Snow storm summary 12th March 2021

[UPDATE 15th March 2021 @ 0950: A minor snow storm is forecast for this afternoon and evening. We have just returned from Saddle Junction (8100ft, PCT Mile 179) where it was briefly snowing lightly, with occasional drizzle below 6500ft. About 2-5 inches are expected at all elevations above 4500ft. A comprehensive report of high country conditions is planned for tomorrow evening.]

[For additional information specific to the PCT, please see the Pacific Crest Trail report, best used in conjunction with this latest general update.]

Our tenth snow storm of winter 2020/21 fell largely on Wednesday 10th March, with some on/off light snow continuing through much of yesterday,Thursday 11th. In Idyllwild at 5550ft, 12 inches fell in total, ranging through to 17 inches measured today at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft). Measurements for other locations, with cumulative depths, are given at the foot of this post.

I had a very enjoyable, if occasionally challenging, hike to San Jacinto Peak today, breaking trail the entire way with snowshoes on the east side trails (Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails). Snow conditions were excellent for snowshoeing, especially below 9000ft, with snowshoes only sinking in a few inches rather than feet, but conditions became more spongy higher up. I recorded a YouTube video in late morning at the Peak under spectacular, partly cloudy, skies.

Yet again, there was little difference in snowfall between the mid and upper elevations, probably because the high country was above the clouds for some of the storm system. Although excellent tracks are in place on a few major trails (discussed below), very cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

I had a few small snowflakes falling on me most of the late morning and early afternoon from moody cumulus clouds around the mountains. As I descended Devil’s Slide Trail into Strawberry Valley in mid afternoon, this turned into a more persistent light snow for an hour or so, accumulating to just over an inch in Idyllwild. This was probably insufficient snowfall to significantly alter trail conditions on the handful of broken tracks in the high country.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing everywhere above about 5000ft, potentially lower on less exposed trails for the next day or two. With rapid melting expected after Tuesday 16th March, and compaction caused by freeze-thaw cycles and hiker traffic, conditions will deteriorate for snowshoeing over the next few days, especially on more heavily traveled trails below 8000ft. Nevertheless, snowshoes will be invaluable anywhere off trail above about 8000ft for the foreseeable future. In addition to snowshoes, and as conditions change, spikes are strongly recommended for the foreseeable future everywhere above about 4500ft. They will be especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks (e.g., Devil’s Slide and Deer Springs trails) on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and for descending.

Snow depths are currently insufficient for significant avalanche risk in the high country, with the exception of the traditionally vulnerable locations on the north faces of San Jacinto and Tahquitz peaks.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering wind chill effects, at least until Wednesday 17th, when temperatures at mid and upper elevations will warm to well above seasonal norms.

The USFS gate at Humber Park was closed early on the morning of 10th March. There is legal parking for nine vehicles only just below the gate. USFS has ticketed illegally parked vehicles.. On some snowy weekends this year the uppermost 0.1 mile of Fern Valley Road has been closed by CHP at its junction with Forest Drive. Although parking is normally legal along Forest Drive, CHP has periodically towed vehicles parked along that street. Exercise considerable caution when parking anywhere in this area.

Looking north-east from San Jacinto Peak shortly before noon, 12th March 2021. Thunder was audible from intense storm cells over Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain at or below average for the next four days, and melting of snow will be minimal above about 6000ft. A light dusting of snow is possible on Monday 15th above about 5000ft, with rain possible around and below that elevation. Very strong winds the same day will cause heavy drifting, potentially obscuring broken trails and complicating navigation. A dramatic warming trend starts on Wednesday 17th, with very rapid snowmelt expected at all elevations for at least a week.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Friday 12th March 2021 at 1120 the air temperature was 10.2°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.4°F (-16°C), 100% relative humidity, and a light SW wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 10.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 8th March 2021 at 0840 the air temperature was 27.0°F (-3°C), with a windchill temperature of 9.9°F (-12°C), 29% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 22.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 4000′ are heavily or moderately snow-covered. Snow melt is expected to be minimal for the next few days, so this situation will be largely unchanged, especially above 6000ft. Currently very few major trails have been traveled.

The east side trails from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak – Devil’s Slide, Saddle Junction to Annie’s Junction, Wellman, and Peak trails – all have a well-defined snowshoe track to follow.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Willow Creek Trail, or the PCT south from Saddle Junction (i.e., toward Tahquitz Peak), as of this afternoon, with a partial snowshoe track at the start of the Caramba Trail.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 currently has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow.. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use this equipment) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail has a well-defined track to follow through the snow.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 12th March 2021 are as follows. Note that current average total depth is given first, followed by added snow from the latest storm in parentheses. Due to strong winds accompanying the storm there is extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 35 inches (17 inches new snow in latest storm)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 18 inches (15 inches new)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 24 inches (18 inches new)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 17 inches (15 inches new)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 14 inches (14 inches new, but snowing again this afternoon)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 12 inches (all new; another inch added so far this afternoon)

The Peak Trail at about 9800ft just above Wellman Divide, 12th March 2021 with my snowshoe tracks (above), and the same view four days earlier on 8th March (below).

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

Minor snow storm update 4th March 2021

[UPDATE 11th March @ 0950: It has snowed lightly from pre-dawn yesterday into this morning, with 11.5 inches accumulating in Idyllwild (at 5550ft). The high country was periodically on the fringe of the cloud, and consequently Long Valley (8600ft) has about 12 inches. The system was a cold one, with snow down to 4000ft, i.e. covering the entire PCT in the San Jacinto mountains from between Mile 151 to about Mile 200. The snow level was at 4500ft on Skyline Trail early this morning (thanks to Florian Boyd). The gate at Humber Park was closed at 0750 yesterday morning, but nine legal parking spaces remain in the area just below the gate. The next detailed Report is expected tomorrow evening, Friday 12th.]

[For information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail, please see the dedicated PCT report, best used in conjunction with the most recent detailed update, available here.]

This morning we broke trail to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails, descending the same way, to check on the effects of the minor snow storm that passed through yesterday afternoon. I recorded a video report at the Peak that covers most of the same information.

Yesterday, 3rd March 2021, it started snowing in Idyllwild at 1120 and continued until about 1830, accumulating two inches in that time (at 5550ft), although it was often barely cold enough to settle consistently. Judging by snow depths measured on our hike (detailed below) the higher peaks were above the cloud for some of the storm, with the greatest depth recorded around 9000ft. A dusting of snow down to about 4500ft in Garner Valley was visible from the high country, but that is likely largely gone by this evening.

By our descent early this afternoon, snowmelt was astoundingly rapid even by the recent standards of the San Jacinto mountains. Below about 9000ft, we spent half the descent in slush, with much of the remainder on already clearing trail. This was in stark contrast to pleasant continuous 2-4 inch snow cover early this morning. I suspect that by tomorrow afternoon, Friday 5th, which is forecast to be an unseasonably warm day, trail conditions will largely resemble the previous report from a few days ago (available here). Consequently I will not discuss specific trail conditions from this morning in any great detail here. Furthermore, conditions will again change significantly next week, with one or more moderate storm systems forecast (see Weather below), although the relatively light snows predicted may again have a limited effect on long-term conditions.

The detailed video report for PCT Miles 168-179 from 1st March will still be largely valid, as so much melting will take place by 6th March that conditions will soon be back to resembling what I found on Monday 1st. If anything, the challenging Apache Peak area is currently more tricky, with a thin, unstable layer of fresh snow sitting over, and obscuring, the pre-existing icy snow.

Currently spikes are recommended on all trails above about 6500ft. However as discussed above this situation could change significantly with substantial melting in sun-exposed slopes in the next day or so. Snowshoes are recommended only for some off-trail travel above about 9000ft. These recommendations may well change again next week.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and potentially far below freezing when considering wind chill effects, especially after this weekend.

Our pre-dawn start this morning was rewarded with immaculate tracks of not one but two Mountain Lions descending for long sections of Devil’s Slide Trail, both of which started on the PCT just north of Saddle Junction (photos below). The shallow powder was perfect for preserving the tracks so well. I am fortunate to see lions on average a couple of times each year, and have found tracks and scat many dozens of times, but these were some of the cleanest and longest sets of lion prints I have seen in the San Jacinto mountains. It did not appear that the two lions traveled together, although their tracks did overlap for a couple of short segments.

Spectacular clouds portend the arrival of a storm system, as seen from May Valley Road, 3rd March 2021. South Peak is to the right, and Tahquitz Peak to the left.

WEATHER The next three days are forecast to be warmer than average for early March, especially at elevations above 7000ft, resulting in extensive melting of the fresh snow. Starting Tuesday 9th, temperatures at all elevations drop to below seasonal, accompanied by unstable weather for up to a week. Currently the greatest likelihood for snow – roughly three inches in Idyllwild, six inches at the high peaks – is on Wednesday 10th March, but with possibilities for light precipitation for several days thereafter also.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 4th March 2021 at 1010 the air temperature was 28.2°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 13.3°F (-11°C), 41% relative humidity, and a fresh NNW wind sustained at 6 mph gusting to 13.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 22nd February 2021 at 0910 the air temperature was 39.3°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 32.2°F (0°C), 33% relative humidity, and a light SSE breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 6.2 mph.

This massive boulder slid into the Peak Trail at about 10,200ft elevation in the past few days.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails above about 8600ft largely remain snow-covered. Areas below 7500ft are generally patchy or clearing of snow, with the exception of north-facing slopes (down to about 5500ft).

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 had challenging steps to follow through the angled icy snow, but these are now likely obscured by the fresh, drifted snowfall. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently spikes (used in conjunction with at least hiking poles, or preferably an ice axe) are essential. Do not attempt to use snowshoes due to the angle of the icy snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow to 7500′. Snow is more extensive above that elevation to Saddle Junction, but clearing rapidly. Spikes can be useful.

SNOW DEPTHS measured at east side locations on 4th March 2021 are as follows. Three numbers are given: the new snow measured from the storm on 3rd March, followed by the current average depth, then finally followed (in parentheses) by the greatest depth of this winter recorded on 31st January. Due to heavy drifting, and variable melting due to differential sun exposure, depths now vary greatly in trails especially. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 3.5 inches, total 18 inches (40 inches on 31st January)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 2 inches, total 5 inches (31 inches on 31st January)

Annie’s Junction (9070ft): 4 inches, total 11 inches (29 inches on 31st January)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 3 inches, total 5 inches (29 inches on 31st January)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 2 inches, total 2 inches (22 inches on 31st January)

Above, fresh Mountain Lion prints at Devil’s Slide trailhead (6500ft) before dawn, 4th March 2021.
Tracks of one of two Mountain Lions that descended parts of Devil’s Slide Trail, 4th March 2021. Above at about 7800ft, below at 7500ft. The knife in the lower image is 3.6 inches long, for scale, suggesting this lion was likely an adult male (width of the print clearly >4 inches)

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While 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 unusually complex PCT season, every contribution is invaluable and deeply appreciated. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail update 1st March 2021

[UPDATED 3rd March 2021 @ 1910: It snowed in Idyllwild between 1120 and about 1830, accumulating two inches in that time. A similar depth settled in Long Valley (8600ft). At 5550ft in Idyllwild it was barely cold enough to settle consistently. Some 2-3 inches of fresh snow are expected everywhere above about 5000ft today.]

[For information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail, please see the dedicated PCT report, best used in conjunction with this most recent general update.]

Today we hiked Spitler Peak Trail to the PCT, then went northbound to Saddle Junction, before descending Devil’s Slide Trail. In a detailed video report for PCT Miles 168-179 I discuss the significant hazards in this section, especially the challenging Apache Peak area. [Special thanks to my next door neighbour Alex for his help with video production.]

Daily hikes in recent days have surveyed the PCT north of Highway 74, South Ridge, Marion Mountain, and Deer Springs trails, the north face of Tahquitz Peak, the Tahquitz area meadows, and of course routes to San Jacinto Peak.

Good news (potentially) regarding the Snow Fire closure (Miles 191-206). US Forest Service has indicated to the Trail Report that if there is no new major weather impact in this area during March, the Pacific Crest Trail through this fire closure area will likely reopen in April.

