Snow Creek to San Jacinto

Snow Creek in the summer = a strong candidate for ‘mother of all hikes’ in Southern California.

Final Stats:

15.5 miles, 11000 ft

EDIT: I am adding some wisdom for those who want to do this ‘hike’. This is not a hike, this is a off-trail scramble / climb. If you even want to attempt doing this as a day hike, you need the following requirements

1. Go with someone who has done the hike before. Not easy to navigate, even with GPS coordinates (which have higher error in with high canyon walls).
2. Be able to sustain 2000 ft gain / hr on normal trail for a long period. Like hiking Skyline (8500 ft) in 4 hrs. This is going to take you at least TWICE as long to get to San Jacinto than via C2C
3. Have strong navigational skills. Understanding where you are going is extremely important. You don’t want to take the wrong chute and end up cliffed out, or simply run out of time.
4. Be comfortable hiking through brush and stinging nettle.
5. Be comfortable with sustained class 3 climbing at high altitude and when fatigued.
6. Prepared for conditions (snow, ice, etc…). Do you know where water is available? How high is the last source? Very tough info to get and prepare for
7. Plan on spending the night

Photos are geo-tagged
Click for more stats & gps files

Snow Creek is a relatively popular spring climb for its potential to have 5000′ of sustained climbing on snow. Not being a mountaineer, a spring climb never appealed to me. But when Snow Creek Steve posted pictures of he & Fernando doing the climb in the summer, I was highly intrigued. The climb looked beautiful and had a lot of scrambling. When Steve suggested doing it again, I was in.

The old standard was a route trespassing through DWA’s private property up the canyon. Since a bunch of ninnies started announcing all their illegal plans online, the DWA cracked down, leaving people looking for an alternative. Rick Kent and GigaMike explored a route along the ridge east of the creek, and Steve and Fern have done and “refined” this route 5 or so times, so a harder, yet legal alternative appears to be set. Add on the increased difficulty of rock scrambling / climbing instead of a snow ascent, this route is very strenuous!

We started a bit after 4 am about 1/3 of the way up Snow Creek Rd. Fern couldn’t make it, but he still got up and help us with a car shuttle. Then he went to go run / cycle up the tram road for a while. At 4 am!

After traversing SE for a while, we approached the base of the ridge. It was very steep, and I probably was carrying too much weight as usual. This was going to be fun.

After 1500 ft of climbing the grade lessens a bit and we get our first view of San Jacinto

We hit a bump at 4300′ and began a slight descent while traversing on the west side of the ridge. You can sort of see a shelf in the terrain to follow, but it wasn’t that easy.

Most of the traverse was a mix of this

It took ~ 80 min to do the traverse down to Falls Creek. We took a break under the trees below

After a short climb onto the west side, we connected up with the old route on a use trail. We reached Snow Creek at 5400′ and took a nice break. I wanted to ice my ankle a bit but the water was so cold I could only hold it in for 30 seconds! Steve took his weekly nap:

While I was resting I saw this rock that looks a lot like an angry man’s head. Maybe he’s watching you to make sure you don’t trespass!

After a bit we continued up, where the rock scrambling begins. I let Steve go first so he could check out his favorite plant, stinging nettle.

We approached the chockstone, and took this chute to the right to get around it.

Then we hit the main slab of snow left, with perhaps 800′ of climbing. And it’s melting away fast.

Now if you know me, I have no real interest in winter climbing, but I knew this short climb should be relatively innocuous – it wasn’t that steep and it would have been hard to slip on that snow. The main concern was making sure we did not step walk around parts that had been severely melted away underneath.

The crux may have been the transition from snow to rock. According to Steve a few weeks ago there was a direct transition, but now there was a 3 foot gap that we had to jump across. Our main concern was that the snow would give out when we jumped, but it turned out pretty solid.

We hiked underneath a few more snow tunnels. This was really cool and one of the main things I was excited about seeing. It did not disappoint.

Now, we’re at around 6800′, so there’s still 4000 ft of scrambling left! It was a lot of fun, but tiring. Climbing up is more work than walking up a steady incline for sure, and that definitely adds up on this route. We took the chutes that end up directly hitting the peak (R R L R).

I was definitely feeling it. I was drinking lots of fluids but still getting a headache. Not surprising since I hadn’t been hiking much lately and was not used to the altitude nor whole day exertion. Heading up the final chute was a nice feeling.

We hung out on the top for a brief moment before heading down. It was an exhausting 15 hr day, but well worth it. The views were spectacular. There was a unique feeling of isolation in the canyon, we could see the 10 freeway but were so many hours away from people. This is definitely a special hike/climb and the toughest I’ve done.

As for avoiding private property, this is the route compared to DWA’s property.

