Trail and water update 20th May 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

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

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

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

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

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail and water update 13th May 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

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

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

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at approx. PCT Mile 177. The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is already dry, four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail update 6th May 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minor storm update 28th April 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marion Mountain Trail is clear of snow to the PCT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail update 21st April 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail update 15th April 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved challenging over the years is virtually clear of snow, with good steps to follow. Spikes are no longer required, although hiking poles and caution are always useful. Every individual should make their own assessment of whether to cross based on their comfort level on angled snow, their experience, available equipment, time of day, and current snow conditions. If in any doubt whatsoever, turn around and take the very well signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

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

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

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

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

PCT and snow update 9th April 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of ice and snow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved challenging over the years is virtually clear of snow, with reasonable steps to follow. Spikes are no longer required, although hiking poles and caution are always useful. Every individual should make their own assessment of whether to cross based on their comfort level on angled snow, their experience, available equipment, time of day, and current snow conditions. If in any doubt whatsoever, turn around and take the very well signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow and PCT update 1st April 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

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

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

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved challenging over the years is currently snow-covered. This area was resurveyed on 29th March as discussed in this short video. Snow is hard and icy in the early mornings, but with reasonable steps to follow. Spikes, ideally in combination with an ice axe, and knowledge of how to use this equipment, are currently recommended. Every individual should make their own assessment of whether to cross based on their comfort level on angled snow, their experience, available equipment, time of day, and current snow conditions. If in any doubt whatsoever, turn around and take the very well signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

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

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

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

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

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

Snow and PCT update 22nd March 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

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

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

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

The bottom line is, if everything remains snowy/icy, and if the Snow Fire closure section doesn’t reopen soon (both of which are very big “ifs”), this will be an even more challenging year than usual to hike the PCT through the San Jacinto mountains section. Many folks may choose to skip parts or even all of this section.

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

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

On Thursday 18th March I resurveyed Apache Peak. The detailed video report for PCT Miles 168-179 from 1st March is not currently accurate, due to the recent additional snowfall on 10-15th March. However, with significant melting likely over at least the next ten days, that video report will again become increasingly relevant within the next few days. I intend to resurvey the area soon. Unfortunately, as I speculated in the video, the challenging Apache Peak area is currently more tricky, with an unstable layer of fresh snow sitting over, and obscuring, the pre-existing icy snow. Please exercise very cautious decision-making in this area.

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has had incidents in recent years is currently snow-covered. Snow is hard and icy in the early mornings. Spikes and an ice axe, and knowledge of how to use this equipment, are currently very strongly recommended. Every individual should make their own assessment of whether to cross based on their comfort level on angled snow, their experience, available equipment, time of day, and current snow conditions. If in any doubt whatsoever, turn around and take the very well signed Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

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

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

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

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

Miles 191-206 of the PCT are currently closed, in theory until October 2021, due to the Snow Fire closure (closure order document here). Until this section reopens, it will be necessary to leave the trail at Black Mountain Road (about Mile 191) and hike the eight miles down Black Mountain Road to Highway 243. Currently the upper 3.5 miles of Black Mountain Road are largely snow-covered, with limited patches lower down also.

Black Mountain Road is open to hikers, it is only closed to vehicles at the gate 1.7 miles above Highway 243. This is a seasonal closure, and it might reopen to vehicles again in April (although that is weather dependent).

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

Strawberry Junction (PCT Mile 183; 8100ft) on 22nd March 2021 (above) and the same view on 16th March 2021 (below).

Snow and trail update 16th March 2021

[For information specific to the Pacific Crest Trail please see the dedicated PCT report, updated daily and best used in conjunction with this latest general Report.]

[UPDATED 19th March: Humber Park reopened for all parking this evening.]

[UPDATED 18th March: a short video describing conditions on the PCT at its junction with Spitler Peak Trail (Mile 168.5) is available here.]

The past week has seen the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth snow storms of winter 2020/21, the last of these yesterday. Conditions after the moderate storm of 10th-11th March were summarised in the previous Report. The two most recent storms produced much less precipitation, up to three inches of snow on 12th March, and 1-4 inches of snow yesterday.

This morning I ascended San Jacinto Peak breaking trail via the east side (Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails) and descended via Deer Springs Trail. This facilitated survey of the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183.5) plus several of its feeder trails.

I recorded video on today’s hike to give a feel for current conditions especially at high elevation locations along the PCT (available here on YouTube, special thanks to my neighbour Alex Coleman for expert video production). Although excellent tracks are now in place for some major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere for the next few days in particular.

The storm system yesterday was warmer than others this winter, with rain initially as high as 6500ft before turning to snow. Coupled with cold overnight temperatures for the next couple of days, this creates hazardous conditions on slopes, where snow lies on top of ice (frozen rain), itself on top of older snow. Considerable caution and appropriate equipment are currently required everywhere, especially traditionally challenging slopes such as parts of PCT Miles 167-176, north face of Tahquitz Peak, north and east slopes of San Jacinto Peak, and Fuller Ridge, among others.

