Companion blog: Adventures In Stoving

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Water Sources of the San Jacinto Mountains -- West Side

Over time, I've done a number of overnight and day hiking trips in the San Jacinto Mountains.  I've become fairly well acquainted with the water sources on the west side of the mountains, so I thought I'd put together a list that may be helpful to people.  My most recent trip was July 5 - 7, 2013, and the data here reflects what I observed on that trip as well as my observations going back over the last half dozen or more years.

The water sources listed immediately below are sources that I have a pretty good sense for.  There are other water sources that I haven't got as good of a feel for that I have listed in Appendix IV, Other Water Sources.

First a map of (mostly) the west side of the San Jacinto Mountains.  Click to enlarge.
San Jacinto Mountains -- Water Sources
Next, a key:
1.  First crossing of the N Fork of the San Jacinto River by the Seven Pines Trail
2.  Second crossing of the N Fork of the San Jacinto River by the Seven Pines Trail
3.  Unnamed small stream, Seven Pines Trail
4.  Third crossing of the N Fork of the San Jacinto River by the Seven Pines Trail
5.  Deer Springs Crossing
6.  Flake Spring
7.  Bed Springs Crossing
8.  Rock Spring
9.  Lilly Spring
10.  Outflow stream from Little Round Valley where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail
11.  Stream in the meadow in Little Round Valley
12.  Bed Springs (actual spring)
13.  Deer Springs (actual spring)
14.  Wellmans Cienega (north branch)

Then, comments on each water source:
1.  First Crossing, Seven Pines Trail.  Seasonal.  Unreliable.
     Current Status:  Dry 7/7/2013.
First Crossing, 7/7/2013
2.  Second Crossing, Seven Pines Trail.  Seasonal.  More reliable than First Crossing.
     Current Status:  Low flow 10' below the trail 7/7/2013.
Second Crossing, 7/7/2013
3.  Unnamed stream, Seven Pines Trail.  Seasonal.
     Current Status:  Low flow 7/7/2013.
Unnamed stream, Seven Pines Trail, 7/7/2013
4.  Third crossing, Seven Pines Trail.  Seasonal but far more reliable than First Crossing, Second Crossing, or Deer Springs Crossing.  IMPORTANT TIP:    If Deer Springs Crossing on the PCT/Deer Springs Trail is dry, Third Crossing is only about 10 minutes off the main trail.  This is the best water source of those along the N Fork of the San Jacinto River.  Alternatively, just head to Bed Springs Crossing if you're headed to San Jacinto Peak or to Lower Bed Springs Crossing if you're headed north on the PCT.
     Current Status: Decent flow 7/7/2013
Third Crossing, 7/7/2013
The best place to collect water is slightly upstream of the trail crossing.

5.  Deer Springs Crossing.  Seasonal.  Unreliable except in wet years.
Note the use of the word "Crossing."  Most people just call this "Deer Springs," but the actual spring is far up the mountainside.  This is where the water crosses the trail, so I call it "Deer Springs Crossing" to distinguish it from the point of origination.  This is also the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.
     Current Status: Dry at the trail.  Very small pools just above the trail on 7/7/2013.  Do not expect to find water here.
Deer Springs Crossing, 7/7/2013
6.  Flake Spring.  Very seasonal.  Highly unreliable.  Water only in early season in wet years. 
So named for the large rock flake from behind which the water flows. 
Note:  Flake Spring is my name for this spring and is not a name of common use.
     Current Status:  Dry 7/7/2013.
Flake Spring.  The spring is behind the large rock flake.
7.  Bed Springs Crossing.  Perennial.  Reliable except in the driest of years.  This water source will be flowing when everything else on the west side is dry.
Note the use of the word "Crossing."  Most people just call this "Bed Springs," but the actual spring is far up the mountainside.  This is where the water crosses the trail, so I call it "Bed Springs Crossing" to distinguish it from the point of origination.  
     Current Status:  Good flow 7/7/2013.
Bed Springs Crossing, just above the trail.
This is consistently an excellent water source on the west side.
8.  Rock Springs.  Seasonal.  Unreliable.
So named for the rock which the water flows along in a groove just above the trail.
Note:  Rock Springs is my name for it and is not a name of common use.
     Current Status:  Low flow 7/7/2013.
Rock Springs.  Flowing, but just barely.
9.  Lilly Spring.  Fairly reliable.  Not a lot of flow but consistent.  Second only to Bed Springs Crossing in terms of reliability but always low flow.  Bring something to scoop with and into. 
     Current Status:  Decent flow 7/7/2013.
Lilly Spring

