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).

Storm updates 14th December 2021

The first significant storm of winter 2021/22 is currently impacting the San Jacinto mountains.

Please continue to check this page for periodic storm updates throughout the next 24 hours.

UPDATE @ 1950 on Tuesday 14th

The moon started appearing on/off from 1830 over San Jacinto Peak and although it continues snowing very lightly, it is unlikely much more than a further inch will accumulate. Storm total at the Peak is currently a heavily drifted 8-9 inches.

In Idyllwild it stopped snowing by 1900. At 5550ft elevation, one inch had settled, in addition to nearly 1.5 inches of rain that fell earlier in the day.

UPDATE @ 1700 on Tuesday 14th

At San Jacinto Peak 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 very gusty WNW wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 32.5 mph.

Total fresh snow accumulation is about 7-8 inches although it continues to snow steadily, but still in fine rounded grains (which are very slow to accumulate to significant depth). The snow is heavily drifting in a gusty westerly wind, to 12-18 inches in places.

San Jacinto Peak at dusk, 14th December 2021.

UPDATE @ 1550 on Tuesday 14th

In Idyllwild at 5550ft the rain finally turned to snow at about 1500. In an hour about 0.25in has settled. Prior to that, 1.43in of rain fell today.

At San Jacinto Peak, snow accumulation had slowed considerably, to a current storm total of about six inches, with extreme drifting. Long Valley has approximately four inches fresh snow. An intensification is underway, that looks likely to last for another 1-2 hours.

UPDATE @ 1355 on Tuesday 14th

The storm has intensified significantly in the last hour. Rainfall for the day is just over 0.9in in Idyllwild, with currently no sign of it turning to snow.

The snowfall rate is up to at least one inch per hour at San Jacinto Peak, where I just measured a current storm total of about five inches. However the wind is gusting wildly, and some drifts are already 12 inches deep, while wind-exposed rocks remain bare.

Radar outputs suggest a series of bands over the next couple of hours, with waves of strong storm activity alternating with (relative) lulls in intensity.

Fresh snowfall in Long Valley (8600ft) is about 3-4in, on top of 0.5in remaining from last week.

UPDATE @ 1105 on Tuesday 14th

Light rain immediately prior to sunrise had produced 0.19in rain in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) and 0.3in rain in Long Valley (8600ft) by 0730. At about that time the precipitation in Long Valley turned to light snow. By mid morning, total rainfall in Idyllwild was almost exactly 0.5in.

Very light snow, falling as tiny rounded grains, started before dawn at San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft), only accumulating to 0.25in until 0900. (This is on top of a patchy two inches remaining from last week’s minor storm.) Intermittent heavier snow, but still rounded grains, started around 0915, currently accumulating to about one inch in the past two hours.

Current forecasts predict about 18in of snow around the highest peaks, but snowfall rates will have to accelerate rapidly in the next few hours for that to be realized.

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.

Sunset from San Jacinto Peak, 13th December 2021. The calm before the storm…..

Minor snow storm 9th December 2021

[UPDATED 11th December: the first significant snow storm of the winter is coming (finally!) to the San Jacinto mountains, with rain and snow all day Tuesday 14th. At mid elevations heavy rain (>1in) most of the day will turn to snow on Tuesday evening, with a few inches likely in Idyllwild. Snow level will eventually drop overnight, with a dusting possible as low as 3500ft. The high country is expecting 1-2 feet of snow, heaviest on Tuesday afternoon. Winds will be dangerously strong especially over the peaks and ridges, leading to severe drifting.]

For the first time since late October we had a minor storm system pass through the San Jacinto mountains on Thursday 9th December. It started drizzling in Idyllwild just before sunrise, and by dusk totaled 0.85in of rain (at 5550ft elevation). Just after dark the precipitation briefly turned to snow and dusted in town (<0.25in). The measurable settled snow level was at about 6200ft, with a dusting of 0.5in snow at Devil’s Slide trailhead (6520ft).

The high country was periodically above the cloud in the morning, with occasional drizzle, which turned to light snow at about 1230. Barely one inch of snow fell in Long Valley (8600ft). I was not able to check the high peaks in the afternoon, but estimate 2-3in snow accumulated at most.

Spikes are recommended if you plan on hiking above about 7000ft elevation in the next few days. All trails above about 6000ft currently have at least some significant sections of snow and ice. Although warming temperatures this weekend will melt some ice and snow from lower and/or sun-exposed parts of the trail system, higher and shaded sections of trail will remain challenging. Forecast overnight temperatures will result in icy freeze/thaw conditions for the foreseeable future, and considerable additional fresh snow is expected early next week. Snowshoes are not currently required anywhere (although that will likely change after Tuesday 14th).

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

For discussion of specific trail condition information (prior to this minor snowfall), please see the previous Report linked here.

Although there have been minor improvements in flow immediately after storms, water conditions in the high country remain poor, with many springs and creeks having dried this summer. Temperatures is the high country are now cold enough, especially overnight, that some of the few remaining water sources are completely frozen. The most recent update of water conditions is available in an earlier Report linked here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information.

