Peak (Mile 169.5). Snow is currently continuous between Miles 174-192 (north end of Fuller Ridge). Short sections of the Trail will start to clear rapidly in the next few days (e.g., around Strawberry Junction Mile 183). North from about Mile 191 to Snow Creek is clear.

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations normally permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds, although due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These ice slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently crampons are strongly recommended, in conjunction with an ice axe (if you know how to use both). Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the underlying ice.

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured 13th-15th April 2020 (with depth on 10th-12th April 2020 in parentheses). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow storm update 10th April 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail update 5th April 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 20″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 7″

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 14″

Long Valley (8600′): 2″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″

Saddle Junction (8070′): 2″

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

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

Trail update 31st March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park has been closed since 18th March. There are nine legal parking spaces (available for all uses) just below the gate and near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead. The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

Tahquitz Ridge as seen from about PCT Mile 180 at sunrise, 28th March 2020.

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT for patchy snow travel between approximately Miles 160 and 192, depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions. Many thru-hikers using poles will probably find spikes unnecessary in most areas however. See below for conditions on some specific sections of the PCT and the many side trails.

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

PCT hikers are reminded that overnight stays are not permitted at or near San Jacinto Peak, including in the historic shelter. Mt. San Jacinto State Park regulations normally permit overnight stays only in established campgrounds, although due to the Covid-19 crisis, no camping is currently allowed anywhere in the State Park.

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to Strawberry Junction with just a few patches close to the junction (microspikes not required). The PCT section from here to Fuller Ridge is partly clear of snow to about 8500′ elevation (south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction), then there is extensive snow cover thereafter, currently with an adequate track to follow. From Little Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak there may be drifting in places after strong winds. Snowshoes may be useful above about 9500′ and microspikes can be useful for descending.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 3rd April 2020 (with depth on 31st March 2020 in parentheses). Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 22″ (27″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 8″ (12″)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 16″ (18″)

Long Valley (8600′): 3″ (6″)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″ (1″)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 4″ (7″)

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

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

Snow and trail update 27th March 2020

Three very minor snow storms in five days this week, including one last night, have left the trail system snow-covered in the San Jacinto mountains almost everywhere above 5000′ elevation. I have been to many different areas to observe the effects: San Jacinto Peak twice, South Ridge, Apache and Spitler peaks, plus elsewhere on the PCT. Special thanks to Kyle Eubanks who accompanied me at and descending San Jacinto Peak yesterday.

The storm last night produced 0.75″ snow at Idyllwild (5550′) and about 1.0″ in Long Valley (8600′). The most productive of the three storms was on 23rd, a warmer storm which initially included freezing to at least about 8500′, making a hard ice layer (e.g., at Saddle Junction, 8100′). This was followed by a dusting of snow, only 0.5″ at Saddle Junction, but about 3″ at Long Valley and on the high peaks.

Although there has been some fresh snowfall in the high country, it has often been no more than at mid elevations because the cloud level has largely held around 8700-9300′, with the high country often above some of the precipitation.

Currently most major trails have not been traveled and are obscured by light to moderate snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured yesterday are listed at the foot of this posting.

At present postholing through shallow to moderate snow is possible at all elevations. Microspikes will become increasingly useful over the next few days as established trails undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted (e.g. Devil’s Slide and lower South Ridge trails). Snow depths are currently good for snowshoeing in the high country above about 9000′. Snowshoeing conditions will deteriorate rapidly with considerable snowmelt next week.

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

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park has been closed since 18th March. There are nine legal parking spaces (available for all uses) just below the gate and near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead. The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

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 (although these are currently closed due to the Covid-19 crisis).

Little Round Valley (9800′), 22nd March 2020.

WEATHER After a cool and cloudy weekend, rapid warming to above-average temperatures starts on Monday 30th March. Extensive snowmelt is expected at all elevations next week, but especially below 9000′ and on sun-exposed slopes.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 26th March 2020 at 1115 the air temperature was 9.1°F (-13°C), with a windchill temperature of -10.6°F (-24°C), 61% relative humidity, and a bitter WSW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 14.8 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 22nd March 2020 at 1055 the air temperature was 27.7°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 18.3°F (-8°C), 45% relative humidity, and a light WSW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.7 mph.