Related posts:

Cow Canyon Saddle to Bighorn Ridge
Chantry Flats Loop
South Mt. Hawkins via Pigeon Ridge

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This entry was posted on Sunday, August 15th, 2010 at 8:55 am and is filed under Trip Report, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

23 Responses to “Snow Creek to San Jacinto”


Lynn August 15th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I loved looking at the pictures of your hike. Wow, that hike looks difficult. I’ve always taken the tram up to start the trail to the summit of San Jacinto. I sure have missed a lot of wonderful scenery taking the easy way. I loved the snow caves and waterfalls. I’ve never seen anything like the snow caves (in-person). I’m not fit enough to take the trail you took, so thanks to you I know what I’m missing.


Chenendez August 16th, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Where’s your write-up to part 2 of your day? You know, the part where you were dropped off at the Museum and immediately did C2C solo after this trip. Cuz if you didn’t, that’s so weak.


August 17th, 2010 at 8:59 am

@Lynn: Thanks. Any hike is a great hike. Taking the tram and then hiking around up there is really nice too. But yeah it was really cool to see the snow, I was glad to do that once.

@Che: How did I know you would say that?

John Y.

John Y. August 19th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Masochistically epic! Would you rate it harder than C2C?


steve August 19th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

C2C is an easy trip, this is completely different. even a C2C2C is a good bit easier to get through.


August 20th, 2010 at 9:15 am

I would agree. I mean I wouldn’t say C2C is easy, but let’s say the uphill of that could take like 5-6 hours, where this uphill part would take 10 (being optimistic). just a lot more to deal with


Seth August 26th, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Looks amazing. Never hiked through a snow tunnel before. Bravo on the accomplishment!

jeff fidler

jeff fidler September 14th, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Man that looks Sweet! Congrats, that looked like one hell of a hike! Do you need a rope to do this? I for sure couldn’t make it all the way, but might check it out and do as much as I can in maybe 4-5 hours then turn back. Scenery was awesome!


September 20th, 2010 at 8:42 pm

thanks! we didn’t need a rope, but there was 800 ft we did on snow so I can’t say what lies underneath. have to go out of the main chute a few times to bypass some 5th class stuff

david hess

david hess October 3rd, 2010 at 4:40 am

I have wanted to do Snow Creek for a number of years now. I would be interested in climbing in June or July of 2011. Anybody whose done it, want to do it again?


October 3rd, 2010 at 10:56 am

there’s probably a handful of people who’ve done the legal route w/o snow. I might be willing to organize a climb up, maybe even in November, if there is enough persuasion and the conditions are just right.

zee renn

zee renn May 17th, 2011 at 7:39 pm

It’s been three years since I’v been up, but by the map, I have bear left at 6400′, left at 7400′, right at 8400′, and left at 8800′.
That is the complete opposite of what you’ve said at your 6800′ pic.


May 18th, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Hi Zee,

I was speaking based on reference of travel / sight (south), which is the opposite of the map orientation (north).

Brian Peterson

Brian Peterson September 20th, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Do you have any interest in doing this hike in two weekends (10/1-10/2)? My buddy and I are strong hikers looking for a major challenge. He has done all the major 100 mile ultras in the country, including the Hardrock 100. I’ve done some great day hikes including the Rim to Rim to Rim and the Zion Traverse. Let me know what you think, shoot me an email.


Gambolin' Man November 14th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Wow, just incredible! What a feat of stamina and determination! Nice job, guys!

David Hess

David Hess April 16th, 2012 at 10:43 am

I would love to attempt this route over the summer (2012). Is anybody interested in doing it in July or August?

David Hess

David Hess July 15th, 2012 at 9:38 am

Steve – thanks so much for taking me along yesterday to climb Snow Creek (July 14th) – by far, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done and it was such an honor to be with you and your friends. an over 20 hour day! God bless you buddy. Dave


July 16th, 2012 at 5:01 pm

David, glad you got to hike with Steve! and Fern I bet was there too. You should write up a TR on the San Jacinto forum.

Sean Burns

Sean Burns June 19th, 2013 at 9:56 pm

I am thoroughly invested in this hike, and have been eyeing it for a couple of months now. Is anyone interested in setting out on this hike in the next month. I would be happy to field any questions about my ability to do the climb, but would rather my first attempt be with someone who has done this in the summer, rather than getting lost down the wrong chute.

Chris Hancock

Chris Hancock July 3rd, 2013 at 7:15 am

Anyone willing to hike & climb this route in August or September?


July 3rd, 2013 at 7:48 am

Chris & Sean, send me an email at ze.apelido at

Mark Angelos

Mark Angelos April 16th, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Suggestion regarding how to obtain GPS coordinates to work around DWA land? (I have done the hike before.)


Josh July 2nd, 2016 at 7:11 pm

Anyone interested in doing snow creek this summer? Please let me know.

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