Brief weather and trail update 26th March 2022

[UPDATED Tuesday 29th March @ 1055: We broke trail this morning up Devil’s Slide Trail to San Jacinto Peak. Snow depths range from two inches at Saddle Junction (8070ft) to 4-5 inches here at San Jacinto Peak. Spikes are recommended but are not strictly essential. Crampons are an alternative above 9000ft for those who have them. Shallow snow and underlying icy snow generally make conditions poor for snowshoes. We will descend breaking trail down Deer Springs Trail. Main update this evening.]

[UPDATED Monday 28th March @ 1955: we hiked up Tahquitz Peak this afternoon to assess the start of the storm. It started drizzling on us at 1330. Around the Peak very light snow was slowly settling above 8500 ft, with a mix of snow, sleet and rain from 7800-8500 ft, and drizzle below that. So far 0.48 in of rain has fallen in Idyllwild at 5550 ft elevation, with a scant 0.5 in of snow settled at Tahquitz Peak (8800 ft) and in Long Valley (8600 ft). After a lull for a couple of hours, the second, colder phase of the system is imminent, lasting until pre-dawn tomorrow.]

This is a short update, hopefully useful for all readers but with the large number of thru hikers currently on the PCT in mind (we have seen and talked to dozens on hikes in recent days). For more comprehensive details of trail conditions for trails not mentioned below, Forest road closures, and other general information, see the previous report for 21st-23rd March linked here.

After days of uncertainty, the forecasts have become somewhat clearer for the storm system expected on Monday 28th March. The storm will have two phases, now so close together that essentially there will be continuous precipitation from early Monday afternoon until around sunrise on Tuesday 29th.

The first phase is particularly warm and will bring rain to lower and mid elevations on Monday afternoon, with a freeze level at 7000-7500 ft. The second phase, lasting most of Monday night, will be colder, with the freeze level dropping to about 6000 ft. Snowfall estimates above 10,000 ft for the entire system total 6-10 inches. Lower elevations will receive less snow, especially those around 5500-7500 ft that will get rain from the first phase of the storm. Idyllwild is expected to be below the snow level.

Most of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains is above 6000 ft and will some experience light snowfall. Miles 175-191 are all above 7700 ft and are expected to receive about 2-6 inches of snow. In combination with strong winds (and therefore drifting) this may be sufficient to obscure the existing track in places, complicate navigation, and make for more challenging conditions underfoot.

Shallow fresh snow on top of ice (from rain) or on top of older icy snow are conditions that have proven to be challenging for less experienced hikers in the San Jacinto mountains in recent years, and these are the conditions that are now expected for 28th-30th March at least. Fresh snow obscures the ice or icy snow underneath, and makes it harder for traction devices to grip. Considerable caution is recommended in such conditions. Melting will be relatively rapid in the days immediately after the storm, but with some freeze-thaw cycles for at least a few days.

Although useful tracks are now in place for most major trails, some of these above about 7000 ft will become obscured on Monday 28th for up to several days, and cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

I have hiked somewhere on the PCT and/or its alternates every day for the past couple of weeks. I uploaded a detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on the morning of Wednesday 23rd March. Also note that four days earlier I did a similar survey and video report for PCT Miles 168.5-179.5. Obviously these videos are only applicable until Sunday 27th March.

Early on Friday 25th March we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, PCT, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails, descending the same way. Boots with excellent traction were sufficient all the way to the Peak. I only used spikes to descend to about 10,300 ft. Hikers with a lower comfort level on snow and icy snow will find spikes useful more widely.

Snow depths measured on 23rd-25th March are detailed near the foot of this post but note that snow depth alone is rarely indicative of the difficulty or otherwise of conditions for hiking.

Spikes are recommended (but are not essential on well-traveled trails) above about 7600 ft, as snow on trails can be icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally most valuable for traversing and for descending. Starting Monday 28th, spikes are expected to be strongly recommended everywhere above about 6000 ft for several days.

PCT hikers that leave the trail by Mile 165, and then regain the trail at Mile 191 using the Black Mountain Road alternate, currently no longer require spikes (currently spikes remain recommended for some parts of Miles 166-191). This advice may change after 28th March.

WEATHER

Specifics of the warm mixed precipitation storm on Monday 28th are given above. About an inch of rain is expected at mid elevations, with snowfall of 6-10 inches in the high country. Relatively mild, sunny conditions are expected from Wednesday 30th March onwards, and rapid snowmelt will resume.

The air temperature recorded at San Jacinto Peak on Friday 25th March – an astonishing 45.5°F (7.5°C) – was likely an all-time record high for the Peak in March.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75 in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak. Snowfall in both December 2021 and February 2022 was below seasonal for the high country. Consequently, for the tenth consecutive winter, precipitation will be below average in the San Jacinto high country (and eight of those ten winters have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Friday 25th March 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 45.5°F (7.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.3°F (3°C), 27% relative humidity, and a light SSE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 12.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 21st March 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 35.4°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 16.5°F (-9°C), 47% relative humidity, and a gusty NNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 16.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Current snow cover on the PCT is extremely limited from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and then increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and 175 (Red Tahquitz). Some shaded chutes and slopes can be tricky for those without snow/ice experience, and spikes remain recommended. See my video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March available here. Snow remains largely continuous between Miles 175-179. Snow cover is becoming very patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 191, snow cover is largely continuous, although extensive exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) are now largely clear, as are areas north of Mile 191. See the detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March.

Trails below about 7500ft are now generally clear of snow, light snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and light to moderate cover is largely continuous but melting steadily everywhere above 9000ft. Melting has been very rapid in the past two weeks.

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated this winter. In a full survey on 19th March 2022, I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

Devil’s Slide Trail is essentially clear of icy snow to near Saddle Junction, with just a few patches mainly near the latter. Hikers may find spikes useful near Saddle, especially for descending.

The PCT for a mile north of Saddle Junction (“Angel’s Glide”) is essentially clear of snow. The Wellman Trail is now only about 50% snow-covered.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and thorough knowledge of how to use both) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

The well-traveled compacted track on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak follows the trail route. Icy snow cover remains 60%. Above 10,400ft tracks form a partially compacted route up the East Ridge. The Peak Trail itself has not been properly broken above 10,400 ft.

Marion Mountain Trail has about 50% snow cover overall, with a very well-traveled compacted track throughout. The trail is largely clear (<10% snow cover) to about 7400 ft and then snow cover averages 60% up to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail junction, with a couple of lengthy clear sections. Spikes are useful for descending. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Unsurprisingly, there were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines Trail as of 23rd March.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft, and is largely clear from there to about 8600ft (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is about 95%, with a few clear patches developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.] Through Little Round Valley and on up to near the Peak the most heavily traveled track follows my prior snowshoe route which did not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and is a challenging ascent for many). Cautious navigation is required as there are several alternative tracks meandering across this snow slope.

Willow Creek Trail has about 40% snow cover overall, with a posthole and snowshoe track to Long Valley through the remaining snow. There are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

The trail from Saddle Junction to near Reeds Meadow, then past Little Tahquitz Meadow to connect to the PCT is currently an ugly posthole track through soft snow that does not remotely follow the established trail routes.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well-traveled, is very sun-exposed and is clearing rapidly of snow.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

The Suicide Rock Trail is clear of snow.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in 2022.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 23rd-25th March 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the greatest depth recorded after the largest storm of this calendar year (on 22nd-23rd February 2022) given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 9 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 10-12 inches (with heavy drifting here)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 0-4 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 8 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 6 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 0 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 0-1 inch (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (15 inches on 23rd February)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle has been added as a fee-free way to donate. Thank you for your support.

Above, Wellman Divide (9700ft) on 25th March 2022, and below the same view 11 days earlier on 14th March, showing rapid snowmelt.
Above, Annie’s Junction/PCT Mile 180.8 (9070ft) on 25th March 2022, and below the same view 11 days earlier on 14th March, showing very rapid snowmelt for such a relatively shaded area.

Snow and trail update 23rd March 2022

[I have uploaded a detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on the morning of Wednesday 23rd March. Also note that four days earlier I did a similar survey and video report for PCT Miles 168.5-179.5.]

Other than brief cooler weather on Sunday 20th, warm and sunny conditions have led to rapid snowmelt at all elevations. This will accelerate further this week, with forecast temperatures far above average for March. Overall snow conditions already more closely resemble mid April (or, in a “normal” year, early May) than mid March.

Very minor precipitation on 20th included 0.11 in of rain in Idyllwild (at 5550 ft) and 0.25 in snow above 8700ft with a dusting down to 7500 ft. There was a narrow band between 8700-9800 ft on the western slope with 0.5 in snow, dropping back to just 0.25 in at the highest peaks.

Snow depths measured (largely) on 21st March are detailed near the foot of this post but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty or otherwise of conditions for hiking.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have surveyed several segments of PCT Miles 151-186 and its side trails, plus multiple Forest roads. On Saturday 19th March we hiked PCT Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) plus Spitler Peak and Devil’s Slide trails, and reported on conditions in this detailed video report.

Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. These will continue to change with rapid and widespread melting over the next week, followed by the possibility of a light to moderate snowstorm on 28th-29th March.

Early on Monday 21st March we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails. Boots with excellent traction were sufficient all the way to the Peak. Spikes were useful for descending continuously to about 8600 ft and then on some patches down to 7500 ft. Hikers with a lower comfort level on snow and icy snow will find spikes useful more widely. Although useful tracks are now in place for most major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Although snow conditions are rapidly becoming benign in the San Jacinto mountains, I continue to emphasize the critical importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making.

Spikes are recommended (but not essential on well-traveled trails) almost everywhere above about 7400 ft, as snow on trails can be icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are generally most valuable for traversing and for descending. PCT hikers that leave the trail by Mile 165, and then regain the trail at Mile 191 using the Black Mountain Road alternate, no longer require spikes (currently spikes remain recommended for some parts of Miles 166-191).

With the main trails now largely having compacted tracks snowshoes are no longer required but they remain very useful in off-trail areas only above about 7900ft. With continued snowmelt conditions will further deteriorate for snowshoeing over the next week.

Despite generally warmer than seasonal weather, hikers should nevertheless 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 my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 11th March.

South Ridge Road is open and is largely clear of icy snow.

The following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02).

Junction of Fuller Ridge Trail and Deer Springs Trail (PCT Mile 185.6) on 21st March 2022. There is now a lightly traveled posthole track on Fuller Ridge (to the left).

WEATHER

Temperatures will yet again climb to well above seasonal, with very warm conditions forecast for 24th-26th March. There is the likelihood of a warm storm around Monday 28th, with moderate rainfall at mid elevations, and snowfall up to 10-12 inches in the high country.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak. Snowfall in both December 2021 and February 2022 was below seasonal for the high country. Consequently, for the tenth consecutive winter, precipitation will be below average in the San Jacinto high country (and eight of those ten winters have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 21st March 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 35.4°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 16.5°F (-9°C), 47% relative humidity, and a gusty NNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 16.7 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 17th March 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 29.1°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.5°F (-10°C), 19% relative humidity, and a bitter due North wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 16.5 mph.

Little Round Valley (9800ft) on 21st March 2022, averaging about 12-18 inches of snow cover but with some bare patches appearing.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7500ft are now generally clear of snow, light snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and light to moderate cover remains largely continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Icy snow from prior storms persists on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks, and Antsell Rock). Melting has been rapid in the past week and will accelerate over the next week.

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, agencies failed to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and thorough knowledge of how to use both) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route.) Long Valley Ranger Station staff have stated that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. The open section of trail below 5800 ft is clear of snow.

Current snow cover on the PCT is very limited from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and then increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and 175 (Red Tahquitz). Although limited, some shaded chutes and slopes can be tricky for those without snow/ice experience, and spikes remain recommended. See my video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March available here. Although snow remains largely continuous between Miles 175-179, this will change rapidly over the next week. Snow cover is becoming very patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 191, snow cover is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) are now largely clear, as are areas north of Mile 191. See the detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March.

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated this winter. In a full survey on 19th March 2022, I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of icy snow to about 7700 ft, and then with about 40% patchy cover to Saddle Junction. Hikers will generally find spikes useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

The PCT for a mile north of Saddle Junction (“Angel’s Glide”) is already largely clear of snow. The Wellman Trail has a well-traveled posthole route that largely follows the trail and remains about 90% snow-covered, but sun-exposed sections are clearing rapidly.

The well-traveled compacted track on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak follows the trail route. Icy snow cover remains >90%. Above 10,400ft tracks form a partially compacted snowshoe route up the East Ridge. The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail has about 50% snow cover overall, with a very well-traveled compacted track throughout. The trail is largely clear (10% snow cover) to about 7400 ft and then snow cover averages 70% up to the PCT/Deer Springs Trail junction, with a couple of lengthy clear sections. Spikes are very useful for descending. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

There is now an obvious posthole track on Fuller Ridge Trail, although it does not accurately follow the PCT route in places. Spikes remain recommended for this section. I expect to fully update conditions on Fuller Ridge by 24th March.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines Trail as of 21st March.

Deer Springs Trail is functionally clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft, and is largely clear from there to about 8600ft (just south of the Marion Mountain Trail junction). Thereafter snow cover is nearly continuous, with a few minor clear patches developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.] Through Little Round Valley and on up to near the Peak the most heavily traveled track follows my prior snowshoe route which did not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many). Cautious navigation is required as there are several alternative tracks meandering across this snow slope.

Willow Creek Trail has about 50% snow cover overall, with a posthole and snowshoe track to Long Valley through the remaining snow. There are at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

The trail from Saddle Junction to near Reeds Meadow, then past Little Tahquitz Meadow to connect to the PCT is currently an ugly posthole track through soft snow that does not remotely follow the established trail routes.

The Suicide Rock Trail is clear of snow.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in 2022.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is rapidly clearing of snow up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover is about 50% to near Tahquitz Peak, and nearly continuous on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Spikes recommended. The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well-traveled, is very sun-exposed and is clearing rapidly of snow.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on (or around) 21st March 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the greatest depth recorded after the largest storm of this calendar year (on 22nd-23rd February 2022) given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 14-15 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 16 inches (with heavy drifting here)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 4 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 14 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 6-8 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 0-2 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 2-4 inches (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (15 inches on 23rd February)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0 inches, melted by 10th March (10.5 inches on 23rd February)

It’s northbound PCT season! Please help the Trail Report at our busiest time of the year. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on your small private donations to cover costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Zelle has been added as a fee-free way to donate. Thank you for your support.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could 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 challenging, especially for those with limited experience of snow/ice hiking. Details of current snow/ice conditions will be clear from updates to the Trail Report over coming weeks.

Current snow cover on the PCT is very limited from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and then increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and 175 (Red Tahquitz). Although limited, some shaded chutes and slopes can be tricky for those without snow/ice experience, and spikes remain recommended. See my video discussing conditions for Miles 168.5-179.5 (Spitler Peak to Saddle Junction) on 19th March available here. Although snow remains largely continuous between Miles 175-179, this will change rapidly over the next week. Snow cover is becoming very patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184, with the exception of the notoriously stubborn half mile just south of Annie’s Junction starting at about Mile 180.3. From Mile 184 to 191, snow cover is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.6-187.5 and 187.8-188.5) are now largely clear, as are areas north of Mile 191. See the detailed video report (linked here) for Fuller Ridge Trail/PCT Miles 185.5-190.5 based on a full survey on Wednesday 23rd March.

The short snow slope on the NE side of Apache Peak (Mile 169.5) that has proved problematic for some hikers over the years is currently largely snow-covered but is not currently challenging (see video report mentioned above). Spikes are currently recommended. Every individual should make their own assessment of whether to cross based on their comfort level on angled snow, their snow/ice experience, available equipment, time of day, and current snow conditions. If in any doubt whatsoever, turn around and take the Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

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 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April (at least), requires crampons and ice axe, and is notoriously treacherous.

Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in March or 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). Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru hikers.

Snow and trail update 17th March 2022

[UPDATED 20th March: very minor precipitation overnight included 0.09in rain in Idyllwild and 0.25in snow at 8600ft with a dusting down to 7500ft. Spikes remain recommended above about 7000ft.]

[UPDATED 19th March: we hiked PCT Miles 168.5-179.5 and reported on conditions in this video report.]

[I have added a section “Pacific Crest Trail” at the foot of this update. However significant sections of the main Report also have key information for thru hikers, especially the discussion of current snow/ice conditions and recommended traction equipment.]

Although temperatures have been relatively cool for most of the past week, sunny conditions have started to rapidly melt the light snowfall from 5th-6th March from exposed areas at all elevations and from much of the trail system below about 7000 ft. Snow depths measured on 14th March are detailed near the foot of this post – and were not substantially different on 17th – but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions for hiking.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have also surveyed Spitler Peak Trail, several segments of PCT Miles 151-170 and its side trails, plus multiple Forest roads. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. These will continue to change with rapid melting over the next week or two (and the possibility of light snow on Sunday 20th).

