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).

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 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 and snow update 18th November 2020

[UPDATE Friday 20th November: Melting continues to be widespread at all elevations, especially on sun-exposed slopes. The route from Devil’s Slide Trail to San Jacinto Peak via the Wellman and Peak trails was largely clear of snow and ice this morning. The usual two stubborn areas of continuous icy snow remain, an extended area of about 0.6 mile either side of Annie’s Junction, and again for about 0.4 mile near 10,000′ elevation on the Peak Trail. Spikes are useful in those sections, especially for descending. Devil’s Slide Trail is basically clear of snow.]

I have continued to average at least three ascents into the San Jacinto high country every week. Our speedy ascent on Monday 16th from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak required no spikes on a well-consolidated trail, although spikes were very helpful for most of the descent on somewhat patchy, compacted, icy snow. I used spikes more extensively on today’s fast hike up and down via Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails.

With a dramatic swing to temperatures far above seasonal, melting has been rapid at all elevations. Most areas below 7000′ are largely clear, and the snow on sun-exposed slopes all the way to the high peaks, but especially below 10,000′, is melting rapidly. We started this morning and on Monday before first light in an air temperature ten degrees above average, and descended to Idyllwild late morning in a temperature more than 20 degrees above seasonal. Melting will continue to be very fast this week.

Most major trails have now been traveled and have reliable compacted snow tracks to follow (of varying quality, depending on hiker traffic volume), which are also clearing rapidly of course lower down. Cautious navigation is nevertheless recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured Monday are listed at the foot of this posting.

Spikes remain strongly recommended in most areas above about 7000′ elevation for at least the next week or so as consolidated snow undergoes freeze-thaw cycles, creating dangerous icy conditions. Even when not needed for ascending, spikes are especially useful for descending trails where they are icy and compacted. Snowshoes remain useful for off trail travel only in the high country above about 9000‘, potentially lower on colder slopes.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather on average, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and at or below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for recent temperatures recorded at San Jacinto Peak).

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

WEATHER After a couple of remarkably warm days at the beginning of this week, the next ten days starting Wednesday 18th are forecast to be consistently slightly above seasonal both overnight and by day. Extensive snowmelt will continue at all elevations. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 16th November 2020 at 0850 the air temperature was 43.1°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 33.9°F (1°C), 33% relative humidity, and a surprisingly cool SSE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 18.9 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 13th November 2020 at 0835 the air temperature was 34.4°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.4°F (-5°C), 36% relative humidity, and a moderate NW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 12.5 mph.

At the Peak last Monday, 9th November 2020, at 1005 the air temperature was 19.0°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.3°F (-11°C), 51% relative humidity, and a very light due North breeze sustained at 1.0 mph gusting to 5.3 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 7500′ remain largely snow-covered. Most areas below 7500′ are clear or rapidly clearing of snow. Reliable tracks are now in place for most major trails including: Devil’s Slide, Deer Springs, Marion Mountain, Peak, Wellman, Long and Round Valley through to Wellman Divide, Skyline, South Ridge, Tahquitz Peak, and the Tahquitz area meadows.

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 recommended.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow to 7600′. 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 second switchback was cut on 20th November.]

South Ridge Trail is largely clear to Old Lookout Flat at 7600′. Snow cover is largely continuous from there to the Peak, other than on sun-exposed sections of trail. Remaining snow will melt dramatically over the next few days. Spikes are useful for descending especially early in the morning. South Ridge Road (open) is clear of ice.

Deer Springs Trail is clear (or clearing rapidly) of snow up to and past Strawberry Junction to about 8600′, just before the Marion Mountain Trail junction. Snow is nearly continuous from there to the Fuller Ridge Trail junction. Thereafter snow cover averages 50% depending on exposure, but it is 100% in Little Round Valley. Above Little Round Valley the consolidated track through the snow does not accurately follow the trail route to San Jacinto Peak, but is adequate. Spikes are very useful, especially for descending, as snow is icy and compacted.

Marion Mountain Trail is basically clear to 7600′ (no spikes required). There is largely continuous icy snow for about 0.5 mile from 7600′-8100′, before clearing again until just below the PCT junction. Spikes are useful, especially for descending.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is almost clear of snow, with a few icy patches remaining on the upper end near Humber Park.

