San Jacinto Ranger District campgrounds, trails now open

Little Gabriel Vargas, 8, tries to grab an ear of corn from brother Alexander, 9, to be roasted on a campfire during a camping outing in Dark Canyon campground in the San Jacinto Ranger District. Older brother Eric, 12, simply enjoys roasting his marshmallow. The district’s campgrounds opened May 21 and have been busy since. Tony Ault photo
Little Gabriel Vargas, 8, tries to grab an ear of corn from brother Alexander, 9, to be roasted on a campfire during a camping outing in Dark Canyon campground in the San Jacinto Ranger District. Older brother Eric, 12, simply enjoys roasting his marshmallow. The district’s campgrounds opened May 21 and have been busy since. Tony Ault photo

IDYLLWILD – U.S. Forest officials in the San Bernardino National Forest San Jacinto District report the districts campgrounds, since opening day May 21, have almost filled up every weekend and hikers continue to enjoy the wilderness trails despite some continuing trail closures.

The mild weather has helped campers and hikers enjoy their outings more this season along with slightly better rainfall quantities that have kept fire danger slightly lower than in the past few years.

The long-distance Pacific Crest Trail hikers are still facing portions of the trail in the San Jacinto and San Bernardino mountains closed because of the Lake Fire and the Mountain Fires. They find themselves rerouting and those portions of the trail that takes them from Mexico to Canada and awaiting their reopening, that still remains to be determined by the Forest Service.

In the San Jacinto Ranger District, the U.S. Forest Service campgrounds available without hookups for tent and small RV campers are Marion Mountain, Fern Basin and Dark Canyon.  Reservations can be made at Fern Basin and Marion Mountain (1-877-444-6777 or online at recreation.gov), but Dark Canyon is on a first come, first served basis. Rates are $10 at Marion and Fern Basins and $12 a day at Dark Canyon. All have water and vault restrooms, according to the Forest Service website.

U.S. Forest Service day picnic and lake sites are also available at Lake Hemet on Highway 79 and Lake Fulmor and Fuller Mill Creek on Highway 243 in the San Jacinto Ranger District. Restrictions apply to entering North Fork creek at Fuller Mill picnic area and Dark Canyon campground because of the federally endangered and protected Mountain Yellow-Legged frog.

County and state campgrounds are also open in the Idyllwild and Pine Cove areas with reservations required. Several private campgrounds, like Thousand Trails in Idyllwild, are also open.

The wilderness trails in the San Jacinto Ranger District require free wilderness permits, and no fires. The trails that remain open include Devil’s Slide, Southridge, Seven Pines, Deer Springs, Black Mountain, Marion Mountain, portions of the Tahquitz Peak loop trail and popular Ernie Maxwell Trail. The Devil’s Slide trail has a hiker limit during the weekends. Hikers using that trail on weekends can check in and obtain a special permit at the Idyllwild Ranger Station at Highway 243 and Pine Crest Avenue in Idyllwild. The regular wilderness permits are also available at the station, but not on the trails.

The Mountain Fire three years ago nearly obliterated the Caramba, Willow Creek, portions of Fobes Ranch and other trails connecting with the Pacific Crest trail. Those remain closed to hikers until further notice with U.S. Forest Service, Forest Service Volunteer Association, Pacific Crest Trail Association, Wilderness Association and other volunteer crews continuing to try to rebuild it. The danger is in the burned out snag trees, land and mudslides during rainstorms and hollowed out tree stump holes left in the wake of the fire.

Also hindering the PCT hikers is the closure of some of the trails in the San Bernardino San Gorgonio Wilderness area that remain closed because of the Lake Fire. Hikers best check with the area ranger stations for the latest trail and campground information.

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