WEATHER

Temperatures will be at (or occasionally below) seasonal for December. Consequently almost all areas above about 5000ft will refreeze overnight. The first significant storm system of the winter is expected all day on Tuesday 14th December, with a mix of rain turning to snow at Idyllwild elevation (5000-6000ft), and moderate snowfall in the high country. Current forecast models suggest 3-5 inches of snow (on top of significant rainfall) in Idyllwild, and at least 15 inches of snow above 10,000ft elevation. Snow level may fall as low as 3500ft elevation by early morning on Wednesday 15th.

The subsequent ten days of December remain unsettled with the possibility of further precipitation. There is the tentative forecast of another “atmospheric river” event around 21st-23rd. The meteorological situation for our region in December is detailed in the latest NWS San Diego video.

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 be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Weather and trail update 7th December 2021

[UPDATED @ 1810 on Thursday 9th December: on/off light drizzle all morning across the San Jacinto mountains turned to rain around noon, with (so far) 0.75in of rain in Idyllwild at 5550ft. The high country was in and out of the cloud this morning, with some drizzle, turning to light snow at about 1230. About 1.0in of snow has fallen in Long Valley (8600ft). On the western slope snow level is at 6200ft with a light dusting of 0.25in at Devil’s Slide trailhead (6520ft). Spikes are now recommended for anyone hiking to the high country, especially as temperatures will result in icy freeze/thaw conditions for the foreseeable future. More substantial snow storms are currently forecast for 14th and 18th December. ]

[UPDATED @ 1530 on Tuesday 7th December: a very light drizzle this morning produced 0.04in of rain in Idyllwild (at 5550ft) and about 0.10in in Long Valley (8600ft).]

The record dry and warm conditions in November 2021 continued into the first week of December. There was no snow anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains at the beginning of December for the first time since systematic records began. The good news is that the next ten days look much more unsettled, with three light to moderate storm systems forecast, as discussed in Weather below.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures around or below freezing in the high country and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects. See below for my most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak.

Unsurprisingly, water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate. Many springs and creeks dried months ago. The current status of most key water sources is discussed in detail in the previous Report linked here. This situation will change imminently with some precipitation forecast over the next ten days. With such low flow rates some water sources have started to freeze in the high country.

Full fire restrictions remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in designated wilderness (both State Park and USFS). Currently fire risk remains very high, although that may change soon.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it will not reopen before February 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be self-issued at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information. Forest Service campgrounds are closed for the season, along with the State Park Stone Creek campground. The State Park campground at the Idyllwild Ranger Station normally remains open all year.

WEATHER Forecast models for the next ten days have been quite variable, but the good news is that as many as three systems may bring some precipitation to all elevations over the next ten days. Very light rain (<0.1in) is forecast early on Tuesday 7th, although no snow is expected in this relatively warm system. There is increasing probability of a moderate and cold storm system on Thursday 9th December, producing some snowfall (2-6in) and dusting as low as 6000ft, plus moderate rainfall at mid and lower elevations. There is less clarity on another moderate but warmer storm next week around 14th-15th, with a few more inches of snow possible for the high country (>9000ft), currently most likely on Wednesday 15th.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 6th December 2021 at 0835 the air temperature was 44.9°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 40.9°F (5°C), 40% relative humidity, and a gentle NW breeze sustained at 2 mph gusting to 6.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 3rd December 2021 at 0850 the air temperature was 38.7°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.7°F (0°C), 65% relative humidity, and a light SE wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 9.8 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 1st December 2021 at 0830 the air temperature was 30.7°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.1°F (-7°C), 31% relative humidity, and a cool NNE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

For the first time since systematic records began, there was no settled snow anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains at the beginning of December. Obviously no snow equipment (e.g., spikes) is required at this time. However, this situation is expected to change soon with storm systems expected in the next ten days. The current poor status of most key water sources, that should also change in forthcoming days, is discussed in detail in the previous Report linked here.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 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 have moved quickly to remove most hazards in 2021. With Santa Ana events and recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, hikers may 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 so much work last year by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July, and has been trimmed periodically throughout 2021.

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

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

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. 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. 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.

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

I was treated to an immaculate set of extremely fresh Mountain Lion tracks on Wellman Trail on 3rd December 2021. In the detail view (above) the knife is 3.6in long for scale, suggesting a relatively small lion. The tracks were very prominent on the frosty trail (below, with my boot tracks to the left and the lion tracks to the right).
I was able to track the lion prints for an entire mile on Wellman Trail. Where the Mountain Lion left the trail there was a characteristic territorial marking scrape (above). Typically lions urinate (or defecate) at the scrape.

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 be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Trail update 1st December 2021

With the end of the month passing (and with no clouds on the horizon, literally) November 2021 is confirmed as the driest in recorded history in both the San Jacinto high country and in Idyllwild. There was no recorded precipitation at mid or upper elevations in the entire month. In Idyllwild it was also likely the warmest November on record, pending final data.