Seven Pines Trail has had no hiker traffic since the snowfall, with no tracks or trail to follow. Indeed this trail has only been hiked ery 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.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today, 16th November 2020, are as follows. Note that average depth is given; extensive drifting and differential melting has led to uneven depths. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 4″ (was 9″ on 9th November)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 1″ (was 8″ on 9th November)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 4″ (was 8″ on 9th November)

Long Valley (8600′): 2″ (was 5″ on 9th November)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 3″ (was 8″ on 9th November)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 0″ (was 8″ on 9th November)

View south to Marion Mountain from San Jacinto Peak, 16th November 2020 (above), and a week earlier on 9th November (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 a busy winter already underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Peak Trail at 9800′ just above Wellman Divide, 16th November 2020 (above), and the same view on 9th November (below).

Snow storm summary 9th November 2020

[UPDATED 13th November 2020: There is now a single snowshoe track up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide. This helps with navigation, although postholing will be challenging and snowshoes remain preferable on that section. Above Wellman Divide the Peak Trail is consolidated and spikes are sufficient.]

[UPDATED 11th November 2020: greatly increased hiker traffic on today’s Veterans Day holiday has changed the condition of several trails. My snowshoe track to San Jacinto Peak via the Wellman and Peak trails will be far more consolidated by the 17 people we passed during our descent today. There is still no broken trail up from Round Valley to Wellman Divide. Three people put in a (very ugly looking) posthole trail up Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to the Peak yesterday.]

This is an update on conditions following the first snow storm of winter 2020/21, with most of the snow falling on Saturday 7th, followed by a little more on Sunday 8th.

I had a very pleasant day in the high country today, breaking trail from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak. Conditions were near perfect, with unusually little wind. I recorded a rambling video summary at San Jacinto Peak – complete with ice in the beard! – late this morning, which gives a feel for conditions around the high peaks. As discussed in the video, the storm produced an unusually even snowfall almost everywhere from 6000′ upwards. Snow level was at about 4700′.

On my descent this afternoon I was surprised to see no tracks other than my own 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.

Currently most major trails have not been traveled and are somewhat obscured by snowfall. 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 often deeper in the trails themselves.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing in the high country above about 8000‘, potentially lower on less traveled trails. Spikes are recommended for at least the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They may be especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted (e.g. Devil’s Slide, Ernie Maxwell, and lower Deer Springs trails).

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

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park remains open, and the parking area was plowed on Sunday 8th.

The “bowl” just above 10,000′ on the Peak Trail, early morning 9th November 2020.

WEATHER For the remainder of ths week, every day is forecast to be progressively warmer. Temperatures currently forecast to be well above seasonal next week (15th-20th) will result in rapid and extensive snowmelt at all elevations.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Monday 9th November 2020 at 1005 the air temperature was 19.0°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of 12.3°F (-11°C), 51% relative humidity, and a very light due North breeze sustained at 1.0 mph gusting to 5.3 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 7th November 2020 at 1005 the air temperature was 15.4°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -6.6°F (-21°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 23.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 5500′ are snow-covered. By this afternoon, rapid melting was already underway below 7000′. Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail through to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide, and for the Ernie Maxwell Trail. The greatly reduced hours and capacity of the Tram will result in very light hiker traffic to the highest peaks via the Peak Trail, and limited traffic on the Long and Round Valley trails.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 [updated 11th November] 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 has a well-traveled track to follow. A major new treefall hazard just past the second switchback is readily passable for hikers and has been reported to USFS.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today, 9th November 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′): 9″

Wellman Divide (9700′): 8″

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 8″

Long Valley (8600′): 5″

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 8″

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 8″ early this morning, already melted to 2-4″.

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 6.5″, melting steadily today.

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 a busy winter already underway, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Looking south toward Marion Mountain from San Jacinto Peak, 9th November 2020.

First snow storm of winter 7th November 2020

[UPDATED 8th November 2020: In Idyllwild and the high country it continued snowing yesterday afternoon. At mid elevations on the western slope it also snowed briefly overnight and again this morning. Total snow accumulation as of late this morning: Idyllwild 5.75″, Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park 7.0″. The high country has been periodically above the cloud this morning. Snow accumulation as of late yesterday afternoon: San Jacinto Peak 8″, Wellman Divide 6″, Long Valley 4″ (many thanks to Kyle Eubanks for data from yesterday.) The next detailed update is expected to be tomorrow afternoon.]

This is a brief update on conditions following the first snow storm of winter 2020/21. We apparently completely bypassed autumn, heading straight from summer-like conditions just two days ago (it was nearly 80°F in Idyllwild on Thursday!) into temperatures far below seasonal for the first week of November.

