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Fish Creek Trail To San Gorgonio Mountain
The Best LA Hikes

Fish Creek Trail to San Gorgonio Mountain

  • 20.5 miles - Hard Effort
  • 8-10 Hours (Total)
  • 3,700 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 11,503 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

what does this mean?

Offering solitude and the easiest (but not easy) climb to San Gorgonio Mountain, the Fish Creek Trail is a great hike to escape the crowds. Getting to the trailhead is a challenge, but once there, you'll start the hike just 3500 feet below the summit, and a well-designed trail helps you keep momentum as you climb to the highest point in SoCal. Unfortunately, there's some damage from the 2015 Lake Fire, but it's still a beautiful hike with great views and rugged wilderness.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Fish Creek Trail (1W07)
  • Parking and Permit Information
  • Insider Tips for the Hike

When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

Where is the Fish Creek Trail?

Ahh... getting to the trailhead is an adventure in itself.  After turning off the main CA-38 road at the Heartbar Campground, the road quickly turns to dirt. You'll make a right turn at the signed junction for Fish Creek onto 1N05, and then the 7-mile adventure starts.

The road is rutted. The ruts are large enough in places that you will have to slowly and carefully pick your way through the bumps and holes. The deepest ruts are between the start of 1N05 and the Aspen Grove Trailhead. If you can get there, the rest will be fine. Your best bet is to have a 4x4, and second best is to have a high-clearance vehicle. Subarus have enough clearance (about 8 inches) to make it. Overall, you'll want to go slowly. Even when the road gets smooth, ruts can come up unexpectedly. I generally go at about 10-15mph, slower in the rutted sections. Plan on about 45 minutes from CA-38 to the Fish Creek Trailhead.

Along the way there are some narrow sections with a steep drop on the side. There are periodic wider turnouts. If you encounter another car, technically the vehicle facing downhill must yield to the driver facing uphill, but usually it's whatever seems safest for both parties. Just go slow and concentrate; you'll be fine.

In the late fall there can be more traffic here because it's a popular spot for deer and bear hunting. Check the dates for the season (it's zone D14 / J11).

The trailhead address is:
Fish Creek Trail 1W07, 240 Forest Cir, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305

If it doesn't show up on your mapping program, use:
34.124946253834985, -116.7666708488588

I've included the route for the dirt road in my GPX file (below) in case you don't have cell reception (you probably won't).

Fish Creek Trail Directions 3
It's hard to convey ruts in an image, and usually hard to see them when you drive. Here's what a normal section of the road looks like.
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Some of the road is smooth and easy to cruise on.
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As you approach Fish Creek Trailhead, make sure to turn right here. The sign for Mission Springs Trail Camp at this junction is a little confusing.
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The parking area is massive, especially given its remoteness.

There are no toilets or water fills at the trailhead.

Permits for the Fish Creek Trail

The San Gorgonio Wilderness Association handles the permits, and they are easy to apply for using their online portal. There's a quota system, but the remoteness of this trail effectively means that it's always pretty easy to score a permit. You can print your permit out or save it to your phone (as long as your phone works).

Camping on the Fish Creek Trail

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At Fish Creek Saddle there's a cool tent site surrounded by logs.

Given the length of this hike (20.5 miles), some folks will want to camp and break the trip up. The area along this route is a great area to have a primitive wilderness camping experience. Know that there are no facilities (because you are in a Wilderness Area), just a flat area to pitch a tent and maybe a log to sit on. You will need a campfire permit to use your stove.

I've included images of some of the campsites in the directions below, but here's the rundown on what they are like.

Gear For the Hike

This is a proper backcountry hike in the mountains and you should prepare accordingly. Bring layers and shells for changing weather conditions. In the winter, snow closes this route unless you are comfortable mountaineering. There is water along the beginning of the trail, the last spot being just past Fish Creek Camp. In the late summer these can dry up. I usually bring 3L and cache a 1.5L bottle at Fish Creek Saddle. The gentle gradient on the trail makes trekking poles unnecessary unless you usually hike with them.

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.
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Fish Creek Trail Maps

Fish Creek Trail Directions 2
The hike goes through several areas burned in the 2015 Lake Fire. There are dead trees and loose rocks. Step with care as the sandy soil can be loose.
Fish Creek Trail Directions 11
All of the important trail junctions are signed.
Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

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Guides to Help You Navigate

Elevation Profile

Fish Creek Trail Elevation
After a short downhill at the start, you'll have a climb up to Fish Creek Saddle, then a flat section to Mine Shaft Saddle, and then a climb up to the summit.

Landmarks on the Hike

LandmarkDistanceElevation
Trailhead08180
Fish Creek Camp1.78600
Fish Creek Saddle5.19900
Mine Shaft Saddle69960
C-47 Crash710400
Summit Trail Junction9.511350
Summit10.2511503

3D Map

Fish Creek Trail 3d Map
From the trailhead you'll wind up to Fish Creek Saddle, then have a flat section above Dry Lake, and then tackle a series of switchbacks before winding around and up to the summit.

Fish Creek Trail to San G Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

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The trailhead is easy to spot from the parking lot.
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And right after you start, you enter the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area.

Did you know that before the Wilderness Act of 1964 protected San Gorgonio Mountain, there were plans to build a ski resort on it? Yup. The Defenders of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, the predecessor of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association, helped protect the area before (and after) the Federal act kicked in.