Apache Peak (7600′) on the left, with San Jacinto Peak just visible in the far distance to it’s right, 25th March 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Almost all trails above about 5500′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation. Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail, and from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak. Strong winds in the high country and rapid melting on exposed slopes may have obscured tracks within hours however. The closure of the Tram will result in very light hiker traffic to the highest peaks via the Peak Trail, and little or no traffic on the Long and Round Valley trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled track to follow. Microspikes may become useful, especially in early morning. Snow cover is still >90% even with some melting yesterday.

Ernie Maxwell Trail has very thin snow which will largely clear today, a few stubborn small icy snow patches persisting mainly near Humber Park. No microspikes required.

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

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 26th March are as follows. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 29″

Little Round Valley (9800′): 23″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 14″

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 20″

Long Valley (8600′): 8″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 3″ (extensive melting in recent days)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 9″

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 1″ (considerable melting yesterday)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0.5″ (from overnight snow, will rapidly melt today)

Wellman Divide (9700′) yesterday morning, 26th March 2020

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

Snow storms update 19th March 2020

[UPDATE 26th March: another short video recorded today discusses latest conditions based on a superb hike today to San Jacinto Peak with Kyle Eubanks, and in recent days to the Desert Divide. I anticipate a full text update to the Trail Report tomorrow.]

[UPDATE 22nd March: a video recorded today discusses latest conditions based on hikes today on the east and west sides of San Jacinto Peak, and yesterday to Tahquitz Peak.]

COVID-19 UPDATE: The Pacific Crest Trail Association has asked all PCT hikers on the Trail – as well as those waiting to start – to cancel or postpone their journeys. Read their statement here. Additionally, the State Park system has closed all camping facilities, including the Idyllwild campground. Camping is not permitted anywhere in Mount San Jacinto State Park until further notice. The Riverside County Park campground in Idyllwild is closed. Nomad Ventures in Idyllwild is closed indefinitely.

Three minor snow storms on consecutive days 17th-19th March have left the trail system snow-covered in the San Jacinto mountains almost everywhere above 4500′ elevation. I have been to many different areas to observe the effects, San Jacinto Peak on 17th, the PCT at Highway 74 and South Ridge yesterday, and Deer Springs Trail to the PCT today. Special thanks to Kyle Eubanks who ascended San Jacinto Peak today via Deer Springs Trail. A video discussion from Strawberry Junction of current conditions was posted this afternoon.

The storm on 17th produced 1-2 inches of snow at all elevations above about 5000′. The snow level fell lower on 18th, with a dusting of an inch down to 4600′ (Mile 151 on the PCT), 3″ in Idyllwild, and 5″ at the top of South Ridge Road (6500′). Snowfall today has ranged from 2″ in Idyllwild and Long Valley, to 3-4″ at Strawberry and Saddle junctions. It continues to snow lightly and intermittently in Idyllwild as I write this mid-afternoon on 19th.

Although there has been some fresh snowfall in the high country, it has often been much less than at mid elevations because the cloud level has largely held around 8700-9300′, with the high country above it. Conversely, on each of the three afternoons, short bursts of rapid snowmelt have occurred below 7000′ during brief appearances of the sun and temperatures barely above freezing. For these reasons elevations in the 7000-9000′ range have a disproportionate depth of snow at this time.

Currently almost all major trails, including almost the entire PCT through the high country of the San Jacinto mountains, have not been traveled and are obscured by moderate snowfall. Very cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting.

At present postholing through shallow to moderate snow is not too challenging in most areas below 8000′ (including most of the PCT). Microspikes may become increasingly useful over the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted (e.g. Devil’s Slide and lower Deer Springs trails). Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing in the high country and snowshoes are recommended above about 8000′ for day hikers. Snowshoeing conditions will deteriorate rapidly below 9000′ with considerable snowmelt expected over this weekend.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, with potentially dangerous cold when considering windchill effects.

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park has been closed since 18th March. There are only nine legal parking spaces (available for all uses) just below the gate and near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead. The next closest legal parking is 0.1 mile downhill on Forest Drive.