Melting has been steady at all elevations with several recent days of temperatures above average. Sun-exposed slopes in particular are clearing, with conditions more reminiscent of a “normal” April or May. Conditions will change in the next few days with minor storm systems forecast (see Weather below), although the light snows predicted may have a limited and short-term effect on conditions.

Spikes are recommended on all well-traveled trails above about 7500ft (lower in places discussed below), especially in the morning and for descending, as established trails are now compacted by hiker traffic and freeze-thaw cycles. Snowshoes are recommended only for some off-trail travel above about 9000ft, mainly afternoons when snow is softer. These recommendations will likely change later this week.

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

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway reopened on 18th February, with reduced days, hours, and capacity. See their website for details.

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 26th February, as did gates at South Ridge Road and May Valley Road (Cowbell Alley).

The Idyllwild ranger station of Mount San Jacinto State Park reopened on 6th February, and the adjacent campground reopened on 12th February. Wilderness camping in the State Park has also reopened, see the State Park website for further information.

WEATHER A minor storm system is forecast for Wednesday 3rd, with a snow level around 6000ft, and a few inches of snow predicted for the highest peaks. Rainfall at mid elevations will be light (<0.25in). Next week (Monday 8th onwards) is forecast to be very unsettled, with light precipitation possible on several days, and likely much colder with a freeze level below 5000ft on multiple days. In between the systems on 4th-7th, temperatures will swing to above seasonal, creating freeze-thaw conditions, but also melting fresh thin snow cover very rapidly.

February 2021 was the driest February recorded in the high country of the San Jacinto mountains since records began (in the 1940s in Idyllwild, in the 1960s in the high country), with only one very minor storm producing 1-2 inches of snow on 12th. February is typically one of the two wettest months of the year. The previous driest February was, alarmingly, in 2020.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 22nd February 2021 at 0910 the air temperature was 39.3°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 32.2°F (0°C), 33% relative humidity, and a light SSE breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 6.2 mph.

Anabel demonstrating how easy it is (for her) to cross the treacherous north face of Tahquitz Peak, 26th February 2021. For us mere mortals lacking four paw drive and built-in spikes, much greater caution (plus good equipment) is strongly recommended.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails above about 8600ft remain extensively snow-covered. Areas below 7500ft are generally very patchy or clear of snow, with the exception of north-facing slopes (down to about 6500ft). Areas between those elevations are variably snow-covered, but largely clear on sun-exposed slopes.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has challenging steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently spikes (used in conjunction with at least hiking poles, or preferably an ice axe) are essential. Do not attempt to use snowshoes due to the angle of the icy snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is almost clear of snow to 7700′ with a few dirt-covered icy snow patches remaining. Snow is more extensive above that elevation to Saddle Junction, but clearing rapidly. Spikes can be useful.

Deer Springs Trail is basically clear of snow up to Strawberry Junction and beyond to about 8600ft, but then snow is largely continuous from there to San Jacinto Peak. Above Little Round Valley the posthole track through the snow does not follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, and is steep and direct. Spikes are useful, and invaluable for descending, as snow is icy and compacted.

Marion Mountain Trail has extensive, very icy, snow cover to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail junction. Snow cover is roughly 40% below 7000ft and about 50% above 8500ft, but is nearly continuous between those elevations. Spikes are strongly recommended.

Fuller Ridge Trail has not be traveled since the last snow (late January) and there are no tracks to follow.

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

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is almost completely clear of ice and snow, a couple of patches remain near Humber Park. Spikes are not required.

South Ridge Trail is essentially clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600ft, with just a few tiny icy patches below 7000ft. Snow cover averages 30% on the traverse at 7600-7800ft, and then only 10% from there to Tahquitz Peak. Spikes can be useful for descending the longer icy patche close to Tahquitz Peak. South Ridge Road (now open) is basically clear, with a few tiny ice patches remaining.

Skyline Trail is clear of snow to near the start of the Traverse at about 7400ft, thereafter snow is fairly shallow but largely continuous to Grubb’s Notch (8600ft). There is a well-worn but icy track to follow, spikes are recommended.

Current snow cover on the PCT is minimal from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and patchy but challenging between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), mainly concentrated on north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168) and Apache Peak (Mile 169.5-170), but also with many small but tricky patches elsewhere. Note that in addition to the challenging north-east side of Apache Peak, the off-trail north side of the Apache saddle is also still largely snow-covered (also requiring spikes). Snow is then almost continuous between Miles 175-178. Snow cover is increasingly patchy and limited between Miles 178 to 183.5, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 181. From Mile 183.5 to 191, snow is largely continuous, although some short exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., within Miles 186.5-188.5) are clear or thinning rapidly.

Spitler Peak Trail is basically clear of snow, with just a couple of tiny icy patches remaining.

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

Relatively fresh Mountain Lion print off trail near PCT Mile 154, 25th February 2021. The knife is 3.6 inches long, for scale.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While 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 unusually complex PCT season, every contribution is invaluable and deeply appreciated. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow and trail update 24th February 2021

[UPDATE Friday 26th February: Forest Service reopened gates at Humber Park, South Ridge Road (5S11), and May Valley Road (5S21) today.]

[For information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail, please see the dedicated PCT report, best used in conjunction with this most recent general update.]

We have continued to hike daily on the mountain this year, with many recent hikes focused on subsections of the PCT, including the Spitler area on 21st. I had an easy ascent of San Jacinto Peak on 22nd, on firm icy snow up the east side trails via Devil’s Slide (no spikes required on the ascent, but used on much of the descent). Barring a significant change to the forecast, the very minor storm that passed through on Friday 12th February will be our only precipitation of what is normally one of the wettest months of the year.

Melting has been steady at all elevations with several recent days of temperatures well above average. Sun-exposed slopes in particular are starting to clear, with conditions more reminiscent of a “normal” April or May. At San Jacinto Peak on 22nd, I measured an average of about 19 inches, a loss of nearly one foot in a week. Spikes are recommended on all well-traveled trails above about 7500ft (lower in places discussed below), especially in the morning and for descending, as established trails are now compacted by hiker traffic and freeze-thaw cycles. Snowshoes are recommended only for some off-trail travel above about 9000ft, mainly afternoons when snow is softer.

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

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway reopened on 18th February, with reduced days, hours, and capacity. See their website for details.

The Idyllwild ranger station of Mount San Jacinto State Park reopened on 6th February, and the adjacent campground reopened on 12th February. Wilderness camping in the State Park has also reopened, see the State Park website for further information.

WEATHER Temperatures well above seasonal will largely continue this week, before dropping to around (or even slightly below) seasonal after Saturday 27th, and continuing into March. Minor storm systems are possible around 2nd-3rd March, perhaps including a light snowfall in the high country.

February has historically been one of the two wettest months (along with January) in the San Jacinto mountains. With only one very minor storm on 12th this year, February 2021 is destined to be even drier in the high country than February 2020, which was previously the driest February recorded at higher elevations since consistent records began (in the 1940s in Idyllwild, in the 1960s in the high country).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 22nd February 2021 at 0910 the air temperature was 39.3°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 32.2°F (0°C), 33% relative humidity, and a light SSE breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 6.2 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 15th February 2021 at 0855 the air temperature was 30.1°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.9°F (-10°C), 69% relative humidity, and a gusty NNW wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 26.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has challenging steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently spikes (used in conjunction with at least hiking poles, or preferably an ice axe) are essential. Do not attempt to use snowshoes due to the angle of the icy snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow to 7700′ with a few extended icy snow patches remaining. Snow is almost continuous above that elevation to Saddle Junction. The trail is hard and icy and spikes are useful.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow up to Strawberry Junction and beyond to about 8600ft, but then snow is largely continuous from there to San Jacinto Peak. The track(s) above the Marion Mountain Trail junction are easy to follow, but are largely posthole tracks in places, and in several places do not accurately follow the true trail route. Above Little Round Valley the posthole track through the snow does not follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, and is steep and direct. Spikes are useful, and invaluable for descending, as snow is icy and compacted.

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

Fuller Ridge Trail has not be traveled since the last snow (late January) and there are no tracks to follow.

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

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is almost completely clear of ice and snow, a couple of extended patches remain near Humber Park. Spikes are not required.

South Ridge Trail is essentially clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′, with just a few tiny icy patches low down. Snow cover averages 30% on the traverse at 7600-7800ft, and then only 10% from there to Tahquitz Peak. Spikes can be useful for descending the uppermost switchbacks close to Tahquitz Peak. South Ridge Road (currently closed) is basically clear, with a few tiny ice patches remaining.

Skyline Trail is clear of snow to about 7300ft, thereafter snow is fairly shallow but continuous to Grubb’s Notch (8600ft). There is a well-worn but icy track to follow, spikes are strongly recommended.

Current snow cover on the PCT is minimal from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and patchy between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), mainly concentrated on north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168) and Apache Peak (Mile 169.5-170). Note that in addition to the challenging north-east side of Apache Peak, the off-trail north side of the Apache saddle is also still largely snow-covered (also requiring spikes). Snow is then more-or-less continuous between Miles 175-178. Snow cover is increasingly patchy and limited between Miles 178 to 183.5, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction at about Mile 181. From Mile 183.5 to 191, snow is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., parts of Miles 186.5-188.5) are clear or thinning rapidly.

Spitler Peak Trail is basically clear of snow, with just a couple of tiny icy patches remaining.

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured at east side locations on 22nd February 2021 are as follows. Note that average depth is given first, followed (in parentheses) by the greatest depth of this winter recorded on 31st January. Due to past drifting, and variable melting due to differential sun exposure, depths now vary greatly in trails especially. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 19 inches (40 inches on 31st January)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 6 inches (31 inches on 31st January)

Annie’s Junction (9070ft): 11 inches (29 inches on 31st January)

Strawberry Junction (8100ft): <1 inch on 19th February (24 inches on 31st January)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 6 inches (29 inches on 31st January)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 0 inches (22 inches on 31st January)

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide, on 22nd February 2021 (above), and the same view just over three weeks earlier on 31st January (below)
Anabel contemplating exploring the upper shaft at the historic New Hemet Bell mine, 18th February 2021. This was near the end of a circuitous hike including part of the PCT, Penrod Canyon Road, and the Prospector Trail.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While 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 unusually complex PCT season, every contribution is invaluable and deeply appreciated. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Brief trail update 15th February 2021

[For information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail, please see the dedicated PCT report, best used in conjunction with the most recent general update.]

A brief rain and snow storm passed through on Friday 12th February. We hiked to Tahquitz Peak throughout the duration of the storm, and recorded this brief video report there.

Although the high country only received 1-2 inches of fresh powder, strong winds since (including today) have caused extensive drifting which has obscured well-worn tracks especially above 9000ft. On my ascent of San Jacinto Peak this morning up and down the east side trails via Devil’s Slide, again under spectacular cloudy skies, I had to break a few short sections of trail where drifting had been particularly extensive.

There was no sign of fresh tracks coming up to San Jacinto Peak from Little Round Valley on Deer Springs Trail, nor up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide. State Park law enforcement notified me that there are still no tracks emerging from Skyline Trail into Long Valley (a situation that will likely change soon with the reopening of the Tramway on Thursday 18th).

With temperatures recently at or slightly below average, plus several cloudy days, overall trail conditions are not substantially different from last week’s report. Please see that report for general conditions on the trails. The next ten days will see dramatic warming and much sunnier conditions, which will combine to cause rapid, widespread melting. This will be especially striking below 9000ft, and on sun-exposed slopes at all elevations. Due to warm temperatures and direct sun, snow conditions will deteriorate later this week and next weekend, likely becoming soft and sloppy.

Spikes are recommended on all trails above about 7000ft (lower in places), especially for descending, as established trails become increasingly consolidated by hiker traffic and freeze-thaw cycles. Snowshoes are recommended for off-trail travel anywhere above about 8000ft, and for trails that have yet to be traveled since the most recent snowfalls.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, currently closed due to the coronavirus crisis, is scheduled to reopen on 18th February, with reduced days, hours, and capacity. See their website for details.