TIP:  Lilly spring is a good place for flower viewing.
Lemon Lillies at Lilly Spring
10.  Trail crossing of stream flowing out of Little Round Valley.  Seasonal.  Unreliable.
When there is water, this is the best place to use a pump type filter because there's usually a pool just above the trail.  It can run all year in wet years but is often dry.
     Current Status:  Dry. 7/7/2013.
Stream from Little Round Valley just above the trail crossing.  Dry 7/7/2013.
11.  Little Round Valley, stream in meadow area.  Seasonal.  Unreliable but more reliable than the trail crossing mentioned above.  Can flow throughout the year in wet years.
Water in stream bed, Little Round Valley, 7/7/2013
     Current Status:  Dry in the main part of the meadow, but water present just above Owl's Hooch Crossing 7/7/2013.  See appendix for detailed instructions for how to find water.
      Note:  The topo map shows a blue line stream just north of Little Round Valley.  Ignore it.  They were smoking crack the day they drew that blue line that far up that dry gulch. There's never water there except in very wet years when there's active snow melt going on or during a thunderstorm.  In other words, almost never.
The map marks a stream here (just north of Little Round Valley). 
Not only is there no water, there's not even a defined stream bed.  Don't bother.
12.  Bed Springs, the actual spring.  Position approximate.
     Current Status:  Good flow 7/7/2013.
Bed Springs, 7/7/2013.
13.  Deer Springs, the actual spring.    Position approximate.  Position not verified.
     Current Status:  Unknown.
14.  Wellmans Cienaga, North Branch. 
     Current Status:  Decent flow 7/7/2013.
Wellmans Cienega, North Branch, 7/7/2013.

I hope you find this helpful.  I'll expand it as time permits.


Appendix I -- Water at Deer Springs Crossing
Tip 1:  If there is no water right at the trail, go upstream a bit.  I was able to find a small pool there.
A small pool just above the trail at Deer Springs Crossing

Tip 2:  If there's no water at Deer Springs Crossing, head back down the Deer Springs Trail to the junction with the Seven Pines Trail.  Go down the Seven Pines Trail to Third Crossing which is perhaps 10 minutes down the trail.  The water is much more likely to be flowing there.

Appendix II -- Water at Little Round Valley
Proceed along the Deer Springs Trail until you see the side trail to camp site 2 (Owl's Hootch).  The side trail is marked with this sign:
The sign for the trail that leads to Owl's Hootch camp site.
Proceed a few feet to the point where the side trail crosses the stream flowing down from the meadow in Little Round Valley.  The stream may have water here.
The point where the side trail crosses the stream from Little Round Valley
If the stream is dry at the crossing point, proceed upstream about ten feet.  The stream flows between two rocks here and water is often forced to the surface.
Water, Little Round Valley, 7/7/2013
Appendix III -- General Tips for Gathering Water
Water can be in short supply in the San Jacinto Mountains. Here are some general tips:
1.  Bright green is the key to finding water.  Look for changes in vegetation.  In particular, look for a clear area in the middle of bright green vegetation.  This is the most likely spot to find water.
Wellmans Cienega, 7/17/2013
Bright green vegetation often indicates water.
Note the relatively clear area to the right -- and notice that there is flowing water here.
2.  Water sources can often be very shallow, particularly in late season.  Bring something to scoop with.  Call me old school if you like, but I like the good old fashioned Sierra Cup.  Its shallow shape and angled sides are ideal for scooping from shallow water sources.
A Sierra cup is ideal for scooping water from shallow sources.
Note size of pool.  I was able to extract four liters.
If you're using a filter or a Steri-Pen, you may need to bring something to pour into so that you can pump out of or treat in.  If you're using chemical means (typically iodine or chlorine dioxide), you can pour straight into your bladder or water bottle.  I've been using a Steri-Pen lately, and I find a cut down 2L Platypus bottle works great.  A 2L Platy already has a 1L marking (the Steri-Pen is designed to treat 1L max at a time) is tall enough that I can immerse the pen, is self standing, and is see through so that I can see if the pen is working.
Treating water with a Steri-Pen
Note how the vessel must be deep enough to immerse the Steri-Pen's bulb