Early on Monday 14th March we ascended San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails. I went minimalist with equipment this time, which proved to be the right decision, as boots with excellent traction were sufficient all the way to the Peak. We descended the east side of the mountain, via the East Ridge, Peak, Wellman, and Devil’s Slide trails. Although I wore spikes down to about 8000 ft they were not required below about 10,400 ft as the softening snow allowed for good grip. Hikers with a lower comfort level on snow and icy snow will find spikes useful more widely. Although useful tracks are now in place for most major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

On 8th March I recorded a video report of conditions on the Desert Divide, specifically at Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) available here.

Multiple hiker falls already this year in the San Jacinto mountains, including one fatality, demonstrate the critical importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making.

Spikes are recommended (but not essential on well-traveled trails) almost everywhere above about 7000 ft, as snow on trails can be icy following freeze-thaw cycles and where compacted by hiker traffic. Spikes are generally most valuable for traversing and for descending. Thru hikers that leave the PCT by Mile 165, and then regain the trail at Mile 191 using the Black Mountain Road alternate, no longer require spikes (currently spikes remain strongly recommended for Miles 166-191).

Last week snowshoeing conditions were the best of the winter so far, thanks to the depth, structure, and low water content of the graupel snow from the early March storms. However the main trails now have compacted tracks and snowshoes are no longer required. Snowshoes remain recommended in off-trail areas only above about 8000ft. Below that elevation snow coverage is generally too shallow for snowshoeing and with continued melting, conditions are expected to deteriorate even off-trail over the next week or two.

Despite generally warmer than seasonal weather, hikers should nevertheless 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 my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 11th March.

South Ridge Road is open and is largely clear of icy snow. AWD/4WD vehicle recommended.

According to the Forest Service website the following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02).

Spectacular ice- and snowscape at PCT Mile 169 on 8th March 2022. Apache Peak is the high point on the left (the PCT route goes around the east summit on the far right).

WEATHER

Temperatures have yet again climbed dramatically to well above seasonal and are expected to remain above average until Sunday 20th March, when they will very briefly dip to below seasonal. Temperatures in the last week or so of March are currently forecast to be far above seasonal. There is the possibility of a light snowfall, mainly above 7000 ft elevation, on 20th.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak. Snowfall in both December 2021 and February 2022 was below seasonal for the high country. Consequently, for the tenth consecutive winter, precipitation will be below average in the San Jacinto high country (and eight of those ten winters have been well below average).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 17th March 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 29.1°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.5°F (-10°C), 19% relative humidity, and a bitter due North wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 16.5 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 14th March 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 38.8°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 30.7°F (-1°C), 47% relative humidity, and a gentle NNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.9 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 6th March 2022 at 1045 the air temperature was 17.9°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of 0.3°F (-18°C), 71% relative humidity, and a steady WNW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 15.0 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 6700ft are now generally clear of snow, light snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and light to moderate cover remains largely continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Icy snow from December 2021, with fresh powder from storms in late February and early March, persists on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks, and Antsell Rock). Melting is already well underway since the last snowfall on 6th March and will accelerate rapidly over the next week, most prominently on sun-exposed slopes and below 9000 ft.

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177).

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and thorough knowledge of how to use both) are required. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. (Skyline Trail forms the lower two-thirds of the “Cactus-to-Clouds” [C2C] route.) Long Valley Ranger Station staff have stated that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. The open section of trail below 5800 ft is clear of snow.

Current snow cover on the PCT is very limited from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and then increasingly patchy between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz). Icy snow remains relatively deep on north-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168), Apache Peak (Mile 169.5-170), and Antsell Rock (Mile 171-172). Although limited, some of these chutes and slopes are challenging and spikes (at least) are strongly recommended for the foreseeable future. See my video from the north-east slope of Apache Peak from 8th March linked here. Note that the off-trail north side of the Apache saddle is also still partly snow-covered. Although snow is largely continuous between Miles 175-192, this will continue to change rapidly over the next week or two with warm, sunny weather forecast. Snow cover is already patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184, 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 192, snow is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., parts of Miles 186.5-188.5) are thinning and clearing rapidly, as are areas north of Mile 191.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail [updated 16th March] is essentially clear of snow with a few tiny patches near Humber Park.

Devil’s Slide Trail is clear of icy snow to about 6800 ft, and then with about 60% patchy cover to Saddle Junction (mainly near the latter). Some hikers will find spikes useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

The PCT for a mile north of Saddle Junction (“Angel’s Glide”) is already 50% clear of snow. The Wellman Trail has a well-traveled posthole route that largely follows the trail and remains more than 90% snow-covered, but sun-exposed sections are clearing rapidly.

The well-traveled compacted track on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak follows the trail route. Icy snow cover remains >95%. Above 10,400ft tracks form a partially compacted snowshoe route up the East Ridge. The route of the Peak Trail from near Miller Peak to Summit Junction has not been broken. The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail [updated 17th March] has about 60% snow cover overall, with a very well-traveled compacted track throughout. The trail is largely clear to about 7100 ft and then again in sun-exposed areas above 8200 ft to Deer Springs Trail (at 8700ft). Snow cover is about 90% in the central elevations of the trail. Spikes are very useful, especially for descending. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

There are now [17th March] two sets of northbound posthole tracks on Fuller Ridge Trail. Spikes (at least) are strongly recommended for this section.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines Trail as of 17th March.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to the Suicide Rock Trail, and is rapidly clearing of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8700ft (0.2 mile south of Marion Mountain Trail) snow cover is a rapidly thinning 50%. Thereafter snow cover is nearly continuous, with a few minor clear patches developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.] Through Little Round Valley and on up to near the Peak the track follows my snowshoe route from last week which did not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many). Cautious navigation is required as there are several alternative tracks meandering across this snow slope.

The Suicide Rock Trail is largely clear of snow, with very obvious tracks through the rapidly melting remaining snow patches.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow on its lower half, and with some patches (totaling about 10% cover) in the upper half. Some hikers will find spikes useful for descending. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in 2022.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is rapidly clearing of snow up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover is about 80% to near Tahquitz Peak, and continuous on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Spikes recommended. The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well-traveled, is very sun-exposed and is clearing rapidly of snow.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Willow Creek Trail has a poor posthole track at least to the Skunk Cabbage junction. When surveyed on 11th February 2022 it had at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, nearly 30 of these on the Forest Service section.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

Looking towards the Desert Divide from Butterfly Peak on a sublime morning, 10th March 2022. The prominent visible summit to the left is Lion Peak, with Pyramid Peak and Pine Mountain either side obscured by frigid low cloud.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 14th March 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the greatest depth recorded after the largest storm of this calendar year (on 22nd-23rd February 2022) given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and complex differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 18 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 20 inches (with heavy drifting here)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 7 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 16 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 9 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 2-3 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 5 inches (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0 inches (15 inches on 23rd February)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0 inches, melted by 10th March (10.5 inches on 23rd February)

Garner Valley (at 4200 ft): 0 inches, melted by 7th March (2 inches on 24th February).

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PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

This has been a well-below average snow year for the San Jacinto high country (for the third season in a row, and now for eight of the past ten winters). Given rapid climate change here there could 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.

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, but a few days ago was not unusually difficult, as discussed in the video available here. Spikes are currently recommended. Every individual should make their own assessment of whether to cross based on their comfort level on angled snow, their snow/ice experience, available equipment, time of day, and current snow conditions. If in any doubt whatsoever, turn around and take the Spitler Peak Trail alternate option at Mile 168.5.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

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 179.5). Do not attempt to regain the PCT via South Ridge Trail as the slope on the north side of Tahquitz Peak always remains ice-covered well into April (at least), requires crampons and ice axe, and is notoriously treacherous.

Contrary to some reports, Black Mountain Road is not closed to hiker traffic, only to vehicles. This is a temporary, seasonal closure, and usually it reopens to vehicles in March or 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). Little Round Valley and Strawberry Junction are good options for thru hikers.

Wellman Divide (9700ft) on 14th March 2022 (above), and eight days earlier on 6th March (below). In sun-exposed locations like the Divide about 4-8 inches of snow have melted in a week, and melting will accelerate with very warm temperatures over the next few days.

Minor snow storms update 8th March 2022

[UPDATED 8th March: this morning I recorded a video report of conditions on the Desert Divide, specifically at Apache Peak (PCT Mile 169.5) available here.]

Back-to-back minor snow storms passed over the San Jacinto mountains on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th March. Both systems were so fragmented that it felt like one very patchy storm scattered across two days. Although the western slope, including Strawberry Valley where Idyllwild is located, was almost continuously shrouded in cloud for the two days, the high country was above the cloud for much of that time, so snow accumulations did not increase substantially with elevation.

A light snow early on the morning of Friday 4th produced one inch of snow in Idyllwild and we measured two inches of fresh snow at Saddle Junction (8070ft, PCT Mile 179) on a hike that morning. The former largely melted that afternoon however. It then rained periodically in Idyllwild that afternoon. Overnight 0.25in snow fell in Idyllwild, but the main snowfall on Saturday 5th came in the late afternoon with an intense graupel storm which deposited 3-6 inches at all elevations above 5000 ft within 2-3 hours. There was a dusting of snow down to about 4000 ft. Snow depths measured on 6th March are detailed near the foot of this post, but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions underfoot.

Early on Sunday 6th March I ascended San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails. As usual after a patchy and unpredictable storm, I carried snowshoes, poles, crampons, ice axe, and spikes, in case I encountered a variety of challenging conditions. I had to break trail the entire way, initially just in light mountaineering boots to Saddle Junction, and then in snowshoes from there to the Peak. Snowshoeing conditions were the best of the winter so far. I was able to cruise across through a relatively thin layer of fresh powder on top of a firm layer of snow underneath. In addition graupel has such a low water content that combined with its circular shape it just falls off the shoes.

I descended Deer Springs Trail, again breaking trail almost the entire way, continuing to use snowshoes from the Peak down to about 6800ft just below the Suicide Rock Trail junction. By late morning the snow was already becoming sticky on sun-exposed slopes, and rapid melting was underway below 7500 ft. I did briefly encounter some posthole tracks (but not the hikers, oddly) near the top of Marion Mountain Trail.

This loop also facilitated survey of – and breaking trail for – the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183) plus survey of several of its side trails.

Current conditions for individual routes are discussed in detail below where known. After a few cool days, a steady warming trend will accelerate melting. These conditions will lead to steady melting of snow and freeze-thaw cycles that will combine to change trail conditions and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain. Although useful tracks are now in place for some major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making. These concerns may steadily increase over the next couple of weeks with snow undergoing multiple freeze-thaw cycles, with rising temperatures, seasonally stronger insolation, and highly variable snowmelt.

Snow conditions are currently ideal for snowshoeing everywhere above about 8000ft. With steady melting and compaction caused by freeze-thaw cycles and hiker traffic, conditions will rapidly deteriorate for snowshoeing over the next week or so. Nevertheless, snowshoes may be valuable anywhere off trail above about 8000ft for the next couple of weeks (depending on temperatures).

Spikes are currently not especially helpful, as snow is generally too soft and spikes will not enhance traction significantly. This will change over the next week or so as trails become compacted and icier with freeze-thaw cycles. Then spikes will be recommended everywhere above about 6000ft. They are generally especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks, on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and (as always) for descending and traversing. In the high country some hikers will find crampons a suitable alternative to spikes, although currently they are not necessary (except of course on the north faces of San Jac and Tahquitz).

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park closed on 22nd February. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces immediately below the gate. Vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are “Road Closed” signs further down – as was the case on recent weekends – then those nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking.

Tahquitz Rock (with Tahquitz Peak in the cloud to the right) as seen from near Deer Springs Trail, afternoon of 6th March 2022.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to rise slowly to about seasonal by Saturday 12th, and then to warm rapidly to well above seasonal on 12th-15th March at least. There is the possibility of a further minor snow storm on Thursday 17th.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Sunday 6th March 2022 at 1045 the air temperature was 17.9°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of 0.3°F (-18°C), 71% relative humidity, and a steady WNW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 15.0 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 28th February 2022 at 0905 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 19.2°F (-7°C), 35% relative humidity, and a persistent NNE wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 23.5 mph.

The current state of the PCT at about Mile 183.5 (elevation 8200ft) on afternoon of 6th March 2022.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 5500 ft are currently obscured by light to moderate snow. Rapidly melting and increasingly patchy snow remains in sheltered locations down to 4500 ft. Melting was already underway on 6th March and will accelerate rapidly over the next week, most prominently on sun-exposed slopes and below 8000 ft.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and February have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Long Valley Ranger Station staff have stated that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Very shallow snow from these latest storms on the open section of trail below 5800 ft will melt very rapidly on this exposed slope.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. 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. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Current snow cover on the PCT will become increasingly patchy from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and remain largely continuous between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), especially deep 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 also continuous between Miles 175-193. Snow cover will become patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184 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 193, snow is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., parts of Miles 186.5-188.5) are thinning rapidly, as are areas north of Mile 191.

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

The Ernie Maxwell Trail has a well-defined snowshoe and footprint track to follow along its entire length.

My snowshoe track is well-defined from Saddle Junction to San Jacinto Peak, via the PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails. Above 10,400 ft my snowshoe track roughly follows the East Ridge Trail route.

Marion Mountain Trail has a well-defined posthole track through the snow along its entire length, however it does not follow the trail route in places.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines or Fuller Ridge trails as of 6th March.

Deer Springs Trail has a well-defined track along its entire length. This consists of a well-traveled posthole track to the Suicide Rock turning, and then my snowshoe track from 6th to the Peak. Below Little Round Valley I (generally) made a conscious effort to accurately follow the trail route. Through and above Little Round Valley the only track is my snowshoe route down from the Peak which does not attempt to follow the trail route and is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many).

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

Spitler Peak Trail will rapidly clear of snow on its lower half. Spikes will be useful for descending for about the next week. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report from this trail in 2022.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 6th March 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth followed by the amount of new snow in these latest storms, with the greatest depth recorded after the storm of 22nd-23rd February given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and widespread differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 24-25 inches, 7 inches new (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 24-28 inches, 6 inches new (with heavy drifting here)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 12 inches, 6 inches new (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 24 inches, 8 inches new (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 11 inches, 5.5 inches new

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 6 inches, 4-5 inches new

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 12 inches, 6 inches new (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 4 inches, all new (was 15 inches on 23rd February)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 3.5 inches, all new, rapidly melting (10.5 inches on 23rd February)

Garner Valley (at 4200 ft): <1 inch, all new, completely melted by 7th March (was 2 inches on 24th February).

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The condition of the east side trails on the morning of 6th March 2022. Above, the Wellman Trail with 12-15 inches of snow at about 9500ft. Note that by 0900 most snow had already melted off the bushes. Below, the Peak Trail under 20-24 inches of snow, at about 10,300ft.

Snow, trail and weather update 1st March 2022

[UPDATE Saturday 5th March @ 1745: having had negligible precipitation all day we are in the middle of a relatively brief but intense graupel storm. At Humber Park (6300ft) just now I measured 1.5 inches that has accumulated in the past hour, but it is forecast to continue snowing heavily for at least another hour. The next comprehensive Report will be tomorrow afternoon, Sunday 6th March.]

[UPDATE Friday 4th March @ 1835: a dusting of snow early this morning produced one inch of snow in Idyllwild, which then largely melted in the afternoon. We measured 2.0in fresh snow at Saddle Junction (8070ft, PCT Mile 179) on our hike this morning, for a total depth there of about 10 inches. It rained on/off in Idyllwild this afternoon, but the high country was above the cloud for much of the day, with a scant 1.5in of snow falling in Long Valley (8600ft). Similar light snow is expected tomorrow. There is no significant change to the equipment recommendations discussed below.]

Conditions immediately after the moderate storm of 22nd-23rd February were summarised in the previous Report. Snowmelt has been very rapid in recent days even by our Southern California standards, and small patches of lower Devil’s Slide Trail around 6600 ft elevation were clear of snow before dawn on 28th February where I had measured 12-15 inches of snow just five days earlier. Similarly sun-exposed areas around San Jacinto Peak and Wellman Divide had already lost nearly one foot of snow knee photos below). Snow depths measured on 28th February are detailed near the foot of this post, but note that snow depth is rarely indicative of the difficulty (or otherwise) of conditions underfoot.

Early on Monday 28th February I ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails to San Jacinto Peak – in boots with excellent traction – without needing spikes (although I always carry them in winter). Hikers less familiar with very uneven (and at times icy) snow travel will prefer to use the latter. I descended Deer Springs Trail, using snowshoes from the Peak down to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft, initially because the trail had not been broken from 10,700 ft down to about 9400 ft. This loop also facilitated survey of the highest parts of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains (roughly Miles 179-181 and 185.5-183) plus several of its side trails. Since 25th February I have also hiked PCT Miles 151-154 and many miles near Mile 165 to assess conditions in those area also.

Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. Note that trail conditions will change significantly in multiple ways over the next week or two. A few days of very warm sunny weather will accelerate the already rapid melting underway. Then some further fresh snowfall is now expected around 4th-6th March (at least). The latter will be accompanied by cold temperatures that will persist for a few days after the snowfall. Finally a period of roughly seasonal temperatures will lead to steady melting of snow and freeze-thaw cycles that will combine to change trail conditions yet again and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain.