WEATHER Warmer, brighter weather on 20th-22nd will result in rapid melting below 8000′, and locally higher on sun-exposed slopes. More unsettled and unpredictable conditions are possible next week, with light rain (or very light snow above 6000′) currently forecast on 23rd and 26th.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 17th March 2020 at 0950 the air temperature was 10.6°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -11.7°F (-24°C), 57% relative humidity, and a bitter SW wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 22.8 mph.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT only after sufficient hiker traffic to compact the snow, and/or freeze-thaw cycles. Depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions, most thru-hikers using footwear with good tread in combination with poles will find spikes unnecessary however. For the last three days I have found hiking in a few of inches of fresh powder to be relatively easy-going.

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6000′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation. Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail, and from Deer Springs Trail to San Jacinto Peak. Strong winds in the high country on 17th, and continuing patchy snowfall on 19th, may have obscured tracks within hours however. The closure of the Tram will result in very light hiker traffic to the highest peaks via the Peak Trail, and little or no traffic on the Long and Round Valley trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled track to follow. Microspikes may become useful, especially in early morning. Snow cover is still >90% even with some melting this afternoon.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely under a continuous 2-4″ of snow cover.

Deer Springs Trail A reliable track was put in today from the trailhead to San Jacinto Peak by a combination of Kyle Eubanks and myself. See comments above however regarding effects of wind and continuing light snowfall.

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

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Total for storms on 18th-19th is first, followed by current total depth in brackets, then comments in parentheses. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate. Many thanks to Pete Kirkham for data for Saddle Saddle and Annie’s junctions.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 2″ [27″]

Little Round Valley (9800′): 2″ [20″]

Wellman Divide (9700′): 2″ [12″]

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181 (9070′): 3″ [19″]

Fuller Ridge south end/PCT Mile 185.5 (8950′): 4″ [12″]

Long Valley (8600′): 3″ [8″]

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100′): 4″ [6″]

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070′): 4″ [8″]

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 4″ [7″]

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 2″ [3″] (periodic melting every afternoon)

Strawberry Junction (8100′) late this morning 19th March 2020.

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

Wellman’s Cienega north spring on 17th March 2020, (above), and eight days earlier on 9th March for comparison (below).

Minor snow storm 17th March 2020

[UPDATE 18th March: Started snowing again this morning at about 0800. Currently settling down to 4600′ on Highway 74 at Pinyon (near PCT Mile 151). By 1430, two inches of fresh powder accumulated in Idyllwild (at 5550′), with the same depth at Humber Park (6400′) and Long Valley (8600′). The USFS gate at Humber Park is now closed.]

This is a very brief update on conditions following another minor snow storm early this morning. With another 3-4 similar storms forecast for the next 10-14 days, trail and snow conditions will be changing almost daily, so updates will be shorter than typical for efficiency.

The storm today produced 1-2 inches of snow at all elevations above about 5000′. As the snow depth data at the foot of this posting show, snowfall was not clearly correlated to elevation. The storm was not as cold as anticipated (although see the temperatures I recorded at San Jacinto Peak this morning!) and the snow level did not fall as low as forecast. Nevertheless, the PCT is largely snow-covered between about Mile 151 to Mile 195, albeit with only a couple of inches of easily hiked powder, especially in areas below about 7000′.

Currently most major trails, including most of the PCT through the high country of the San Jacinto mountains, have not been traveled and are at least partly obscured by snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting.

At present postholing through shallow snow is relatively easy in most areas below 9000′ (including all of the PCT). Today I carried microspikes and snowshoes; I did not use the former at all, and the latter only above 9300′ (Wellman’s Cienega). Microspikes may become increasingly useful over the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted (e.g. Devil’s Slide and lower Deer Springs trails). Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing in the high country and snowshoes are recommended above 9000′.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures well below freezing in the high country, with potentially dangerous cold when considering windchill effects.

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

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open. The parking area was plowed this morning, so presumably no closure is imminent.