The Idyllwild ranger station of Mount San Jacinto State Park reopened on 6th February, and the adjacent campground reopened on 12th February. Wilderness camping in the State Park has also reopened, see the State Park website for further information.

WEATHER Temperatures at or slightly below seasonal continue until Thursday 18th, after which temperatures quickly rise to well above seasonal for the remainder of February, under clear, sunny skies.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 15th February 2021 at 0855 the air temperature was 30.1°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.9°F (-10°C), 69% relative humidity, and a gusty NNW wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 26.1 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 9th February 2021 at 0900 the air temperature was 29.2°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 11.6°F (-11°C),34% relative humidity, and a sharp SW wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 28.5 mph.

The Peak “Trail” at about 10,500ft under deep grey cloudy skies, early morning 15th February 2021. The snow is fairly hard and icy, spikes are strongly recommended, and an ice axe could be handy for those who know how to use one.

SNOW DEPTHS measured at east side locations on 15th February 2021 are as follows. Note that average depth is given first. For west side locations, data are for 9th February as indicated, still relevant as melting has been minimal in the past week. Recent measurements are followed (in parentheses) by the greatest depth of this winter recorded on 31st January. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 30 inches (40 inches on 31st January)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 23 inches on 9th February (32 inches on 31st January)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 10 inches (31 inches on 31st January)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 14 inches (29 inches on 31st January)

Deer Springs Trail at Seven Pines Trail junction (8700ft): 17 inches on 9th February (26 inches on 31st January)

Strawberry Junction (8100ft): 3-4 inches on 9th February (24 inches on 31st January)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 10 inches (29 inches on 31st January)

Deer Springs Trail at Suicide Rock Trail junction (6950ft): 0-2 inches on 9th February (16 inches on 31st January)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 0-1 inches (22 inches on 31st January)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0 inches (18 inches on 31st January)

The San Jacinto mountains as seen from Pyramid Peak, 11th February 2021. We have recently spent every day on part of the PCT and/or its feeder trails.. Anabel, having seen every view from every peak in the range so many times, was far more interested in the movements of nearby wildlife.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While 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 unusually complex PCT season, every contribution is invaluable.. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow and trail update 9th February 2021

We have continued to hike every day on the mountain this year, with many recent hikes focused on subsections of the PCT. We had a pleasantly brisk ascent of San Jacinto Peak this morning under spectacular cloudy skies, on firm icy snow up the east side trails via Devil’s Slide (using spikes all the way from Humber Park), then descended the west side via Deer Springs Trail (finally removing spikes just below Strawberry Junction).

In three storms in six days ending Friday 29th January, Idyllwild received more than an entire winter’s worth of snow, 33.5 inches, in just one week (the long-term average being 32 inches per winter). In contrast, snow accumulations in the high country remain far below seasonal average. Melting has been rapid at lower and mid elevations, but slower in the high country. With cooler weather coming melting will slow to a crawl, especially above 7000ft and on slopes with limited sun exposure.

Garner Valley and areas below 5000ft are basically clear, with sun-exposed slopes below 6000ft clearing fast. Idyllwild has lost almost all of its nearly three feet of snow. At San Jacinto Peak this morning, I measured about 29 inches, a loss of 25% in ten days. Spikes are strongly recommended on all well-traveled trails above 7000ft (lower in places), especially in the morning and for descending, as established trails are now well consolidated by hiker traffic and freeze-thaw cycles. Snowshoes are recommended for off-trail travel anywhere above about 8000ft, and for trails that have yet to be traveled since the most recent storms.

Many major trails have now been traveled, and conditions are discussed below for specific trails where known. In addition to those, there are tracks around the Tahquitz area meadows on Willow Creek and Caramba trails, and to Chinquapin Flat. There are no tracks emerging at Wellman Divide on the Round Valley Trail. Cautious navigation continues to be recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today, and compared with ten days ago, are listed at the foot of this posting.

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

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, currently closed due to the coronavirus crisis, is scheduled to reopen on 18th February, with reduced days, hours, and capacity. See their website for details.

The USFS gate at Humber Park is closed. There is legal parking for nine vehicles just below the gate (assuming the road below that point is open). Vehicles parked there on recent weekends have been issued with warning notices by California Highway Patrol, and those parked illegally towed. Otherwise on weekends this year (and some weekdays) the uppermost 0.1 mile of Fern Valley Road has been closed by CHP at its junction with Forest Drive. Although parking is normally legal along Forest Drive, CHP has towed vehicles parked along that street on some recent weekends. Exercise considerable caution when parking anywhere in this area. The gate on South Ridge Road is also closed.

The Idyllwild ranger station of Mount San Jacinto State Park reopened on 6th February, and the adjacent campground is expected to reopen on 12th February. Wilderness camping in the State Park has also reopened, see the State Park website for further information.

Looking south-east from near Wellman’s Cienega, early morning 9th February 2021. Note the smoky haze in the Coachella Valley.

WEATHER Temperatures well above seasonal this past weekend lead to substantial widespread snowmelt in the first week of February. For the foreseeable future, temperatures will be roughly around seasonal averages at mid elevations, but varying much more widely at higher elevations. There is a possibility of light precipitation in the morning of Friday 12th, and again on Saturday night, 13th February. These two minor storm systems may produce a dusting of fresh snow in the high country, and a little rain at 5000-6000ft. From Thursday 18th, temperatures again swing to well above seasonal.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Tuesday 9th February 2021 at 0900 the air temperature was 29.2°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 11.6°F (-11°C), 34% relative humidity, and a sharp SW wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 28.5 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 4th February 2021 at 0930 the air temperature was 35.6°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.0°F (-7°C), 23% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 30.6 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 8300′ remain completely snow-covered. Most areas below 7500′ are patchy or rapidly clearing of snow. Areas between those elevations are largely snow-covered, but with clearing on sun-exposed slopes. Reliable tracks are now in place for most major trails including: Devil’s Slide, Deer Springs, Marion Mountain, Peak, Wellman, South Ridge, and around the Tahquitz area meadows.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has challenging and indistinct steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently spikes at least are strongly recommended, crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are preferable. Snowshoes must be avoided due to the angle of the icy snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is slowly clearing of snow to 7500′ with about 50% cover of icy snow. Snow is almost continuous above that elevation. The trail is hard and icy and spikes are useful.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow up to the Suicide Rock trail junction (7000ft), with about 40% cover to 7800ft (about 0.5 mile below Strawberry Junction) where snow cover abruptly increases to 90%. Some snow free patches continue to 8300ft, but then snow is continuous from there to San Jacinto Peak. The track(s) above the Marion Mountain Trail junction are easy to follow, but are largely posthole tracks, and in several places do not accurately follow the true trail route. Above Little Round Valley the posthole track through the snow does not remotely follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, and is steep and direct (my fault I’m afraid). Spikes are very useful, and invaluable for descending, as snow is icy and compacted.

Marion Mountain Trail has patchy snow to 7500ft. There is continuous icy snow from there to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail junction. Spikes are recommended.

Fuller Ridge Trail has not be traveled since the last snow (late January) and there are no tracks to follow.

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

The east side trails from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak – Devil’s Slide, Saddle Junction to Annie’s Junction, Wellman, and Peak trails – all have a very well-defined snowshoe track to follow, although the route does not exactly follow the established trail routes in the high country in places.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is now largely clear in its lower 1.8 miles. Icy snow covers about 30% of the upper part closest to Humber Park. Spikes remain helpful especially for descending in the morning.

South Ridge Trail is largely clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′. Snow cover is patchy from there to the Peak, becoming more continuous on the upper switchbacks close to the Peak. Spikes are recommended, especially for descending. South Ridge Road (currently closed) is largely clear of ice, with a few lengthy patches remaining.

There is well-defined track on the Suicide Rock Trail through the patchy snow from Deer Springs Trail to the top of Suicide Rock.

A low 12,000ft ceiling of cloud as seen from San Jacinto Peak, 9th February 2021. The distant Santa Rosa range is just left of centre, with a snowy Jean Peak front right.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 9th February 2021, are as follows. Note that average depth is given first, followed (in parentheses) by the greatest depth of this winter recorded ten days earlier on 31st January. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 29 inches (40 inches on 31st January)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 23 inches (32 inches on 31st January)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 8 inches (31 inches on 31st January)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 18 inches (29 inches on 31st January)

Deer Springs Trail at Seven Pines Trail junction (8700ft): 17 inches (26 inches on 31st January)

Strawberry Junction (8100ft): 3-4 inches (24 inches on 31st January)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 10 inches (29 inches on 31st January)

Deer Springs Trail at Suicide Rock Trail junction (6950ft): 0-2 inches (16 inches on 31st January)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 1-3 inches (22 inches on 31st January)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): <2 inches (18 inches on 31st January)

Little Round Valley on 9th February 2021 (above) and the same view ten days earlier on 31st January (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 an unusually complex PCT season, every contribution is invaluable and deeply appreciated. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow and trail summary 1st February 2021

[UPDATED 4th February: Melting has been very rapid at low and mid elevations, steadier in the high country. Garner Valley and areas below 5000ft are basically clear, with sun-exposed slopes below 6000ft clearing fast. Idyllwild has lost 75% of its three feet of snow. At San Jacinto Peak this morning, I measured about 34 inches, a loss of 15%. Spikes are invaluable on all well-traveled trails above at least 6000ft, snowshoes are recommended above 8000ft, and are essential for off-trail travel anywhere above 7000ft. Melting will accelerate rapidly, as temperatures are forecast to be about ten degrees above average at all elevations for the next 5-6 days.]

Our seventh snow storm of winter 2020/21, and the third in one week, came on Friday 29th January. In Idyllwild at 5550ft, seven inches fell overnight, with an additional 5.5 inches during the daylight hours of Friday. In combination with back-to-back storms the previous weekend (discussed here), Idyllwild received more than an entire winter’s worth of snow, 33.5 inches, in just one week (the long-term average being 32 inches per winter).

Conditions on my ascent to San Jacinto Peak on 31st January are described in more detail in yet another overly long and rambling video discussion (I’ll learn to talk less soon I promise). I ascended via the east side trails (Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails) and descended the west side via Deer Springs Trail. Snow conditions were greatly improved compared to just five days ago, with the fresh snow being much more consolidated and firm, with snowshoes only sinking in a few inches rather than feet.

Yet again, there was little difference in snowfall between the mid and upper elevations, with actually slightly less fresh snow in this latest storm at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft) than in Idyllwild (at 5550ft), probably because the high country was above the clouds for some of the storm system. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting. Although excellent tracks are in place on some major trails (discussed below), nevertheless cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing everywhere above about 6000ft, potentially lower on less exposed trails that will melt slowly. With rapid melting expected, and compaction caused by freeze-thaw cycles and hiker traffic, conditions will deteriorate for snowshoeing over the next few days, especially on more heavily traveled trails below 8000ft. Nevertheless, snowshoes will be invaluable anywhere off trail above about 8000ft for the foreseeable future. In addition to snowshoes, and as conditions change, spikes are strongly recommended for the foreseeable future everywhere above about 4500ft. They will be especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks (e.g., Devil’s Slide and Deer Springs trails) on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and for decsending.

Consolidation of layers in the snow should be rapid with warming temperatures and a strong February sun over the next week. The avalanche risk in the high country has diminished due to the relatively shallow snow depth, but should still be considered by anyone venturing above 9000ft or especially on to steep north-facing slopes due to the large quantity of subsurface graupel. Be aware of subsurface whoomphing noises, and significant cracking perpendicular to the slope. Current risk is in the usual locations on the north face of San Jacinto and Tahquitz peaks, but in past years has also been observed on relatively steep, less vegetated slopes, such as the Peak Trail and East Ridge Trail routes on the eastern flank of San Jacinto Peak.

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in the high country for the next week or so, hikers should be prepared for temperatures generally below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering wind chill effects.

The USFS gate at Humber Park is closed. There is legal parking for nine vehicles only just below the gate (assuming the road below that point is open). Vehicles parked there this weekend were issued with warning notices by California Highway Patrol. On weekends this year (and some weekdays) the uppermost 0.1 mile of Fern Valley Road has usually been closed by CHP at its junction with Forest Drive. Although parking is normally legal along Forest Drive, CHP has towed vehicles parked along that street on recent weekends. Exercise considerable caution when parking anywhere in this area.