I recorded a short video on my hike to San Jacinto Peak this morning, which gives a feel for conditions in the high country. The storm today produced at least 3-4 inches of snow at all elevations above about 6000′ (it was still actively snowing at most of the locations where I recorded depths this afternoon, so depths will likely increase).

Currently almost all major trails have not been traveled and are obscured by snowfall. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting, but note that due to heavy drifting, snow is often deeper in the trails themselves.

At present postholing through shallow snow is relatively easy in most areas, especially below 10,000′. I used spikes this afternoon to assist with descending from San Jacinto Peak, although they were not essential. Spikes are recommended for at least the next few days as established trails become consolidated by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They are especially useful for descending trails when they become icy and compacted (e.g. Devil’s Slide and lower Deer Springs trails). Snow depths may be suitable for snowshoeing in the high country by tomorrow, especially above about 9500‘.

For the foreseeable future, hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, with potentially dangerous cold when considering windchill effects (see below for temperatures at San Jacinto Peak today).

For links and details regarding hiking permits, camping restrictions, ranger station access, and the Tramway reopening, please see the previous Report.

Currently the USFS gate at Humber Park remains open. The parking area had not been plowed as of this afternoon.

WEATHER Another storm system tomorrow (Sunday 8th) is forecast to produce another light snowfall at mid and upper elevations (possibly less snow than today). Milder, brighter weather on 9th-13th will lead up to temperatures well above seasonal on 14th-16th, which will doubtless result in rapid and extensive snowmelt.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) today, Saturday 7th November 2020 at 1005 the air temperature was 15.4°F (-9°C), with a windchill temperature of -6.6°F (-21°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter WNW wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 23.9 mph.

For comparison, at the Peak on Wednesday 4th November 2020 at 0600 the air temperature was 42.2°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 39.1°F (4°C), 16% relative humidity, and a light ESE wind sustained at 3 mph gusting to 4.3 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6000′ are snow-covered, with depth increasing somewhat with elevation. Reliable tracks are currently in place only for Devil’s Slide Trail. My track to and from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide was disappearing within minutes due to strong winds. The partial closure of the Tram will result in very light hiker traffic to the highest peaks via the Peak Trail, and limited traffic on the Long and Round Valley trails.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled track to follow. A major new treefall hazard just past the second switchback is readily passable for hikers and has been reported to the agencies.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is largely under a continuous 1-2″ of snow cover.

SNOW DEPTHS measured today are as follows. Total measured is first, followed by time of day and comments in parentheses. Note that average depth is given, drifting was deeper in the trails due to strong winds and light snow. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810′): 4″ (by 1100)

Wellman Divide (9700′): 3″ (by 1145)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070′): 2.5″ (by 1215)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 2.5″

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 2″ settled (at 1345, but judging by snow on my truck, as much as 4″ may have fallen)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 1.25″ (again, more had fallen but not settled)(also 0.14″ rain fell overnight)

Wellman Divide (9700′) at about noon on 7th November 2020.

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

Wellman’s Cienega North Spring (9300′) early this afternoon, 7th November 2020.

Weather, water, and trail update 4th November 2020

Although we are currently in the midst of yet another unseasonably warm spell, a dramatic change in the weather is forecast starting Friday 6th. Significant snowfall is now expected above 5000′ elevation on both Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th. Total accumulation at 6000′ may be several inches, with 8-10″ possible around the highest peaks. Temperatures will be below seasonal everywhere, and 20-30 degrees below freezing on 7th-9th in the high country.

Almost daily ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past ten days have included surveys of Fuller Ridge, Willow Creek, and the Tahquitz area, among many other trails.

Starting Friday 6th November, hikers should be prepared for temperatures well below freezing in the high country, and far below freezing when considering windchill effects (see also below for range of recently recorded temperatures).

Due to continuing exceptional 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. All wilderness camping, including anywhere along the PCT, and camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) is currently prohibited.

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 required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, partially reopened on 9th October. Trams are operating at greatly reduced capacity, reduced times, and on limited days; see the Tramway website for details.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021. South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

WEATHER The first week of November has seen temperatures far above seasonal averages. Thursday 5th in particular will see very warm temperatures with extremely low relative humidity. As discussed above, very cold weather is forecast starting Friday 6th, lasting into the following week. There is a chance of precipitation throughout this weekend. Significant snowfall is now forecast above 5000′ elevation on both Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th. Total accumulation at 6000′ may be several inches, with 8-10″ possible around the highest peaks.