Thursday 25th November we were battered by a strong Santa Ana wind event with gusts above 30mph in Idyllwild, so hikers should not be surprised to find new treefall hazards in places on the trail system. Although my route on 29th from Devil’s Slide Trail to San Jacinto Peak had no new trees down, we did find two fresh large treefall hazards on Seven Pines Trail on 28th.

Full fire restrictions remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in designated wilderness (both State Park and USFS). With unseasonably warm, dry conditions, and periodic Santa Ana wind events, fire risk remains very high.

Unsurprisingly, water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate further. Many springs and creeks dried months ago. The current status of most key water sources is discussed below.

Forest Service campgrounds largely closed for the season earlier in November, along with the State Park Stone Creek campground (Marion Mountain campground will close 1st December). The State Park campground at the Idyllwild Ranger Station normally remains open all year.

Despite recent relatively warm days, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing around the highest peaks (>10,000ft), and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for my most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it will not reopen before February 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be self-issued at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain far above seasonal for at least the next week – in Idyllwild more typical of October than December – before cooling closer to average from about 8th December. About two weeks of dry, predominantly north-east winds are forecast to finally give way to a prevailing westerly air flow from 9th December. There is the possibility of a minor storm system around 10th December and again on 13th-14th.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 1st December 2021 at 0835 the air temperature was 33.4°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 18.1°F (-8°C), 31% relative humidity, and a stiff NE wind sustained at 17 mph gusting to 27.2 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 29th November 2021 at 0825 the air temperature was 38.9°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 30.7°F (-1°C), 43% relative humidity, and a brisk NE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 9.5 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 24th November 2021 at 0830 the air temperature was 30.7°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.1°F (-7°C), 31% relative humidity, and a cool NNE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

For the first time since systematic records began, there is no settled snow anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains at the beginning of December. Obviously no snow equipment (e.g., spikes) is required at this time.

Water conditions remain challenging despite five minor storms in October, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in detail below. To date, temperatures have not been low enough to freeze springs in the high country, although that is possible by mid December.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 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 have moved quickly to remove most hazards in 2021. With Santa Ana events and recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, hikers may 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 so much work last year by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July, and has been trimmed periodically throughout 2021.

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

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

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. The Trail Report has recently “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. In November 2021, 36 treefall hazards on the lower 3.0 miles of trail have been removed (although two new trees fell on this section in severe Santa Ana winds on 25th November). The lower 2.0 miles have also been trimmed and cleared, with (so far) less systematic trail rehabilitation for another mile further up. The trail is now obvious and easy to follow in this lower section. However at least 20 treefall hazards remain on the upper 0.7 mile of trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

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

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is now trickling only very erratically and is no longer reliable. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (the flow remains good for filtering, but is by far the lowest I have ever seen this creek). Sections of the creek are dry near Laws Camp (the creek presumably sustained by subsurface flow).

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

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, and also very weakly where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). Less than two miles further downstream this river is, remarkably, completely dry (see photos in an earlier report here).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow remarkably well. I rework the tiny pool every week when I pass by and there is sufficient depth from which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail all springs have been dry for many months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing well where it crosses the trail. Even when the creek is dry across the trail, small but invaluable fresh pools remain just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek dried up in July. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Mountain Lions are very common and widespread in the San Jacinto mountains, albeit rarely seen. I typically find tracks or scat somewhere several times every month. This relatively fresh scat, composed entirely of deer hair, was in the middle of the Wellman Trail at 9450ft elevation on 24th November 2021. The knife is 3.6 inches long for scale. Tracks nearby on the same trail suggested a relatively small lion (likely <100 pounds weight).

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 be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Trail update 24th November 2021

November 2021 will likely set a number of unwanted meteorological records, most notably being the first November in recorded history with no snowfall in the San Jacinto high country. It will certainly be the driest November, and probably the warmest, since local records began. Although unfortunate for many other reasons, dry conditions with benign temperatures have been ideal for making major progress on trail maintenance, with continued focus on Seven Pines Trail, South Ridge Trail, and Spitler Peak Trail.

Santa Ana wind events peak in frequency in December and January (as discussed in this NWS San Diego video). Another major event is forecast for 24th-26th November, with extremely low humidity expected. Dry north-east winds prevail until 2nd December.

Full fire restrictions remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in wilderness (State Park and USFS lands). With unseasonably warm, dry conditions, and periodic Santa Ana wind events, fire risk remains very high.

The effects of the light precipitation from multiple storms in October rapidly dissipated regionally (as mentioned in another NWS video) and water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate further. Many springs and creeks dried months ago. The current status of most key water sources is discussed below.

Most major Forest Service campgrounds closed for the season earlier this month, along with the State Park Stone Creek campground (Marion Mountain will close 1st December, no water available). The State Park campground at the Idyllwild Ranger Station normally remains open all year. Black Mountain fire lookout closed on 13th, and Tahquitz Peak lookout on 20th November.