Appendix IV -- Other Water Sources
The following are other water sources that I'm a little bit less familiar with.  Eventually, I'd like to add the water sources marked on this map to the main list.  I don't have as much experience with these, but here's my gut feel based on what experience I do have.
The letters represent points marked on the above linked map:
A -- Strawberry Creek. Seasonal, unreliable.
B -- Strawberry Cienega. Seasonal, but pretty reliable in wet years. Probably reliable to mid season in drier years. Unreliable in very dry years or multi year droughts. Typically low flow. Bring something to scoop with.
C -- Marion Creek. Seasonal, unreliable.
D -- Stone Creek. Seasonal, unreliable.
E -- Unnamed branch of Stone Creek. Seasonal, unreliable.
F -- Lower Bed Springs* Crossing. Perennial, reliable.
G -- Unnamed branch of the N Fork San Jacinto River. Seasonal, unreliable.

*Actually this water source is the combination of the outflow of Bed Springs, Rock Springs, Lilly Springs, and Little Round Valley. I don't have the depth of experience to completely rate the reliability of this water source, but my gut sense is that this would be highly reliable, perhaps the most reliable source on the west side of the San Jacintos above 8,000'.


  1. Great guide Jim! This will definitely come in handy, especially this year. Thanks for putting this together my friend.

    1. You're welcome, Angus. It should be really valuable, particularly in a dry year like 2013.


  2. Thank you!

    I am leading a group of scouts from Humber PArk to Tahquitz this weekend. We will be camping on Saturday July 13th in the Tahquitz valley. Any recommendations on a nice campsite near water for a dozen scouts?


  3. Fred,

    Pick your water first. Take a look at the below map.
    Points "B" and "C" are in the Tahquitz Valley area. "B" will almost certainly have water but is a little hard to find. It's just east of the trail and south of the four way junction. Look for footprints leading to the spring. It's recessed into a hollow in the ground.

    "C" might have water. It did when I was there Memorial Day weekend. Not sure now.

    After you find your water, just look around for sites. There are plenty of good ones near both "B" and "C".


  4. Jim, Thanks for this info. I am heading up there May 15 and I am sure this will help, especially since I want to try out a water filter system.

  5. Hey Jim, have you been up to San Jacinto in the past month or two? Is there any chance of getting water from the spring at Round Valley, or somewhere nearby? Please let me know. Planning on heading up there in a couple weeks, but may have to do the Sierras if there's no chance of finding water.

    1. Dan, sorry, but I just noticed your comment. Round Valley is dry right now. The only nearby water is at the Ranger Station.


  6. Hi Jim,

    I am planning a weekend backpack trip up the Marion Mt. Trail to the peak on July 17-19. Any thoughts on the chance of finding a water source along the way. I am doubtful, considering the meager precip this year. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    1. Glenn,

      Actually, the water situation isn't all that bad. You won't find water in Little Round Valley, but you will find water for sure at Bed Springs Crossing. There wasn't water at Deer Springs Crossing, but just downstream there was water.

      You might find water at Rock and Lilly Springs, but Bed Springs Crossing is the only one you can count on.


  7. Hi Jim,

    Hiking Marion Mtn to peak Aug 15. Any idea if Bed Springs Crossing will be flowing?
    Thanks, Steve

    1. Yes, it will be flowing.


    2. Thanks for the reply HJ, wish I'd have checked back before embarking. Carrying 11 LB's of water plus gear up Marion mountain builds character :) great blog, thanks! I also called Fed and State ranger stations and they told me the source was unreliable and to carry.

    3. Rangers have to be very very conservative. They can be sued if someone suffers from information they've given out. I as an ordinary citizen having no official standing can be a bit more realistic in my appraisal.

      In my experience, Bed Springs Crossing is the #1 most reliable water source in the San Jacinto high country.


  8. Hi Hikin' Jim,
    Does it look like Bed Springs Crossing will have water on the weekend of September 26-27? Our boy scout group would like to hike up the Marion Mountain trail to Little Round Valley and peaks.
    Thanks, Elizabeth

    1. Hi, Elizabeth,

      There should be no problem. Bed Springs Crossing is extremely reliable, and everyone I have spoken too lately says that it's flowing well.


  9. We plan to hike up Devil's Slide this weekend and Round Valley. Does anyone know about the water situation on the South-East side of the mountain?
    Thanks - Ton

  10. I haven't been up for over a month, but at last report the spigot in Round Valley did NOT have water.

    There might be water at Wellmans Cienega. There might also be water at Powderbox Spring.

    And of course, there will be water available at the Ranger Station in Long Valley.