Recently I have mentioned the challenges of hard, icy snow underfoot and the value of using spikes especially for descending and traversing. Snow at all elevations will become increasingly firm and icy following multiple freeze-thaw cycles, and I cannot overemphasize the importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making. These concerns may steadily increase over the next couple of weeks with dramatically rising then falling temperatures, seasonally stronger insolation, and highly variable snowmelt.

Although useful tracks are now in place for some major trails (discussed below), cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere. Light snowfall possible around 4th-6th March, accompanied by strong winds and extensive drifting, may well be of sufficient depth to obscure some of the existing tracks in the high country.

Spikes are strongly recommended for the foreseeable future everywhere above about 6000ft, potentially lower on colder days and following fresh precipitation. They are especially valuable on well-consolidated tracks, on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and (as always) for descending and traversing. In the high country some hikers will find crampons a suitable alternative to spikes, although currently they are not strictly necessary (except on the known challenging north faces of San Jac and Tahquitz).

Snow conditions are currently ideal for snowshoeing everywhere above about 8000ft but generally not on compacted, well-traveled, or postholed trails. With steady melting already well advanced and compaction caused by freeze-thaw cycles and hiker traffic, conditions will rapidly deteriorate for snowshoeing over the next couple of days, before then potentially becoming more useful again after fresh snowfall. Nevertheless, snowshoes may be valuable anywhere off trail above about 8000ft for the foreseeable future.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below or near freezing in the high country, and generally well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for my recent observations from San Jacinto Peak).

Snow depth and structure are both 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). Some interesting wind slabs that I dislodged on my descent on 23rd have melted and/or stabilized.

The USFS gate at Humber Park closed on 22nd February. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces immediately below the gate. Vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are “Road Closed” signs further down – as was the case at the weekend – then those nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking. Exercise considerable caution when parking anywhere in this area especially during snowy weekends.

WEATHER Temperatures have steadily warmed over the past couple of days and will be above seasonal on 1st-3rd March, with continued rapid and extensive melting of snow expected. Temperatures will then drop quickly to below seasonal from 4th March onwards, with unsettled conditions expected. Especially cold conditions are forecast for the high country on 4th-7th March with moderate snowfall possible above about 4500 ft from the evening of Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th March. Current forecasts are for about 2-3 inches of snow in Idyllwild increasing to 6-10 inches around the highest peaks, mainly on Friday 4th.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 28th February 2022 at 0905 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 19.2°F (-7°C), 35% relative humidity, and a persistent NNE wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 23.5 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 22nd February 2022 at 1130 the air temperature was 12.6°F (-11°C), with a windchill temperature of -16.4°F (-27°C), 93% relative humidity, and a bitter WSW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 33.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 21st February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 20.1°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.6°F (-20°C), 36% relative humidity, and a brutal due West wind sustained at 25 mph gusting to 32.2 mph.

The snowy San Jacinto mountains as seen from the PCT near Mile 152, 26th February 2022.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500 ft are largely or completely snow-covered. Increasingly patchy snow remains in sheltered locations down to 4500 ft. Melting has been very rapid at all elevations since 25th February, most prominently on sun-exposed slopes and below 8000 ft.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and February have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Long Valley Ranger Station staff have stated that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Snow on the open section of trail below 5800 ft will melt very rapidly on this exposed slope.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. 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. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Current snow cover on the PCT is increasingly patchy from Miles 151 (Highway 74) to about 160, and largely continuous between Miles 160 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), especially deep 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 also continuous between Miles 175-193. Snow cover will become patchy in sun-exposed areas between Miles 178 to 184 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 193, snow is largely continuous, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., parts of Miles 186.5-188.5) are thinning rapidly, as are areas north of Mile 191.

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

The Ernie Maxwell Trail has a well-defined snowshoe and footprint track to follow along its entire length (thanks to Anne and Anabel for this information from 28th February).

There are no tracks from Saddle Junction out on the Willow Creek Trail. There are well-traveled snowshoe tracks heading toward Reed’s Meadow and Chinquapin Flat however.

The Peak Trail has a well-defined, but very uneven, posthole track from Wellman Divide to about 10,400 ft elevation near Miller Peak, which vaguely follows the trail route and my snowshoe track from 23rd February. However there are multiple tracks, some snowshoe and some posthole, for the 0.5 mile between 9900 ft and 10,100 ft, none of which accurately follow the trail route, and cautious navigation is required. Above 10,400 ft the Peak Trail has not been broken, and there is only a posthole track directly up the East Ridge.

There are two well-defined snowshoe tracks from Long Valley towards San Jacinto Peak, one following the “Sid Davis Trail” and then directly up from Tamarack Valley, and another that roughly follows the Round Valley Trail route emerging near Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail has a well-traveled track through the snow along its entire length, however it does not follow the trail route in places, especially near Deer Springs Trail.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Seven Pines or Fuller Ridge trails as of 28th February.

Deer Springs Trail has increasingly patchy snow below the Suicide Rock Trail junction, but almost continuous snow above that. There is a generally excellent snowshoe and posthole track to follow through the snow to about 9400 ft (about one mile below Little Round Valley) which largely follows the established trail route. Through and above Little Round Valley the only track is my snowshoe route down from the Peak on 28th February which is very direct and steep (and would be a challenging ascent for many).

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

Spitler Peak Trail [updated 2nd March] is clear of snow for its lower half, and the upper half has less than 10% snow cover. Most hikers will not need spikesfor the handful of snow patches that remain.

Little Round Valley (9800ft) under 2-3 feet of snow, 28th February 2022.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 28th February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, including the snow remaining from storms in late December (and from 15th February at higher elevations) while the greatest depth immediately after the storm on 22nd-23rd February is given in parentheses, where known. Due to strong winds accompanying storms and widespread differential melting between snowfall events, note that there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 20-24 inches (31-35 inches on 23rd February)

Little Round Valley (9800 ft): 24-30 inches (heavy drifting here)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 12 inches (23 inches on 23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 20 inches (28 inches on 23rd February)

Seven Pines Trail junction with Deer Springs Trail/approx. PCT Mile 184.9 (8700 ft): 11 inches

Strawberry Junction/approx. PCT Mile 183 (8100 ft): 6 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 11 inches (16 inches on 23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 0-8 inches (was 15 inches on 23rd February)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 0-3 inches (10.5 inches on 23rd February)

Mountain Center (4400 ft): 0-2 inches (was 4-5 inches on 24th February)

Garner Valley (at 4200 ft): 0 inches (was 2 inches on 24th February).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Evidence of dramatic melting in just five days. Wellman Divide (9700ft) on 28th February 2022 (above) and the same view on 23rd February (below).
Anabel in her element, high on a snowy Fobes Trail (near PCT Mile 166), 25th February 2022. Thomas Mountain is in the distance to the right.

Snow storm summary 23rd February 2022

This is a brief summary of conditions following the second snow storm in February 2022. This storm proved to be unexpectedly significant, and may well prove to be the most substantial of this winter.

It started snowing very lightly at mid elevations on the morning of Tuesday 22nd, with the high country initially above the cloud. Snow started falling at San Jacinto Peak in early afternoon, getting steadily heavier throughout the night. Although originally forecast to stop snowing on the morning of Wednesday 23rd, it continued off-and-on until late afternoon at all elevations.

Snowfall totals were well above the upper end of forecasts, especially for the high country where I measured snow depths generally double what had been expected. To be fair to the meteorological community, they don’t get this stuff too wrong, too often (at least in Southern California).

With such a cold storm, the snow was exceptionally fine, light, and dry, some of the best powder I have ever seen up here. The quality was more typical of continental snow (as in the Rockies) rather than the maritime snow more typical of California and the Cascades.

Snow depths measured on my descent this afternoon are listed at the foot of this posting. However because of the extremely light powder, in combination with very strong winds before, during, and after the snowfall, there is massive drifting everywhere, and in particular drifts are deep in the trails where snow tends to accumulate.

Snow level was initially down to about 4500 ft on the eastern slope (Skyline Trail) but then fell during the course of Wednesday much lower, with a dusting down to 2500 ft on the Maynard Mine Trail (many thanks to Florian Boyd for these observations from the Palm Springs side).

Currently no major trails have been traveled and all are totally obscured by snowfall and heavily drifted snow. My tracks from this afternoon descending from San Jacinto Peak via the East Ridge, Peak, Wellman, and Devil’s Slide trails will have already been largely obliterated by drifting snow (and in some places I did not follow the established trail routes). There were no other tracks anywhere above Humber Park, not even on lower Devil’s Slide Trail. Extremely cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

Snowshoes are very strongly recommended for at least the next few days everywhere above at least 6000 ft (lower in places), and in the high country for the foreseeable future (at least for off trail travel once trail routes become established). Spikes will become increasingly useful above 4000 ft as trails become more heavily traveled and hence compacted, and as they become icy with freeze-thaw cycles as temperatures warm. By next week spikes may only be needed above about 6000 ft.

Note that a return to unseasonably warm temperatures is forecast within a few days. This will lead to significant melting, especially on sun-exposed slopes and below 9000 ft, plus freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to steadily change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain. While trails are currently under deep snow, by next week be prepared for very icy trails (especially mornings) but also very wet, slushy trails especially on sun-exposed mid elevation slopes (e.g., lower Deer Springs and Devil’s Slide trails).

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below or near freezing in the high country, and generally well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for my recent observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The USFS gate at Humber Park was closed on Tuesday 22nd February.

WEATHER Temperatures will be well below seasonal (i.e. very cold) for the next few days, before rapidly warming to well above seasonal starting 28th February and lasting for the first few days of March.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 22nd February 2022 at 1130 the air temperature was 12.6°F (-11°C), with a windchill temperature of -16.4°F (-27°C), 93% relative humidity, and a bitter WSW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 33.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 21st February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 20.1°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.6°F (-20°C), 36% relative humidity, and a brutal due West wind sustained at 25 mph gusting to 32.2 mph.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 23rd February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, including the snow remaining from storms in late December (and from 15th February at higher elevations) while the new snow added in this latest storm is given in parentheses. Due to strong winds accompanying this and previous storms, and widespread differential melting between snowfalls events, note that there is huge variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 33-37 inches (20 inches added 22nd-23rd February)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 25 inches (18 inches added 22nd-23rd February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 28 inches (18 inches added 22nd-23rd February)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 15-16 inches (15 inches added 22nd-23rd February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 15 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 10.5 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February).

Mountain Center (4400 ft): 4-5 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February, melting rapidly by 25th).

Garner Valley (4200 ft): 2 inches (all added 22nd-23rd February, melting rapidly by 25th).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Wellman Divide (9700ft) on the afternoon of 23rd February 2022 (above) and the same view a day earlier on 22nd February (below).
The Peak “Trail” at 9800ft on 23rd February 2022 (above), and the same view late morning on 22nd February (below).

Weather and snow update 21st February 2022

[UPDATE Wednesday 23rd February 2022 at 0800: I have posted a short video from San Jacinto Peak (available here) discussing current knowledge of conditions after the overnight snowstorm.]

[UPDATE Wednesday 23rd February 2022 at 0650: Snowfall in the high country was well above forecast with initial measurements around 20 inches fresh powder at San Jacinto Peak (on top of an average of 12 inches already on the ground). It is some of the finest, lightest powder I have ever seen up here. Snow depth in Idyllwild is almost exactly as expected at about 8 inches (thank you Anne). On the eastern slope, snow fell down to 4500ft on Skyline Trail (thank you Florian).]

[UPDATE Tuesday 22nd February 2022 at 1940: It started snowing very lightly between 6000-9000ft at 0730 this morning. The high country was initially largely above the cloud, but it started snowing at San Jacinto Peak after 1230, getting heavier throughout the afternoon (about 5.0in accumulation so far). Air temperature at 1130 was 12°F, with a windchill of -16.4°F (-27°C). Snow accumulation in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) is currently 2.0in.]

Warm and sunny conditions in the past few days have largely melted the light snowfall from 15th February from exposed slopes and from much of the trail system below 8600 ft. Consequently trail and overall snow conditions on Monday 21st looked remarkably similar to 14th February. This will change on Tuesday 22nd when another minor storm will cover all tracks again, with 5-9 inches of snow expected at mid and upper elevations, accompanied by severe winds.

Multiple hiker falls already this year in the San Jacinto mountains, including one fatality, demonstrate the critical importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making. Further snowfall expected on 22nd February will make conditions more complex as underlying icy areas are obscured, and as hiking traction devices struggle to grip through the surface powder into the harder icy snow below.

Early on Monday 21st February we ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, Peak, and East Ridge trails to San Jacinto Peak, needing spikes only for the final three hundred feet of ascent on the East Ridge as the route was disappearing under spectacular spindrift in a very strong and gusty wind (sustained close to 30mph) near the Peak. We descended via Deer Springs Trail, and spikes were useful down to about 8700ft on the largely icy, compacted track. Hikers with a lower comfort level on snow and ice will find spikes useful more widely.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have also surveyed South Ridge Trail, several segments of the PCT and its side trails, plus multiple Forest roads. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known. Again, these will change first with fresh snowfall expected on 22nd, followed by rapid melting into the first week of March.

Spikes are useful almost everywhere above about 7700ft as snow on trails can be icy following weeks of freeze-thaw cycles (and where compacted by hiker traffic). Spikes are especially valuable for traversing and for descending.

Trails remain snow-covered above 9000 ft, with thinning and increasingly patchy snow down to about 7700ft, and generally clear below that elevation (with some notable exceptions at lower elevations on the PCT). Overall snow conditions on the trails are already more typical of April or May than February. These conditions will change over the next few days with minor snowfall expected in the high country.

Thereafter warm, dry weather is forecast with temperatures well above seasonal at all elevations starting on 28th February. Rapid melting of snow and freeze-thaw cycles will combine to change trail conditions yet again and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain.

Snow from 15th February, overlying the remaining icy snow from December 2021, has melted rapidly. Snow depths measured on 21st are detailed at the foot of this post.

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 my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak). Forecast temperatures for the high country for 22nd-23rd February are dangerously cold.

May Valley Road was closed by Forest Service to all traffic, including foot traffic, on Friday 28th January due to hazardous trees. USFS social media states “there currently is no timeline for the road’s reopening”. There was minimal evidence of significant work in progress by 18th February.

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 21st January having been closed since 13th December 2021. South Ridge Road (5S11) reopened in the second week of February. It is expected that both will close again on 22nd February following the fresh snowfall.

According to the Forest Service website the following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), San Jacinto Truck Trail (5S09), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02).

A storm is coming….. Looking south-east from the Peak Trail toward the Desert Divide and Santa Rosa mountains, 21st February 2022. A marine layer with a ceiling at about 8000ft was pouring over the Desert Divide, driven by a howling west wind.

WEATHER

In a very similar pattern to last week relatively warm temperatures over the weekend will rapidly drop to below seasonal with the passage of a brief but energetic (although not very moist) storm system on 21st-23rd February. Strong winds and very cold temperatures will accompany light snowfall, the latter expected mainly on the night of Tuesday 22nd, with 4-9 inches of snow forecast at various elevations in Idyllwild-Pine Cove and 6-9 inches in the high country (note that the high country may be above the cloud for longer, hence the similar snowfall totals). The freeze level will be down to 3500 ft so at least some snow is expected at almost all elevations of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains.

Temperatures will yet again climb dramatically to well above seasonal by 28th February. Current forecast temperatures for San Jacinto Peak on 1st March, more than five degrees Centigrade above freezing, would be at or near a record high for the Peak in March.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak, and among the driest ever recorded in Idyllwild.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 21st February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 20.1°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.6°F (-20°C), 36% relative humidity, and a brutal due West wind sustained at 25 mph gusting to 32.2 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 16th February 2022 at 0955 the air temperature was 20.3°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -0.2°F (-18°C), 74% relative humidity, and a stiff due North wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 21.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7600ft are now generally clear of snow, snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and remains largely continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Icy snow from December 2021, with fresh powder from 15th February, persists at elevations below 7700ft in particular on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks, and Antsell Rock).

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and February have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Long Valley Ranger Station staff are speculating that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Signage was posted at the relevant trailheads on 3rd February.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow [updated 20th February]. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Current snow cover on the PCT is patchy between Miles 168 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), largely confined to certain north- or east-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168), Apache Peak (Mile 169.5), and Antsell Rock (Mile 171-172). Although limited, some of these chutes and slopes are challenging and spikes are strongly recommended. Snow is then largely continuous between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). Snow on the Trail is limited to about Mile 184.5, except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-191 is snow-covered, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now functionally clear of icy snow to about 7700ft, and then with about 50% cover to Saddle Junction (mainly near the latter). Some hikers will find spikes useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is functionally clear of snow up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover is about 5% to near Tahquitz Peak, increasing to about 35% on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions (surveyed February 2022).

The predominant compacted tracks on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak now generally approximate to the trail route. Icy snow cover remains >95%. Above 10,400ft most tracks form a compacted posthole route up the East Ridge. However the route of the Peak Trail also has a lightly used track, which is challenging in one short section before Summit Junction (spikes recommended). The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail is functionally clear of snow to about 7500ft. Icy snow cover is 40% from 7500-8200ft. From 8200ft to Deer Springs Trail (at 8700ft) snow cover is only about 30%. Most hikers will find spikes useful for ascending parts of the upper half of the trail, and they are invaluable for descending in the same areas. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Unsurprisingly, there continue to be no visible hiker tracks on the upper sections of Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails.

