About the San
Where is the San
Gorgonio Wilderness? How big is it? When was it established?
The San Gorgonio Wilderness is in the eastern San Bernardino Mountains
north of Interstate 10 and south of Highway 38, east of Mentone/Yucaipa,
and west of Morongo Valley. It is managed by both the US Forest Service
and the Bureau of Land Management. It is approximately 95,000 acres in
size. It was established in 1964.
How tall is San
Mt. San Gorgonio's currently accepted (by the
United States Geological Survey)
elevation is 11,499 feet above sea level. However, it was remeasured in
1986 to a new elevation of 11,501.6. Here's a
USGS digital aerial images. It is the highest peak in California south of
the Sierra Nevada.
I noticed a patch
offered through the SGWA's
proclaiming "I Climbed the Nine Peaks". What are the names of the nine
peaks that would satisfy this claim?
From west to east, they are
(a curious "pile of rocks" not recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey,
but recognized by the Boy Scouts of America and many "locals"),
Mt. San Gorgonio.
These peaks are generally linked up by Boy Scouts groups and others on a
three-day outing beginning at the Vivian Creek Trail and culminating at
the San Bernardino Peak trailhead. There are other peaks in the San
Gorgonio Wilderness, but those listed above are all located along the
several mile long ridge from San Gorgonio to San Bernardino Peak.
Dry Lake dry?
Often in late summer Dry Lake does indeed dry up. In late spring and
early summer it usually does have some water in it, though it has not
been completely full for many years now. Fortunately there is a spring,
Lodgepole Spring, near the lake that provides a reliable source of water
for backpackers. Filter or boil water all water in the wilderness before
Visiting the San
What are the current
are the two best places to find out current trail conditions. Please
check out these two sites before calling the Mill Creek Ranger Station
(909) 382-2882 (closed Tues/Wed).
What’s the weather
Click on this link to get the National Weather Service forecast for the
central part of the San Gorgonio Wilderness at approximately 9,600’
Depending upon the stability of the atmosphere, the
lapse rate (change in
temperature per 1000 feet of elevation) may vary from 3-5 degrees
Fahrenheit. A good rule of thumb would be to subtract 4 degrees for each
1000 feet of elevation gained. Or add 4 degrees for each 1000 feet
elevation lost. This can only be used as a guideline, and may vary
considerably depending upon local atmospheric conditions.
Please keep in mind that weather conditions can change
suddenly in the mountains and often without warning. We recommend
dressing in layers and always being prepared for windy and cold
conditions which can occur even in the summertime. In the winter expect
alpine conditions – snow, ice, and extreme weather are often present
from October through May requiring the skilled use of snowshoes or
crampons and ice axe.
In summer time there are often thunderstorms in the
San Bernardino Mountains. Most often these occur in the afternoon and
visitors should not attempt to summit any of the high ridges or peaks
during these storms.
What permits or
passes are required?
Free wilderness permits are required
all hikes into the San
Gorgonio. They may be requested in person, by mail, or by FAX up to
three months in advance from Mill Creek Ranger Station. [apply for a permit]. You may
obtain your permit in person at the Mill Creek Ranger Station, Barton
Flats Visitor Center (summer only), or the Big Bear Discovery Center.
All visitors parking a vehicle on the
San Bernardino National Forest (in addition to the three other Southern
California Forests) must also have the required
Adventure Pass posted in their vehicles. Click
Yes, there are quotas in place for both day hike and overnight visits.
By limiting the number of visitors to the wilderness the Forest Service
hopes to maintain its pristine environment and wilderness character.
Quotas typically do not fill during the week or in the winter. During
summer weekends we recommend planning ahead and applying for a permit in
advance so you will be able to enter at your first choice trailhead, and
camp at your first choice campsites if staying overnight. Some
trailheads and campsites fill up weeks in advance. You may apply for a
permit 90-days in advance of your trip.
trails that do not require a wilderness permit?
There are some nearby trails that do not require a wilderness permit,
since they are outside the boundaries of the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
These include the Wildhorse Creek Trail (2E02), Whispering Pines (1E33),
Ponderosa Vista Nature Trail (1E19), Rio Monte (1E28), and the Santa Ana
River Trail (2E03). But these do require an Adventure Pass be displayed
on your vehicle.
How hard are the trails? How long will it take me to hike to San
These questions are hard to answer because every hiker has different
fitness abilities and a different pace. There are also variables such
as temperature, precipitation, wind, trail conditions, and how much
weight a hiker is carrying in their pack that can affect the time that
it takes to hike a trail. We recommend taking note of a trail’s
starting and ending elevations, its overall length, and also checking on
the condition of the trail and the weather forecast as you are planning
your hike. We also recommend allowing for extra time in case of
Can I have a campfire?
No campfires are permitted within the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Gas
Backpacking stoves are allowed. You do not need a separate permit for
your stove – your wilderness permit will cover it.
Are there bears? Do I
need a bear canister?
Yes, there are black bears in the wilderness. To avoid loss of property
and physical danger, the SGWA now only advocates the use of bear-proof
canisters to store food. We recommend purchasing or renting (see below)
bear-proof canisters, such as those made by
The Garcia canister weighs only 2.7 pounds and also makes a great camp
What campgrounds and
other services are nearby?
Barton Flats, San Gorgonio, South Fork, and Heart Bar are the closest
developed campgrounds to the wilderness. These areas require a separate
fee and reservations (except for South Fork which is first-come,
first-served) are recommended during the summer time. Reservations can
be made at
These campgrounds close during the winter.
There is no campground at Forest Falls.
There are some yellow-post campsites near the Heart
Bar/Coon Creek area. These are dispersed camping areas with no
facilities (no water, no toilets, no trash pick-up). If you have a CA
Campfire Permit, there are certain times of the year when you may have a
wood or charcoal fire at these Yellow-post sites. Be sure to check
current fire restrictions at the Mill Creek Ranger Station, Barton Flats
Visitor Center (summer only) or Big Bear Discovery Center before you
go. Yellow-post sites are first-come, first-served and the road to them
is closed during winter months. Please pack out what you pack in if you
camp at these sites.
The closest towns to the San Gorgonio Wilderness are
Angelus Oaks, Forest Falls, Big Bear Lake, Mentone, and Yucaipa. The
first two have limited services whereas the later three have more
amenities including gas stations, larger markets, and hotels.
What is SGWA and how do
I become a volunteer?
The SGWA is NOT a hiking club - we are an all-volunteer organization
working in and around the San Gorgonio Wilderness as Naturalists, Trail
Patrol, Trail Crew, and serving other vital functions necessary for the
care and preservation of the San Gorgonio Wilderness. If you think you
are interested in volunteering, please have a look at our
page and apply online.
When does the
start and does it provide for room and board?
This question is asked often. Most details regarding the Volunteer
Program can be found on the
page, including those above. The program does not provide room, board,
and is best suited to
Southern California residents.