The gate on South Ridge Road is closed. The unpaved section of Tahquitz View Drive has now been plowed, and there is safe parking on Tahquitz View Drive at or near the foot of South Ridge Road for a small number of vehicles.

Azalea Drive, the access road to Marion Mountain trailhead, has not been ploughed. The USFS gate about 0.5 mile below the trailhead is closed.

All camping is prohibited in Mount San Jacinto State Park, where the four wilderness camping areas in the State Park remain closed (camping is never permitted elsewhere in the State Park). Wilderness camping appears to now be permitted in the National Forest. See the State Park or Forest Service websites for further information.

The imposing snow-clad north face of Tahquitz Peak (centre left) as seen from the PCT just after sunrise, 31st January 2021.

WEATHER A warming trend to temperatures slightly above seasonal (especially at higher elevations) will lead to significant melting in the first week of February. Next weekend, 6th-7th February, temperatures are currently forecast to be well above seasonal, and melting will accelerate at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Sunday 31st January 2021 at 0950 the air temperature was 37.8°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.9°F (0°C), 35% relative humidity, and a very light due West wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.6 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 26th January 2021 at 1350 the air temperature was 9.8°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -9.6°F (-23°C), 66% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 14.9 mph.

Little Round Valley under two-and-a-half feet of snow, 31st January 2021.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 4500′ are snow-covered. Snow was melting rapidly this afternoon at all elevations, but especially below 6500ft. At all elevations by this afternoon snow was softening rapidly, and was taking on the consistency of soft-serve ice cream even in the high country. This makes snowshoes even more invaluable. The hikers I encountered postholing on Deer Springs Trail this afternoon were not having a good time.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, or Fuller Ridge trails, as of this afternoon.

The east side trails from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak – Devil’s Slide, Saddle Junction to Annie’s Junction, Wellman, and Peak trails – all have a very well-defined snowshoe track to follow, although the route does not exactly follow the established trail routes in the high country in places.

Deer Springs Trail has an excellent snowshoe track to follow to Little Round Valley, largely accurately following the established trail route. Above Little Round Valley, my snowshoe track down from the Peak is very direct, steep, and would be a challenging ascent.

There is well-defined track on the Suicide Rock Trail through the snow from Deer Springs Trail to the top of Suicide Rock.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 had no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow as of this morning. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow.

South Ridge Road and upper South Ridge Trail have a track to follow to Tahquitz Peak.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail has a well-defined snowshoe track.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 31st January 2021, are as follows. Note that current average total depth is given first, followed by added snow from the latest storm in parentheses where known. Note that there was some melting between the previous storm systems, accounting for the discrepancy between depths reported here and last weeks report. Due to strong winds accompanying the storms there is extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 40 inches (8 inches new snow in latest storm)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 32 inches

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 31 inches (7 inches new)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 29 inches (10 inches new)

Deer Springs Trail at Seven Pines Trail junction (8700ft): 26 inches

Strawberry Junction (8100ft): 24 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 29 inches (10 inches new)

Deer Springs Trail at Suicide Rock Trail junction (6950ft): 16 inches

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 22 inches (12 inches new, but melting rapidly)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 18 inches (all new; although 33 inches fell, rapid melting was already underway yesterday)

Strawberry Junction complete with well-defined snowshoe track along Deer Springs Trail, 31st January 2021.

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 costs. Already deep into a very busy winter, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow storm summary 26th January 2021

[UPDATED 29th January: An additional seven inches of snow fell overnight in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) and it has continued to snow on/off all day, adding 5.25 more inches. Long Valley (8600ft but on the east slope) has added only about 5-6 inches in this storm. The next full high country update is planned for Sunday evening, 31st January.]

This is a summary of conditions following the fifth and sixth snow storms of winter 2020/21, which came on consecutive days, largely overnight on 24th and 25th January. As is increasingly the trend with a rapidly changing climate in recent years, there was relatively little difference in snowfall between the mid and upper elevations, with a combined storms total of 20.75 inches measured in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) through to 26 inches at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft). The second of the two storm systems was much colder than the first, accounting for about 75% of the snow total, and with a dusting of snow below 2000ft in places.

My ascent to San Jacinto Peak this morning is described in more detail in a video discussion available here. Overall it was unusually challenging due to substantial depth of graupel, mainly above 10,000ft. This made for exceptional postholing in snowshoes even though overall snow depths remain below average for the season.

Currently major trails have not been traveled and all are obscured by significant snowfall. Beyond Humber Park, at the time of writing, my snowshoe tracks to San Jacinto Peak are the only traveled high country trail. On my descent this evening, I was surprised to see no other tracks up to Saddle Junction. The significance of this is that there are currently no tracks on Willow Creek Trail, to Chinquapin Flat or Tahquitz Peak, or around the meadows. Very cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting, but note that due to drifting, snow can be deeper in the trails themselves.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing everywhere above about 5000ft, potentially lower on less exposed trails that will melt slowly. Elsewhere (and in addition), spikes are recommended for the foreseeable future as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles.

There is now an avalanche risk in the high country. Graupel is inherently unstable, especially when the layer is so thick, and this will be exacerbated by a heavy fresh snowfall on 28th-29th January. On my descent of the East Ridge of San Jacinto Peak this afternoon I had several major whoomphing events underfoot (yes, that is actually a technical avalanche term!) due to major subsurface cracking. Current risk is in the usual locations on the north face of San Jacinto and Tahquitz peaks, but may spread to other relatively steep, less vegetated slopes, such as the eastern flank of San Jacinto Peak.

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park is closed. There is legal parking for nine vehicles only just below the gate. Weekends this month (and some weekdays) the uppermost 0.1 mile of Fern Valley Road has also been closed at its junction with Forest Drive. Although parking is normally legal along Forest Drive, CHP has towed vehicles parked along that street on recent weekends.

The gate on South Ridge Road is also closed. Due to snow berms there is currently no parking on Tahquitz View Drive at the foot of South Ridge Road.

Azalea Drive, the access road to Marion Mountain trailhead, has not been ploughed.

The Deer Springs trailhead at Highway 243 has not been ploughed. There is safe roadside parking for only 12-14 vehicles.

All developed and yellow post camping is closed in the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest. This was initially due to exceptional fire risk, but more recently due to the coronavirus crisis. All camping is prohibited in Mount San Jacinto State Park, where the four wilderness camping areas in the State Park remain closed (camping is not permitted elsewhere in the State Park). Wilderness camping appears to now be permitted in the National Forest. See the State Park or Forest Service websites for further information.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to remain below seasonal for at least the next week, with freezing conditions every night above about 5000ft. Snow melt will be very limited, and conditions will be icy. Another storm system arrives on the night of Thursday 28th, with snow continuing Friday 29th. This will be the warmest of the three recent storms, with a further 6-8 inches of snow forecast everywhere above about 5500ft (with 12+ inches possible in the high country) but significant rainfall below that elevation.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Tuesday 26th January 2021 at 1350 the air temperature was 9.8°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -9.6°F (-23°C), 66% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 14.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 4000′ are snow-covered. The light dusting of snow below that elevation was melting rapidly this afternoon.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail has a well-defined snowshoe track. The lower trailhead on Tahquitz View Drive is not currently accessible to vehicles as the road is unploughed.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-defined snowshoe track to follow.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 26th January 2021, are as follows. Note that average total depth is given first, followed by depth from latest storms in parentheses. Due to strong winds accompanying the storms there is extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 34 inches (26 inches new in latest storms)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 24 inches (18 inches new)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 23 inches (17 new)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 21 inches (20 inches new)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 18 inches (17 inches new)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 20.75 inches (all new)

Spectacular cloud rolling east over the ridge at 9000ft as I descended the Wellman Trail late this afternoon, 26th January 2021.
Tahquitz Rock as seen from Devil’s Slide Trail in late afternoon, 26th January 2021.

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 costs. In an especially challenging year, and with a busy winter already well underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Weather update 21st January 2021

[UPDATE 25th January: A further 9.0 inches of snow fell in Idyllwild overnight, with two more inches accumulating this morning. The air temperature has not exceeded 26°F in Idyllwild today. All trails above 4000ft are heavily obscured by snow. The next detailed high country update will be tomorrow evening, 26th January.]

[UPDATE 24th January: This morning we measured storm totals of 5.75 inches of snow in Idyllwild and 7.0 inches at Devil’s Slide trailhead in Humber Park, the result of steady snowfall yesterday afternoon and evening. Snow levels were down close to 4000ft in Garner Valley and 4500ft on Skyline Trail (thanks to Florian Boyd for the latter observation). Long Valley (8600ft) added about four inches for a total of six. A further 10 inches is possible tonight and tomorrow everywhere above about 4000ft, with dusting as low as 3000ft.]

[UPDATE 23rd January: Idyllwild awoke to 0.5 inch of fresh snow overnight. All three of us had a lovely hike from home up South Ridge Trail, finding about 1.0 inch fresh snow above 6500ft, and 1.5 inches at Tahquitz Peak. Strong overnight winds meant drifts a few inches deep in patches in the trail. The high country was visibly above the cloud all morning. It lightly snowed on us during the descent, but in Idyllwild it is barely cold enough to accumulate. Another 3-4 inches are forecast to accumulate by dusk tonight at all elevations.]

Exceptionally strong Santa Ana winds on 19th-20th January were accompanied by a very minor snowfall. Our rapid ascent of San Jacinto Peak this morning involved minimal postholing, as snow was only an inch deep to about 8500ft, and with little more than two inches of fresh powder in trails up to the highest peaks. As another bonus, it was remarkably mild and windless at the Peak.

With such strong accompanying winds, the snow was plastered to all surfaces, likely giving the impression from afar of much greater snowfall. By late morning today very rapid melting was underway, with the trails more slush than snow, much of the vegetation at all elevations clearing, and the light dusting down to 7000ft had already retreated to nearer 8000ft by noon.

I recorded a video discussion at the Peak, partly describing current conditions and the storm of the previous day, but mainly regarding the genuinely wintry weather coming over the next week or so.

For an approximation of trail conditions for tomorrow, see the previous report. Snow depths reported therein remain relevant, with the addition of an inch or so from the most recent storm. Starting Saturday 23rd, fresh snowfall will change conditions significantly. Also see that prior report for details of the various coronavirus restrictions and closures.

Spikes are recommended for some sections of all trails above about 8000ft, especially in the early morning and/or for descending. Spikes may be useful locally at lower elevations also. Snowshoes will become useful possibly as early as Saturday, but certainly during and after next week.

With very unsettled weather forecast for the remainder of January, hikers should be prepared for temperatures well below freezing in the high country, and potentially dangerously low (below 0°F) when considering wind chill effects.

WEATHER For the remainder of January we should finally get something resembling a proper winter. Three successive storm systems will each bring more snow than the previous one, and by the end of the month the mid elevations (Idyllwild-Pine Cove) could have about two feet of snow, with as much as three feet around the highest peaks. All three storms are more conventional westerly storms, unlike the light snowfall mentioned above that came from the north-east.

The first storm will be on Saturday 23rd, with roughly four inches of snow expected at all elevations above about 5000ft. The second storm is close behind, arriving the night of Sunday 24th and continuing into Monday 25th. This is a much colder system – the coldest system of this winter so far – with potentially 6-10 inches of snow in the high country, and seven inches around Idyllwild-Pine Cove, but with snow falling possibly as low as 3000ft. The third, warmer storm, hits mainly on Thursday 28th. Forecast models are currently less certain about this storm, but it may bring heavy, wet snow, perhaps 10-15 inches in the high country, and several inches at 6000ft, but with a more typical snow level at or above 5000ft, with significant rainfall lower down.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 21st January 2021 at 0910 the air temperature was 30.6°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.6°F (-5°C), 60% relative humidity, and a very light NE wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.1 mph.

Tahquitz Peak (with Tahquitz Rock to the right) at sunrise, 21st January 2021, as seen from about Mile 181 of the PCT.
Looking south across the San Jacinto high country from San Jacinto Peak, 21st January 2021.