Deer Springs Trail is functionally clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8700ft (0.2 mile south of Marion Mountain Trail) snow cover is barely 10%. Thereafter snow cover is nearly continuous, with a few minor clear patches developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.] Through Little Round Valley and on up to the Peak the track is direct and does not follow the trail route. Cautious navigation is required as there are many alternative tracks meandering across this icy snow slope.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) is very sun-exposed and is largely clear of snow.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area. The King Trail still has 50% icy snow cover (spikes required), but the Caramba Trail east of Willow Creek is clear of snow (10th February survey).

Spitler Peak Trail is largely clear of snow. Nearly 40 downed trees from ice storms in December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report in January 2022. Further trail trimming continues steadily.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described above and below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail, resurveyed on 11th February 2022, has at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Nearly 30 of these are on the Forest Service section.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

Junction of Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 185.5) and Deer Springs Trail at about 8950ft, 21st February 2022. Note the absence of tracks heading north on Fuller Ridge Trail.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 21st February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 (to date the greatest snow depth of the season) following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 12-13 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 9-10 inches (was 25 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 5 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 10 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail/PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 7 inches (was 11 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 0 inches (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 0-1 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0 inches (was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Minor snow storm summary 16th February 2022

This is a brief summary of conditions following the only snow storm so far in February 2022 (and only the second storm of the calendar year to date). For full details of trail closures, Forest road closures, trail conditions (other than their current snow situation), and weather, please see the previous Report linked here.

The snowfall overnight was at the upper end of forecast projections. Snow depths measured today are listed at the foot of this posting, but note that due to strong winds associated with the storm (that continued today) drifted snow is often deeper in the trails themselves.

As is increasingly the trend with a rapidly changing climate in recent years, there was little difference in snowfall between the mid and upper elevations, with 2.25 inches measured in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) through to 5.0 inches at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft). The storm system was colder than forecast at lower elevations, with a dusting of snow down to about 4000ft.

Early this morning we broke trail through light snow from Devil’s Slide to San Jacinto Peak via the PCT, Wellman, and Peak trails, descending the same way. Based on the anticipated snow conditions and depths I carried crampons, ice axe, and spikes. I did not use the latter, but eventually put on crampons at 9300 ft on the ascent, using them down to about 8800 ft on the descent. Crampons were essential as underlying icy snow areas were obscured by the fresh powder, and only crampons could grip through the surface powder into the harder icy snow below.

By early afternoon very rapid melting was already underway below 9000 ft and on sun-exposed slopes. Parts of the PCT north of Saddle Junction, and much of Devil’s Slide Trail below 7700 ft, both of which had had a solid covering of several inches of fresh snow in the morning, were already clear by this afternoon. Conversely above 9000 ft many of my tracks from the morning were already disappearing under spindrift in persistent gusty winds.

Spikes are recommended for at least the next few days everywhere above about 6000 ft, and in the high country for the foreseeable future. As described above crampons are recommended for many areas above about 9000 ft for at least the next few days. Anywhere that crampons are needed, an ice axe is also needed (along with the knowledge of how to use this equipment). Snow depths are currently insufficient for snowshoeing even in the high country. Indeed snowshoes are potentially dangerous in any angled terrain at present due to the presence of underlying ice.

Note that relatively warm temperatures are forecast for the next few days. This will lead to significant melting and freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to steadily change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain. Be prepared for very icy trails (especially mornings) but also very wet, slushy trails (as was the case this afternoon on Devil’s Slide).

Currently very few major trails have been traveled and all are completely or largely obscured by snowfall and/or drifting snow. On my descent early this afternoon mine were the only tracks beyond Saddle Junction. The significance of this is that there are currently no tracks on Willow Creek Trail, to Chinquapin Flat or Tahquitz Peak, or around the meadows. Beyond Saddle Junction, at the time of writing my posthole tracks to San Jacinto Peak are the only traveled high country trail. Cautious navigation is strongly recommended everywhere.

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

The USFS gate at Humber Park remains open and the parking area was already essentially clear of snow by the afternoon of 16th.

WEATHER For details of the forecast for the next week or so, please see the previous Report.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 16th February 2022 at 0955 the air temperature was 20.3°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -0.2°F (-18°C), 74% relative humidity, and a stiff due North wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 21.1 mph.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 16th February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, with most of the snow remaining from storms in late December, while the new snow added in this latest storm given in parentheses. Due to strong winds accompanying this and previous storms, and rapid and differential melting, there is considerable variability in snow depth. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810 ft): 17 inches (5 inches added on 15th February)

Wellman Divide (9700 ft): 11 inches (5 inches added on 15th February)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 180.8 (9070 ft): 11 inches (4 inches added on 15th February)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179 (8070 ft): 4-5 inches (4 inches added on 15th February)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520 ft): 3 inches (all added on 15th February, but already largely melted by afternoon of 16th)

Idyllwild (at 5550 ft): 2.25 inches (all added on 15th February, but almost completely melted by afternoon of 16th).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on private donations to cover operating costs. Your contribution helps to keep the Report active, free from advertising, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please visit the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Looking south across the San Jacinto high country from San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 16th February 2022 (above), and two days earlier on 14th February (below).
The best known north spring at Wellman’s Cienega on 16th February 2022 (above), and on 7th February 2022 for comparison (below).

Weather and trail update 15th February 2022

Dramatic fluctuations in temperatures forecast over the next two weeks will result in many freeze-thaw cycles and further hazardous hardening of already icy snow. Light snowfall is likely on 15th and 21st February and could make conditions more complex as underlying icy areas are obscured, and as hiking traction devices struggle to grip through the surface powder into the harder icy snow below.

Multiple hiker falls already this year in the San Jacinto mountains, including one fatality, demonstrate the critical importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making.

Early on Monday 14th February I hiked Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to and from San Jacinto Peak. Spikes were not required for ascending (in boots with excellent traction on crisp, cold icy snow) but were invaluable descending down Deer Springs Trail to the top of Marion Mountain Trail, and then for one short section part way down the latter. Similarly on 10th I ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails, needing spikes for the last few hundred feet of ascent as icy snow was becoming wet on the surface due to the warm temperature and direct sun. Spikes were useful for descending down to about 9000ft for the same reasons. Hikers with a lower comfort level on snow and ice will find spikes useful more widely.

In addition to multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak by different routes in recent days we have also surveyed several segments of the PCT, Willow Creek, Caramba, South Ridge and Spitler Peak trails, plus multiple Forest roads. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Trails remain at least 95% snow-covered above 9000ft, with thinning and increasingly patchy snow down to about 7700ft, and generally clear below that elevation (with some notable exceptions at lower elevations on the PCT). Overall snow conditions on the trails are already more typical of April or May than early February. These conditions will likely change over the next ten days with two minor waves of snowfall currently expected in the high country.

Snow remaining from December 2021 has continued to melt slowly but steadily. Snow depths measured in recent days are detailed at the foot of this post.

Spikes are recommended everywhere above at least 7700ft as snow on trails is very icy following weeks of freeze-thaw cycles (and where compacted by hiker traffic). Spikes are especially valuable for traversing and for descending. Based on tracks I am seeing in the high country some hikers are preferring to use crampons, and those are an option in areas of continuous icy snow above about 9000ft (potentially lower in steeper terrain). Traction devices will become increasingly important over the next week or two at least, starting on 15th.

Hikers should generally be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

May Valley Road was closed by Forest Service to all traffic, including foot traffic, on Friday 28th January due to hazardous trees. USFS social media states “there currently is no timeline for the road’s reopening”. There was little evidence of significant work in progress by 13th February.

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 21st January having been closed since 13th December 2021. South Ridge Road (5S11) reopened in the second week of February.

According to the Forest Service website the following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), San Jacinto Truck Trail (5S09), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02). All are currently free of snow and ice.

Sunrise from Sam Fink Peak, 10th February 2022. One of the more remote named peaks in the San Jacinto mountains, which affords a unique vista of the Desert Divide (where the late, great Sam established the route of what is now the Pacific Crest Trail).

WEATHER

Temperatures are forecast to fluctuate dramatically over the next two weeks associated with the passage of energetic (but relatively dry) storm systems. Record warm temperatures this past week have resembled April or even May rather than the first half of February (as discussed here for example). The jet stream plunges southward on Monday 14th, with much colder air arriving on Tuesday 15th. However the air flow will track far enough west then south of us that oceanic moisture will be largely cut off from the system, and a cold, windy storm is expected, rather than a wet one. Only a few inches of snow are forecast for the high country.

Temperatures then rapidly rise again to above seasonal (although not as unusually warm as recent days) for 18th-19th February, before another storm system passes through on 21st-23rd February. The latter is forecast to be cold and windy as on 15th, with at least as much precipitation (perhaps 3-6 inches of snow in Idyllwild, 4-7 inches in the high country).

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak (at least 2-3 feet of snow would be normal). No snow and only 0.32in rain fell in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) last month, making it about the sixth driest January for combined precipitation in Idyllwild since systematic records began in the 1940s. There has also been no measurable precipitation in the first half of February 2022.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 14th February 2022 at 0845 the air temperature was 38.3°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.9°F (-2°C), 14% relative humidity, and a light WSW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 10.9 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 10th February 2022 at 1015 the air temperature was 29.6°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 10.9°F (-12°C), 42% relative humidity, and a severe NNE wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 33.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7700ft are now generally clear of snow, snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and remains continuous (or >95% cover) everywhere above 9000ft. Snow persists at elevations below 7700ft in particular on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks, and Antsell Rock). Melting has been steady at all elevations recently, but will be limited over the next ten days week with generally colder temperatures.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and February have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. Long Valley Ranger Station staff are speculating that the trail may not reopen before April. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Signage was posted at the relevant trailheads on 3rd February. There is no snow on the open section of trail below 5800 ft.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Current snow cover on the PCT is very patchy between Miles 168 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), mainly confined to certain north- or east-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168), Apache Peak (Mile 169.5, see photo below), and Antsell Rock (Mile 171-172). Although limited, some of these chutes and slopes are challenging and spikes are recommended. Snow is then largely continuous between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). Snow on the Trail is very limited to about Mile 184.5, except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-191 is snow-covered, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly. My next thorough assessment of snow conditions on the PCT will likely be in late February.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now clear of icy snow to about 7800ft, and then with about 20% cover to Saddle Junction (mainly near the latter). Some hikers will find spikes useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover is about 5% to near Tahquitz Peak, increasing to about 15% on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Most hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending. The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions (surveyed February 2022).

The predominant compacted tracks on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak now generally approximate to the trail route. Icy snow cover remains >90%. Above 10,400ft most tracks form a compacted posthole route up the East Ridge. However the route of the Peak Trail also has a lightly used track, which is challenging in one short section before Summit Junction (spikes recommended). The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail is functionally clear of snow to about 7700ft. Icy snow cover is 40% from 7700-8200ft. From 8200ft to Deer Springs Trail (at 8700ft) snow cover is only about 10%. Most hikers will find spikes useful for ascending parts of the upper half of the trail, and they are invaluable for descending in the same areas. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Unsurprisingly, there continue to be no visible hiker tracks on the upper sections of Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails. The latter is largely clear of snow to the State Park boundary, and then snow cover is increasingly patchy above the North Fork crossing to about 7700ft (but see below regarding tree hazards and trail maintenance).

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8700ft (0.2 mile south of Marion Mountain Trail) snow cover is barely 10%. Thereafter snow cover is nearly continuous, with a few minor clear patches developing. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.] Through Little Round Valley the track is more direct and only vaguely follows the trail route. The most heavily traveled track from LRV to near San Jacinto Peak largely follows, unfortunately for most ascending hikers, my original snowshoe route from 31st December, which is direct and steep. Cautious navigation is required as there are many alternative tracks meandering across this icy snow slope.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) is very sun-exposed and is 90% clear of snow.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 mile trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, generally becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area. The King Trail still has 50% icy snow cover (spikes required), but the Caramba Trail east of Willow Creek is clear of snow (10th February survey).

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow. Nearly 40 downed trees from ice storms in December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report in January 2022. Further trail trimming continues steadily.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described above and below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail, resurveyed on 11th February 2022, has at least 40 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Nearly 30 of these are on the Forest Service section.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 14th February (west side) and 10th February (east side) are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 12 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 9 inches (was 25 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 6 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 7 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail/PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 5 inches (was 11 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 0 inches (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 0-1 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0 inches (was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

PCT Mile 169.5 on the north-east flank of Apache Peak, 6th February 2022. Spikes are strongly recommended and it is relatively straightforward to work around the most challenging snow patches. Spitler Peak Trail (at Mile 168.5) remains an excellent alternate for those less comfortable on icy snow.
Relatively fresh Mountain Lion scat, entirely composed of deer hair, 11th February 2022, between Laws Camp and Willow Creek Trail. The knife is 3.6in long for scale, so clearly this was not a small lion.
And finally Happy 8th “Birthday” to Anabel, our rescue pup who we adopted on 14th February 2015 at an estimated age of one. Seen here taking a well-deserved nap midway through a lengthy hike in the San Jacinto mountains last week.

Trail update 9th February 2022

Recently I have mentioned the challenges of hard, icy snow underfoot from evidence of various hiker falls and challenging incidents, and the value of using spikes especially for descending and traversing. Snow at all elevations has been firm and icy following more than a month of freeze-thaw cycles, and I cannot overemphasize the importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making. These concerns may diminish over the next week with warming temperatures and accelerating melting.

Early on Monday 7th February we ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails to San Jacinto Peak – in boots with excellent traction – without needing spikes. Hikers less familiar with icy snow travel will prefer to use the latter. We descended Deer Springs Trail, and spikes were invaluable from the Peak down to 8700ft. On Wednesday 2nd February, we hiked Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to and from the Peak. Spikes were not required for ascending until about 10,000ft elevation (above Little Round Valley) but were invaluable descending down Marion Mountain Trail to about 7500ft.

Note that warm, dry weather is forecast with temperatures far above seasonal at all elevations in the second week of February. Rapid melting of snow and freeze-thaw cycles will combine to change trail conditions and potentially the preferred equipment for the terrain. As early as 0830 on the morning of Monday 7th icy snow on sun-exposed slopes high on the east flank of San Jac was already getting watery on the surface, making it more slippery. Warmer afternoons will soften snow, generally (but not always) improving the grip underfoot.

Snow remaining from December 2021 has continued to melt slowly but steadily. Snow depths measured on 7th February are detailed at the foot of this post.

In addition to ascents of San Jacinto Peak by various routes in recent days we have also surveyed several segments of the PCT, plus South Ridge and Spitler Peak trails, and several Forest roads. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Trails remain almost completely snow-covered above 9000ft, with thinning and increasingly patchy snow down to about 7700ft, and generally clear below that elevation. Overall snow conditions on the trails are already more typical of April or May than early February. Tracks at the highest elevations (>9800ft) currently only approximate to the routes of established trails (especially Deer Springs Trail above Little Round Valley). Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Spikes are recommended everywhere above about 7700ft as trails are icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are especially valuable on colder mornings when conditions are particularly icy, and for descending. Based on tracks I am seeing in the high country some hikers are preferring to use crampons, and those are an option in areas of continuous icy snow above about 9000ft (potentially lower in steeper terrain).

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing in the high country, and below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

May Valley Road was closed by Forest Service to all traffic, including foot traffic, on Friday 28th January due to hazardous trees. USFS social media states “there currently is no timeline for the road’s reopening”. There was no evidence of any work in progress by 4th February.

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 21st January having been closed since 13th December 2021. Note that Humber will be temporarily closed for up to three days starting at 1800 on Sunday 6th February for hazardous tree removal.

South Ridge Road (5S11) reopened in the second week of February.

According to the Forest Service website the following USFS roads are in winter closure (for vehicle traffic only): Black Mountain (4S01), San Jacinto Truck Trail (5S09), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02). All are currently free of snow and ice.

Stone Creek where it crosses Deer Springs Trail (approx PCT Mile 183.7), 7th February 2022. It has already stopped flowing. Unless something exceptional happens in the next couple of months, it will be a very challenging year for water resources on the mountain.

WEATHER All elevations will rapidly warm to far above seasonal averages until Tuesday 15th February, when temperatures will plunge briefly to below seasonal before swinging above average yet again late next week. Temperatures this week are forecast to more closely resemble April (or even May for overnight lows) rather than the first half of February.

There continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecasts. However a minor storm system with the possibility of a very light dusting of snow is forecast for Tuesday 15th February. Long term projections tentatively suggest an increasing probability of storm systems from late February into April, but Southern California is not predicted to receive “drought-busting” precipitation.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak (at least 2-3 feet of snow would be normal). No snow and only 0.32in rain fell in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) last month, making it about the sixth driest January for combined precipitation in Idyllwild since systematic records began in the 1940s.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 7th February 2022 at 0915 the air temperature was 34.4°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 21.7°F (-6°C), 24% relative humidity, and a steady NNE wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 16.0 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 2nd February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 14.4°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -9.5°F (-23°C), 26% relative humidity, and a bitter due North wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 22.6 mph.