WEATHER Another storm system over the next two days may produce another light snowfall at mid and upper elevations. Milder, brighter weather on 20th-22nd will be followed by more unsettled days on 23rd-25th with a possibility for slightly heavier snowfall above 6000′ and moderate rain at mid-elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Tuesday 17th March 2020 at 0950 the air temperature was 10.6°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -11.7°F (-24°C), 57% relative humidity, and a bitter SW wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 22.8 mph.

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

Microspikes may be useful on some of the PCT only if there is sufficient hiker traffic to compact the snow, and/or there are freeze-thaw cycles. Depending upon your comfort level in variable snow/ice conditions, most thru-hikers using footwear with good tread in combination with poles will find spikes unnecessary however. This morning I found the hiking in a couple of inches of fresh powder to be easy-going.

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6000′ are snow-covered, with depth depending on elevation. Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail, and from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide. Strong winds today in the high country were obscuring tracks within hours. The closure of the Tram will result in very light hiker traffic to the highest peaks via the Peak Trail, and little or no traffic on the Long and Round Valley trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled track to follow. Microspikes may become useful, especially in early morning. Snow cover is still >90% even with some melting this afternoon.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely under a continuous 1-2″ of snow cover [thanks to Anne and Anabel for this update from today].

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

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

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

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 1.5″ [24″]

Wellman Divide (9700′): 2″ [10″]

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 2″ [18″]

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 1.0″ [4″]

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 1.5″ [2″] (melted to 1″ by this afternoon)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0.75″ (largely all melted by this afternoon)

Peak Trail at 9800′ elevation just above Wellman Divide today, 17th March 2020, (above), and eight days earlier on 9th March for comparison (below).

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

Wellman’s Cienega north spring today, 17th March 2020, (above), and eight days earlier on 9th March for comparison (below).

Snow and trail update 14th March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Currently most major trails, including most of the PCT through the San Jacinto mountains, have not been traveled and are obscured by snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. The current snow situation on the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains is outlined below, and is also discussed in a video posted yesterday.

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

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

Microspikes may become increasingly useful over the next couple of days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted (e.g. Devil’s Slide and lower Deer Springs trails). Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing almost everywhere above about 8000′ elevation, and snowshoes are strongly recommended above 9000′.

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

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

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open.

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 8″ [22″]

Wellman Divide (9700′): 8″ [8″]

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 7″ [18″]

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

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

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

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

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

Storm updates 12th-13th March 2020

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

UPDATED 13th March @ 1130

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

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

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

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

UPDATED 12th March @ 1815

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

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

UPDATED 12th March @ 1610

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

UPDATED 12th March @ 1505

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

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

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

UPDATED 12th March @ 1250

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

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

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

UPDATED 12th March @ 0630

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

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

Storm updates 10th March 2020

UPDATED 11th March @ 0500

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

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

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

UPDATED 10th March @ 1630

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

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

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

UPDATED 10th March @ 1205

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATED 10th March @ 1010

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

UPDATED 10th March @ 0630

Rainfall started in Idyllwild at about 2130 last night, and has so far added up to an impressive 0.84″ (at 5550′ elevation). Fresh snowfall overnight in Long Valley (8600′) was about 3-4″.
San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, the Report depends completely on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a busy PCT season underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and weather update 5th March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 5th March 2020. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

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

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

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

Long Valley (8600′): 2″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1″

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

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

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


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

Snow storm update 2nd March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 6″ (17″)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 6″ (7″)

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 5″ (12″)

Long Valley (8600′): 4″ (4.5″)

Saddle Junction (8070′): 4″ (5″)

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

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

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


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

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

Trail update 27th February 2020

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SNOW DEPTHS measured on 27th February 2020. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

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

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

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

Long Valley (8600′): 1″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 0″

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

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

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

Minor snow storm update 23rd February 2020

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 3″ (17″)

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

Annie’s Junction (9070′): 4″ (13″)

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

Saddle Junction (8070′): 3″ (4″)

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

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

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



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

Trail update 17th February 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 17th February 2020. Note that average depth is given, drifts can be much deeper in places. Altitudes are approximate.

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

Little Round Valley (9800′): 16″

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

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

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

Long Valley (8600′): 1″

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1″

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

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

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

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