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 costs. In an especially challenging year, and with a busy winter already well underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Weather and trail update 19th January 2021

[UPDATE 20th January: wild Santa Ana winds over the past 24 hours have been accompanied by light precipitation. Based on our hike this morning, snow settled above 7000ft (0.5 inch) with about 1-2 inches above 8000ft. Drifting may be extreme in places due to the very strong winds. Trail condition information below may no longer be strictly accurate. Carrying spikes is recommended everywhere above 7000ft at least. The next storm systems, bringing much more snow, are forecast for Saturday and Monday.]

A remarkable sequence of weather conditions so far in January 2021 is forecast to get even more unusual in the next few days. Details are below – see Weather – but cold Santa Ana (north-east) winds tomorrow will briefly bring critical fire weather conditions, but may also draw up light precipitation from the south. The following 7-10 days will be cold and very unsettled, with precipitation possible on multiple days, more conventionally from the west. In contrast, the overnight low temperature in Idyllwild a couple of days ago was 30 degrees above seasonal.

My ascent of San Jacinto Peak yesterday morning was almost as fast as a typical summer hike, on a largely clear trail with only a few extended sections of firm ice and icy snow, up and down the east side trails via Devil’s Slide (with no spikes required ascending, but useful in a couple of spots for descending). Melting of the snow that fell on Monday 28th December was rapid in the past week, on sun-exposed slopes at all elevations, and more widely below about 8500ft, as described in detail below.

The Bonita Fire on 15th January was successfully held at about 715 acres. May Valley Road and the western section of Bonita Vista Road are closed (as are all associated side trails). As I watched multiple ‘planes drop retardant near May Valley Road with a snow-covered Thomas Mountain as a backdrop, it was abundantly clear to me that regrettably we no longer have a “fire season”. The accelerating and dramatic changes to our mountain climate in the past decade, with associated (and long-term) declines in forest health, can produce critical fire conditions year-round, even in mid-January. Also, when conditions get bad enough, the supposed “fire break” effects of past fires simply no longer exist. Some of what burned in the Bonita Fire had also burned in the Cranston Fire just 30 months earlier, and almost everything else had previously burned in the 2013 Mountain Fire (with some meadows burning in all three fires!). Sobering indeed.

Major trails have largely been traveled since the last snowfall in late December, and conditions are discussed below for specific trails where known. Melting has been rapid in the past week. In addition to those, there are posthole tracks around the Tahquitz area meadows on Willow Creek and Caramba trails, to Chinquapin Flat and to Tahquitz Peak. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting.

Spikes remain recommended for some sections of all trails above about 8000ft (see trail-specific details below), especially for descending, as established trails are now generally well consolidated by hiker traffic and freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes may be useful locally at lower elevations also. Snowshoes are useful only for extended off-trail travel above about 10,000ft on sheltered slopes (that may change depending on snowfall over the next week or so).

With unsettled weather forecast for the remainder of January, hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and potentially far below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for temperatures recorded recently at San Jacinto Peak).

All developed and yellow post camping is closed in the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest. This was initially due to exceptional fire risk, but more recently due to the coronavirus crisis. All camping is prohibited in Mount San Jacinto State Park, where the four wilderness camping areas in the State Park remain closed (camping is not permitted elsewhere in the State Park). Wilderness camping appears to now be permitted in the National Forest. See the State Park or Forest Service websites for further information.

Due to the coronavirus crisis Mount San Jacinto State Park is encouraging visitation to be confined to local residents only. The Idyllwild ranger station of the State Park has again closed (the U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has not reopened since March 2020). Day use permits are nevertheless required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the self-serve kiosks outside either ranger station.

The USFS gate at Humber Park is closed. There is legal parking for nine vehicles just below the gate. On recent weekends (and some weekdays) the uppermost 0.1 mile of Fern Valley Road has also been closed at its junction with Forest Drive. Although parking is normally legal along Forest Drive, CHP has towed vehicles that were parked along that street at weekends. Use discretion when parking in this area on weekends/holidays. The gate on South Ridge Road is also closed.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway closed again starting 12th December 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis, with no tentative reopening date at this time.

WEATHER After temperatures far above seasonal last week, with rapid snowmelt at all elevations, the remainder of January will be cold, unsettled, and with possibilities for precipitation. Very strong Santa Ana winds are forecast on 19th-20th. These will be associated with cold air (unlike the Santa Anas involved with the Bonita Fire last Friday). Light to moderate storm systems are forecast off-and-on for the remainder of the month, with snow currently possible on several of the next 14 days in the San Jacinto high country. Currently significant snowfalls are forecast centred around Saturday 23rd, Monday 25th, and Friday 29th January.

An excellent video discussion of the complex weather situation for the next few days was released this afternoon by NWS San Diego.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 18th January 2021 at 0835 the air temperature was 30.1°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.4°F (-6°C), 41% relative humidity, and a brisk NNE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 8.9 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 11th January 2021 at 0855 the air temperature was 24.6°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 4.4°F (-16°C), 46% relative humidity, and a bitter NNE wind sustained at 25 mph gusting to 30.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Almost all trails are now only partially snow-covered. Most areas below about 8600ft have only patchy snow, with most trails below 7500ft clear or largely clear. Sun-exposed slopes in particular, even at the highest peaks, are largely clear of snow. Reliable tracks are now in place for most major trails including: Devil’s Slide, Deer Springs, Marion Mountain, Peak, Wellman, South Ridge, Tahquitz Peak, and the Tahquitz area meadows. Conditions may well change soon with dustings or light snowfalls possible on several days in the next week. Cold conditions for the foreseeable future will result in firm ice and icy snow on trails, which becomes more hazardous if it is covered with a thin layer of fresh snow.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Spikes are strongly recommended. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow, even if there is a light covering of fresh snow in coming days.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow to 7600′ with a few extended icy snow patches. Snow is patchy but more continuous above that elevation, becoming almost continuous near Saddle Junction. The trail is hard and icy and spikes can be useful for descending. The major new treefall hazard just past the seventh and eighth switchbacks was being cut today by our great volunteer USFS trail crew.

Deer Springs Trail is basically clear of snow up to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft (spikes not required to this point). From Strawberry Junction to about 8600′, 0.2 mile before the Marion Mountain Trail junction, snow cover is very patchy. Snow is more continuous from there to San Jacinto Peak, but with significant cleared sections on sun-exposed slopes. Above Little Round Valley the posthole track through the snow does not follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, and is steep and direct, but is adequate. Spikes are very useful, especially for descending, as snow is icy and compacted.

Marion Mountain Trail has very limited patchy snow to 7500′ (no spikes required for ascending). There some extended patches of snow from there to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail junction. Spikes are useful, especially for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail has not be traveled since the last snow (late December) and there are no tracks to follow.

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

The Wellman and Peak trails have less than 50% snow cover, and there is a well-defined and (largely) accurate track to follow through the sections of icy snow.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is basically clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail is largely clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′. Snow cover is significant on the traverse from there to the start of the switchbacks (at about 7900ft), The 18 switchbacks to Tahquitz Peak are largely clear except where they are north-facing and receive little direct sun. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. South Ridge Road (closed) is largely clear of ice, with a few small patches remaining.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 18th January 2021 as follows (with comparison to 29th December 2020 where known). Note that average depth is given; depths are very variable now due to differential melting in exposed areas, and to strong winds that caused extensive drifting. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 6 inches (17 inches on 29th December 2020)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 3 inches (15 inches on 29th December 2020)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 6 inches (15 inches on 29th December 2020)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1 inch

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): <1 inch (16 inches on 29th December 2020)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): <1 inch (14 inches on 29th December 2020)

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide on 18th January 2021 (above) and the same view on 31st December 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 costs. In an especially challenging year, and with a busy winter already well underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Bonita Fire 15th January 2021

UPDATED Saturday 16th at 0600

The Bonita Fire is under control (officially 20% contained) and no longer a threat to spread further. Final estimated acreage is 715 acres burned. All road closures and evacuation orders have been lifted.

UPDATED Friday 15th at 1230

All road closures in the area of the Bonita Fire have been lifted, with the exception of Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Lake Hemet. This section of highway is reduced to one lane with law enforcement escorts.

UPDATED Friday 15th at 0930

The raging Santa Ana wind has dropped, the air attack has been greatly scaled back, and it appears that the advance of the fire has been halted. It looks like its now largely a case of mopping up the dozens of hotspots. I would estimate final acreage burned may be 1000+.

Living Free has escaped a close fire unscathed yet again. The meadow immediately south of the animal sanctuary burned, literally to within a hundred yards of some buildings. A huge fire crew presence along Highway 74 just south of the Living Free entrance has ensured that the fire didn’t cross to the west side of the highway.

UPDATED Friday 15th at 0840

The Bonita Fire appeard to have started about 0.2 mile east of the junction of Bonita Vista and May Valley roads. It has burned about 0.5 mile west along Bonita Vista Road, including throughout the meadows at its junction with May Valley Road (which previously burned in both the 2013 Mountain and 2018 Cranston fires!) before descending into Johnson Meadow just east of Mountain Center.

Air attack is currently doing their typically remarkable job, focused around the Johnson Meadow area. At least four water-dropping helicopters are making runs back-and-forth to Lake Hemet. There are three tankers dropping Phos-Chek, including one large DC-10 type, plus at least two spotter planes.

A current focus of retardent drops are the closest flames to Idyllwild, about 1.8 miles down May Valley Road from its start at Cowbell Alley.

Phos-Chek drop near May Valley Road at about 0815, 15th January 2021.

UPDATED Friday 15th at 0600

There is an active 600 acre fire in the vicinity of Mountain Center. The fire started near the junction of Bonita Vista and May Valley roads (both dirt USFS roads) overnight. Mountain Center has been evacuated.

Highway 243 is closed between Idyllwild and Mountain Center at Saunders Meadow Road, and Highway 74 is closed from Strawberry Creek Road (above Hemet) to Morris Ranch Road (Garner Valley). We have had wild Santa Ana winds overnight, which are continuing this morning.

More to follow. Stay safe everyone.

Trail and weather update 12th January 2021

We had a pleasantly fast ascent of San Jacinto Peak yesterday morning on firm ice and snow up the east side trails via Devil’s Slide (with no spikes required), then descended the west side via Deer Springs Trail (using spikes down to Strawberry Junction). Melting of the snow that fell on Monday 28th December has been relatively slow to this point. This may change dramatically over the next week or so, when temperatures are forecast to be far above seasonal. Between 13th-17th January temperatures will be more reminiscent of April in Idyllwild, but more like May (or even June) in the high country. Obviously snowmelt will be rapid at all elevations, and where snow remains it will be soft and wet regardless of elevation or time of day.

Many major trails have now been traveled, and conditions are discussed below for specific trails where known. In addition to those, there are posthole tracks around the Tahquitz area meadows on Willow Creek and Caramba trails, to Chinquapin Flat and to Tahquitz Peak. There are no tracks emerging at Wellman Divide on the Round Valley Trail. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting.

Spikes remain strongly recommended everywhere above about 7500‘ (see trail-specific details below), especially in the morning and for descending, as established trails are now well consolidated by hiker traffic and freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes may be useful locally at lower elevations also. Snowshoes are now useful only for extended off-trail travel above about 9000′, and even then snow depths will likely only be adequate for the next week at most.

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

All developed and yellow post camping is closed in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest. This was initially due to exceptional fire risk, but more recently due to the coronavirus crisis. The four wilderness camping areas in the State Park remain closed (camping is not permitted elsewhere in the State Park). Wilderness camping appears to now be permitted in the National Forest. See the State Park or Forest Service websites for further information.

Due to the coronavirus crisis Mount San Jacinto State Park is encouraging visitation to be confined to local residents only. The Idyllwild ranger station of the State Park has again closed (the U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has not reopened since March 2020). Day use permits are nevertheless required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the self-serve kiosks outside either ranger station.