Major treefall on Marion Mountain Trail exactly at the Forest/State Park boundary, 2nd February 2022. Thankfully it is relatively easy to climb over, despite its four feet diameter.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7700ft are now clear (or largely clear) of snow, snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and remains largely continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Snow persists at elevations below 7700ft in particular on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks). Melting has been steady but slow at all elevations recently, but will accelerate rapidly this week with warm temperatures.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees throughout the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds in January and early February will have brought down further trees and branches.

Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 the State Park closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction, above 5800 ft elevation, “due to dangerous ice accumulation”. The State Park boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, below Flat Rock. Signage was posted at the relevant trailheads on 3rd February. There is no snow on the open section of trail below 5800 ft.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required. There was a fatal hiker fall here on Sunday 30th January.

Current snow cover on the PCT is patchy and steadily thinning between Miles 168 and about 175 (Red Tahquitz), mainly confined to certain north- or east-facing slopes e.g., Spitler Peak (Mile 168), Apache Peak (Mile 169.5, see photo below), and Antsell Rock (Mile 171-172). Snow is then largely continuous between Miles 175-179 (to near Saddle Junction). Snow on the Trail is very limited patchy to about Mile 184.5, except for a stubborn section of 0.5 mile approaching Annie’s Junction (Mile 180.8) which is always among the last areas to clear every spring. Most of Miles 184-191 is snow-covered, although some exposed sections of Fuller Ridge (e.g., Miles 186.5-188.5) are clearing rapidly. My next thorough assessment of snow conditions on the PCT will likely be around 20th February.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now clear of icy snow to about 7800ft, and then with about 20% cover to Saddle Junction (mainly near the latter). Spikes can be useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is clear of snow up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover remains about 10% to near Tahquitz Peak, increasing to about 20% on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Most hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending. The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has 12 trees down, many of which are significant obstructions.

The predominant compacted tracks on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak now generally approximate to the trail route. Above 10,400ft most tracks form a compacted posthole route up the East Ridge. However the route of the Peak Trail also has a lightly used track, which are challenging in one short section before Summit Junction (spikes recommended). The Round Valley Trail has well-traveled tracks to follow from Long Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail is functionally clear of snow to about 7600ft. Icy snow cover is 80% from 7600-8200ft, and there is an obvious compacted track through the snow. From 8200ft to Deer Springs Trail (at 8700ft) snow cover is only about 50%. Most hikers will find spikes useful for ascending the upper half of the trail, and they are invaluable for descending. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Unsurprisingly, there continue to be no visible hiker tracks on the upper sections of Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails. The latter is largely clear of snow to the State Park boundary, and then snow cover is increasingly patchy above the North Fork crossing to about 7700ft (but see below regarding tree hazards and trail maintenance).

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8700ft (0.2 mile south of Marion Mountain Trail) snow cover is barely 20%. Thereafter snow cover is essentially continuous. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.] Through Little Round Valley the track is more direct and only vaguely follows the trail route. The most heavily traveled track from LRV to near San Jacinto Peak largely follows, unfortunately for ascending hikers, my original snowshoe route from 31st December, which is direct and steep. Cautious navigation is required as there are many alternative tracks meandering across this slope.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well traveled and there tracks to follow where snow patches remain. Overall this very sun-exposed section of trail is 90% clear of snow.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow and spikes are not required. Nearly 40 downed trees from ice storms in December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report in January 2022. Further trail trimming continues steadily.

The Suicide Rock Trail and the Ernie Maxwell Trail are both clear of ice and snow.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described above and below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite much work in 2020 by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has likely added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed between February 2019 and early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 7th February 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 14 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 12 inches (was 25 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 7-8 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 7 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail/PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 6 inches (was 11 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 0 inches (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 0-2 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0 inches (was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

PCT Mile 169.5 on the north-east flank of Apache Peak, 6th February 2022. Spikes are strongly recommended and it is relatively straightforward to work around the most challenging snow patches. Spitler Peak Trail (at Mile 168.5) remains an excellent alternate for those less comfortable on icy snow.
The Trail Report placed a new summit register box (lower right) at Apache Park on 6th February. The previous one – in my personal local trail memorabilia collection- was burned and melted by the July 2013 Mountain Fire.

Trail update 2nd February 2022

IMPORTANT NOTE: Effective Tuesday 1st February 2022 Mt. San Jacinto State Park has closed the section of Skyline Trail that falls within its jurisdiction. The District Superintendents Order (#954-22-007) states “Skyline Route conditions are unsafe …. due to dangerous ice accumulation” and that “Skyline Route is closed until further notice from the 5800′ State Park boundary to its intersection with the Desert View Trail”. (In my experience the boundary is not marked but is near the site of the old Florian’s Cache, between Rescue 2 and Flat Rock.) Updates on the closure will be posted on State Park social media and webpage. Signage was posted at the relevant trailheads on 3rd February. I was informed that this closure is a direct consequence of multiple challenging rescues in this section of trail in recent weeks. Please see my comments immediately below, that I posted the day before this announcement.

Last week I alluded to the challenges of hard, icy snow underfoot from evidence of hiker falls on uppermost Deer Springs Trail, and the value of using spikes, and in places an ice axe, especially for descending and traversing. There have been multiple serious incidents in recent days, including on Sunday 30th January a fatal hiker fall on the short section of South Ridge Trail on the notoriously treacherous north side of Tahquitz Peak.

Snow at all elevations has become firm and very icy due to a month of freeze-thaw cycles, and I cannot overemphasize the importance of having both appropriate equipment and the right skill set for the terrain. The latter includes interpreting the snow/ice conditions, understanding your physical and mental abilities, and conservative decision making.

In addition to ascents of San Jacinto Peak in recent days we have also surveyed several segments of the PCT, plus South Ridge, Spitler Peak (twice), Seven Pines, and Stone Creek trails, and May Valley and Sawmill Flats roads. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Early on Monday 31st January I ascended via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails to San Jacinto Peak – in boots with excellent traction – without needing spikes, although hikers less familiar with icy snow travel would prefer to use the latter. Not being much of a user of hiking poles, in recent weeks I have found an ice axe handy traversing the slopes high on the east flank of San Jac. I descended the same route, and spikes were invaluable from the Peak down to about 8500ft. On Wednesday 2nd February, we ascended Marion Mountain and Deer Springs trails to the Peak. Spikes were not required for ascending until above Little Round Valley, but were invaluable descending down to about 7500ft.

Snow remaining from December 2021 has continued to melt slowly but steadily. Snow depths remeasured on 31st January and 2nd February are detailed at the foot of this post.

Trails remain completely snow-covered above 9000ft, with thinning and increasingly patchy snow down to about 7500ft, and generally clear below that elevation. Overall snow conditions on the trails are more typical of April (or even May) than late January. Tracks at the highest elevations (>9800ft) currently only approximate to the routes of established trails (especially Deer Springs Trail above Little Round Valley). Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Spikes are recommended everywhere above about 7500ft as trails are icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are especially valuable on colder mornings when conditions are particularly icy, and for descending. Based on tracks I am seeing in the high country some hikers are preferring to use crampons, and those are an option in areas of continuous icy snow above about 9000ft (potentially lower in steeper terrain).

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and often well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak). Forecast temperatures in the first week of February will be severely cold at the highest elevations.

May Valley Road was closed by Forest Service to all traffic, including foot traffic, on Friday 28th January due to hazardous trees. USFS social media states “there currently is no timeline for the road’s reopening”. There was no evidence of any significant work in progress by 4th February.

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 21st January having been closed since 13th December 2021. Note that Humber will be temporarily closed for up to three days starting at 1800 on Sunday 6th February for hazardous tree removal.

The following Forest Service roads are in winter closure: South Ridge Road (5S11), Black Mountain (4S01), San Jacinto Truck Trail (5S09), Dark Canyon (5S02), and Santa Rosa (7S02). All are currently free of snow and ice.

Sign on closed gate on May Valley Road about 0.2 mile above Cowbell Alley, 29th January 2022.

WEATHER Temperatures at all elevations will be below seasonal averages for the first four days of February, before quickly warming to well above average next week. There continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecasts.

January 2022 was the driest January in recorded history in the San Jacinto high country, with only 0.75in of fresh snow falling at San Jacinto Peak. Only 0.32in rain and no snow fell in Idyllwild at 5550ft, making it about the sixth driest January for combined precipitation in Idyllwild since systematic records began in 1943.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 2nd February 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 14.4°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -9.5°F (-23°C), 26% relative humidity, and a bitter due North wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 22.6 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 31st January 2022 at 0850 the air temperature was 33.1°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 17.1°F (-8°C), 24% relative humidity, and a sharp NW wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 26.4 mph.

The San Jacinto high country as seen from Tahquitz Peak, 30th January 2022. The distribution of snow is more reminiscent of April or even May than January.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7700ft are now clear (or largely clear) of snow, snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and is continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Snow persists at elevations below 7700ft in particular on shaded north and north-east slopes (e.g., Red Tahquitz, Tahquitz, Apache, and Spitler peaks). Melting has been steady but slow at all elevations and will slow further over the next week with cool temperatures.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Spitler Peak Trail, Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees very heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees on the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds on 22nd January will have brought down further trees and branches.

The 0.4 mile section of South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has no steps to follow through the steeply angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Crampons with an ice axe (and knowledge of how to use both) are required.

Skyline Trail is currently closed above about 5800ft (the State Park boundary), see discussion at top of this posting and the State Park website for any updates. There is no snow on the open section of trail below the State Park boundary.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now functionally clear of icy snow to about 7800ft, and then with about 50% cover to Saddle Junction. Spikes can be useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail (south of Tahquitz Peak) is functionally clear of snow to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover remains about 10% to near Tahquitz Peak, increasing to about 25% on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Most hikers will find spikes useful, especially for descending.

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has 12 trees down, most of which are major obstructions.

The predominant compacted tracks on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak now generally follow the trail route. However careful navigation is still required as the slopes between 9800ft and 10,400ft remain covered with various (rapidly melting) meandering tracks. Above 10,400ft most tracks form a compacted posthole route up the East Ridge. However the route of the Peak Trail also has a very lightly used track, which are challenging in one short section before Summit Junction (spikes required).

There are well-traveled compacted tracks to follow from Long Valley though Round Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail is functionally clear of snow to about 7600ft. Icy snow cover is 80% from 7600-8200ft, and there is a well-traveled track through the snow. From 8200ft to Deer Springs Trail (at 8800ft) snow cover is about 50%. Most hikers will find spikes useful for ascending the upper half of the trail, and they are invaluable for descending. There is one huge new treefall hazard across the trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary.

Unsurprisingly, there continue to be no visible hiker tracks on the upper sections of Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails. The latter is largely clear of snow to the State Park boundary, and then snow cover is increasingly patchy above the North Fork crossing to about 7700ft (but see below regarding tree hazards and trail maintenance).

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8600ft (just before the Marion Mountain Trail junction) snow cover is an increasingly patchy 40%. Above 8600ft snow cover is essentially continuous. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. [Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.] Through Little Round Valley the track is more direct and only vaguely follows the trail route. The most heavily traveled track from LRV to near San Jacinto Peak largely follows, unfortunately for ascending hikers, my original snowshoe route from 31st December, which is direct and steep. Cautious navigation is required as there are many alternative tracks meandering across this slope.

The Strawberry Trail between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well traveled and there tracks to follow. Most of this very sun-exposed section of trail is clear of snow.

The Suicide Rock Trail is clear of snow, with only a handful of tiny patches remaining.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is clear of ice and snow.

Spitler Peak Trail is clear of snow and spikes are not required. Nearly 40 downed trees from ice storms in December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report in January 2022.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described above and below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite much work in 2020 by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has likely added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed between February 2019 and early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 31st January 2022 are as follows (or on 2nd February for Deer Springs Trail locations). The first number is the current average depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 16 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 14 inches on 2nd February (was 25 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 9 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 8 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail/PCT Mile 184.9 (8700ft): 6 inches on 2nd February (was 11 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 0-1 inches on 2nd February (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 1-2 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0 inches (was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide on 31st January 2022 (above), and one month earlier on 31st December 2021 (below).

Snow and trail update 26th January 2022

Early on Monday 24th January we hiked via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and Peak trails to San Jacinto Peak without needing spikes, although hikers less familiar with icy snow travel would prefer to use them. Not being much of a user of hiking poles, I have recently found an ice axe handy traversing the slopes high on the east flank of San Jac. We descended via Deer Springs Trail, and high on the initial descent to Little Round Valley I twice saw the obvious marks of significant hiker falls in the snow. I may repeat this too often in these Reports, but spikes are often invaluable for descending, even when not needed for ascending. I finally removed mine just south of the junction with Marion Mountain Trail.

In addition to ascents of San Jacinto Peak in recent days we have also surveyed many of the trails in the Idyllwild area, and have spent significant time on Spitler Peak and Seven Pines trails. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Snow from the five (mostly minor) storms that impacted the San Jacinto mountains in December 2021, plus the dusting in the high country last week, has continued to melt slowly but steadily. Snow depths measured on Monday 24th are detailed at the foot of this post.

Trails remain completely snow-covered above 9000ft, with thinning and increasingly patchy snow down to about 7500ft, and largely clear below that elevation. Overall snow conditions on the trails are more typical of April than late January. Tracks at the highest elevations (>9800ft) currently only approximate to the routes of established trails (especially Deer Springs Trail above Little Round Valley). Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Spikes are useful everywhere above about 7500ft as trails are icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are especially valuable on colder mornings when conditions are particularly icy, and for descending. However they are no longer essential, especially on warmer days as the snow softens. Snowshoes may be useful in off-trail areas only above about 9000ft although in many areas snow depth is becoming too shallow.

Note that relatively mild and dry weather is forecast to continue with temperatures largely above seasonal at all elevations to the end of January. This will lead to continued melting and freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to steadily change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and often well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak). Forecast temperatures in the high country in the first week of February may be dangerously cold.

Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Spitler Peak Trail, Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177). Storms in December 2021 left trees very heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees on the trail system. Severe Santa Ana winds on 22nd January will have brought down further trees and branches.

May Valley Road [updated 29th January] was closed by Forest Service to all traffic, including foot traffic, on Friday 28th due to hazardous trees. According to USFS social media feeds, there is no timeline for reopening.

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 21st January having been closed since 13th December 2021.

South Ridge Road remains closed [updated 30th January] but is clear of snow and ice.

Dark Canyon Road, the access for Seven Pines Trail, closed in December 2021 due to winter conditions. It is now [updated 21st January] clear of snow.

WEATHER Temperatures at all elevations will remain at or above seasonal averages before dropping to about seasonal on Tuesday 1st February. The first few days of February may be cooler and unsettled. Steady melting will continue at all elevations this week, most pronounced below 9000ft and on sun-exposed slopes.

Worryingly for January – the second most important month of the year for rain and snow behind February – there is no significant precipitation in the forecasts for the remainder of the month. Light precipitation on 17th-18th January produced 0.32in rain in Idyllwild at 5550ft (and a paltry 0.75in snow at San Jacinto Peak). Remarkably, that is the only measurable precipitation to date this January, a month for which Idyllwild averages 4.74in rain and 6.3in of snow (NWS 1991-2020 data), and the high country should receive feet of snow. There is the slim possibility of a storm system around 1st-4th February, although forecast models vary enormously on potential precipitation amounts, if any.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 24th January 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 31.2°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 17.8°F (-8°C), 63% relative humidity, and a light NNE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 12.6 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 18th January 2022 at 1115 the air temperature was 25.6°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.2°F (-10°C), 78% relative humidity, and a light NNE wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.6 mph.

Little Round Valley at 9800ft, mid morning on 24th January 2022.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7700ft are now clear (or largely clear) of snow, snow cover is increasingly patchy below 9000ft, and is continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Melting has been slow but steady at all elevations and may accelerate significantly over the next week with warmer temperatures.

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 is functionally clear of ice and snow.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now largely clear of icy snow to about 7700ft, and then with 80% cover to Saddle Junction. Spikes are useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail is functionally clear of snow to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Icy snow cover remains about 10% to near Tahquitz Peak, increasing to about 25% on the uppermost half-a-dozen switchbacks. Spikes are not essential, but most hikers will find them useful, especially for descending.

The predominant compacted tracks on the Peak Trail from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak now generally follow the trail route. However careful navigation is still required as the slopes between 9800ft and 10,400ft remain covered with a maze of (rapidly melting) meandering tracks. Above 10,400ft most tracks form a compacted posthole route up the East Ridge. However the route of the Peak Trail also has a very lightly used track, which are challenging in one short section before Summit Junction (spikes required).

There are well-traveled compacted tracks to follow from Long Valley though Round Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail has a moderately well-traveled track that largely follows the trail route up to Deer Springs Trail. There has been patchy clearing of snow below 7500ft. Unsurprisingly, there are continue to be no visible hiker tracks on the upper sections of Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to Strawberry Junction at 8100ft. From there to 8600ft (just before the Marion Mountain Trail junction) snow cover is a patchy 50%. Above 8600ft snow cover is continuous. Spikes are useful, especially for descending. Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers. Through Little Round Valley the track is more direct and only vaguely follows the trail route. The most heavily traveled track from LRV to near San Jacinto Peak largely follows, unfortunately for ascending hikers, my original snowshoe route from 31st December, which is direct and steep. There are however alternative tracks meandering across this slope.

