- Home - Hiking Trails - LA Mountain Hikes San Gorgonio Hike
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, 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.
18.5 miles (29.8 km)
5390 ft (1643 m)
Marked Forest Service Trails
Long distance, climbing, altititude
Great Views, Climbing
Parks Pass Needed
Planning for the San Gorgonio Hike You have the option of splitting this day hike into an overnight backpacking trip. There are a few camping options, with High Creek Camp being the most popular (and it has water). Call the ranger’s office to check on availability of campsites if you want to backpack San Gorgonio. UPDATE: YOU NO LONGER NEED A PERMIT FOR A DAY HIKE! They are voluntary now and help the rangers understand traffic in the area (and hopefully get more funding to support these trails). You still need a permit for an overnight hike though. If you want an overnight permit to hike San Gorgonio, and it’s easy to get. Call the Mill Creek Visitor Center at 909-382-2882 and see if there is a space open for the day you want. If there are spaces available on your date, go to the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association website and follow instructions on getting a permit. You can send the permit by mail, or for a quicker turnaround, fax the PDF form in. After faxing, I got my permit back within the hour. You can also walk into the Mill Creek Visitor Center and get a walk-up permit. If there are spaces left, you just fill out the form and start hiking. If not, you don’t. There might be a ranger at the campground checking permits. Just show them your piece of paper and he’ll mark it. It’s as easy at that. San Gorgonio Hike Trail Maps
Google Maps trailhead:
Big Falls Picnic, Forest Falls, CA, 92339, USA Hike Location The San Gorgonio hike is about 90 minutes east of downtown LA. 3D Hike Map The hike starts in the valley by Mill Creek, does a tough quick climb to Vivian Creek for the middle section, and then goes straight up in the end. There are some gradual sections in the middle, but expect to be going up for most of the hike. Hike Elevation Profile The San Gorgonio hike basically just goes up. You have to pace yourself because it's a long hike. The last stretch is steep, at altitude, and tough. Interactive Hike Map San Gorgonio Hike Map Downloads View a Printable PDF Hike Map Download the Hike GPX File San Gorgonio Hike Directions What to Expect San Gorgonio is the only mountain that can be seen from Mt. Whitney, 190 miles away. It’s nickname is “old greyback.” There have been lots of plane crashes on San Gorgonio. Frank Sinatra’s mother died in a plane crash on the mountain. Dean Martin’s son also died in a separate plane crash here. The San Gorgonio hike is an extremely tough hike, but not technical. You need a good level of fitness to attempt it. I recommend hiking Mt. Baldy and San Jacinto to build up to San Gorgonio. Likewise, you need to be well prepared with layers, water, and food. The summit is in an alpine zone and is exposed. Call the ranger office to check conditions before you leave. Don’t do this hike in the winter unless you have mountaineering experience. You might feel the effects of altitude on this hike, including headache, fatigue, and nausea. If you do, stop, and rest. Make sure you’re well hydrated. If, after resting, you still feel the symptoms, be prudent and turn around. Some people pop a Diamox. You need a parking pass. I use the affordable National Parks Pass, which gets me in every park, monument, and national forest. You can also use an (Southern California only) Adventure Pass, or buy a $5 day permit from the ranger’s office. Turn by Turn Directions There’s a lot of parking at the trailhead. During weekends it fills up quickly. Bathrooms are in this building in the middle of the parking lot. Don’t forget to get your permit before you go. Keep it with you as you hike. If you see a ranger, they might ask to see it. Look for the hiking board that marks the beginning of the hike. The very beginning might be the trickiest part of the hike. You will be following the dirt road up along the Mill Creek riverbed. Keep going straight. Avoid the cabins and keep heading straight. There are trail signs to point you in the right direction. The road gets really primitive and rocky. Sections of the road were washed out by flooding. Keep going straight. A little before 0.5 miles, you’ll see a big trail sign. Follow the arrow to the left and cross Mill Creek. Crossing Mill Creek can be tricky. The trail splits apart and comes back together. Look for the brown trail signs on the other side. Signs mark the start of the Vivian Creek trail proper on the other side of Mill Creek. Now you go up. And up. Oh, and