The USFS gate at Humber Park is closed. There is legal parking for nine vehicles just below the gate. On weekends, the uppermost 0.1 mile of Fern Valley Road may also be closed at its junction with Forest Drive. Park along Forest Drive to access the Devil’s Slide and Ernie Maxwell trailheads. The gate on South Ridge Road is also closed.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway closed again starting 12th December 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis, with no tentative reopening date at this time.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be well above seasonal for at least the first half of January, with daytime highs at least 10-15°F above average at the elevation of Idyllwild. The impacts will be especially pronounced at higher elevation, with the peaks above 10,000ft forecast to have air temperatures at or above freezing into mid month, far above normal for January. Snow melt will accelerate in the next few days, especially on sun-exposed slopes. Temperatures will return to seasonal abruptly on Monday 18th, and there is the possibility of unsettled weather for the remainder of January.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 11th January 2021 at 0855 the air temperature was 24.6°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 4.4°F (-16°C), 46% relative humidity, and a bitter NNE wind sustained at 25 mph gusting to 30.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 4th January 2021 at 0945 the air temperature was 34.3°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.4°F (-6°C), 46% relative humidity, and a moderate due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 21.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 8500′ remain completely snow-covered. Most areas below 7500′ are patchy or rapidly clearing of snow. Areas between those elevations are largely snow-covered, but with clearing on sun-exposed slopes. Reliable tracks are now in place for most major trails including: Devil’s Slide, Deer Springs, Marion Mountain, Peak, Wellman, South Ridge, Tahquitz Peak, and the Tahquitz area meadows. Warm temperatures this week will result in ugly snow conditions at all elevations, with soft, slippery, and unpredictable icy snow increasingly prevalent.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes are strongly recommended. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clearing of snow to 7600′ with a few extended icy snow patches. Snow is patchy but more continuous above that elevation, becoming continuous near Saddle Junction. The trail is hard and icy and spikes are very useful for descending. The major new treefall hazard just past the seventh and eighth switchbacks has been reported to USFS.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow up to Strawberry Junction at 8100′, with some icy snow patches remaining mainly close to the junction (spikes not required to this point). From Strawberry Junction to about 8600′, 0.2 mile before the Marion Mountain Trail junction, snow cover is increasingly patchy, but spikes are very useful for descending the well-defined icy track. Snow is continuous from there to San Jacinto Peak. The track(s) above the Marion Mountain Trail junction are easy to follow, but are posthole tracks, and in several places do not accurately follow the true trail route. Above Little Round Valley the posthole track through the snow does not remotely follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, and is steep and direct, but is adequate. Spikes are very useful, especially for descending, as snow is icy and compacted.

Marion Mountain Trail has patchy snow to 7500′ (no spikes required for ascending). There is largely continuous icy snow from there to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail junction. Spikes are useful, especially for descending.

Fuller Ridge Trail has not be traveled since the last snow (late December) and there are no tracks to follow.

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

The Wellman and Peak trails have a well-defined and (largely) accurate track to follow through the icy snow.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is now largely clear in its lower 1.8 miles. Icy snow patches cover about 20% of the upper part closest to Humber Park. Spikes remain helpful especially for descending in the morning.

South Ridge Trail is rapidly clearing to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′. Snow cover is extensive from there to the Peak, other than on sun-exposed sections of trail which are now clear. Remaining snow will melt dramatically over the next few days. Spikes are useful, especially early in the morning. South Ridge Road (closed) is largely clear of ice, with a few lengthy patches remaining.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 11th January 2021 as follows (with comparison to 13 days earlier on 29th December 2020 where known). Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds there can be extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 11 inches (17 inches on 29th December 2020)

Little Round Valley (9800′): 11 inches

Wellman Divide (9700′): 4 inches (15 inches on 29th December 2020)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 10 inches (15 inches on 29th December 2020)

Strawberry Junction (8100′): 1-2 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 5 inches (16 inches on 29th December 2020)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 1-2 inches (14 inches on 29th December 2020)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 0 inches (15.5 inches on 29th December 2020)

Wellman Divide (9700ft) on 11th January 2021 (above), and about two weeks earlier on 29th December 2020 (below).
Relatively fresh Mountain Lion scat at 6800ft near Deer Springs Trail on 11th January 2021. The knife is 3.6 inches long for scale. The scat appeared to consist entirely of deer hair.

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 costs. In an especially challenging year, and with a busy winter already well underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow update 5th January 2021

[UPDATED 8th January: melting has been steady at all elevations, but is especially noticeable below 7000ft. Equipment recommendations are unchanged. Specific trail conditions have been updated in the text below as needed.]

The third storm of this winter on Monday 28th December produced 15-17 inches of snow at all elevations above 5000ft, and a few inches down to near 4000ft in places. Strong Santa Ana winds on both 29th and 31st December undid some of the hard work of breaking trails in the high country, but the holiday weekend over the first three days of January resulted in further trails being established. A significant change in the forecast to unseasonably warm conditions at all elevations is already producing rapid melting at lower and mid elevations, and softening snow higher up. The latter was very striking by noon yesterday above 8500ft, and this will continue to worsen throughout this week.

Many major trails have now been traveled, and conditions are discussed below for specific trails where known. In addition to those, there are posthole tracks around the Tahquitz area meadows on Willow Creek and Caramba trails, to Chinquapin Flat and to Tahquitz Peak. There are no tracks emerging at Wellman Divide from Round Valley. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting.

Snowshoes are recommended everywhere above about 9000‘, and can be useful in less exposed areas down to 7800’ (e.g. around the Tahquitz area meadows). Elsewhere (and in addition), spikes are recommended for the foreseeable future in most areas above about 6000′, especially in the morning and for descending, as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles.

Despite temperatures above seasonal averages, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for recent temperatures at San Jacinto Peak).

For details regarding coronavirus closures, hiking permits, camping restrictions, ranger station access, and the Tramway, please see this earlier report, or contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

The USFS gate at Humber Park is closed. There is legal parking for nine vehicles. On weekends, the uppermost 0.1 mile of Fern Valley Road may also be closed at its junction with Forest Drive. Park along Forest Drive to access the Devil’s Slide and Ernie Maxwell trailheads.

On my ascent of San Jacinto Peak on New Year’s Eve, I was treated to a half-inch snow storm that had not been forecast, which bubbled up, and almost as quickly disappeared, for an hour or so around noon. It was a useful reminder of the unpredictability of weather in the high mountains. The strong winds and spindrift meant I had to break trail on the ascent, and rather unfairly break it again on the descent! I recorded a short thank you video to 2020 supporters of the Report just below the summit that day. That final ascent of 2020 was my 207th of the year, part of 1.24 million feet of elevation gain in 2020 (both records for the San Jacinto mountains).

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be well above seasonal for at least the first half of January, with daytime highs at least 5-10°F above average at the elevation of Idyllwild. The impacts will be especially pronounced at higher elevation, with the peaks above 10,000ft forecast to have air temperatures at or above freezing into mid month, far above typical for January. Snow melt will accelerate in the next few days, especially on sun-exposed slopes.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 4th January 2021 at 0945 the air temperature was 34.3°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.4°F (-6°C), 46% relative humidity, and a moderate due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 21.7 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 31st December 2020 at 1150 the air temperature was 13.1°F (-11°C), with a windchill temperature of -6.9°F (-22°C), 93% relative humidity, and a steady NNW wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 14.9 mph, with light snow falling.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails above about 5500ft are largely snow-covered, with snow cover increasingly patchy below 7000ft depending on aspect. Warm temperatures are making for ugly snow conditions at all elevations, with soft, wet, and unpredictable snow increasingly prevalent at all elevations.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has limited steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow, which may be partially eliminated at any time by strong winds drifting snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes (ideally with an ice axe if you know how to use one) are strongly recommended. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow.

Deer Springs Trail has a relatively well-traveled posthole trail to follow to Little Round Valley. Beyond there, there is a single challenging posthole track to San Jacinto Peak (which is relatively direct and does not follow the trail route as such).

Marion Mountain Trail has a relatively well traveled posthole track through the snow to its junction with the PCT/Deer Springs Trail. Spikes are especially valuable for descending.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled icy snow track to follow. Spikes are recommended. Snow is melting in patches below 7500ft, and especially on sun-exposed slopes below 7000ft.

North of Saddle Junction on the PCT there is a well worn posthole track for about 1.3 miles (to the top of “Angel’s Glide” at about 9000ft) for which spikes are useful. Thereafter, hikers attempting to summit San Jacinto Peak via the Wellman and Peak trails are recommended to switch to snowshoes and follow the clear snowshoe track to the Peak. Snow depths on this route make for atrocious postholing conditions as the snow softens after mid morning.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail [updated 8th January] is now largely clear in its lower 1.8 miles. Icy snow patches cover about 20% of the upper part closest to Humber Park. Spikes remain helpful especially for descending in the morning.

Looking south toward Tahquitz Peak (on the left) from the PCT on 29th December 2020.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 4th January 2021 as follows (with comparison to six days earlier on 29th December 2020). Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds there can be extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 15 inches (17 inches on 29th December 2020)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 9 inches (15 inches on 29th December 2020)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 13 inches (15 inches on 29th December 2020)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 12 inches (16 inches on 29th December 2020)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 8 inches (14 inches on 29th December 2020)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 5 inches (15.5 inches on 29th December 2020)

Sign apparently explaining the closure of parking at Humber Park, 1st January 2021.

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 costs. In an especially challenging year, and with a busy winter already well underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow storm summary 29th December 2020

[UPDATE 31st December 2020: I was unable to resist one last ascent of San Jacinto Peak in the year. Strong Santa Ana winds on the night of 29th had largely eliminated my tracks above 9000ft, so I broke trail again. Remarkably a brief storm blew in around noon, with 0.5 inch of snow settling above 10,000ft. Wild accompanying winds again partially removed my tracks with spindrift. Strong Santa Ana winds overnight into 1st January will fill trails with spindrift making for challenging hiking and navigation for the first days of 2021. Snowshoes are strongly recommended above 8000ft.]

This is a summary of conditions following the third, and most substantial (so far), snow storm of winter 2020/21, with all of the snow falling yesterday, Monday 28th December. As is increasingly the trend with a changed climate in recent years, there was little difference in snowfall between the mid and upper elevations, with 15.5 inches measured in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) through to 17 inches at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft). The storm system was colder than forecast at lower elevations, with a dusting of snow below 4000ft in many ranges, and even down to 4800ft on Skyline Trail, a desert-facing slope.

Currently very few no major trails have been traveled and most are obscured by significant snowfall. On my descent late this morning I was again surprised to see no tracks up to Saddle Junction. The significance of this is that there are currently no tracks on Willow Creek Trail, to Chinquapin Flat or Tahquitz Peak, or around the meadows. Beyond Saddle Junction, at the time of writing my snowshoe tracks to San Jacinto Peak are the only traveled high country trail. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting, but note that due to drifting, snow is sometimes deeper in the trails themselves.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing everywhere above about 6000‘, potentially lower on less exposed trails that will melt slowly (e.g., the Ernie Maxwell Trail). Elsewhere (and in addition), spikes are recommended for the foreseeable future as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and far below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for recent temperatures at San Jacinto Peak today).

For details regarding coronavirus closures, hiking permits, camping restrictions, ranger station access, and the Tramway, please see this earlier report, or contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

The USFS gate at Humber Park was (unexpectedly) open when I drove out around noon today. The parking area is an rink of compacted icy snow and is treacherous for most vehicles.

The Peak Trail at about 10,450ft (with Miller Peak to the right), 29th December 2020.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to remain below seasonal averages into the first week of January, with freezing conditions every night above about 5000ft. Snow melt will generally be slow, and conditions will be icy. Minor storm systems are possible around 6th-8th January.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) yesterday, Monday 28th December 2020 at 1330 the air temperature was 11.4°F (-11°C), with a windchill temperature of -16.8°F (-27°C), 93% relative humidity, and a wild SW wind sustained at 26 mph gusting to 39.0 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 25th December 2020 at 1125 the air temperature was 27.7°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 15.3°F (-9°C), 69% relative humidity, and a sharp WSW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 14.1 mph.