Air quality has largely returned to normal above about 4000′ elevation, thanks to several days of steady north and easterly winds.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Tuesday 3rd November 2020, at 0930 the air temperature was 44.3°F (7°C), with a windchill of 41.5°F (5°C), 36% relative humidity, and a light SW wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 7.2 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 1st November 2020, at 0735 the air temperature was 45.4°F (7°C), with a windchill of 40.7°F (5°C), 26% relative humidity, and a light SSW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.2 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 26th October 2020, at 0840 the air temperature was 23.3°F (-5°C), with a windchill of -0.4°F (-18°C), 13% relative humidity, and a blustery due North wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 24.8 mph.

Moonlit night sky over Suicide Rock as seen from Devil’s Slide Trail, 1st November 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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).

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. A video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

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

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire) despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

Sunrise from PCT Mile 180, north of Saddle Junction, 1st November 2020.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing very gently for a short distance further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing very weakly, and it dries up at the mouth of the valley. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

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

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently. I have cleared out the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail, and there is adequate depth in which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring stopped flowing in the first week of October. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, as it has since August, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

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

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

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

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover 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.

Weather and trail update 27th October 2020

Recent hikes have included four ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past six days via several routes, plus Tahquitz Peak and a check of water sources in the Tahquitz area meadows. Wild North winds overnight produced a lot of branches down on the trails today (I removed those I found). Assessment of any new downed trees forestwide may take a few weeks, but be aware of the possibility of new tree fall hazards.

Although yet another warming trend starts tomorrow, hikers should now be prepared for temperatures around freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering windchill effects (see recent recorded temperatures below). Cloudy conditions at mid elevations in recent days failed to produce significant precipitation in the mountains.

Due to continuing exceptional fire risk, all dispersed camping remains prohibited in both the Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest. No wilderness camping (including anywhere along the PCT) or camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) is permitted. 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 required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, partially reopened on 9th October. Trams are operating at greatly reduced capacity, reduced times, and on limited days; see the Tramway website for details.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021. South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

Water conditions have not significantly changed from those described in last week’s Report.

WEATHER After a long, hot summer, including much of October, we had a delightful, if brief, hint of winter, with temperatures falling to well below seasonal average over the past four days. However, temperatures will rise rapidly this week, and especially in the first week of November they are forecast to be well above average yet again. There continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

An extremely light drizzle was reported in some areas around Idyllwild-Pine Cove on Sunday 25th, with 0.02″ measured at 5550′ elevation. The high country was above the cloud, with no precipitation above about 6500′.

Air quality had largely returned to normal in the high country, but strong North winds on Monday 26th stirred up all the smoke, ash, and dust again. Ash was flying around San Jacinto Peak yesterday morning, having blown up the north face from the Snow Fire scar 6000 feet below. Conditions had started to improve today (see comparison photos below).

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Tuesday 27th October 2020, at 0900 the air temperature was 24.6°F (-4°C), with a windchill of 4.1°F (-16°C), 46% relative humidity, and a bitter due North wind sustained at 20 mph gusting to 27.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 26th October 2020, at 0840 the air temperature was 23.3°F (-5°C), with a windchill of -0.4°F (-18°C), 13% relative humidity, and a blustery due North wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 24.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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 (approx. Miles 191-206).

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

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

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire) despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

A comparison of air quality looking towards the San Bernardino mountains from San Jacinto Peak. Above, on Monday 26th October 2020 (at 0830) and below the next day, Tuesday 27th 2020 (at 0900).

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 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.

Weather, water, and trail update 22nd October 2020

Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest partially reopened on 9th October. All trails are open, except for the Pacific Crest Trail between Black Mountain Road and Snow Creek (Miles 191-206, closed due to the Snow Fire). Due to exceptional fire risk, all dispersed camping remains prohibited forestwide, meaning wilderness camping (including along the PCT) and camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) are not permitted. All wilderness camping in the State Park is also prohibited.

Hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are open. Please see the State Park website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

With a significant change in the weather imminent, hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country (potentially well below freezing when considering windchill effects), especially on 25th-28th October.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, partially reopened on 9th October. Trams are operating at greatly reduced capacity, reduced times, and limited days; see the Tramway website for details.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

WEATHER After a long, hot summer, including much of October, it looks like we may briefly bypass autumn and head straight into winter in the next few days. Temperatures are forecast to fall rapidly to well below seasonal average for several days. This may be accompanied by some light precipitation at mid elevations on Sunday 25th and Monday 26th October, with one or two tenths of an inch of rain possible. By the end of October, temperatures are forecast to be at or above average again, initially driven by strong Santa Ana winds.

The latest video report from NWS San Diego nicely summarizes the weather complexities of the next few days.

Air quality has not yet returned to normal, but may do so over the next few days given the forecast winds and rain. Until the high country receives significant precipitation, fire risk remains severe.

Another recent video from NWS San Diego is informative, including the latest projection for the winter overall (spoiler alert: not good news). Data show the three months July- September 2020 were the hottest in Idyllwild history, and that Idyllwild’s ten hottest summers have all occurred since 2002.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Tuesday 20th October 2020, at 0830 the air temperature was 51.4°F (10°C), with a windchill of 49.7°F (10°C), 17% relative humidity, and a very light WNW breeze gusting to 3.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 19th October 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 50.6°F (10°C), with a windchill of 46.8°F (8°C), 22% relative humidity, and a steady NW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 9.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was extensively burned on both sides of the Trail 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 (approx. Miles 191-206).

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

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

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire) despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing very gently for a short distance further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

Tahquitz Creek at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 20th October 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail, and Stone Creek and its tributaries on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing weakly, and it dries up just below the mouth of the valley. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

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

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently. I have cleared out the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail, and there is adequate depth in which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring stopped flowing in the first week of October. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, as it has since August, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

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

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

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

Sunrise from upper Angel’s Glide (8700′, roughly PCT Mile 180) on 19th October 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 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 15th October 2020

Both Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest partially reopened on 9th October. All trails are open, except for the Pacific Crest Trail between Black Mountain Road and Snow Creek (Miles 191-206, closed due to the Snow Fire). All camping remains prohibited forestwide, meaning wilderness camping (including along the PCT) or camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) is not permitted. All wilderness camping in the State Park is also prohibited. In the Forest, only developed campgrounds that were previously open – Pinyon, Marion Mountain, Fern Basin – have reopened (the latter two are scheduled to close for the season on 10th November anyway). Details of the Forest Service reopening are available here.

Hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are open. Please see the State Park website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, partially reopened on 9th October. Trams are operating at greatly reduced capacity, reduced times, and limited days; see the Tramway website for full details.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

Water conditions – as confirmed by multiple hikes in the high country in the past few days via most major routes – are not significantly different from those described in last week’s Report (available here).

On a minor personal note, on Sunday 11th October, far off trail on the north face of San Jacinto Peak, I passed one million feet of elevation gain for 2020, achieved entirely within the San Jacinto mountains. My previous record for a calendar year was about 820,000 feet. Before anyone asks, the hard part about hiking/running over a million feet of elevation gain in a year? Descending one million feet.

WEATHER Other than a brief interlude around last weekend, temperatures have been well above seasonal for the month of October so far. Autumn finally arrives late next week, around Thursday 22nd, when temperatures are forecast to fall rapidly below seasonal average for several days. Air quality has not yet returned to normal, but in the past week has been the best in the San Jacinto mountains since mid August. There is currently no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains extreme.

The latest video from NWS San Diego is very informative, including the latest projection for the winter (spoiler alert: bad news). Data show the three months July- September 2020 were the hottest in Idyllwild history, and that Idyllwild’s ten hottest summers have all occurred since 2002.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Thursday 15th October 2020, at 0850 the air temperature was 50.3°F (10°C), with a windchill of 43.7°F (7°C), 33% relative humidity, and a fresh NNE wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 16.5 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 11th October 2020, at 1530 the air temperature was 44.9°F (8°C), with a windchill of 36.3°F (2°C), 47% relative humidity, and a steady NNE wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 15.8 mph.

The warmest temperature I have ever recorded at San Jacinto Peak remains Wednesday 19th August 2020, when at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measurable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

Parish’s Catchfly (Silene parishii) still just in flower, 11th October 2020, at 10,100 feet on the remote north face of San Jacinto Peak. This flower is endemic to the mountain ranges of Southern California.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was extensively burned on both sides of the Trail 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 (approx. Miles 191-206).

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

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

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow – for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire – despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

North spring at Wellman’s Cienega still flowing steadily, 13th October 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 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.