  11. Hey HJ, have you been up in the past few weeks? My wife and I with another couple doing our first backpacking trip ever to the SJ Peak next Wednesday through Saturday. We're doing the clockwise loop from Idyllwild. Day 1: Idyllwild to Strawberry Junction. Day 2: Strawberry Junction to Little Round Valley. Day 3: Little Round Valley to Strawberry Junction. Day 4: Strawberry Junction to Idyllwild. I spoke to the SJ State Park ranger and he said there is NO WATER! Carry 1 gallon per day. That would be about 32 pounds of water to start! I figure I'll take my water filter pump just in case we come across water. What do you figure as to how much water I should take? I weigh in at 145, 5'4" tall, and pretty fit for a 41-year-old fart. Or are we just nuts to do this in the first place?


    1. Hi, Ho,

      I was up last weekend. The ranger is incorrect. There is water.

      WEST SIDE.
      There is excellent water at Bed Springs Crossing. There is also water at Rock Spring. Lilly Spring has water, but the flow is really low. Deer Springs had water as of last Sunday, but it was all but stagnant and may give out at any time. Little Round Valley is completely dry.

      EAST SIDE.
      Wellmans Cienega barely has any water and what's there is very muddy with extremely low flow. I wouldn't count on it. The spigot at Round Valley is dry, but there is water at the ranger station in Long Valley.

      I didn't visit Strawberry Cienega this trip, so I can't comment.

      You didn't say which trailhead you're starting at, but presumably the Deer Springs Trailhead. Take a look at this map:

      Joyce Spring might have water, but I would assume not. Therefore you would need to bring 4 to 6 liters of water each for your first day and first night.

      On your second day, you will pass Bed Springs Crossing which is extremely reliable. Tank up here. You'll want to carry **more** than the day before. I would carry 6 to 8 liters per person. There will be no water in Little Round Valley, and you will not encounter any reliable water the entire next day.

      Day 3 will be tricky since you will not have water at camp in the morning at Little Round Valley, nor will you have water at camp at Strawberry Camp that evening *unless* you find water at Strawberry Cienega, but I can't say if there's water there or not. I wouldn't count on it. However, if you **get an early start**, ration your water intelligently, and take a slow to moderate pace, then you shouldn't burn through too much water.

      Day 4, I'd just high tail it down the trail and get water in Idyllwild. You should probably pack some water in your car. There may be water at Maranatha Spring which is marked on the above map link.

      The preceding would be my approach. I think it's doable, but it will be of course a challenge. If you get into trouble (in terms of water) on Day 3, head down to the ranger station in Long Valley and get water there. Yes, it's significantly out of your way, but better safe than sorry. You'll have to make that decision early on. Once you start down the trail past Wellman Divide, you're pretty much committed. Therefore, inventory your water carefully at Wellman Divide. If you're not sure you can last until you get to your car the following day, then better to head to Long Valley. However, if you loaded up at Bed Springs, you should be all right. For those of you strong enough to carry it, carry the full 8 liters. For the lesser fit or smaller of stature among you, carry 6 at a minimum.

      Hope that helps,


  12. HJ, terrific news! Correct, I'm starting at Deer Springs trailhead at Idyllwild. I like your approach, I think we can do it. You are freaking awesome!


  13. Report on our backpacking to San Jacinto Peak two weeks ago. Well, we didn't make it to the summit, but made it to Strawberry Junction, Little Round Valley and back down to Strawberry Junction. We just didn't have enough in us to make that last 1.3 mile to the summit. The only water source was a flowing stream between Strawberry and Little Round Valley, I don't know which name Hikin Jim uses for this stream, but it was great. We filtered water from this stream going up and coming back down. Met a big black rattlesnake on the trail. Views were spectacular and very clear. Slight wind which was surprising given forecast was 15-20 mph winds. Great 1st backpacking trip. Will do it again to the summit next time!

    1. That's Bed Springs Crossing where you got your water coming and going. That's the only thing up there with any substantial flow right now.

      Glad you had a good time,


  14. Hiked Marion Mtn to SJ Peak on Aug 14, 2016. There are three sources of water, all within about 1/4 mile of each other along the trail about 1/2 mile downhill from Little Round Valley. I believe you call them Bed Springs Crossing, Rock Springs, and a seep another 200 yards up the trail. The spring was flowing well, maybe 1.5" deep and 16" wide. Plenty of flow to fill up. The Rock Spring was nothing more than a sump. The seep was flowing down the trail and making lots of mud for 50 yards or so. No need to stop at the seep or the sump as the spring is so close.