Despite recent relatively warm days, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing around the highest peaks (>10,000ft), and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, several Black Bears remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb) uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it will not reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information.

WEATHER The current three day cool spell, in which temperatures are around seasonal averages, continues until Thursday 25th November. Thereafter a strong warming trend will bring temperatures far above seasonal for the last few days of November and into the first week of December. North-east winds, accompanied by very low relative humidity, are forecast for the next ten days. Regrettably there continues to be no significant precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 24th November 2021 at 0830 the air temperature was 30.7°F (-1°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.1°F (-7°C), 31% relative humidity, and a cool NNE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.1 mph.

At the Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 22nd November 2021 at 0905 the air temperature was 38.1°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 26.7°F (-3°C), 36% relative humidity, and a sharp SSE wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 17.3 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared several weeks ago of the very light snow that fell in late October, and spikes are not required anywhere. Water conditions remain challenging despite five minor storms in October, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in detail below. To date, temperatures have not been low enough to freeze springs in the high country, although on the morning of Monday 22nd most of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail was solidly frozen (some unfrozen pools remained just upstream).

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 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 have moved quickly to remove most hazards in 2021. With Santa Ana events and recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, hikers may 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 so much work last year by USFS volunteer Bill Rhoads and myself, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains much less challenging than in 2019.

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July, and has been trimmed periodically throughout 2021.

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

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

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed between February 2019 and early October 2021. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work to improve hiker safety on a trail which has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. In November 2021, all 22 major treefall hazards on the lower 2.4 miles of trail have been removed, plus a couple more further up. The lower 1.5 miles have also been trimmed and cleared, with less systematic trimming for another mile further up also. The trail is now obvious and easy to follow in this lower section. However 33 treefall hazards remain on the upper trail, the route is very obscure in places, and cautious navigation is required for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

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

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is now flowing only intermittently and is no longer reliable. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (the flow remains good for filtering, but is the lowest I have ever seen this creek). Sections of the creek are dry near Laws Camp (the creek presumably sustained by subsurface flow).

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

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, and also very weakly where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). Less than two miles further downstream this river is, remarkably, completely dry (see photos in an earlier report here).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow remarkably well. I rework the tiny pool every week when I pass by and there is sufficient depth from which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail all springs have been dry for many months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when the creek is dry across the trail, small but invaluable fresh pools remain just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek dried up in July. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Trash collected on my eight mile hike route on Tuesday 16th November. Such a haul is not unusual for June, but was very surprising in November. I hiked exactly the same route five days earlier, so almost everything here was from the previous few days. Especially distressing are the dozen sets of visibly used tissue paper, almost all of which were very obvious in or beside the trail, despite some being “buried” under small rocks. Last year I packed out about 90lb of trash from the San Jacinto mountains. This year I am at roughly 130lb with more than a month to go. Clearly we are failing in the basic education of too many of our fellow hikers.

Thank you 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 be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Substantial sections of Seven Pines Trail have been obscured by years of accumulated cones, branches, and fallen trees (above). Slow but steady work is rehabilitating the original route of the trail (below, photos 18th November 2021).

Trail update 17th November 2021

Although it feels pleasantly cool after such a long, hot, summer, this November has so far been very warm and dry across the San Jacinto mountains, and is currently on track to finish as one of the 2-3 hottest in recorded Idyllwild history. Almost every day in the first three weeks of the month has recorded (or will record) well above seasonal temperatures for November. While undertaking trail maintenance work on Saturday 13th, we found wild currant bushes already budding at 7000ft elevation! Perhaps they thought that the cooler October was what passed for winter these days, and that spring has now sprung.

Santa Ana wind events peak in frequency in December and January (as discussed in this recent NWS San Diego video). I spent Thursday and Friday last week as volunteer fire lookout at Tahquitz Peak during a moderate Santa Ana wind event. Another possibly stronger event is tentatively forecast for 24th-25th November. On the plus side, Santa Ana winds produce the clearest visibility conditions of the year, and from Tahquitz Peak on Friday 12th I could clearly see (with binoculars) multiple container ships anchored off the coast.

The effects of the light precipitation from multiple storms in October have dissipated, and water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate slowly, with many springs and creeks having dried this summer. The current status of most key springs and creeks is described below.

The major Forest Service campgrounds closed for the season this past week, including Fern Basin, Marion Mountain, and Boulder Basin (Dark Canyon campground has been closed since late 2018). The State Park Stone Creek campground also closed. The State Park campground at the Idyllwild Ranger Station normally remains open all year. Black Mountain fire lookout closed on 13th, and Tahquitz Peak lookout is scheduled to close on 20th November.

Full fire restrictions remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in the State Park wilderness. With continuing dry conditions, and potential for Santa Ana wind events, fire risk remains very high.