The “Strawberry Trail” between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well traveled and there tracks to follow. Much of this very sun-exposed section of trail is rapidly clearing of snow.

The Suicide Rock Trail is clear of snow, with only a handful of tiny patches remaining.

Spitler Peak Trail, surveyed multiple times this month, is clear of snow and spikes are not required. Nearly 40 downed trees from ice storms in December, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report [updated 26th January] .

May Valley Road is clear of snow. The multiple trees down after the storm on 14th December 2021 have been cleared (by locals rather than by Forest Service).

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described above and below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite much work in 2020 by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has likely added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed between February 2019 and early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been thoroughly trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 24th January 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 following in parentheses. The very minor snowfall on 17th-18th January is of course included but was greatly exceeded by melting in weeks before and since. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 18 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 16 inches (was 25 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 12 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 13 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail/PCT Mile 184.9 (8800ft): 6-7 inches (was 11 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 0-1 inches (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 2-3 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0 inches (was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Strawberry Junction (8100ft, approx. PCT Mile 183) on 24th January 2022 (above) and the same view on 31st December 2021 (below).

Snow and trail update 19th January 2022

Light showers between the afternoon of Monday 17th and early morning of Tuesday 18th January produced a total of 0.32in rain in Idyllwild (at 5550ft). Remarkably, that was the first measurable precipitation to date in January, a month for which Idyllwild averages 4.74in rain and 6.3in of snow (NWS 1991-2020 data).

On our hike this morning to San Jacinto Peak we found that the overnight rain had turned largely to freezing rain above 7900ft, and then a dusting of snow above 9000ft. The high country was evidently above the cloud for much of the period (as it was all day on 18th too), and there was only 0.25in of fresh snow at 9000ft, increasing to just 0.75in at San Jacinto Peak.

Over much of the past week the snow from the five mostly minor storms that impacted the San Jacinto mountains in December 2021 continued to melt slowly but steadily. Melting was aided by moderate but warm Santa Ana winds on 15th January. Snow depths measured on 18th are detailed at the foot of this post.

In addition to ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past few days we have also surveyed many of the trails in the Idyllwild area, and spent most of 17th on Spitler Peak Trail and the adjacent PCT. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Leaving relatively late on 18th (after waiting for the drizzle to stop in Idyllwild) I was able to hike from Devil’s Slide Trail to San Jacinto Peak without needing spikes, as the thin fresh snow cover gave excellent grip on what is now a firm, well-compacted route. Spikes were however invaluable for descending down to about 7600ft. Not being much of a user of hiking poles, I found an ice axe was very handy traversing the snow slopes between San Jacinto Peak and Wellman Divide.

Major trails remain mostly covered by icy snow above 7500ft, and completely covered above 9000ft. Tracks at the highest elevations (>9800ft) currently only approximate to the routes of established trails (specifically Deer Springs Trail above Little Round Valley). Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere. The very light snow in the early hours of 18th did not obscure any existing tracks.

Spikes are recommended everywhere above about 7500ft as trails are icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes can be especially valuable on colder mornings when conditions are particularly icy, and for descending. However they are no longer essential, especially on warmer days as the snow softens. Snowshoes may be useful in off-trail areas only above about 9000ft, especially as snow softens on warmer days and in afternoons. Below that elevation snow coverage is generally either too shallow, or trails too compacted, for snowshoes.

Note that relatively mild and dry weather is forecast to continue with temperatures largely above seasonal at all elevations to the end of January. This will lead to significant melting and freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to steadily change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and often well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

Storms in December 2021 left trees very heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees on the trail system. Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Spitler Peak Trail, Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177).

The USFS gate at Humber Park reopened on 21st January having been closed since 13th December 2021. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces immediately below the gate. Vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are “Road Closed” signs further down – as was the case for most of the holiday period – then those nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking.

South Ridge Road [updated 23rd January] remains closed, but is essentially clear of snow/ice.

Dark Canyon Road, the access for Seven Pines Trail, closed in December 2021 due to winter conditions. It is now clear of snow [updated 21st January].

Looking east from the Peak Trail down into Round and Long valleys, early afternoon on 18th January 2022.

WEATHER Temperatures at all elevations, especially overnight lows, are forecast to warm to above seasonal averages starting Thursday 20th, and largely remain above average until the end of January. Saturday 22nd will be the coldest day, associated with strong Santa Ana (NE) winds.. Steady melting will continue at all elevations, most pronounced below 9000ft and on sun-exposed slopes. Worryingly for January – the second most important month of the year for rain and snow behind February – there is no significant precipitation in the forecasts for the remainder of the month.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 18th January 2022 at 1115 the air temperature was 25.6°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.2°F (-10°C), 78% relative humidity, and a light NNE wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 7.6 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 13th January 2022 at 0920 the air temperature was 40.2°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 35.2°F (2°C), 24% relative humidity, and a soft NE breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 5.6 mph.

Spitler Peak viewed from the north at the top of Spitler Peak Trail (PCT Mile 168.5), 17th January 2022. The north and east flanks still have a reasonable covering of snow, even though more exposed areas, such as the PCT in the foreground, are completely clear.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails below about 7500ft are now largely clear of snow, snow cover is extensive but increasingly patchy to 8500ft, and is continuous everywhere above 9000ft. Melting has been steady at mid elevations and may accelerate significantly over the next couple of weeks in the high country.

Spitler Peak Trail, surveyed multiple times this month, is now functionally clear of snow and spikes are not required. There are about 17 treefall hazards remaining in a 0.5 mile section, about one mile below the PCT junction, some of which are difficult to pass. Some 25 other downed trees, plus dozens of additional branches down in the trail, have been removed by the Trail Report.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is almost completely clear of ice and snow, with just a few minor patches remaining near Humber Park. Spikes not required.

Devil’s Slide Trail is now largely clear of icy snow to about 7000ft, with about 20% snow cover to 7600ft, and then 80% cover to Saddle Junction. Spikes are useful on the upper trail, especially for descending.

South Ridge Trail has cleared rapidly of snow to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft). Snow cover remains about 80% from there to Tahquitz Peak, for which spikes are useful.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has steps to follow through the continuous angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes, at least with hiking poles (or ideally an ice axe plus knowledge of how to use it) are recommended.

My persistence with putting in tracks on the Peak Trail has largely paid off, and the predominant compacted tracks from Wellman Divide to near Miller Peak now generally follow the trail route. However careful navigation is required, as the slopes between 9800ft and 10,400ft remain covered with a maze of (rapidly melting) meandering tracks. Above 10,400ft almost all tracks form a compacted posthole route up the East Ridge.

There are well-traveled compacted tracks to follow from Long Valley though Round Valley to Wellman Divide.

Marion Mountain Trail has a moderately well-traveled track that largely follows the trail route up to Deer Springs Trail. There has been patchy clearing of snow below 7500ft. Unsurprisingly, there are continue to be no visible hiker tracks on Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails.

Deer Springs Trail is clear of snow to the Suicide Rock trail junction. Snow cover is only about 10% from there to Strawberry Junction. An excellent compacted track largely follows the established trail route above Strawberry Junction, and spikes are useful, especially for descending. Through Little Round Valley the track is more direct and does not follow the trail route, and the most heavily traveled track from LRV to near San Jacinto Peak follows, unfortunately for ascending hikers, my snowshoe route from 31st December, which is very direct and steep. There are however many alternative tracks meandering across this slope.

The “Strawberry Trail” between Annie’s and Strawberry junctions (roughly PCT Miles 181-183) has been well traveled and there tracks to follow. Much of this very sun-exposed section of trail clears relatively rapidly of snow for its elevation.

The Suicide Rock Trail has only a handful of minor snow patches remaining.

May Valley Road is clear of snow. The multiple trees down after the storm on 14th December 2021 have been cleared (by locals rather than by Forest Service).

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite much work in 2020 by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a California Conservation Corps team in late August 2021, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail. Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has likely added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed between February 2019 and early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Almost all of this section has also been trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 18th January 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 following in parentheses. The very minor snowfall on 17th-18th January is of course included but was greatly exceeded by melting in the previous week. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 20 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 14 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 16 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 0-2 inches on 17th (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 4 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0 inches (was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide, on 18th January 2022 (above), and the same view on 31st December 2021 (below).

Snow and trail update 12th January 2022

The snow from the five mostly minor storms that impacted the San Jacinto mountains in December 2021 continues to melt slowly but steadily, in what has so far been a relatively mild and very dry January.

The combination of Santa Ana winds on 9th and a thin but continuous cloud cover on 10th produced what will almost certainly be the clearest visibility of the year on the morning of 10th. From San Jacinto Peak I could clearly see the entire east coastline of San Clemente Island, the cliffs on the south end of Santa Catalina, plus container ships offshore, all with the naked eye.

In addition to a couple of recent ascents of San Jacinto Peak, in the past few days we have also surveyed Spitler Peak and South Ridge trails, among several others. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

Early on 10th I was able to get from Devil’s Slide Trail to above Wellman Divide before needing spikes, as the icy snow was firm but grippy on a largely well-compacted route. Spikes were then useful from 9900ft to San Jacinto Peak. We descended Deer Springs Trail, and I removed spikes at Strawberry Junction. Hiking poles are useful in the high country, and an ice axe wouldn’t have been a bad idea when traversing slopes on the east flank of San Jac.

Most major trails have now been traveled but all remain largely or completely covered by light to moderate snowfall above 7000ft. Tracks at the highest elevations (>9800ft) currently do not always approximate to the routes of established trails (specifically sections of the Peak Trail above 9900ft, and Deer Springs Trail above Little Round Valley). Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Spikes remain recommended everywhere above about 5500ft as trails are icy where compacted by hiker traffic and following freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes can be especially valuable on colder mornings when conditions are particularly icy, and for descending. Snowshoes remain useful in off-trail areas only above about 8000ft, especially as snow softens on warmer days and in afternoons. Below that elevation snow coverage is generally either too shallow, or trails too compacted, for snowshoes. Crampons and ice axe remain an option on much of the east slope above 9800ft, but there is nowhere on or near established tracks that spikes are inadequate, and conditions will continue to change with further melting and additional hiker traffic.

Note that warming is forecast to continue, with temperatures above seasonal at mid elevations especially into late January. This will lead to significant melting and freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to steadily change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and generally well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

Storms in December 2021 left trees very heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees on the trail system. Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., May Valley Road, Spitler Peak Trail, Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177).

The USFS gate at Humber Park closed on 13th December 2021. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces immediately below the gate. Vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are “Road Closed” signs further down – as has been the case for most of the past three weeks – then those nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking. Exercise caution parking in this area as multiple vehicles have been towed on recent weekends.

South Ridge Road is currently closed, and remains almost completely snow/ice covered.

Dark Canyon Road, the access for Seven Pines Trail, closed in December 2021 due to winter conditions. As of 7th January, it remained 90% snow-covered.

The view emerging above the cloud at about 6000ft on Spitler Peak Trail, 8th January 2022. Antsell Rock is to the right, with Tahquitz Peak on the left end of the most distant ridgeline.

WEATHER Temperatures at mid elevations, especially overnight lows, are forecast to remain above seasonal averages well into the second half of January. In the high country temperatures will be above seasonal until about 17th, before cooling to near seasonal. Steady melting will continue at all elevations, likely most pronounced below 8000ft and on sun-exposed slopes. Worryingly for January, there continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 10th January 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 34.6°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 22.5°F (-5°C), 10% relative humidity, and a steady SSE wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 16.0 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 4th January 2022 at 1020 the air temperature was 31.6°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.5°F (-10°C), 58% relative humidity, and a bitter NW wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 24.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 31st December 2021 at 1055 the air temperature was 19.2°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.1°F (-20°C), 92% relative humidity, and a frigid WSW wind sustained at 19 mph gusting to 31.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 7000ft are snow-covered, lower in sheltered places. Melting has been steady at mid elevations and may accelerate significantly this week in the high country.

Spitler Peak Trail, fully surveyed to the PCT on 8th January, is currently very challenging for hikers (see sample photos below). There are 35 treefall hazards on its uppermost two miles, some of which are not easy to pass, plus dozens of additional branches down in the trail, some embedded in icy snow. Icy snow conditions mean spikes are currently recommended in places on the uppermost two miles.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail has a well-compacted icy snow track to follow along its entire length. Snow cover remains about 90% in the lower (southern) section, and is nearly continuous nearer Humber Park. Spikes are especially useful in mornings before snow softens, and for descending.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled, compacted snow track to follow, no longer suitable for snowshoes but spikes are useful especially for descending. Snow cover is now only 50% below 7000ft, but about 90% from there to Saddle Junction.

South Ridge Trail has a well-traveled track up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft) and spikes are adequate. There is a traveled posthole track continuing up to Tahquitz Peak, for which spikes are useful.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes, at least with hiking poles (or an ice axe plus knowledge of how to use it) are recommended. Snowshoes are strongly discouraged due to the angle of the icy snow.

The Peak Trail now has tracks to follow from Wellman Divide to San Jacinto Peak. However careful navigation is required, as the slopes between 9800ft and 10,400ft are covered with a maze of meandering tracks, most of which do not closely follow the route of the Peak Trail. The most heavily traveled route between 10,100-10,400ft parallels the Peak Trail route rather than following it, and above 10,400ft almost all tracks form an excellent compacted posthole route that vaguely follows the East Ridge Trail above Miller Peak directly to San Jac.

There are well-traveled compacted tracks to follow from Long Valley though Round Valley to Wellman Divide, and another rather direct compacted track up from Tamarack Valley around the south flank of Miller Peak.

Marion Mountain Trail has a moderately well-traveled track that largely follows the trail route up to Deer Springs Trail. Azalea Trail, the access road for Marion Mountain trailhead, has only been partially plowed and is 4WD/AWD accessible only (this will change in the next week or two with further melting). Unsurprisingly, there are continue to be no visible hiker tracks on Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow to the Suicide Rock trail junction. Snow cover is about 50% from there to Strawberry Junction, and spikes are useful but not required. An excellent compacted track largely follows the established trail route above Strawberry Junction. Through Little Round Valley the track is more direct and does not follow the trail route, and the most heavily traveled track from LRV to near San Jacinto Peak follows, unfortunately for ascending hikers, my snowshoe route from 31st December, and is very direct and steep. There are however many alternative tracks meandering all across this slope.

The Suicide Rock Trail has a well-traveled track through very patchy and rapidly melting snow.

May Valley Road is clear of snow. The multiple trees down after the storm on 14th December 2021 have been cleared (mainly by locals).

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite much work in 2020 by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a California Conservation Corps team in late August 2021, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail. Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021. All of this section has likely added new treefall hazards this winter.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed between February 2019 and early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Most of this section has also been trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However at least 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 10th January 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 24 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 20 inches (was 25 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 18 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 18 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail (8800ft): 7-9 inches (was 11 inches on 31st December)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 1-3 inches (was 8 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 7 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0-2 inches (very patchy, was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0-1 inch (very patchy, was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft) on 10th January 2022 (above), and the same view eleven days earlier on 31st December 2021 (below).

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Above and below, examples of treefall hazards on Spitler Peak Trail, 8th January 2022. Freezing rain in late December covered branches with heavy loads of ice, which in combination with many dead trees from the 2013 Mountain Fire, has created challenges on many trails, including this one. All relevant agencies have been notified.

Snow and trail update 6th January 2022

This is an adaptation of the Report originally issued on 31st December 2021, which followed four mostly minor storms that impacted the San Jacinto mountains between 24th-30th December. Although temperatures at mid elevations have started to warm to above seasonal in the past couple of days, melting has progressed slowly especially at higher elevations. High country locations have generally lost only an inch or two of snow depth, mid elevations several inches, and snow has almost completely cleared below 5000ft.

On 5th January we undertook a partial survey of South Ridge Trail with great friend of the Report Charles Phelan, and on 4th January we ascended to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide, Wellman, and (roughly) Peak trails. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

On 4th I largely broke trail again above Saddle Junction to Wellman Divide (my tracks from 31st December barely visible above 8500ft due to spindrift), initially in spikes then snowshoes from 9000ft to just above Wellman Divide. The slopes of the Peak “Trail” remained firm and challenging in snowshoes, and I switched back to spikes to reach San Jac (see details below regarding routes in the high country).

Most major trails have now been traveled but all remain covered by light to moderate snowfall. Tracks at the highest elevations (>9800ft) currently do not approximate to the routes of established trails (specifically the Peak Trail above 9900ft, and Deer Springs Trail above Little Round Valley). Cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Spikes are recommended everywhere above about 5500ft as trails become icy when compacted by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes are especially valuable on colder mornings when conditions are particularly icy, and for descending. Snowshoes are currently useful in many areas above about 8000ft, especially as snow softens with warming temperatures. Below that elevation snow coverage is either generally too shallow, or trails will become compacted and unsuitable for snowshoes, when they will become mainly valuable for off-trail travel only. Crampons and ice axe remain a good option on much of the east slope above 9800ft, but this will change with increased melting and hiker traffic.

