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.
Getting to the Trailhead
The Forsee Creek Trailhead is in Angelus Oaks, about 15 minutes up CA-38 from the popular San Bernardino Peak Trailhead. The last section of the drive is on a dirt road that has some rough spots, but it’s doable in a low-clearance car if you go slow. I did it in a Kia Niro and was okay. I would have liked to blow through it in my old Jeep, but not in the cards for me these days.
You need a National Parks Pass or Adventure Pass to park in the lot. There are no toilets or facilities here.
Permits for the Hike
For a day hike you don’t need a quota-based permit, but you’re asked to fill out a free permit and email it to the ranger’s office so they can keep track of usage. If you want to camp at one of the primitive campgrounds along the route, you’ll need a permit for that, which you can book in advance. Rangers do turn around hikers who plan on camping but don’t have an approved permit. Each campground has a daily quota.
This is a long hike and you should prepare accordingly. I generally go through 1L of water (or beer) every 4 miles, and on this one I’ll go through about 4-5L There are some water sources along the hike where you can fill up, but they’re not always reliable. As always, better in the spring, worse in the fall. The slopes can be steep and trekking poles are useful on this hike, especially on some of the more primitive sections of John’s Meadow Trail.
In the winter, you’re pretty high up, so this hike can become a mountaineering experience. Even in the summer, temperatures on the San Bernadino Peak Divide Trail can be windy and chilly. Check the conditions before you go.
I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good. Reviews & Lowest Prices: Women – Men
On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.
I’m a big fan of GPS watches (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar. I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.
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Maps for the Hike
There are a few routes you can take to San Bernadino East Peak and I chose this particular routing because it’s beautiful and relatively easy to follow. The climb goes up Forsee Creek Trail, then across the San Bernadino Peak Divide Trail with great views, then back down on the San Bernadino Peak Trail, then back to the start on the John’s Meadow Trail. This hike hits San Bernadino East Peak, but you can also easily bag Andersen Peak and San Bernadino Peak on the way too.
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Hike San Bernardino East Peak From Forsee Creek Trail Map Downloads