Despite recent relatively warm days, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing around the highest peaks (>10,000ft), and potentially well below freezing when considering wind chill effects (see below for most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, several Black Bears remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb) uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain above average for November until Tuesday 23rd, cooling trend is forecast, taking temperatures down to about seasonal. Although several days in the next week are forecast to be partly or mostly cloudy, regrettably there is no significant precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 16th November 2021 at 0825 the air temperature was 41.4°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.2°F (-2°C), 17% relative humidity, and a bitter NW wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 28.9 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 11th November 2021 at 0845 the air temperature was 37.8°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 25.4°F (-4°C), 42% relative humidity, and a fresh due North wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 15.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country have cleared of the very light snow that fell in late October, and spikes are not required anywhere. Water conditions remain challenging despite five minor storms in October, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in detail below. To date, temperatures have not been low enough to freeze springs in the high country.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 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 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 have moved quickly to remove most hazards in 2021. With Santa Ana events and recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, hikers may encounter 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).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a California Conservation Corps team in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail. One new tree came down in early November 2021 on the PCT just yards south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but it is easily passable for hikers.

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

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 so much work last year by myself and USFS volunteers, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

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. The Trail Report has “adopted” Seven Pines Trail as our current focus of trail maintenance work in order to improve hiker safety on this trail that has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Four major treefall hazards on the Forest Service section were removed on 2nd November 2021, and almost all the lower 1.4 miles of trail were trimmed and cleared by mid November. However at least 33 treefall hazards remain on the State Park section, the trail is obscure in places, and cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

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

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is now flowing only intermittently and is no longer reliable. There is occasional flow (at about 0.2L/min) but without further precipitation input, this source should no longer be relied upon. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (the flow remains good for filtering, but is the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

Wellman’s Cienega north spring (9300ft) flowing gently, 11th November 2021.

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

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, and also very weakly where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). Less than two miles further downstream this river is, remarkably, completely dry (see photos in an earlier report here).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow remarkably well. I rework the tiny pool every week when I pass by and there is sufficient depth from which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail all springs have been dry for many months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when the creek is dry across the trail, small but invaluable fresh pools remain just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek dried up in July. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

Trash collected on my 16 mile hike on Tuesday 16th November. I hiked exactly the same route five days earlier, so almost everything here was from the past few days. Especially distressing are the dozen sets of visibly used tissue paper, almost all of which were very obvious in or beside the trail, despite some being “buried” under small rocks. Last year I packed out about 90lb of trash from the San Jacinto mountains. This year I am at roughly 130lb with more than a month to go. Clearly we are failing in the basic education of too many of our fellow hikers.

Thank you 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 be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Trail update 10th November 2021

After several recent years in which the summer has persisted very late in the year, then abruptly changed to winter, it is so pleasant to have some genuine autumnal weather this season, ideal for long vigorous hikes. We continue to undertake at least a couple of circuitous hikes of the high country, including the highest peaks, every week, which allow for thorough surveys of the water and trail conditions.

The effects of the light rainfall from multiple storms in October have regrettably already dissipated, and water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate slowly, with many springs and creeks having dried this summer. The current status of most key springs and creeks is described below.

Despite some recent relatively warm days, 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 most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, several Black Bears remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb), uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here.

Full fire restrictions remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in the State Park wilderness. Despite recent cooler temperatures and light precipitation, fire risk remains very high.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain well above average for November until Tuesday 16th, when a significant cooling trend is forecast. Regrettably there is currently no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 8th November 2021 at 0845 the air temperature was 39.1°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 29.8°F (-1°C), 32% relative humidity, and a fresh WNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 8.9 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 4th November 2021 at 0840 the air temperature was 46.1°F (8°C), with a windchill temperature of 39.2°F (4°C), 31% relative humidity, and a cool WNW wind sustained at 6 mph gusting to 11.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country have cleared of the very light snow that fell in late October. Water conditions remain challenging despite recent autumnal weather, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in detail below. To date, temperatures have not been low enough to freeze springs in the high country.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 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 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 have moved quickly to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, hikers may encounter 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).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a California Conservation Corps team in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail. One new tree came down in early November 2021 on the PCT just yards south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail, but it is easily passable for hikers.

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

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 so much work last year by myself and USFS volunteers, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

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. There are 33 treefall hazards on the State Park section of the trail. The four major treefall hazards on the Forest Service section were removed by the Trail Report on 2nd November 2021. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

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

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is now flowing only intermittently and is no longer reliable. There is occasional flow (at about 0.2L/min) but without further precipitation input, this source should no longer be relied upon. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (the flow remains good for filtering, but is the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

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

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, and also very weakly where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). Less than two miles further downstream this river is, remarkably, completely dry (see photos in earlier report here).