Note that rapid warming will continue, the temperatures above seasonal at mid elevations (e.g., Idyllwild) into at least mid January, and well above seasonal in the high country to Saturday 8th January (before dropping to near average). These temperatures will lead to significant melting and freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain. However, some combination of spikes and snowshoes – the latter on mild days of soft snow, for off-trail travel, or for unbroken routes – will likely be useful in the San Jacinto high country for the foreseeable future.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country, and generally well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

All five storms in December left trees very heavily laden with ice, and I have since found many broken tree limbs and downed trees on the trail system. Hikers should anticipate encountering significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., May Valley Road, Spitler Peak Trail, Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177).

The USFS gate at Humber Park closed on 13th December. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces immediately below the gate. Vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are signs further down indicating that the road is closed – as has been the case for most of the past two weeks – then the nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking. Exercise caution parking in this area as multiple vehicles have been towed on recent weekends.

South Ridge Road is currently closed, and is completely snow/ice covered.

Dark Canyon Road, the access for Seven Pines Trail, closed in December due to winter conditions. It remains 90% snow-covered [updated 7th January].

The dramatic north face of Tahquitz Peak as seen from about PCT Mile 181, 4th January 2022, with Tahquitz Rock to the right.

WEATHER Temperatures at mid elevations will remain slightly above seasonal averages well into mid January. In the high country temperatures will be well above seasonal until 8th January, before dropping to near seasonal. Steady melting will continue at all elevations, but will be most pronounced below 8000ft and on intensely sun-exposed slopes. There is no significant precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 4th January 2022 at 1020 the air temperature was 31.6°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.5°F (-10°C), 58% relative humidity, and a bitter NW wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 24.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 31st December 2021 at 1055 the air temperature was 19.2°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.1°F (-20°C), 92% relative humidity, and a frigid WSW wind sustained at 19 mph gusting to 31.1 mph.

The snow-covered San Jacinto high country beautifully sunlit at dawn from PCT Mile 152, just north of Highway 74, 3rd January 2022.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 6500ft are snow-covered, lower in sheltered places. Melting has been well underway at mid elevations and will accelerate significantly over the next few days.

Spitler Peak Trail [updated 8th January] is currently very challenging for hikers, with an astonishing 35 treefall hazards on its uppermost two miles, many of which are not easy to pass, plus dozens of additional branches down in the trail. Almost all of these came down since my last survey on 22nd December, when I counted only seven trees down. In addition icy snow conditions mean that spikes are currently recommended on the uppermost two miles.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail [updated 6th January] has a well-compacted snowshoe track to follow along its entire length. The snow depth is starting to thin especially at the lower (southern) end of the trail but snow cover remains >90%. Spikes are increasingly useful as the snow is icy following freeze-thaw cycles.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled, compacted snow track to follow, no longer suitable for snowshoes but spikes are useful especially for descending. Melting was starting to reveal some rock steps and gravel patches below 7000ft on 4th January.

South Ridge Trail has a well-traveled track up to Old Lookout Flat (7600ft) and spikes are adequate. There is a very lightly traveled posthole track continuing up to Tahquitz Peak, for which snowshoes may be useful as snow continues to soften.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has steps to follow through the angled icy snow, and these may well improve this weekend. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes, at least with hiking poles (or an ice axe plus knowledge of how to use it) are recommended. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow.

There are two routes in place from Long Valley up to San Jacinto Peak. There is a moderately traveled compacted track from Round Valley that approximates to the trail as far as Wellman Divide, follows part of the Peak Trail route, then climbs steeply around the east and north flanks of Jean Peak (following the route I established on 31st December, as discussed in the previous Report). There is a lightly traveled snowshoe track that roughly follows the “Sid Davis Trail” to Tamarack Valley, the old Tamarack Trail to near 10,000ft, and then climbs south of Miller Peak up the East Ridge Trail line. As of 4th January, the Peak Trail was only partially broken. This situation may improve this weekend with steady melting expected.

Marion Mountain Trail has a lightly traveled track that largely follows the trail route up to Deer Springs Trail. Azalea Trail, the access road for Marion Mountain trailhead, has only been partially plowed and is currently 4WD/AWD accessible only. This may improve with melting in the next week or two. Unsurprisingly, there remain no visible tracks on Fuller Ridge and Seven Pines trails.

Deer Springs Trail has an obvious but lightly traveled snowshoe-and-posthole track above Strawberry Junction. Below Little Round Valley it largely follows the established trail route. Through Little Round Valley the track is more direct and does not follow the trail route, and the track from LRV to near San Jacinto Peak is very direct, steep, and is a challenging ascent. There is a relatively well-traveled posthole track up to Strawberry Junction.

The lower Deer Springs Trail to Suicide Rock has a well-traveled track through light and rapidly melting snow.

May Valley Road is almost clear of snow, however it is largely impassable by vehicles due to multiple trees down (reported to USFS).

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on 14th June 2021. My “before, during, and after” video is available here. This section of the PCT is now safer and is narrow but readily passable with care by hikers (but remains impassable by stock).

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, regrettably neither Forest Service nor State Park were quick to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers will encounter some new and additional hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, at least 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Willow Creek Trail has at least 33 downed trees between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide. Of these 22 are on the Forest Service section (16 between Willow Creek and the Park boundary), with 11 in the State Park. Most are readily passable by hikers with care. Despite much work in 2020 by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a California Conservation Corps team in late August 2021, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail. Three new trees came down in late 2021 on the PCT just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but they are readily passable for hikers.

Many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work mentioned above. Nevertheless more than 20 remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (PCT Miles 175-177) was cleared in early June 2021.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed between February 2019 and early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Starting in November 2021, 42 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed. Most of this section has also been trimmed and cleared, and the trail is now obvious and easy to follow for much of its length (when clear of snow). However approximately 18 downed trees remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required especially for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 4th January 2022 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the snow depth recorded on 31st December 2021 following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, and differential melting, there is considerable drifting and variability. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 28 inches (was 30 inches on 31st December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 23 inches (was 26 inches on 31st December)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 22 inches (was 23 inches on 31st December)

Long Valley (8600ft): about 12 inches (was 14 inches on 31st December)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 10 inches (was 12 inches on 31st December).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 0-4 inches (patchy melting, was 7 inches on 31st December)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0-2 inches (patchy melting, was 6.5 inches on 31st December)

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Looking north-west to the San Bernardino mountains from San Jacinto Peak on 4th January 2022 (above), and the same view on 31st December 2021 (below). Note especially the snow melt on the rocks in the lower left.

Snow and trail update 1st January 2022

Starting on 24th December we had four storm systems pass through the San Jacinto mountains in seven days, plus some additional localized precipitation on days between the storms.

Contrary to earlier forecasts, the first system on 23rd-24th December ultimately proved to be by far the most substantial of the four, and was summarized in the previous Report (available here). That system was relatively warm, including light rainfall briefly as high as San Jacinto Peak, and was dominated by impressive rainfall numbers at mid elevations (e.g., 4.35in at 5550ft in Idyllwild in under 48 hours).

The three subsequent minor storms were colder, producing snow as low as 4000-5000ft, although by the final wave of precipitation on 30th air temperatures were above freezing below 6000ft and some melting was already underway with light drizzle at times. Unfortunately the high country was above the clouds for the majority of the precipitation that fell in the mid elevations on 26th-30th December. Indeed the fourth storm system on 30th largely passed the San Jacinto mountains to the west.

Ultimately projections that by the end of December we could have received up to two feet of snow in Idyllwild and 4-5 feet in the high country proved to be wildly optimistic. Idyllwild finished the week of storms with roughly seven inches of snow, exact depths varying by location, and San Jacinto Peak with about 30 inches (of which eight remained from an earlier storm on 14th December).

On 31st December I ascended an east side route (Devil’s Slide, Wellman, Peak trails) to San Jacinto Peak, and then descended the west side via Deer Springs Trail. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below. I largely broke trail above Saddle Junction, initially postholing then in snowshoes above 9000ft. The slopes above Wellman Divide became increasing firm and challenging in snowshoes, and I had to leave the route of the Peak Trail and head directly upslope to the north-east side of Jean Peak to then reach San Jac. I recorded a shortish video near the Peak discussing snow and trail conditions (available here). The powder was near-perfect on the west side, where I found no tracks at all above Strawberry Junction.

Currently very few major trails have been traveled and all are covered by moderate snowfall. This situation may change significantly over the long New Year holiday weekend, with clearer weather forecast and hikers likely to be active on most of the trail system. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing almost everywhere above about 8000ft. Below that elevation snow coverage is either generally too shallow for snowshoes, or trails will become compacted and unsuitable, when snowshoes will become mainly valuable for off-trail travel only. Crampons and ice axe are currently a good option on much of the east slope above 9800ft, but this may not be the case within a few days with melting and hiker traffic. Spikes are recommended everywhere above about 5000ft for the foreseeable future as trails become icy when compacted by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. Spikes may be especially valuable on trails with heavy water flow in the trails that may partially freeze over the next few days (e.g., Devil’s Slide and Deer Springs trails), on colder mornings when conditions are particularly icy, and for descending.

Note that rapid warming is expected in early January 2022, with significant melting and freeze-thaw cycles which will combine to change trail conditions and, in places, the preferred equipment for the terrain. However, some combination of spikes and snowshoes – the latter on warm days of soft snow, off-trail, or for unbroken routes – will likely be useful in the San Jacinto high country for the foreseeable future.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures around or below freezing in the high country, and generally well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

Both this sequence of storms and the prior system earlier in December left branches heavily laden with ice, and as a result I have found many broken tree limbs and downed trees in the trails. Hikers should expect to find significant new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., May Valley Road, Spitler Peak Trail, Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 166-177).

For details regarding pre-existing (non snow/ice) hazards on the trails, coronavirus issues and ranger station access, please see this earlier Report or contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

The USFS gate at Humber Park closed on 13th December. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces immediately below the gate. Any vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are signs further down indicating that the road is closed then the nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking. On 31st December for example, CHP cleared all vehicles from this area in the afternoon (thanks to Bill Rhoads for this information).

San Jacinto Peak, 31st December 2021.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain below seasonal averages this weekend until 4th January 2022, and then rapidly warm to above average for 5th-7th January, before returning to about seasonal. Sadly temperatures above freezing (and well above seasonal) are forecast at the highest peaks on 3rd-7th January. Clearly there will be steady melting at all elevations, especially rapid below 8000ft and on sun-exposed slopes.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Friday 31st December 2021 at 1055 the air temperature was 19.2°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.1°F (-20°C), 92% relative humidity, and a bitter WSW wind sustained at 19 mph gusting to 31.1 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 23rd December 2021 at 1615 the air temperature was 27.7°F (-2°C), with a windchill temperature of 9.5°F (-13°C), 94% relative humidity, and a gusty due West wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 27.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails above about 4500ft are snow-covered. By yesterday afternoon, melting was already well underway below 6000′, and will accelerate significantly over the next few days.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail has a well-defined 18″ wide snowshoe track to follow along its entire length. Unfortunately this was starting to soften on 31st December (many thanks to Anne and Anabel for this information). The snow has the right texture that spikes are not currently required. This may change with increased compaction and freeze-thaw cycles this weekend.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled, compacted snow track to follow, spikes are especially useful for descending.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has steps to follow through the angled icy snow, and these may well improve this weekend. These icy slopes are treacherous. Currently spikes, at least with hiking poles (or an ice axe plus knowledge of how to use it) are recommended. Snowshoes are not advised due to the angle of the icy snow.

There were no visible tracks whatsoever on Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, or Fuller Ridge trails, as of the afternoon of 31st December. Azalea Trail, the access road for Marion Mountain trailhead, has not been plowed and is 4WD/AWD accessible only.

The only broken route I saw from Round Valley up to San Jacinto Peak is a posthole track that comes directly up, completely bypassing Wellman Divide and most of the Peak Trail route, coming around the east and north flanks of Jean Peak (see my discussion above of the current challenges of the Peak Trail).

Deer Springs Trail has only my descending snowshoe track to follow above Strawberry Junction. Below Little Round Valley I largely followed the established trail route. Through Little Round Valley I was more direct and made no effort to follow the trail route, and my snowshoe track down from the Peak to LRV is very direct, steep, and would be a challenging ascent. There is now a posthole track up to Strawberry Junction.

The lower Deer Springs Trail to Suicide Rock has a well-traveled posthole track through the light snow.

Dark Canyon Road, the access for Seven Pines Trail, is closed due to winter conditions, likely into next month.

Fuller Ridge Trail at its junction with the Deer Springs Trail (PCT Mile 185.5, 8970ft), early afternoon on 31st December 2021, with my lone snowshoe tracks descending from San Jacinto Peak.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 31st December 2021 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the snow depth recorded on 24th, prior to the three most recent minor storms, following in parentheses (where known). Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying some of the storms, there is extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 30 inches (was 22 inches on afternoon of 24th December)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 25 inches

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 26 inches (was 20 inches on afternoon of 24th)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 23 inches (was 14 inches on afternoon of 24th)

Deer Springs Trail at junction with Seven Pines Trail (8800ft): 11 inches

Long Valley (8600ft): about 14 inches (was 12 inches on 24th; many thanks to Kyle Eubanks for that measurement)

Strawberry Junction/PCT Mile 183 (8100ft): 8 inches

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 12 inches (was 3 inches on afternoon of 24th, some earlier snow was removed by rain on 23rd-24th).

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 7 inches (was less than one inch on 24th)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 6.5 inches (melting already underway 29th-30th, was 0 inches on afternoon of 24th)

Thank you fellow hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to have its challenges and 2022 already looks like it will be no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Little Round Valley (9800ft) with about two feet of heavily drifted snow on 31st December 2021 (above), and the same view on 20th December (below).
The Peak “Trail” at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide on 31st December 2021 (above), and the same view on 20th December 2021 (below).

Storm summary 25th December 2021

[UPDATED 29th December @ 1440: light snow yesterday added another 1.5 inches at 5550ft, with 5-6 inches on the ground now in Idyllwild (variable due to some patchy melting). The high country has been largely above the cloud the past two days, with just a dusting of an inch at most in Long Valley (8600ft) yesterday, for a total of about 13 inches there. The high peaks have added equally little in the past 48 hours, with a little above two feet estimated around San Jacinto Peak. Snow levels dropped yesterday to near 4000ft, with a dusting in Garner Valley. About 1-2 inches of snow are expected above 5000ft in the next 24 hours in the fourth (and final) storm of the seven day period. Snowshoes are currently useful everywhere above 5500ft, and spikes are recommended everywhere above 5000ft especially as conditions become increasingly icy. The next comprehensive update of the high country snow situation will likely be in the evening of Friday 31st.]

[UPDATED 28th December @ 0720: our third snow storm in five days passed through yesterday afternoon with snow in Idyllwild starting at 1415, accumulating to 3.25 inches. It only snowed very lightly in Long Valley (8600ft) with a scant one inch accumulation, and similarly light dusting on top of the two feet already around the highest peaks. With four snow storms in seven days, I do not expect a comprehensive update of the high country snow situation before Friday 31st.]

[UPDATED 26th December: very light snow overnight produced one inch in Idyllwild at 5550ft, and about two inches in Long Valley (8600ft). Snow level was near 5000ft.]

This is a summary of conditions following the fourth – and most substantial – snow (and rain!) storm of winter 2021/22 to date, with the precipitation starting early morning on Thursday 23rd and continuing well into Friday 24th December.

The storm system involved an atmospheric river drawing in moisture from tropical latitudes. Consequently the system was warm, with prodigious rain falling at high and mid elevations, often removing some of the existing snow first, before replacing it with some fresh powder later. My ascent to San Jacinto Peak on 23rd was a soggy, postholing one, with drizzle alternating with light rain, remarkably all the way to the Peak. There was a little snow mixed in by 10,200ft, but it was not until early afternoon that it finally turned completely to snow in the high country.

By the afternoon of 24th about 14 inches had fallen at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft), and as I descended that day it was finally dusting down to about 6600ft on Devil’s Slide Trail. Detailed snow depths recorded on my hike on Friday 24th are given at the foot of this posting.

Much more significant than the snow falls were the excellent rainfall totals, with a whopping 4.35 inches measured in Idyllwild at 5550ft. It was such a pleasure to see all the minor creeks and springs flowing in full force along Devil’s Slide Trail this afternoon, in most cases for the first time in at least two-and-a-half years.

Both this storm and the previous one nine days ago left branches were heavily laden with ice, and as a result I have found many broken tree limbs in the trails. Hikers should expect to find many new treefall hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas.

Currently very few major trails have been traveled and all are heavily obscured by snowfall. Beyond Saddle Junction, at the time of writing my snowshoe tracks to San Jacinto Peak are the only traveled high country trail. However, spindrift will have obscured much of these tracks within hours. Very cautious navigation is recommended everywhere.

Snow depths are currently ideal for snowshoeing everywhere above about 8500ft. Below that elevation snow coverage is generally too shallow for snowshoes. Spikes are recommended everywhere above about 7000ft for the foreseeable future as trails become compacted by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They will be especially valuable on trails with heavy water flow in the trails that will partially freeze over the next few days (e.g., Devil’s Slide and Deer Springs trails), and on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and for descending.