Sunrise diffused through clouds of spindrift snow, San Jacinto Peak, 29th December 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 4500′ are snow-covered. By this afternoon, melting was already underway below 5000′. Reliable tracks are currently only known to be in place for Devil’s Slide Trail through to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide. The closure of the Tram will result in extremely light hiker traffic to the highest peaks via the Peak Trail, and very limited traffic on the Long and Round Valley trails.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently crampons (with an ice axe) are strongly recommended. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled track to follow.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail has a firm and well-defined 18″ wide snowshoe track to follow along its entire length [updated 30th December].

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 29th December 2020, are as follows. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds there is extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 17 inches

Wellman Divide (9700′): 15 inches

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 15 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 16 inches

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 14 inches (at noon, melting already underway)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 15.5 inches, melting slowly this afternoon.

Sunset from San Jacinto Peak, 27th December 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 costs. In an especially challenging year, and with a busy winter already well underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow storm 28th December 2020

UPDATED @ 0750 Tuesday 29th

Final storm total at San Jacinto Peak is 17 inches of fresh, very fine, powder. An impressive 14 inches had fallen in Idyllwild by late yesterday evening.

Thanks to Florian Boyd for reporting snow down to 4800ft on Skyline (below Rescue 2). Snow level is much lower on the south face of the San Bernardino range, below 4000ft on Banning Bench, and at about that elevation on the hills around Garner Valley.

Snowshoes are recommended everywhere above 5000ft currently, and possibly lower locally.

Looking north-west from San Jacinto Peak toward the San Bernardino range, early morning, 29th December 2020.

UPDATED @ 1910 Monday 28th

It has continued to snow steadily throughout the early evening, with storm totals of 11 inches now in Idyllwild (at 5550ft), and 14 inches at San Jacinto Peak. Forecasts project several more inches are possible at all elevations above about 5000ft tonight. The next planned update will be early Tuesday morning.

UPDATED @ 1530 Monday 28th

Snowfall rates have declined at all elevations this afternoon (although light snow continues to fall), with about 11 inches total now at San Jacinto Peak (and the sun briefly putting in an appearance), and Idyllwild only adding another inch by 1430, for a storm total of 7.5″ (at 5550ft).

Weather at San Jacinto Peak at 1330 included an air temperature of 11.4°F (-11°C), with a windchill of -16.8°F (-27°C), and a bitter SW wind sustained at 26 mph gusting to 39.0 mph.

UPDATED @ 1110 Monday 28th

Idyllwild has added at least three inches so far this morning (for a storm total of about seven inches at 5550ft). San Jacinto Peak has added about four more, for a total of 8-9 inches. Radar suggests further heavy precipitation for at least the next hour.

Great friend of the Trail Report Florian Boyd reports light drizzle in Palm Springs (less than 0.2″ total). Snow is visible on Skyline down to about 6500ft (above “Flatrock”), but lower along the Desert Divide.

UPDATED @ 0930 Monday 28th

The much-anticipated third storm of the winter produced 3.75 inches of snow in Idyllwild (at 5500ft) overnight, and 4-5 inches at San Jacinto Peak.

It was snowing heavily intermittently on my hike this morning, with another two inches added in the high country already. The snow consists of extremely fine, small grains, which is consequently drifting heavily. On the Peak Trail, parts of the trail were 8-10 inches deep, even though adjacent bushes and rocks had only a couple of inches.

Although I postholed with spikes this morning, snowshoes are now recommended, at least above 8000′, and probably lower also.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and weather update 22nd December 2020

[UPDATED 25th December 2020: a delightful hike today – Skyline Trail to San Jacinto Peak then home to Idyllwild (a “C2C2I”) – was made all the more enjoyable by the light dusting of snow in the high country that fell late yesterday afternoon. Spikes are now recommended everywhere above about 8500′, especially north-facing slopes and shaded valleys, as a thin, slippery, layer of fresh powder is overlaying patchy ice left from the early November storm. I found a hint of snow down to 6100′ on Skyline, but cover was not continuous until Long Valley (0.25-0.5″). Above Wellman Divide depth was an inch, averaging 1.5″ above 10,500′. By late morning exposed slopes at all elevations were largely clear, and almost all areas below 9000′ were becoming snow-free.]

Despite temperatures in the high country near or below freezing, and the sun at its lowest potency of the year, melting of ice has continued steadily, with few significant ice patches remaining now. Weeks of freeze-thaw cycles and compaction by hiker traffic since the early November snowfall has nevertheless left the now tiny patches of snow very icy on high country trails, as described in detail below. Consequently it is still advised to carry spikes for all trails above 8500′ elevation at least. Although rarely required for ascending, spikes can be helpful for descending icy sections of trails, depending upon your comfort level on ice and icy compacted snow.

I have continued to hike every single day this year, including several ascents weekly to the highest peaks of the San Jacinto mountains by diverse routes. Other very recent hikes have included South Ridge, May Valley, Ramona Trail, Butterfly Peak, and most sections and side trails of the PCT along the Desert Divide.

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

Due to continuing elevated fire risk, all camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, as does all stove use. See the State Park or Forest Service websites for further information. All developed campgrounds are also closed, most seasonally, but now including the Pinyon Flat campground and Ribbonwood Equestrian campground, which closed on 8th December due to the coronavirus crisis.

Due to the coronavirus crisis Mount San Jacinto State Park is encouraging visitation to be confined to local residents only. The Idyllwild ranger station of the State Park has again closed (the U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has not reopened since March). Day use permits are nevertheless required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the self-serve kiosks outside either ranger station.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway closed again starting 12th December due to the coronavirus crisis, and is not expected to reopen this year.

WEATHER Yet another warm spell in recent days – both high and low temperatures have been more than ten degrees above average – gives way to near-seasonal temperatures starting on 23rd, likely for the remainder of the year. Santa Ana winds accompanied by very low relative humidities (and critical fire conditions) are expected on 23rd-24th. In contrast, a fast-moving storm system forecast for Monday 28th December is expected to have a snow level around 5500′, with potential for several inches of snow in the high country.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 21st December 2020 at 0820 the air temperature was 37.7°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 29.5°F (-1°C), 38% relative humidity, and a light SE wind sustained at 6 mph gusting to 9.5 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 18th December 2020 at 0850 the air temperature was 17.3°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.7°F (-20°C), 62% relative humidity, and a bitter NNE wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 22.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8500′ are generally snow-free, with most trails at higher elevations having limited icy snow patches only. Icy snow on trails persists in traditional areas that are colder and/or less sun-exposed, such as the north face of Tahquitz Peak, in Little Round Valley, on Deer Springs Trail around 9300′ near the North Fork River crossing, at around 10,000′ on the Peak Trail, and between Round Valley and Wellman Divide.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has a well-defined track for 0.3 mile to follow through the largely continuous icy snow. Spikes are recommended for these notoriously treacherous ice slopes.

The trails around the Tahquitz area meadows remain surprisingly snow-covered in patches, especially around Skunk Cabbage and Little Tahquitz meadows. Trails in that area also have many new treefalls, but none that present hazards to hikers.

Devil’s Slide Trail is functionally clear of snow.

South Ridge Trail is clear and spikes are no longer required all the way to Tahquitz Peak.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of icy snow to San Jacinto Peak. There are many tiny patches in the trail above about 8700′ that require some caution. The only extended section is almost continuous ice cover for 0.25 mile around 9300′ elevation near the crossing of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River. Icy snow cover averages 30% in Little Round Valley. Most hikers may find spikes useful, depending upon comfort level hiking on ice and compacted icy snow, especially for descending some sections.

The East Ridge Trail between Miller and San Jacinto peaks remains 80% ice- and snow-covered, ranging from 1-6″ deep. There are reasonable tracks to follow.

Marion Mountain Trail is functionally clear of ice, however a couple of tiny patches remain.

The Pacific Crest Trail at the northern end of the Desert Divide (PCT Miles 172-177) had 43 treefall hazards and three minor landslide hazards (in addition to the major rockslide at Mile 172.5) during my survey on 27th November (and we have had several strong wind events since). It goes without saying that the trail is impassable by stock, and it is relatively slow-going for hikers also. The Trail on the north side of Red Tahquitz (Miles 175-177) remains 50% snow-covered, and spikes can be useful. There are no treefall hazards on the PCT south from Cedar Spring Trail (Miles 151-162).

Fuller Ridge Trail has cleared completely on sun-exposed slopes, but sections of icy snow remain in places. Icy snow cover persists in the canyon of the North Fork crossing (PCT Mile 186), on heavily forested parts of the ridge crest around Mile 187, and on the north facing slope near the northern end (Miles 189.5-191). There are tracks to follow through the snow patches where needed, and spikes can be helpful.

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was burned on both sides by the Snow Fire (17th-19th September 2020). A closure order – dated to 8th October 2021 – for the burn scar means that the Trail remains closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (PCT Miles 191-206).

Spitler Peak Trail has three new large treefall hazards (and a couple of smaller ones) in the upper switchbacks.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic since the last snowfall. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018, initially due to snowfall, then the road closure from February 2019. 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.

Anabel seemingly admiring the view of the Desert Divide from Butterfly Peak, 17th December 2020 (but in reality on the lookout for any large mammals of interest).

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. In an especially challenging year, and with a busy winter already underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Brief update 14th December 2020

Please see last week’s report (available here) for details of specific trail conditions, traction recommendations, and of the various closures. With temperatures in the high country near or below freezing, and the sun at its lowest potency of the year, melting of ice has slowed and hence overall trail conditions have not significantly changed in recent days. Furthermore with the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway closing again from 12th December, and Mount San Jacinto State Park encouraging visitation to be confined to local residents only (both measures due to the coronavirus crisis), it seems of limited value at this time to provide additional detail.

I continue to average several ascents to the highest peaks of the San Jacinto mountains every week by diverse routes. Our family ascent of San Jacinto Peak on Friday 11th December was my 200th of the year, far beyond the previous record of 147 in a calendar year. Recent hikes have also included South Ridge, and most sections and side trails of the PCT along the Desert Divide.

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

Due to continuing elevated fire risk, all camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, as does all stove use. See the State Park or Forest Service websites for further information. All developed campgrounds are also closed, most seasonally, but now including the Pinyon Flat campground and Ribbonwood Equestrian campground, which closed on 8th December due to the coronavirus crisis.

WEATHER Temperatures at all elevations are forecast to be at or slightly above seasonal averages into late December. The warmest spell, with temperatures well above average, is currently forecast for 19th-22nd December. There continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 14th December 2020 at 0925 the air temperature was 23.7°F (-5°C), with a windchill temperature of 3.4°F (-16°C), 15% relative humidity, and a wild WNW wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 36.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 11th December 2020 at 0840 the air temperature was 31.3°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 16.8°F (-8°C), 13% relative humidity, and a sharp NW wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 21.8 mph.

Looking north-east to Joshua Tree and beyond from San Jacinto Peak, 9th December 2020.
The northern Desert Divide as seen from May Valley Road near sunset, 13th December 2020 (Tahquitz Peak is on the left, Antsell Rock on the right).

Trail and weather update 7th December 2020

[UPDATED 11th December 2020: The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will close again from 12th December for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus crisis.]

A month of freeze-thaw cycles, plus compaction by hiker traffic, has left the limited patches of snow very icy on high country trails. Consequently it is still advised to carry spikes for all trails above about 8000′ elevation, which all have some patches of ice and compacted icy snow, as described in detail below. Although often not required for ascending, spikes can be helpful for descending icy sections of trails, depending upon your comfort level on ice and icy compacted snow. No new snow depth data are given here, as almost all measurements average 1-2″ at most.

I have continued to average at least three ascents to the highest peaks of the San Jacinto mountains every week. Recent surveys also include the PCT from Mile 162 (Cedar Spring Trail) south to Mile 151 (Highway 74).

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects. The dramatically differing winds and temperatures I recorded at San Jacinto Peak on my past three ascents over the last five days (see below) perfectly illustrate the unpredictability of mountain weather.

Due to continuing severe fire risk, all wilderness and dispersed camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, as does all stove use. For further information contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites. All developed campgrounds are now also closed (either seasonally, or due to the coronavirus crisis).

Due to the coronavirus crisis the Idyllwild ranger station of the Mount San Jacinto State Park has again closed (the U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has not reopened since March). Day use permits are nevertheless required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the self-serve kiosks outside either ranger station.