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, 8th November 2021. This is the lowest flow I have ever seen at this point in the River (but thankfully still more than adequate for filtering).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow remarkably well. I rework the tiny pool every week when I pass by and there is sufficient depth from which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail all springs have been dry for many months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when the creek is dry across the trail, small but invaluable fresh pools remain just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

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 be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Trail and water update 3rd November 2021

Following an October with five minor storms and warm interludes between those cold systems, November is starting with a week of well-above seasonal temperatures. The dusting of snow in the high country from late October has melted from the trail system, and spikes are no longer needed anywhere.

Although there have been minor improvements in flow immediately after recent storms, water conditions in the high country remain poor, with many springs and creeks having dried this summer. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described below.

Despite some recent relatively warm days, 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 most recent weather observations from San Jacinto Peak).

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, several Black Bears remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb), uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information.

WEATHER Temperatures will be above average for the first week of November, before dropping briefly to cooler, seasonal, conditions on 8th-9th. Regrettably there is currently no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 1st November 2021 at 0855 the air temperature was 40.1°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.2°F (-1°C), 28% relative humidity, and a chilly NW wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 15.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 29th October 2021 at 0840 the air temperature was 49.6°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 44.2F (7°C), 35% relative humidity, and a gentle SE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.3 mph.

Sunrise as seen from the PCT about one mile north of Saddle Junction, 1st November 2021.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country have cleared of the light snow that fell last week. Water conditions remain challenging despite recent autumnal weather, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in detail below. To date, temperatures have not been low enough to freeze springs in the high country.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 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 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 have moved quickly to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, hikers may encounter 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).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a California Conservation Corps team in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail.

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

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 so much work last year by myself and USFS volunteers, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

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. There are 33 treefall hazards on the State Park section of the trail. The four major treefall hazards on the Forest Service section were removed on 2nd November 2021. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

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

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is now flowing only intermittently and is no longer reliable. There is occasional flow (at about 0.2L/min) but without further precipitation input, this source should no longer be relied upon. Creeks in Round Valley and Tamarack Valley were dry in May (in 2020 neither dried until August).

Hidden Lake dried up completely in June.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very gently (but adequately to filter). These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail (the flow remains good for filtering, but is the lowest I have ever seen this creek).

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

The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried in May, some four months earlier than in 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, and also very weakly where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). Less than two miles further downstream this river is, remarkably, completely dry (see photos below).

The creek in Little Round Valley completely dried up in early July, reminiscent of the extremely dry years of 2014-16. The same creek dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (PCT Mile 186.4) in April.

Shooting Star Spring (not far below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing weakly and is a very poor option for filtering.

The Deer Springs stream crossing is dry at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6). (Despite some online mapping to the contrary, this is NOT the source for the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.)

The tiny but perennial spring about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction (known colloquially as Switchback Spring) continues to flow remarkably well. I rework the tiny pool every week when I pass by and there is just sufficient depth from which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now dry. All other springs on this trail have been dry for months.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is currently flowing where it crosses the trail. Even when the creek is dry across the trail, small but invaluable fresh pools remain just upslope from the trail (this creek is an especially useful source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

The faucet at Cinco Poses Spring about 4.5 miles up Black Mountain Road continues to flow.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling, not now reliable.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing very gently, but can be filtered). The next two crossings are the same creek, also flowing adequately for filtering.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is now dry. Even in the very dry years of 2015 and 2016, this source did not dry until the autumn.

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 be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

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The North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Seven Pines Trail, 27th October 2021 (above). This is the first time I have seen the river completely dry at this location. Particularly discouraging given that this is immediately following five minor rain storms in the previous three weeks. Below, the same location on 22nd May 2021 (with water, but already low flow for spring snowmelt season).
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Minor storm update 27th October 2021

Wednesday 27th October had the clearest visibility from the high country since late April, with the southern Channel Islands clearly visible from San Jacinto Peak. The combination of widespread precipitation two days earlier literally dampening down the smoke and smog, and a shift to Santa Ana winds blowing what remained offshore, led to lovely conditions.

For the fifth time this month, we had a minor storm system pass through the San Jacinto mountains on the afternoon of Monday 25th October. It started drizzling in both Idyllwild and at San Jacinto Peak at about 1600. In the next four hours a total of 0.56in rain fell at 5550ft in Idyllwild. By 1715 the precipitation had turned to very light snow in the high country, accumulating to just under one inch depth at San Jacinto Peak. Snow dusted down to about 8100ft, settling to a depth of 0.25in above 9000ft, and near 1.0in above 10,000ft. Strong winds accompanied the system, with a maximum wind gust recorded at San Jacinto Peak of 37.1mph, but with sustained winds above 20mph for most of the day. Remarkably by early evening skies were completely clear, and only the strong winds remained.

A short video discussion of the storm and trail conditions recorded at San Jacinto Peak early morning on Tuesday 26th October gave a feel for wind and snow conditions at that time (available here).

Due to snow falling on top of rain and ice, rocky areas and trails were deceptively slippery on 26th-27th, especially around the high peaks. Spikes are very useful if you plan on hiking above 9000ft elevation in the next few days. With rapidly warming temperatures most ice and icy snow will likely be gone from the trail system by the weekend, but some shaded sections of trail may remain challenging.