Forest and Park update 9th October 2020

The San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest partially reopened today. Forest Service has indicated this is primarily a day use reopening. All trails are open, except for the Pacific Crest Trail between Black Mountain Road and Snow Creek (closed due to the Snow Fire). Dispersed camping remains prohibited forestwide, meaning wilderness camping (including along the PCT) or camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) is not permitted. Only those developed campgrounds that were previously open – Pinyon, Marion Mountain, Fern Basin – have reopened (the latter two are scheduled to close for the season on 10th November anyway). Details of the Forest Service reopening are available here.

The wilderness of Mount San Jacinto State Park has also reopened. Hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations. All camping in the State Park wilderness remains prohibited. Please see the State Park website for details.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which has been closed since 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, reopened today. Trams are operating at less than 25% capacity and reservations are required. Tram riders should be aware that all camping in the State Park wilderness remains prohibited. Full details of the Tram reopening are available at the Tramway website.

The unprecedented Forest and Park closures, in place for 31 days, were indicative of the exceptional fire risk and the associated resource challenges. Although conditions have ameliorated somewhat, please note that fire risk remains extreme. The wisdom of the closure decision was demonstrated by the outbreak of the Snow Fire in mid September, which burned 6200 acres, largely in the Snow Creek and Falls Creek drainages.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

WEATHER After temperatures well above seasonal for the first week of October, cooler autumnal weather finally arrived on 7th October. Regrettably it will last less than a week, with temperatures rising again to well above average from 12th October onwards. With a shift from easterly to westerly winds, air quality today was the best in and around the San Jacinto mountains since mid August. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains extreme.

The past month was the hottest September in recorded Idyllwild history. Remarkably, 27 of the 30 days recorded average temperatures above the historic average for the month. This followed an exceptionally hot and dry August, the hottest ever recorded for California. Overall the summer period (July-early September) was the sixth hottest in Idyllwild history, with the top ten hottest summers all occurring since 2002.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Thursday 8th October 2020, at 0900 the air temperature was 48.3°F (9°C), with a windchill of 40.6°F (5°C), 32% relative humidity, and a cool WSW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 15.9 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 6th October 2020, at 0840 the air temperature was 48.4°F (9°C), with a windchill of 41.5°F (5°C), 29% relative humidity, and a light SE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 13.6 mph.

The warmest temperature I have ever recorded at San Jacinto Peak was on Wednesday 19th August 2020, when at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measurable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

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

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have dubbed it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire) despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

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

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

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail, and Stone Creek and its tributaries on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing weakly, and it dries up just below the mouth of the valley. The flow rate has dropped substantially in recent weeks. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily, but flow rate dropped markedly in September.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently. I have cleared out the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail, and there is adequate depth in which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring stopped flowing in the first week of October. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, as it has since August, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

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

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

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

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover 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.

Forest closure update 1st October 2020

[UPDATE 6th October: The Forest will reportedly reopen on Friday 9th October for day use. Wilderness camping will remain prohibited. Some forest roads may remain closed. Full details will be available shortly.]

The closure of the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, which began on Monday 7th September, has been extended until at least 8th October (see revised closure order here).

Notices posted at trailheads such as Humber Park and Ernie Maxwell Trail were amended by hand on 22nd September to simply say “extended, see website for details”. Apparently, “the closure will be reevaluated daily”, although the previous three closure orders have all run through to their expiration date. The Forest Service does have a relatively useful FAQs regarding the closure.

In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step has been taken due to exceptional fire risk, for public and firefighter safety, and due to lack of adequate emergency response resources. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests in Southern California, are included in the closure.

As indicated on the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. As public trails into the Park largely pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

The Snow Fire, which started on 17th September, was held initially at 6013 acres (see prior posting for discussion). On 22nd September that acreage was revised up to 6254, apparently due to improved mapping, rather than additional burning. Given the enormous challenges with almost all the other fires in the state at this time, we are extremely fortunate that the Snow Fire was not ultimately many times larger, or more destructive. The principal formal trail impacted was the PCT. About eight miles were burned (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) although damage to the trail is minimal due to the gentle gradient on this section and the relatively short, light chaparral in this area.

Black Mountain Road is closed (at the gate by Highway 243), possibly for the remainder of the year. All fire lookouts in the San Bernardino National Forest are currently closed, apparently for the protection of the volunteers who operate them and due to scarce resource availability in the event of any emergency.