Note that significant additional snow is expected in the next week, which may change the trail conditions, and potentially the preferred equipment. However, some combination of snowshoes and spikes will likely be needed for the San Jacinto high country for the foreseeable future.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures below freezing in the high country, and generally well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for some of my recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

For details regarding pre-existing (non snow/ice) hazards on the trails, coronavirus issues and ranger station access, please see this recent Report or contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

The USFS gate at Humber Park closed on 13th December. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces this side of the gate (near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead). Any vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are signs further down indicating that the road is closed then the nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking.

It was so encouraging to see seasonal creeks, such as this one across Devil’s Slide Trail, flowing at their best in nearly three years. Photo 24th December 2021.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain well below seasonal averages into the first week of January 2022. Further snow is expected by the morning of 26th December. This fifth storm of the winter will be weaker than the fourth, but colder, with snowfall expected as low as 5000ft.

Conditions remain very unsettled into the first few days of January 2022, with further minor storm systems expected to bring snow down to mid elevations on 27th December, and again on 29th-30th. There is uncertainty in the forecast models how much snow will fall in the high country.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 23rd December 2021 at 1615 the air temperature was 27.7°F (-3°C), with a windchill temperature of 9.5°F (-13°C), 94% relative humidity, and a gusty due West wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 27.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 20th December 2021 at 0940 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.4°F (-5°C), 17% relative humidity, and a gentle WSW wind sustained at 6 mph gusting to 10.8 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 14th December 2021 at 1630 the air temperature was 10.4°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -17.5°F (-27.5°C), 93% relative humidity, and a wild WNW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 32.5 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is currently clear of snow. This is expected to change by Sunday 26th.

Devil’s Slide Trail has a well-traveled track to follow through the very shallow snow, although some short sections have considerable flowing water in the trail.

Dark Canyon Road, the access for Seven Pines Trail, is closed due to winter conditions, likely into next month.

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 24th December 2021 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the snow depth recorded earlier in the week prior to the storm following in parentheses. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds accompanying the storms, there is extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 22 inches (was 8 inches on morning of 23rd December)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 20 inches, likely heavily drifted (was 3 inches on morning of 23rd)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 14 inches (was 4 inches on morning of 23rd)

Long Valley (8600ft): 12 inches (was about 4-5 inches on 23rd) [many thanks to Kyle Eubanks for these measurements]

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 3 inches (was 2 inches on morning of 23rd, much of which was washed away by rain, before two inches of fresh snow fell on top of ice)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): <1 inch (was less than one inch on 20th, which all melted prior to a fresh dusting on afternoon of 24th)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0 inches (was 0 inches on 20th)

Wellman Divide (9700ft) with well over one foot of heavily drifted fresh snow on 24th December 2021 (above), and the same view on the morning on 23rd December (below).

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

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide on the late morning of 24th December 2021 (above), and the same view on 20th December 2021 (below).

Storm updates 23rd-24th December 2021

The second significant storm (and fourth overall) of winter 2021/22 is currently impacting the San Jacinto mountains.

Please continue to check this page for periodic updates throughout the storm.

UPDATE @ 0705 on Friday 24th

Rainfall storm total in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) by 0700 this morning was a very impressive 3.47 inches.

San Jacinto Peak now has a storm total of about 13 inches of fresh snow, on top of about 8in from last week. Strong winds mean that the snow is heavily drifted.

Long Valley (8600ft) has added 5-6 inches, for a current total depth of 9-10in.

UPDATE @ 2010 on Thursday 23rd

San Jacinto Peak has gained about six inches of snow so far today, with perhaps another foot expected overnight. Long Valley (8600ft) had over an inch of rain (which helped remove 1-2 inches of snow) before it turned to snow, with about two inches accumulating so far. In Idyllwild rainfall has reached 1.2in, with at least that much expected again overnight.

UPDATE @ 1755 on Thursday 23rd

About five inches of snow have fallen so far at San Jacinto Peak. The rain has finally turned to snow in Long Valley, with about an inch accumulating there. Rainfall in Idyllwild surpassed an inch for today at 1650.

UPDATE @ 1540 on Thursday 23rd

As discussed below, this warm system is so far producing rain, rather than snow, at all but the highest elevations. Snow Creek at 6800ft on the north face currently leads the way with 1.2in already. Various sites in Pine Cove (around 6000ft) have passed one inch, while even at Long Valley at 8600ft, it continues to fall as rain (0.8in).

UPDATE @ 1340 on Thursday 23rd

In Idyllwild at 5550ft it started drizzling at about 0400. By 1330 storm total rainfall was already 0.85in.

My ascent to San Jacinto Peak this morning was a soggy, postholing one, with drizzle alternating with light rain all the way to the Peak. There was a little snow mixed in by 10,200ft, but it was not until 1230 that it finally turned completely to snow. It is already accumulating steadily at about an inch per hour.

In Long Valley (8600ft) it has rained about 0.6in this morning, and it remains just above freezing with no snow accumulation so far today.

It was so mild this morning (45°F at Humber Park!) that a lot of snow was melting below 9000ft. Devil’s Slide Trail – that had 90% snow/ice cover on Monday – was 75% clear this morning. It remained remarkably mild all the way up into the high country, where snow that was pleasantly compacted on Monday now had the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Hoping with undue optimism that it would be cold enough higher up for the snow to be firm, I nevertheless had to finally put on snowshoes at 10,000ft to finish my ascent without constant postholing.

Wellman Divide (9700ft) in the rain just after 1110 this morning, 23rd December 2021. Only about three inches of snow from the storm on 14th December remained.

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

Trail and weather update 21st December 2021

The third and most significant snowstorm of the 2021/22 winter to date passed through the San Jacinto mountains on Tuesday 14th December, as described in detail in the previous Report. About nine inches fell at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft) and about an inch in Idyllwild. It rained steadily at mid elevations before turning to snow, with 1.43 inches measured at 5550ft in Idyllwild.

The storm included strong, gusty winds, and drifting of snow was particularly severe. These winds, combined with trees heavily laden with ice, led to many new treefall hazards (both broken branches and whole trees). For example on May Valley Road on 16th I found seven trees down across the road (reported to USFS), and on 20th found three new trees down on a short section of Deer Springs Trail. Hikers should expect to find new treefall hazards on trails, especially in burn areas.

Although temperatures have been at or even slightly above seasonal averages since the storm, melting has been very slow everywhere above 5000ft, with the sun at its lowest potency of the year this week.

This morning we ascended San Jacinto Peak via the east side (Devil’s Slide, Wellman and Peak trails) and descended via Deer Springs Trail. This allowed for thorough survey of snow and treefall conditions on most of the high country trail system.

Rarely have I seen the weather forecasts for the San Jacinto mountains so variable and inconsistent as they are for the remainder of December 2021. The latest details are given in Weather below, but in summary the period is expected to be very unsettled, with precipitation possible almost any day in the next two weeks. Consequently trail conditions, and required equipment, could change frequently and at short notice.

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

Spikes are strongly recommended everywhere above about 6000ft for the foreseeable future as well-used trails are compacted by hiker traffic and undergo further freeze-thaw cycles. They are especially valuable on icy consolidated tracks and for descending (details of individual trails are given below). Snow depths are currently adequate for snowshoeing everywhere off-trail above about 9000ft although they are not essential depending on your comfort level with light postholing in relatively shallow snow. They are not advised on the main trails, which are largely too compacted for comfortable snowshoeing.

The USFS gate at Humber Park closed on 13th December. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces just below the gate. In recent winters vehicles not parked in these spaces have periodically been ticketed and/or towed, usually at weekends or immediately following snow storms. When “Road Closed” signs are in place further down Fern Valley Road, these nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking (according to CHP).

The Marion Mountain trailhead remains open. However Azalea Trail, the access road, has not been plowed, is extensively ice-covered and treacherous, and is 4WD/AWD passable only.

For details regarding pre-existing (non snow/ice) hazards on the trails, coronavirus issues and ranger station access, please see this recent Report or contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

Upper Little Round Valley (9800ft) on 20th December 2021.

WEATHER Temperatures above seasonal averages, such as those we experienced this weekend, will continue until Wednesday 22nd. Forecast resolution remains relatively poor for the rest of December, but unsettled weather into early January is expected, with below average temperatures from 23rd December onwards, plus snow (high country) and moderate rain with dustings of snow (mid elevations). Moderate to heavy precipitation is expected on 23rd-24th, with 12+ inches of snow at the highest peaks and 2-3 inches of rain at Idyllwild elevation. The freeze level may be as high as 7000ft, so snow currently at mid elevations may be washed away by rain. Lighter precipitation is possible again on 25th and from 29th into early January 2022, but frankly could also occur any day for the remainder of December.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 20th December 2021 at 0940 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.4°F (-5°C), 17% relative humidity, and a gentle WSW wind sustained at 6 mph gusting to 10.8 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 15th December 2021 at 0640 the air temperature was 22.1°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 0°F (-18°C), 31% relative humidity, and a gusty NW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 33.5 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 14th December 2021 at 1630 the air temperature was 10.4°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -17.5°F (-27.5°C), 93% relative humidity, and a wild WNW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 32.5 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Note that conditions may change starting 23rd December when significant additional precipitation is possible, potentially adding light powder on top of ice and icy snow in the high country, and ice (initially falling as rain) to surfaces at mid elevations.

All trails above about 6000′ are largely or completely snow- and ice-covered. However, reliable and relatively prominent tracks are in place for almost all major trails as described below.

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat/PCT Mile 178 has steps to follow through the angled icy snow. These icy slopes are notoriously treacherous. Currently spikes are strongly recommended. Snowshoes are rarely advisable on these slopes due to the angle of the icy snow.

The Ernie Maxwell Trail is almost completely covered with ice and compacted icy snow, and spikes are strongly recommended.

Deer Springs Trail has an excellent track to follow, well-traveled to Little Round Valley following the established trail route. Above Little Round Valley several different tracks meander up to the Peak, none of which accurately follow the actual trail for more than short sections, but several of which are relatively easy to follow.

Devil’s Slide and Marion Mountain trails have very well-traveled tracks to follow.

There are reasonable tracks to follow through the light snow around the Tahquitz meadows trail complex.

The Wellman Trail has been lightly traveled, and involves some uneven postholing through shallow snow, but there are a few tracks to follow.

There is a very well-traveled and consolidated trail from Long Valley through to Wellman Divide, which continues up the Peak Trail.

Spitler Peak Trail [updated 22nd] is virtually clear of snow. However there are six new trees down, all in the upper mile of the trail, including two major obstructions that require caution to get around.

Seven Pines Trail has a reasonable set of tracks to follow through the snow, although the track wanders from the established trail in its uppermost section. Dark Canyon Road is almost completely covered in 1-2 inches of snow, and is 4WD/AWD passable only.

There were no visible hiker tracks on Fuller Ridge Trail as of this afternoon.

May Valley Road is largely clear of snow, however it is largely impassable by vehicles due to multiple trees down (mentioned above, reported to USFS).

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

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 20th December 2021, are as follows. Note that current average total depth is given first, followed in parentheses by the depth after the storm of 14th where known. Due to strong winds accompanying the storm there is extensive drifting, especially in and near the trails. Altitudes are approximate. Locations are listed in descending order by altitude.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 8 inches (very heavily drifted; was 11 inches on 15th)

Little Round Valley (9800ft): 6 inches

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 3 inches (was 6.5 inches on 15th)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 4 inches (was 5 inches on 15th)

Deer Springs Trail at Seven Pines Trail junction (8700ft): 4 inches

Strawberry Junction (8100ft): 1 inch

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 2 inches (was 3 inches on 15th)

Deer Springs Trail at Suicide Rock Trail junction (6950ft): <1 inch (patchy, largely melted)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): <1 inch (2 inches on 15th)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 0.5 inch (very patchy, largely melted, was 1 inch on 15th)

Looking north-west from San Jacinto Peak on 20th December 2021 (above), and the same view on 15th December 2021 (below). Note especially how quickly the snow level has moved upslope on the sun-exposed southern flank of the San Bernardino mountains.

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

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide on 20th December 2021 (above), and the same view five days earlier on 15th December 2021 (below).

Snow storm summary 15th December 2021

This is a summary of conditions following the third – and most substantial – snow storm of winter 2021/22 to date, with all of the snow falling on Tuesday 14th December.

While we have to be grateful for any precipitation received given such a rapidly changing climate, it is hard not to be a little disappointed as snowfall in the high country was about half what was widely forecast. About nine inches fell at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft), down to about an inch in Idyllwild (at 5550ft). The storm system was cold in its last few hours, with a dusting of snow to 4000ft, e.g., in Garner Valley. Detailed snow depths recorded on my hike on Tuesday 15th are given at the foot of this posting.

I recorded a brief YouTube video at San Jacinto Peak just after sunrise on 15th (available here) which gives a feel for the conditions at that time.

It rained relatively heavily in Idyllwild before the precipitation turned to snow, with 1.43 inches measured at 5550ft. The system was initially warm enough that rainfall occurred to at least 9700ft at Wellman Divide. Branches were heavily laden with ice between about 8000ft and 10,000ft, and I found many broken tree limbs in the trails. Hikers should expect to find many new treefall hazards in burn areas.

The snowfall was associated with persistent, strong, gusty winds, and as a consequence drifting was particularly severe. There are areas around the high peaks where it is possible to find drifts 18-24 inches deep, and on Devil’s Slide Trail for example there are short sections 4-6 inches deep even though only a couple of inches of fresh snow fell yesterday.

Currently very few major trails have been traveled and all are at least partly obscured by snowfall. Fortunately the snow is generally so shallow that navigation should not be a serious problem, but caution is advised. On my descent late this morning I was surprised to see no other tracks beyond Saddle Junction. The significance of this is that there are currently no tracks on Willow Creek Trail, to Chinquapin Flat or Tahquitz Peak, or around the meadows. Beyond Saddle Junction, at the time of writing my snowshoe tracks to San Jacinto Peak are the only traveled high country trail. This situation will likely improve significantly over the next few days, especially at the weekend, as more hikers venture into the snow.

Snow depths are currently adequate for snowshoeing everywhere above about 9000ft, although they are not essential depending on your comfort level with light postholing in relatively shallow snow. Spikes are recommended everywhere above about 6000ft for the foreseeable future as trails become compacted by hiker traffic and undergo freeze-thaw cycles. They will be especially valuable on increasingly consolidated tracks (e.g., Devil’s Slide and Deer Springs trails) on colder mornings when conditions are icy, and for descending.

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

For details regarding pre-existing (non snow/ice) hazards on the trails, coronavirus issues and ranger station access, please see this recent Report or contact the State Park or Forest Service as indicated on their websites.

The USFS gate at Humber Park closed on 13th December. Even when closed there are nine legal parking spaces this side of the gate (near the upper Ernie Maxwell trailhead). Any vehicles not parked in these spaces may be ticketed and/or towed. If there are signs further down indicating that the road is closed, then the nine spaces are also unavailable for legal parking.

Looking north-west from San Jacinto Peak shortly after sunrise, 15th December 2021. Note the very prominent “San Jac shadow” being cast in front of the San Gabriel mountains on the left, and the snow-clad San Bernardino range on the right.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to remain at or slightly below seasonal averages for the next few days at mid elevations (and about seasonal in the high country). Snow melt will initially be slow above 9000ft, and conditions will be increasingly icy with challenging freeze-thaw conditions underfoot at all elevations. Forecasts suggest further unsettled weather for 21st-25th December at least, with the possibility of light to moderate snow (high country) and rain (mid elevations) currently most likely on or around Wednesday 22nd.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 15th December 2021 at 0640 the air temperature was 22.1°F (-6°C), with a windchill temperature of 0.0°F (-18°C), 31% relative humidity, and a gusty NW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 33.5 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 14th December 2021 at 1630 the air temperature was 10.4°F (-12°C), with a windchill temperature of -17.5°F (-27.5°C), 93% relative humidity, and a wild WNW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 32.5 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 13th December 2021 at 1635 the air temperature was 27.2°F (-3°C), with a windchill temperature of 10.2°F (-12°C), 81% relative humidity, and a sharp SW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 21.9 mph.

SNOW DEPTHS measured on 15th December 2021 are as follows. The first number is the current average total depth, with the storm total following in parentheses. Shallow depths of snow remained from the minor storm the previous week, and these account for the differences. Note that average depth is given; due to strong winds there is extensive drifting, especially in the trails. Altitudes are approximate.

San Jacinto Peak (10810ft): 11 inches (storm total 9 inches, very heavily drifted)

Wellman Divide (9700ft): 6.5 inches (storm total 4.5 inches)

Annie’s Junction/approx. PCT Mile 181.8 (9070ft): 5 inches (storm total 3 inches)

Saddle Junction/approx. PCT Mile 179.9 (8070ft): 3 inches (storm total about 2 inches, there were two inches present on 13th December, but some of this was likely lost to warm rainfall on 14th)

Devil’s Slide Trail at Humber Park (6520ft): 2 inches (at noon today, melting already underway)

Idyllwild (at 5550ft): 1 inch, melting slowly this afternoon.

The Peak Trail at 9800ft just above Wellman Divide on 15th December 2021 (above), and the same view two days earlier on 13th December 2021 (below).

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

The north spring at Wellman’s Cienega on the morning of 15th December 2021 (above), and on 13th December 2021 (below).