Current forecasts suggest that there may be no more precipitation for a couple of weeks, with warming and steady melting likely at most elevations. Days of freeze-thaw cycles will make the snow-ice conditions additionally challenging and variable.

As is increasingly the trend with a changed climate in recent years, there was little difference in snowfall between the mid and upper elevations in the storm yesterday, with 2.5 inches measured at Humber Park (at 6500ft) through to about 3.5 inches at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft). Current overall snow depths for many locations around the mountain are given at the foot of this posting.

Snow conditions are currently ideal for snowshoeing everywhere above about 7000ft, potentially lower on less exposed trails for the next day or two. With steady melting already underway by this afternoon and compaction caused by freeze-thaw cycles and hiker traffic, conditions will deteriorate for snowshoeing over the next few days, especially on more heavily traveled trails below 9000ft. Nevertheless, snowshoes will be valuable anywhere off trail above about 8000ft for the foreseeable future. In addition to snowshoes, and as conditions change, spikes are strongly recommended for the foreseeable future everywhere above about 5500ft. They will be especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks over the next week (e.g., PCT, Devil’s Slide and Deer Springs trails) on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and for descending.

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 recent temperatures at San Jacinto Peak).

Snow depths are currently insufficient for significant avalanche risk in the high country, with the exception of the traditionally unstable north face of San Jacinto Peak (and possibly the north face of Tahquitz Peak).

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

South Ridge Road remains open, although the road is completely snow-covered and is becoming increasingly icy.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to fluctuate around seasonal averages at most elevations (but generally above average in the high country) for the next ten days. With many sunny days snow melt will steadily accelerate and will likely be particularly rapid below 8000ft and on sun-exposed slopes at all elevations. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast.

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

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

Tahquitz Rock and Tahquitz Peak as seen from near lower Deer Springs Trail, 16th March 2021, with puffy cloud drifting north along South Ridge.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 5500′ are largely or completely snow-covered. By this afternoon, melting was already well underway below 7000′. Reliable tracks are currently only known to be in place for Devil’s Slide Trail through to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman Divide, and the entire Deer Springs Trail. At elevations below 10,000ft by this afternoon snow was softening rapidly, and was taking on the consistency of soft-serve ice cream even in the high country. This makes snowshoes even more valuable.

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 well-defined track to follow along its entire length.

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

Deer Springs Trail has an excellent snowshoe track to follow, well-traveled to Strawberry Junction, then a single set of tracks to Little Round Valley, all largely following the established trail route. Above Little Round Valley, my snowshoe track down from the Peak is very direct, steep, and would be a challenging ascent.

May Valley Road – a major component of the PCT Mile 168.5 alternate – is clear of snow [updated 17th March].

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

Spitler Peak Trail [updated 18th March] is almost clear of snow below the first creek crossing (about 6500ft elevation), but then snow cover is about 50% in the switchbacks up to the PCT. There is a well-defined track through most of this snow cover.

Current snow cover on the PCT is minimal from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), concentrated on north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168) and Apache Peak (Mile 169.5-170). Note that in addition to the challenging north-east side of Apache Peak, the off-trail north side of the Apache saddle is also still largely snow-covered (also requiring spikes). Snow is then more-or-less continuous between Miles 175-191. Snow cover will become increasingly patchy between Miles 178 to 183.5 in the next few days, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 183.5 to 191, snow is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., parts of Miles 186.5-188.5) are thinning rapidly.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 16th March 2021, are as follows. Note that current average total depth is given first, followed by added snow from the latest storm in parentheses where known. Note that there was some melting between the previous storm systems, accounting for the discrepancy between depths reported here and last weeks report. Due to strong winds accompanying the storms there is extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 38 inches (4 inches new snow in latest storm)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 29 inches

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 19 inches (3 inches new)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 24 inches (3 inches new)

Deer Springs Trail at Seven Pines Trail junction (8700ft): 14 inches

Strawberry Junction (8100ft): 8 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070′): 17 inches (3 inches new)

Deer Springs Trail at Suicide Rock Trail junction (6950ft): 3 inches

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6550′): 12 inches (2.5 inches new, but melting rapidly)

Idyllwild (at 5550′): 6 inches (1.0 inch new; rapid melting was underway this afternoon)

Upper Little Round Valley (9800ft) with about two feet of snow, 16th March 2021.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. The Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its costs. With a busy winter coinciding with a complex PCT season, every contribution is deeply appreciated. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow storm summary 12th March 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minor snow storm update 4th March 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail update 1st March 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow and trail update 24th February 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brief trail update 15th February 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow and trail update 9th February 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Round Valley on 9th February 2021 (above) and the same view ten days earlier on 31st January (below).

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

Snow and trail summary 1st February 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 32 inches

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

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

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

Strawberry Junction (8100ft): 24 inches

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

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

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

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

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

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Snow storm summary 26th January 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weather update 21st January 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weather and trail update 19th January 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAIL CONDITIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is basically clear of snow.

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

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

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

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

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

Strawberry Junction (8100′): <1 inch

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

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

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide on 18th January 2021 (above) and the same view on 31st December 2020 (below).

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