San Bernardino National Forest Hiking Trails

San Bernardino National Forest hiking trails are among some of the best in the world. You have the highest mountains in Southern California, backcountry trails and camping, and the transition between the coast and desert. It’s not just all mountain hikes though, there’s a hiking trail for everyone here. You can even do a hike that includes a tram ride that gets you up in the mountains without all the work.

Don’t forget to leave your parks pass on your dashboard when you do these hikes.

Name Distance Level Location Climb Dogs
Lake Arrowhead Pinnacles Trail Hike4ModerateHesperia1000Y
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike5.2EasyIdyllwild740Y
Deep Creek Hot Springs Hike5.6ModerateLake Arrowhead1500Y
Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail Hike8.5HardIdyllwild2350Y
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike To Mt San Jacinto11HardPalm Springs2620N
San Bernardino Peak Hike16HardAngelus Oaks4670Y
Hike San Bernardino East Peak From Forsee Creek Trail18HardAngelus Oaks4600Y
San Gorgonio Hike18.5Very HardForest Falls5470Y
Hike Mount San Jacinto From Idyllwild19.5HardIdyllwild5480N
Cactus to Clouds Hike21Very HardPalm Springs10800N
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail Hike

5.2 miles - Easy

Tucked into the foothills around Idyllwild, the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail offers backcountry beauty without heading into the big mountains. This family-friendly hike is easy to follow, has a gentle climb, and offers lots of shade. Even though you’re right next to a residential area, you’ll feel like you’re miles away as you hike through the forest.

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Hike San Bernardino East Peak From Forsee Creek Trail

Hike San Bernardino East Peak From Forsee Creek Trail

18 miles - Hard

Get away from the crowds on this San Bernardino East Peak hike that climbs up the Forsee Creek Trail, meanders along the breathtaking Bernardino Peak Divide Trail, then heads back to the start on the primitive and secluded John’s Meadow Trail. It’s a tough hike with a fair amount of climbing, but the scenery and ruggedness of the San Gorgonio Wilderness make it well worth it. I usually do this as a loop hike in a day, but there are several camping options if you want to make it an overnighter.

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Tahquitz Peak Via Devils Slide Trail

Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail Hike

8.5 miles - Hard

The Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail hike is one of the most popular hikes in the San Jacinto area for a reason. The scenery and views are incredible, the trails are in excellent condition and are well-marked, and the summit includes a visit to the highest fire lookout in San Bernardino National Forest at 8,846 feet. Because of its popularity, there are times when you need to apply for a permit and other times that you don’t. I’ll explain it all in the guide.

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Deep Creek Hot Springs Hike

Deep Creek Hot Springs Hike

5.6 miles - Moderate

Unlike the route from Bowen Ranch, this Deep Creek Hot Springs hike takes you on the free and less-traveled Bradford Ridge Path to the popular hot springs. The hike along the Bradford Ridge Path is a treat in itself, winding its way along lush valleys tucked into the pristine wilderness of San Bernardino National Forest until it joins the PCT, where you hike above Deep Creek. And then, of course, you arrive Deep Creek Hot Springs, a series of jacuzzi-temperature pools next to the river. The scene at Deep Creek Hot Springs can be interesting, to say the least, but plan your trip right and you can enjoy a beautiful hike and a nice soak without any craziness.

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Arrowhead Pinnacles Hike

Lake Arrowhead Pinnacles Trail Hike

4 miles - Moderate

Feeling more like Joshua Tree than Lake Arrowhead, this short but tough hike to the summit of The Pinnacles rewards you with a stone perch where you can soak in 360-degree views from the mountains to the Mojave. The hike ascends through a granite boulder field to a small plateau, then after a last mild scramble to the boulder-pile summit, you reach The Pinnacles peak. It’s a fun hike that’s a bit off the beaten path; don’t be surprised if you have the whole place to yourself.

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Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike To Mt San Jacinto

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike To Mt San Jacinto

11 miles - Hard

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike to Mt San Jacinto is a great way to bag Southern California’s second highest peak without putting in a huge effort. It’s still a tough 11 mile hike, but it’s nothing like climbing to Mt San Jacinto from Palm Springs or Idyllwild. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway cuts about 6,000 feet of climbing off the hike, and offers a nice base station where you can grab a snack after your successful summit. The summit of Mt San Jacinto is one of my favorites because it straddles the line between Coastal California and the Sonoran Desert, allowing you to see the transition between the two. On a clear day you’ll see from the Pacific Ocean to Mount Charleston in Las Vegas. A really fun and insanely beautiful hike.

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cactus to clouds hike

Cactus to Clouds Hike

21 miles - Very Hard

The Cactus to Clouds hike is epic. It was rated one of the hardest day hikes in the world by Backpack Magazine. You start in downtown Palm Springs and climb over 10,000 feet to the summit of Mt San Jacinto, with a large stretch on the treacherous Skyline Trail. The Cactus to Clouds hike should only be attempted by the very experienced and very fit hiker, and only under the right conditions. This guide gives you all the info you need to do this incredible hike safely.

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hike san gogonio views

San Gorgonio Hike

18.5 miles - Very Hard

At 11,503 feet, the San Gorgonio hike brings you to the highest peak in Southern California.  The hike to San Gorgonio is an iconic SoCal hiker rite of passage, and I highly recommend it. There are a few ways to hike to the peak. This hiking guide takes the Vivian Creek trail, which is the quickest way to the summit at 10 hours roundtrip. It’s a tough hike but doable in a day if you train for it.

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San Bernardino Peak Hike view

San Bernardino Peak Hike

16 miles - Hard

The San Bernardino Peak (10,649 feet) hike is tough but rewarding. The San Bernardino Mountains were named after San Bernardino Peak, which was named by one of the pioneer friars in California, Francisco Dumetz in 1835. I like this hike a lot. The crowds are light, the fauna is beautiful, and it offers sweeping views of Mt Baldy, Mt San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Big Bear Lake, and the Inland Empire.

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view from Mount San Jacinto Hike

Hike Mount San Jacinto From Idyllwild

19.5 miles - Hard

There are a several routes to hike Mount San Jacinto. This route from Idyllwild is my favorite. The climb is not as steep as the other routes, you don’t need a special permit, and the views on the whole hike are spectacular. John Muir called the views from Mount San Jacinto the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth.  On a clear day, you can see from Catalina Island to Southern Utah. That’s because Mount San Jacinto, at 10,834 feet, is one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the USA, rising 10,000 feet above the San Gorgonio Pass below. This hike to San Jacinto includes a stretch on the famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) where you can channel your inner Reese Witherspoon. The hike is long, and you need a good level of fitness to do it.

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