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

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, several Black Bears remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb), uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here.

Although there have been minor improvements in flow immediately after recent storms, water conditions in the high country remain poor, with many springs and creeks having dried this summer. The current status of most water sources is unchanged from an earlier Report available here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information.

WEATHER Temperatures have been, and will continue, on something of a rollercoaster ride in October. After frigid conditions on 25th-26th, the last few days of October will be well above average for the month. Temperatures revert to cooler seasonal averages starting Sunday 31st October into the first week of November.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Wednesday 27th October 2021 at 0925 the air temperature was 36.6°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.5°F (-5°C), 80% relative humidity, and a fresh NNE wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 21.0 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 26th October 2021 at 0645 the air temperature was 26.5°F (-3°C), with a windchill temperature of 7.9°F (-14°C), 32% relative humidity, and a bitter NW wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 31.9 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 25th October 2021 at 1025 the air temperature was 32.6°F (0°C), with a windchill temperature of 14.4°F (-10°C), 97% relative humidity, and a wild WSW wind sustained at 20 mph gusting to 31.4 mph.

Looking south from San Jacinto Peak just prior to sunrise, 26th October 2021.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Water conditions remain challenging despite recent autumnal weather, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in an earlier Report. To date, temperatures have not been low enough to freeze springs in the high country.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 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 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 have moved quickly to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, hikers may encounter 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).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a CCC crew in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail.

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

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 so much work last year by myself and others, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

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

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. There are at least 37 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my October 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not very familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

Wavy, pre-lenticular clouds, driven by winds over 30mph, across the San Jacinto high country just after sunrise on 25th October 2021.

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 be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Seven Pines Trail, 27th October 2021 (above). This is the first time I have seen the river completely dry at this location. Bear in mind this is immediately following five minor storms in the previous three weeks. Below, the same location on 22nd May 2021 (with water, but already very low flow for spring snowmelt season).

Weather and trail update 20th October 2021

[UPDATE 25th October: it started drizzling in both Idyllwild and at San Jacinto Peak at about 1600 today. By 1715 it had turned to very light snow at the Peak, accumulating at 0.25in/hr. Maximum wind gust recorded this afternoon at San Jacinto Peak has been 37.1mph, with sustained winds at about 20mph.]

[UPDATE 22nd October: an energetic early season storm is expected for the afternoon of Monday 25th. Forecast models vary regarding precipitation amounts, but several inches of snow are possible in the high country, accompanied by near-record wind speeds, with widespread light rainfall (0.5in) below 8000ft.]

Following three minor storm systems in the San Jacinto mountains between 5th and 11th October, we had further stormy weather on Monday 18th. An elevated marine layer on the western side of the mountain range was driven upslope by a very strong West wind, which I measured gusting to 40mph at San Jacinto Peak. There was occasional very light drizzle in Idyllwild, and as we descended the PCT in late morning, at about 8900ft just north of Saddle Junction a few snowflakes were falling (but not settling). The top of the cloud cover was at about 9000ft elevation, and the high country was clear and sunny all day, although cool in the stiff wind. Altogether a perfect morning for a brisk hike.

The minor storm on 11th October was, by just one day, the earliest I have recorded measurable snowfall in the San Jacinto high country in autumn, following an even lighter dusting overnight on 12th October 2018. Within a day, rapid melting meant that there was no snow remaining on the trail system, although today (a week later) a few tiny patches of snow remain in very sheltered locations. Spikes are not currently required anywhere in the high country. This advice may change after a storm expected next Monday 25th.

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

Full fire restrictions remain (for now) in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in the State Park wilderness. Despite the rainfall and cooler temperatures, fire risk remains very high.

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, several Black Bears remain active in the San Jacinto mountains. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb), uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here.

Water conditions in the high country remain poor, although there have been brief improvements in flow immediately after storms. The current status of many key springs and creeks is unchanged from the earlier Report available here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year, and is the best source in Idyllwild for permits and additional trail information.

WEATHER Temperatures have been, and will continue, on something of a rollercoaster ride in October. After frigid conditions on 18th-19th, rapidly rising temperatures to another brief period of warmth above seasonal norms on 20th-22nd will then give way to cooler-than-average conditions starting on 23rd. The last few days of October will again be warmer than average for the month. There is moderate precipitation forecast for Monday 25th October, with light snowfall expected above about 8000ft.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 18th October 2021 at 0845 the air temperature was 25.3°F (-4°C), with a windchill temperature of 0.8°F (-17°C), 55% relative humidity, and a bitter due West wind sustained at 21 mph gusting to 39.7 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 15th October 2021 at 0915 the air temperature was 39.4°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 26.7°F (-3°C), 13% relative humidity, and a steady NE wind sustained at 15 mph gusting to 19.9 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 12th October 2021 at 0855 the air temperature was 16.8°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.3°F (-20°C), 45% relative humidity, and a gusty NNE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 19.3 mph.

