Distance: 9.9 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 10834' (San Jacinto), 10400' (Miller)
Prominence: 8319' (San Jacinto), 0' (Miller)
Elevation Gain: 2400'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.92
Round trip time: 6 hours
Recommended water: 120 oz.
Parking/Fees: $24 Aerial Tram
I was planning to hike San Jacinto at the end of April on the Devil's Slide trail, but our family decided to take a trip to Palm Springs during spring break so I got there in early April. Devil's Slide is on the south side of the mountain, an unreasonable trip around, so I asked my wife to drop me off at the tram for my first hike to San Jacinto. Until the day before, I was expecting substantial snow on the mountain, but a helpful post by someone on the San Jacinto forum suggested that I would not need snow shoes, so I left some of my winter gear at home.
I took the first tram up at 8:00 am, sharing it with only 4 other people. I registered at the ranger station for my day hike permit and the ranger told me to expect a slushy hike. Temperature was in the low 50s at Mountain Station and hovered between 50F and 60F all day. I began with 4 layers and ended up with 3 after an hour. This was my first trip to San Jacinto State Park and the pine trees and size of the park were both a little surprising to me. I started hitting small patches of snow before 9000' and it started becoming an issue after Round Valley. The altitude also made me work harder than usual for this amount of climbing. There were knee deep post holes left by other people in many places, but the snow was mostly frozen and firm on the way up, so I only hit one or two spots where I sank up to my knees. Past Wellmans' Divide, I lost and found the trail a few times, eventually heading toward the gully between Jean Peak and San Jacinto to rediscover it.
The short side trip to Miller Peak led to an easy class 2 scramble to the summit plaques. The trail was now mostly clear all the way to the stone cabin near the peak. There were some great views from Miller Peak and it was worth the diversion. When I arrived at the stone cabin, I signed the San Jacinto summit register and marveled at the bunk beds and other random stuff in the cabin. Leaving the cabin, I started the next class 2 boulder scramble to get to San Jacinto Peak. The snow was deep in some places between the boulders making foot placement important, but the climb was not difficult. San Jacinto Peak was an altitude record for me at 10834', a few hundred feet higher than Mt. Baldy. I hope it is a short lived record with San Gorgonio and Mt. Whitney planned for the summer. I took photos and a video on the summit, ate lunch, and was getting ready to head down as two other hikers made it up. They had come from LA and Sacramento and from our conversation, were pretty experienced in the SoCal mountains.
After leaving San Jacinto, I scouted around the first bump on the way to Jean Peak and the snow looked to be more of an obstacle than I wanted to fight, so I continued down. I tried to follow the trail I had lost back to Wellman's Divide, but soon lost it again and ended up heading cross country a few miles, generally following the path of least snow resistance. I intersected the trail again shortly before Round Valley and followed it back to the tram. The cross country short cut reduced the normal round trip distance by a mile.
I tested out several pieces of new gear on this trip. I had some cheap REI gaiters that did a solid job keeping snow out of my boots when landing up to my knees. I had a used 686 snowboard jacket (from Craigslist) that was warm and functional. I had a new Marmot Eiger 36 liter pack that kept the weight balanced, but I wished it had more organization. There are three small zippered areas in the lid, and the rest is one big storage area so I was digging around for stuff more than usual. Finally, I had a Therm-a-rest sit pad that I didn't need because there were plenty of dry boulders to sit on throughout the hike.