Air quality on the mountain has varied from day-to-day, but in general has been poor. The smoke/smog level has visibly fluctuated between about 7000′ to 12,000′, although overall air quality has improved significantly in the San Jacinto mountains in recent days.

WEATHER Although temperatures cooled somewhat earlier this week, they have climbed again to well above seasonal. Temperatures are forecast to fall significantly next week. The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 23rd (59.9°F) was the highest ever recorded at that location in the second half of September. There is no precipitation in the forecast. The prospects for the remainder of 2020, discussed in an earlier video from NWS San Diego, are not encouraging.

Please stay safe everyone. I will continue to post updated information as it becomes available.

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 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.

Forest and fire update 24th September 2020

[The next update to the Trail Report is scheduled for Thursday 1st October, when the Forest and Park closures will either be lifted or extended.]

The closure of the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, which began on Monday 7th September, has now been extended until at least 30th September (see revised closure order here).

Notices posted at trailheads such as Humber Park and Ernie Maxwell Trail were amended by hand on 22nd to simply say “extended, see website for details”. Apparently, “the closure will be reevaluated daily”. The Forest Service does have a relatively useful FAQs regarding the closure.

In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step has been taken due to exceptional fire risk. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests in Southern California, are included in the closure.

As indicated on the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. As public trails into the Park largely pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

The Snow Fire was held initially at 6013 acres (see prior posting for discussion). On 22nd that acreage was revised up to 6254, apparently due to improved mapping, rather than additional burning. There has been no visible sign of smoke or smoldering for the past few days, and containment percentage increases every day. Given the enormous challenges with almost all the other fires in the region at this time, we are extremely fortunate that the Snow Fire was not ultimately many times larger, or more destructive. The principal formal trail impacted was the PCT. About eight miles were burned (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) although damage to the trail is limited due to the gentle gradient on this section and the relatively short, light chaparral in this area.

Black Mountain Road is closed (at the gate about 1.7 miles up from Highway 243), possibly for the remainder of the year. One unfortunate consequence of this action is that the Black Mountain Fire Lookout is also now closed, potentially for the season. Indeed all fire lookouts in the San Bernardino National Forest are currently closed, apparently for the protection of the volunteers who operate them and due to scarce resource availability in the event of any emergency.

Air quality on the mountain has varied from day-to-day, but in general has been poor. This past weekend was the best air quality this month, but it has subsequently deteriorated again somewhat in the past couple of days (but remains better now than earlier in September).

WEATHER Although temperatures have cooled somewhat, overnight lows in particular remain above average. Temperatures well above seasonal are forecast to return for the last couple of days of September into the first few days of October (as discussed in the latest briefing from NWS San Diego).

The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 23rd (59.9°F) was the highest ever recorded at that location in the second half of September. There is no precipitation in the forecast. The prospects for the remainder of 2020, discussed in an earlier video from NWS San Diego, are not encouraging.

Please stay safe everyone. I will continue to post updated information as it becomes available.

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 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.

Snow Fire update 19th September 2020

[The entire National Forest and State Park remain closed due to exceptional fire risk, with full details in an earlier posting, available here.]

UPDATED at 0915

Encouraging news. Total spread looks to have been held under 6000 acres and the fire is largely extinguished. Viewed from above, the western flank (in the vicinity of the PCT) appears to be completely extinguished. A very solid retardant line held the spread right around 5000ft elevation in chaparral, and there is no sign of smoldering or smoke.

Minor smoke plumes are still visible on the east flank of Blaisdell Ridge at about 5000ft elevation, about two miles due north of Mountain Station of the Tramway. Although there is a spotter plane in the air, there is no active air attack, so I assume there is no significant flare-up in that area. This could change at any time of course.

There is minor smoldering and smoking low down in the Falls Creek drainage. Otherwise all the spot fires in the drainages appear to have died down.

Wind in the high country is very similar to yesterday, from WSW sustained above 10 mph gusting to 18 mph. Especially those of us living in Idyllwild-Pine Cove been very fortunate to have predominantly SW winds, and everyone has been helped by having relatively weak winds. Air quality is the best today in two weeks, with the San Gabriel and Santa Ana mountains clearly visible this morning fom the San Jacinto high country.

Retardant line roughly perpendicular to the PCT at about 5000′ elevation, in the West Fork drainage about two miles north of Fuller Ridge, 19th September 2020, as seen from near San Jacinto Peak. The previous morning the fire had been moving rapidly from right to left.

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 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.