WEATHER Temperatures at all elevations are forecast to average several degrees above seasonal until mid December. A cold system is forecast around 15th-16th, with frigid temperatures possible in the high country. There continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 7th December 2020 at 0825 the air temperature was 25.0°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 6.9°F (-14°C), 43% relative humidity, and a sharp SE wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 25.0 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 6th December 2020 at 0830 the air temperature was 41.6°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 39.7°F (4°C), 14% relative humidity, under calm conditions, with an occasional light and variable breeze gusting to 3 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 3rd December 2020 at 0840 the air temperature was 23.1°F (-5°C), with a windchill temperature of -0.6°F (-18°C), 21% relative humidity, and a howling due East wind sustained at 28 mph gusting to 48.1 mph.

Looking south toward Marion Mountain from San Jacinto Peak, under dramatic, moody skies, 7th December 2020. Although the north facing slopes look extensively snow-covered, depths are rarely more than a couple of inches in most places.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8000′ are snow-free, with most areas at higher elevations continuing to clear steadily. Snow on trails largely persists in traditional areas that are colder and/or less sun-exposed, such as the north face of Tahquitz Peak, in Little Round Valley, on Deer Springs Trail between Marion Mountain and Fuller Ridge trails, either side of Annie’s Junction, at around 10,000′ on the Peak Trail, between Round Valley and Wellman Divide, and around the summit boulders of San Jacinto Peak.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has a well-defined track to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Spikes remain recommended.

The trails around the Tahquitz area meadows remain surprisingly snow-covered in patches, especially around Skunk Cabbage and Little Tahquitz meadows. Trails in that area also have a few new treefalls, but none that present hazards to hikers.

Devil’s Slide Trail is basically clear of snow. Most hikers will not need spikes on the handful of tiny icy snow patches that remain near Saddle Junction.

South Ridge Trail is clear and spikes are no longer required all the way to Tahquitz Peak.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow past Strawberry Junction to about 8600′, shortly before the Marion Mountain Trail junction (no spikes required). Snow cover is about 40% from there to the Fuller Ridge Trail junction. Thereafter icy snow cover averages 10% depending on exposure, but it is 50% in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley the icy snow cover is only 5%. Most hikers may find spikes useful, depending upon your comfort level on ice and compacted snow, especially for descending some sections.

The East Ridge Trail between Miller and San Jacinto peaks remains 90% snow-covered, ranging from 1-6″ deep. There are reasonable tracks to follow.

Marion Mountain Trail is almost completely clear of icy snow, however a few tiny, tricky patches remain. Spikes could be useful for descending.

The Pacific Crest Trail at the northern end of the Desert Divide (PCT Miles 172-177) had 43 treefall hazards and three minor landslide hazards (in addition to the major rockslide at Mile 172.5) during my survey on 27th November. It goes without saying that the trail is impassable by stock, and it is relatively slow-going for hikers also. The Trail on the north side of Red Tahquitz (Miles 175-177) remains 80% snow-covered, and spikes are useful. Thankfully there are no treefall hazards on the PCT south from Cedar Spring Trail (Miles 151-162).

Fuller Ridge Trail has cleared completely on sun-exposed slopes, but extensive sections of icy snow remain in several sections. Icy snow cover is especially extensive in the canyon of the North Fork crossing (PCT Mile 186), on heavily forested parts of the ridge crest around Mile 187, and on the north facing slope near the northern end (Miles 189.5-191). There are a couple of reasonable sets of tracks to follow through the snow patches, and spikes are recommended.

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was burned on both sides by the Snow Fire (17th-19th September 2020). A closure order for the burn scar means that the Trail remains closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (PCT Miles 191-206).

Spitler Peak Trail has two new large treefall hazards in the upper switchbacks. The previous dozen downed trees on this trail were removed in early November.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic since the last snowfall. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018, initially due to snowfall, then the road closure from February 2019. 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.

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. In an especially challenging year, and with a busy winter already underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail update 1st December 2020

Three weeks of freeze-thaw cycles, and considerable compaction by hiker traffic, has left the limited patches of snow dangerously icy on the high country trails. Consequently spikes are recommended for all trails above about 8000′ elevation, which all have some patches of ice and compacted icy snow, as described in detail below. Even when not required for ascending, spikes are often useful for descending icy sections of trails, depending upon your comfort level on ice and icy compacted snow. No new snow depth data are given here, as almost all measurements average 1-2″ at most. I have continued to average three ascents to the highest peaks of the San Jacinto mountains every week. Recent surveys have also included the PCT from Mile 168 (Spitler Peak Trail) to 192 (Black Mountain Road) and almost all side trails to that section.

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

Due to continuing severe fire risk, all wilderness and dispersed camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, as does all stove use. For further information contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

Day hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are both open. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are nevertheless required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the self-serve kiosk outside the ranger station. Seasonal developed campgrounds – Stone Creek, Marion Mountain, and Fern Basin – closed on 10th November for the winter.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway reopened in October at reduced capacity, limited days, and shortened hours. See their website for details.

WEATHER Temperatures at all elevations are forecast to remain several degrees above seasonal for the first week of December. Temperatures in the high country especially remain well above seasonal norms. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 1st December 2020 at 0820 the air temperature was 39.2°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.0°F (-1°C), 25% relative humidity, and a gusty NNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 8.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 30th November 2020 at 0840 the air temperature was 37.1°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 32.8°F (0°C), 23% relative humidity, and a light NW breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 4.3 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8000′ are snow-free, with most areas at higher elevations also clearing steadily. Snow on trails largely persists in traditional areas that are colder and/or less sun-exposed, such as the north face of Tahquitz Peak, in Little Round Valley, on Deer Springs Trail between Marion Mountain and Fuller Ridge trails, either side of Annie’s Junction, at around 10,000′ on the Peak Trail, between Round Valley and Wellman Divide, and around the summit boulders of San Jacinto Peak.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has a well-defined track to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Spikes remain recommended.

The trails around the Tahquitz area meadows remain surprisingly snow-covered in places, especially around Skunk Cabbage and Little Tahquitz meadows. Trails in that area also have a few new treefalls, but none that present major hazards to hikers.

Devil’s Slide Trail is basically clear of snow. Most hikers will not need spikes on the handful of tiny icy snow patches that remain near Saddle Junction. The major new treefall hazard just past the second switchback was removed on Friday 20th November.

South Ridge Trail is almost completely clear and spikes are no longer required all the way to Tahquitz Peak.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow past Strawberry Junction to about 8600′, shortly before the Marion Mountain Trail junction (no spikes required). Snow cover is about 60% from there to the Fuller Ridge Trail junction. Thereafter icy snow cover averages 20% depending on exposure, but it is 70% in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley the icy snow cover is about 10%. Most hikers will find spikes are useful, depending upon your comfort level on ice and compacted snow, especially for descending in some sections.

Marion Mountain Trail is almost completely clear of icy snow, however a few tricky patches remain, especially near the PCT junction. Spikes could be useful for descending.

The Pacific Crest Trail at the northern end of the Desert Divide (PCT Miles 172-177) had 43 treefall hazards and three minor landslide hazards (in addition to the major rockslide at Mile 172.5) during my survey on 27th November. It goes without saying that the trail is impassable by stock, and it is relatively slow-going for hikers also. The Trail on the north side of Red Tahquitz (Miles 175-177) remains 90% snow-covered, and spikes are recommended.

Fuller Ridge Trail has cleared completely on sun-exposed slopes, but extensive sections of icy snow remain in several sections. Icy snow cover is especially extensive in the canyon of the North Fork crossing (PCT Mile 186), on heavily forested parts of the ridge crest around Mile 187, and on the north facing slope near the northern end (Miles 189.5-191). There are a couple of reasonable sets of tracks to follow through the snow patches, and spikes are recommended.

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was burned on both sides by the Snow Fire (17th-19th September 2020). A closure order for the burn scar means that the Trail remains closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (PCT Miles 191-206).

Spitler Peak Trail has two new large treefall hazards in the upper switchbacks. The previous dozen downed trees on this trail were removed in early November.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic since the last snowfall. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018, initially due to snowfall, then the road closure from February 2019. 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.

What a difference a year makes. The Peak Trail at 9800′ just above Wellman Divide on 30th November 2020 (above), and the same view on 30th November 2019 (below).

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

Trail update 25th November 2020

Following the moderate snow storm on 7th-8th November, a dramatic swing to temperatures far above seasonal for much of the past two weeks has resulted in rapid and extensive melting at all elevations. Most trails below 8000′ are already largely clear, and at higher elevations snow is very patchy, especially on sun-exposed slopes. Where icy snow remains, most major trails have now been well traveled and have reliable, compacted tracks to follow. No new snow depth data are given here, as almost all measurements are 1-2″ at most. I have continued to average at least three ascents into the San Jacinto high country every week, hiking mid-elevation trails on the intervening days.

Spikes remain recommended for parts of all trails above about 8000′ elevation for at least the next week or so as consolidated snow undergoes freeze-thaw cycles, creating localized icy conditions. Even when not required for ascending, spikes are invariably useful for descending trails where the snow is compacted and icy.

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

All wilderness and dispersed camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, as does all stove use. For further information contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

Day hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are both open. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are nevertheless required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the self-serve kiosk outside the ranger station. Seasonal developed campgrounds – Stone Creek, Marion Mountain, and Fern Basin – closed on 10th November for the winter.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has reopened at reduced capacity, limited days, and shortened hours. See their website for details.

WEATHER Following temperatures well above seasonal in recent days, the next couple of days will be typically cool for November, before again warming up after Saturday 28th. Temperatures in the high country will remain above average (i.e. near or above freezing) into early December, so steady snowmelt will continue. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. The latest video discussion from NWS San Diego reviews the summer (spoiler alert: warmest ever), and includes medium term (December) and longer term (into February) weather projections (spoiler alert: warm and dry).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 25th November 2020 at 0825 the air temperature was 29.1°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.6°F (-10°C), 61% relative humidity, and a fresh due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 17.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 23rd November 2020 at 0825 the air temperature was 28.2°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 11.3°F (-12°C), 54% relative humidity, and a sharp due West wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 23.1 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 20th November 2020 at 0815 the air temperature was 43.3°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 39.1°F (4°C), 51% relative humidity, and a light due West breeze sustained at 4 mph gusting to 6.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 8000′ are now almost completely snow-free, with most areas at higher elevations also clearing very rapidly. Snow on trails largely persists in traditional areas that are colder and/or less sun-exposed, such as the north face of Tahquitz Peak, in Little Round Valley, Deer Springs Trail between Marion Mountain and Fuller Ridge trails, either side of Annie’s Junction, around 10,000′ on the Peak Trail, between Round Valley and Wellman Divide, and around the summit of San Jacinto Peak.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has a well-defined track to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes remain recommended.

Devil’s Slide Trail is basically clear of snow. Most hikers will not need spikes on the handful of tiny icy snow patches that remain near Saddle Junction. The major new treefall hazard just past the second switchback was removed on Friday 20th November.

South Ridge Trail is almost completely clear and spikes are no longer required all the way to Tahquitz Peak.

Deer Springs Trail is basically clear of snow up to and past Strawberry Junction to about 8600′, just before the Marion Mountain Trail junction (no spikes required). Snow cover is about 70% from there to the Fuller Ridge Trail junction. Thereafter icy snow cover averages 20% depending on exposure, but it is 90% in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley the icy snow cover is about 20%. most hikers will find spikes are useful, depending upon your comfort level on ice and compacted snow, especially for descending in some sections.

Marion Mountain Trail is almost completely clear of icy snow, however a few tricky patches remain, especially near the PCT junction. Spikes can be useful in patches, especially for descending.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is completely clear of snow.

Removal of the dozen or so fallen tree hazards on Spitler Peak Trail was completed earlier this month.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic since the last snowfall, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has been hiked very little since November 2018, initially due to snowfall, then the road closure from February 2019. 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.

Looking north-west toward the San Bernardino range from San Jacinto Peak, on Monday 23rd November 2020 (above), and two weeks earlier on 9th November (below).

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