    1. Hi, Dusty,

      The "seep" you're referring to is Lilly Spring. It's pretty much just mud with a trickle of water right now. In some years, it's the best source close to Little Round Valley, when Little Round Valley is dry.

      I agree with you, though, that Bed Springs Crossing is so good that there's little reason to go after the other nearby sources.


  15. Apologies if this is a duplicate. Jim Thank You for making San Jacinto and San Gorgonio safer! Planning a on night stay at Little Round Valley via Deer Springs/Wellman Divide route. Any recent info on water at Bed Springs crossing?

    1. Hi, Brenda,

      If you're coming up from Deer Springs to LRV via Wellman Divide, you probably won't find any water on your way there. I was up a few weeks ago, and Wellman Cienega was very close to being completely dry.

      Now, if you go past Little Round Valley, down to Bed Springs, you should have no trouble. Bed Springs is running fine and should be reliable throughout 2016.

      Hope that helps,


  16. Thanks HJ! Plan to via Deer Springs.

  17. Very belated report on my Sept 10 2016 trip from Deer Springs trailhead. Thank you for being so accurate and detailed HJ! Bed Springs easily accessible and running well across the trail above Deer Springs camp. Other less accessible springs nearby. Lower part of the trail had one brackish spot with yellow jackets everywhere. Have details of locations and photos if I need them later. Also noticed Deer Springs Camp has piping under trail, running up the hill and to a spigot in their private camp (conservation Corp or scouts or who?) Is their water in camp seasonal or are they diverting a perrenial spring?

    1. Brenda, Thanks for the updates.

      The camp is for the California Conservation Corps. I'm not sure exactly what their water arrangements are, but if they've put in a pipe, perhaps they've found something reliable. As for me, I don't count on Deer Springs in the summer and never in a drought year.


  18. Planning an overnight this weekend, first time to SJ, plan is to hike from from Idyllwood, up(using this trail The park website says round valley "and other sites" are dry. Would the Deer Springs camp work as a good place to stop and camp/break up the hike and how much water should we carry(2 people)? Thanks

    1. I meant this route. ;)

    2. John, I don't think camping is permitted at Deer Springs anymore for the public. When you apply for your wilderness permit from Mt. San Jacinto State Park, ask where you can camp.

      As for how much water you should carry, you should base that on how much you have needed on comparable hikes. Bed Springs is really reliable, and you might find water at Joyce and Lilly Springs. Little Round Valley, Round Valley, and Wellmans Cienega are dry.


    3. Thanks HJ, I appreciate it.

  19. Any updates on water sources along Deer Springs Trail? Planning an overnight trip this weekend and hoping I don't have to carry all water.

    Is Bed Spring still flowing and reliable?

    1. Bed Springs is still flowing and is highly reliable.
      Joyce Springs *might* have water.
      Deer Springs *might* have water.
      Rock Spring will probably not have water.
      Lilly Spring will have water but flow is low and muddy.
      No water at Little Round Valley.

      Just plan around Bed Springs.


  20. Hi Jim,
    Any info on water source for Bed Spring? Going up this weekend. Thanks

    1. Always good; always reliable. Count on it.


  21. Hi jim. It's been a few years since I have been up to Bed Springs. Do you know if the 'bed' is still there, or has FS removed it now?
    Also another question: We know that Strawberry junction is where the DS trail intersects the PCT, but what is the name of the junction where the the PCT leaves Angels Glide? I had always heard it referred to as 'Strawberry Cienega junction' by old timers, who have since passed. I am going to be one of those old timers in about 10 years and want to impart my knowledge on the youngins, before someone names a dry creek bed, or some such irony, after Me.
    Thx. Happy New Year. Mike G.

    1. Hi, Mike,

      Not sure FS even knows it's there. There are two frames, what's left of them. One of them is pretty far gone now.

      With respect to trail junctions, I have a map where I have marked all the names as I know them:

      If I'm understanding your correctly as to which junction you are referring to, I've always heard and called that "Cienega Junction". It's sort of between Strawberry Cienega and Wellman's Cienega, so it seems a very appropriate name.


  22. Can you give me the status on Round Valley this spring? Is there water flowing now?

    1. It should be flowing, but I haven't been up for over a month. Everything was still under snow when I was last there.

      Your best bet is to call the State Park ranger station: (760) 327-0222.