Fish Creek Trail Directions 9
The beginning of the trail is downhill and sandy, and goes through an area badly damaged by the 2015 Lake Fire.

To see what this area could potentially look like after 50 years of recovery, check out the nearby Exploration Trail, which has recovered from the 1970 Bear Fire.

Fish Creek Trail Directions 10
Go straight past the junction with the Aspen Grove Trail.
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The trail winds around and goes through Fish Creek Meadows, along the banks of Fish Creek.
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The trail crosses over Fish Creek.
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And then you start gently climbing.
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At around 1.7 miles you'll see the turnoff for Fish Creek Camp on your right. Go straight.
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You can see Fish Creek Camp from the trail.
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One last crossing of Fish Creek. This is usually the last place to find water.
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Now you start climbing. There are a series of long switchbacks.
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The trail winds through a fire damaged area as it comes around the north side of the slope.
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As you hike up on the north side, you'll be able to see the road that you drove in on across the valley.
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There's a sweet dispersed campsite on this stretch with views to the north.
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And soon you'll head away from the north side and start making your way up the canyon to Fish Creek Saddle. You can catch your first glimpses of San Gorgonio Mountain as you hike here.
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When you get to Fish Creek Saddle, hike straight through.

The mountain peak back to your left at this junction is called Grinnell Mountain, after Joseph Grinell, the famous biologist who studied in this area.  Originally it was called Fish Creek Mountain. There's a faint use trail to the summit; it's about 1 mile each way.

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As you leave the saddle you'll see a trail on the right heading down to Dry Lake. Keep hiking straight toward Mine Shaft Saddle.
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This section of trail is nice and level.
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Look down to your right for views of Dry Lake, which is not always dry.
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Keep going straight when the North Fork Meadows Trail joins from the left.
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Then you'll arrive at Mine Shaft Saddle, where the Fish Creek Trail officially ends. Make the left onto the Sky High Trail.
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Here's a closeup of the sign at Mine Shaft Saddle. Making the right will bring you down to Dry Lake.
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Start hiking uphill on the Sky High Trail.

Tbe Sky High Trail was built in the summers of 1965 and 66 using shovels, crowbars, and dynamite. It was modeled after the steady and switchbacked climbs of the Sierra Nevada.

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Off to the left you'll get nice views of Ten Thousand Foot Ridge, Whitewater Canyon, and North Fork Meadows. Remember what Ten Thousand Foot Ridge looks like; you can see it again from the summit.
Plane Wreck Sky High Trail
Just before you reach the 10,400 ridgeline, you'll see the C-47 plane wreck come into view. The trail goes right through the wreck area.
Fish Creek Trail Directions 35
There's a memorial to airmen who lost their lives here.

This Air Force C-47D crashed during a snow storm on December 1, 1952. It was flying from Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, making stops in New Mexico and Arizona on the way to nearby Norton Air Force Base. Bad weather kept rescue crews at bay for three weeks after the crash. When they finally reached the crash site, it was covered in 12 feet of snow. The rescue mission was dangerous as well; a Sikorsky HRS-2 helicopter had to crash land at Mine Shaft Saddle (you can still find the rotor if you look around). The bodies of the victims weren't retrieved until the following May when the snows melted. Three of the men had survived the crash but froze to death.

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If you look up and down the gully, you'll see more wreckage. Given the story, it's a solemn place.
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Just after the crash site the trail starts a series of switchbacks.
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You'll stat to get some great views as you climb, including Sugarloaf Mountain to the north.
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After the switchbacks end the trail winds around to the west. San Jacinto is poking its head out to the left.
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And then the trail winds around and you can see the summit of San Gorgonio Mountain.
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Keep your eyes open down to the left for views of The Tarn, a shallow lake of snowmelt, now smooth, dry and white. Early Defenders of the San Gorgonio Wilderness maps list it as "(Bob) Tosh's Tarn" after the naturalist who explored the San Gorgonio Wilderness in the 1960s. His work was part of the documentation that granted this area official Wilderness Area designation.
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You'll also get some great views of the peak called Dragon's Head. Between Dragon's Head and The Tarn, it all sounds like something out of Game of Thrones.
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At the small dogleg in the trail, you'll notice a boulder-filled gully to your right. Some people do the short climb up these rocks (class 2) to the flat camping area just before the summit. It probably cuts about 0.75 miles off the hike. I put the track in the GPX file and map, but if this is your first time, just experience the regular trail.
Fish Creek Trail Directions 44
On the last stretch of the Sky High Trail you'll see the Vivian Creek Trail along its upper slopes in the distance.
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And then you'll reach the end of the Sky High Trail. Make the right to continue the short distance to the summit.
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Here's the sign at that junction.
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The trail is rockier than what you just did on the Sky High Trail.
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Soon you'll see the summit in front of you.
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And here you are, the summit of San Gorgonio Mountain! Take your photos and celebrate.

Before the 1960s hikers would scratch their names onto the rocks when they summited. The Forest Service started leaving wood boards at the summit where they could scratch their names instead, which then became trail registers. Today those wood boards have evolved into the photo-friendly summit signs you see today.

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If you look east from the summit, you can clearly see the Ten Thousand Foot Ridge where you climbed up from. Just head back the way you came and that's the hike.

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).

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