Tahquitz Peak and Tahquitz Rock as seen from the PCT just after sunrise on 18th October 2021. An elevated marine layer was being pushed by a west wind that I recorded gusting to 40mph at San Jacinto Peak.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Water conditions remain challenging despite recent autumnal weather, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in an earlier Report. To date, temperatures have not been low enough to freeze springs in the high country.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 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 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 have moved quickly to remove most hazards in 2021. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, hikers may encounter 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).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a CCC crew in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail.

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

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 so much work last year by myself and others, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

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

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. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon campground remains closed.

Jean Peak and Marion Mountain as seen from San Jacinto Peak, 18th October 2021. A sea of cloud at about 8000ft is visible behind the high country, with cloud also rising up the west flank of Marion Mountain.

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 be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Deer Springs Trail at its junction with the southern end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8970ft elevation), early morning on Tuesday 12th October 2021. About 0.25in of graupel snow fell on 11th, but within a day or so it had completely melted from the trail system, and no traction devices are currently required.

Snow storm update 13th October 2021

The San Jacinto mountains were treated to a brief but energetic storm system on Monday 11th October that produced a very light dusting of graupel snow in the high country, plus large hail in Idyllwild. My video discussion of the storm from San Jacinto Peak on the morning of the 12th is available here. There was 0.25in depth of snow everywhere above about 8500ft, with drifting (mainly in the trails) to 0.5in above 9700ft. Melting was rapid and widespread during my descent on the Peak Trail and PCT late morning on 12th.

This is – by just one day – the earliest I have recorded measurable snowfall in the San Jacinto high country in autumn, following an even lighter dusting overnight on 12th October 2018.

Unusually for October, this was actually our third storm in a week. Minor storm systems produced rainfall across the San Jacinto mountains on Tuesday 5th and on Friday 8th, with 0.38in and 0.49in of rain recorded at 5500ft elevation in Idyllwild, respectively. Hoping for the first snow of the season I overnighted in the high country on 7th-8th, but only recorded rain with a little brief sleet, totaling an estimated 0.5in at San Jacinto Peak.

Full fire restrictions remain (for now) in place on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires anywhere in the San Jacinto mountains, including at all USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites, are prohibited. All forms of campfire are always prohibited in the State Park wilderness. Despite the rainfall and cooler temperatures, fire risk remains very high.

Be bear aware. Although rarely reported, several Black Bears remain in the San Jacinto mountains. Earlier reports this summer were from Seven Pines Trail and near Saddle Junction on Willow Creek Trail. I was fortunate to see a very large (>300lb), uniformly dark brown individual at dawn on 7th September near Humber Park. I was able to get a couple of short, poor quality videos, of which one is available here. This was a different individual, based on colour pattern and size, than one I saw on Devil’s Slide Trail in August 2020.

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

Water conditions in the high country remain poor, although there have been brief improvements in flow immediately after storms. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described in the previous Report available here.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild has been closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols since March 2020. Apparently it is unlikely to reopen until 2022. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station has been open almost all year.

WEATHER Temperatures well below seasonal at the beginning of this week are forecast to rise to around, or even slightly above, seasonal for October from 16th onwards. There is currently no additional precipitation in the forecasts.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Tuesday 12th October 2021 at 0855 the air temperature was 16.8°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of -3.3°F (-20°C), 45% relative humidity, and a gusty NNE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 19.3 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 10th October 2021 at 0810 the air temperature was 39.4°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.2°F (0°C), 33% relative humidity, and a light due N wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.9 mph.

Deer Springs Trail at its junction with the southern end of Fuller Ridge Trail (8970ft elevation), early morning 12th October 2021. About 0.25in of graupel fell overnight.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Water conditions remain a concern despite recent autumnal weather, with many springs and creeks already having dried up or having very low flows, as discussed in last week’s Report. To date, temperatures have not been low enough to freeze springs in the high country.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 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).

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 have moved quickly to remove these hazards. With recent storms being accompanied by strong winds, it is likely that hikers may encounter new and additional hazards. Some are described below, others include the PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Strawberry Junction (PCT Miles 182-183, about 7 trees down), and Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees).

Spitler Peak Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by the Trail Report in early July. Marion Mountain Trail was cleared of multiple tree hazards by a CCC crew in late August, along with the adjacent PCT/Deer Springs Trail for 0.6 mile north to the south end of Fuller Ridge Trail.

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

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 so much work last year by myself and others, the whitethorn has grown back rapidly, but still remains less challenging than in 2019.

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

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my most recent 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead. USFS apparently does not expect Dark Canyon Road to reopen this year.

Sunset as seen from San Jacinto Peak, 7th October 2021, immediately prior to a minor overnight rain storm. Black Mountain and Fuller Ridge are in the foreground.

Thank you 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 be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you for your support.

Wellman’s Cienega north spring, with extensive but melting icicles, late morning 12th October 2021.