San Gorgonio Frequently Asked Questions


About the San Gorgonio Wilderness  

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 Gorgonio Peak? 
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 nice shot from Microsoft's Terra Server, provided by 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 store 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 San Bernardino Peak, San Bernardino Peak East, Anderson Peak, Shields Peak, Alto Diablo (a curious "pile of rocks" not recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey, but recognized by the Boy Scouts of America and many "locals"), Charlton Peak, Little Charlton Peak, Jepson Peak, and 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.

Is 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 drinking. 


Visiting the San Gorgonio Wilderness

What are the current trail conditions? and 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 forecast? 
Click on this link to get the National Weather Service forecast for the central part of the San Gorgonio Wilderness at approximately 9,600’ feet.  

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
for 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 here for details. 

Are there trail quotas?
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.

Are there 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 Gorgonio Peak?
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 unexpected events. 

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
Garcia Machine. The Garcia canister weighs only 2.7 pounds and also makes a great camp seat.

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.

About SGWA 

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
Volunteer Program page and apply online.

When does the Volunteer Program 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
Volunteer Program page, including those above. The program does not provide room, board, or stipends, and is best suited to Southern California residents.