up. This part is steep but it’s a great way to wake up your body. It’s a tough mile or so up, but the views are great. Take your time. Towards the top of the climb you enter the San Gorgonio Wilderness. A little after 1.6 miles the trail levels off. There’s a tricky part by a fallen tree. Hike to the right. The left has an area with a ‘no camping’ sign. Enjoy this mellow part of the hike along Vivian Creek. The grade is gradual and the scenery is lush. This section is a good opportunity to eat and fuel up. At about 3.3 miles there’s a turn-off. Stay left towards High Creek. Here’s a detail of the previous junction sign. Again, head toward High Creek. Now you start climbing again. The switchbacks are tough but not as bad as the first part of the hike. Take breaks to turn around and check out the views. That’s Mt Baldy in the distance. At around 5.8 miles you’ll start seeing signs for High Creek camp. Continue through High Creek Camp on the trail. High Creek Camp is a good option if you want to backpack over two days. You can also refill your water bottles in the creek here. There’s a stream at High Creek, cross it and continue up some long, gradual, rocky switchbacks that seem to go on forever. At about 7.3 miles you reach a ridge. To the right is a little view area. The trail goes left. The viewpoint is close and worth a stop. It has sweeping views to the south. Head back on the trail and start climbing again. You can see the terrain starts to change here. As you climb, you’ll have great views of Mount San Jacinto to your right. At about 7.5 miles, you’ll start to get views of your final destination, the San Gorgonio Mountain peak. The trees are sparse as you climb. If the weather is bad, you’ll really know it by this point of the hike. The trail gets steep in this section. Shortly after that steep section, you climb above the tree line and enter the barren, moon-like terrain on the way to the peak. It can be pretty windy here, even if the weather is nice. The trail splits apart and comes together in some sections. Look for cairns if you get lost. At about 8.8 miles, hike to the right as the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail joins from the left. Shortly after that, there’s another junction. Stay left toward San Gorogonio peak. Almost there! They call San Gorgonio “old greyback” because it’s a grey hump. BOOM! You made it! There’s a mandatory pose with the sign when you summit. There are some rock walls up here in case you want to camp in a shelter. It’s also a good place to hunker down if the wind is crazy. The panorama from San Gorgonio is awesome. You’re so high up that you can really see the curvature of the earth. San Gorgonio is a popular hike, expect some company if you’re at the summit during the day. On this day, a kid was cracking golf balls off the summit. To return, hike back down the way you came. It’s a long day, so pace yourself and watch your footing. I tend to roll my ankles more when I’m tired. Happy hiking! So you bagged San Gorogonio? Then you need to set your sights on Mt Whitney next! San Gorgonio Hike Video Please subscribe to my YouTube channel here! Support This Site
This site is a labor of love because I want people to get outdoors and enjoy the trails safely. It takes hundreds of hours of my time and hundreds of dollars of my money to add new content, maintain, and update. A small amount of money from affiliate sales and banners help offset my hard costs. If you'd like to donate to help the cause, I appreciate all the help, but certainly don't feel obligated to. You
can give whatever you'd like with your credit card. Again, I appreciate any help, and these directions and tips are and always will be free for everyone to enjoy. You can also help support this site by checking out discounted gear REI outlet. ↓↓↓
How To Hike in the Mountains
Mountain hiking embodies what hiking is all about: breathtaking views, fresh air, and a good workout. Here’s you’re guide on how to hike the mountains safely.
Mt Baldy Hike
The Mt Baldy hike brings you to the highest point in LA at 10,064 feet. With about 4000 feet of climbing, it’s a tough yet popular hike, and well worth the effort. You can see from the Pacific to the Mojave on a clear day.
Hike Mount San Jacinto From Idyllwild
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. To hike Mount San Jacinto from Idyllwild, you’ll need a good level of fitness, it’s a tough one.
San Bernardino Peak Hike
The San Bernardino Peak (10,649 feet) hike is tough but rewarding. The crowds are light and it offers sweeping views of Mt Baldy, Mt San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Big Bear Lake, and the Inland Empire.
Cactus to Clouds Hike
The Cactus to Clouds hike is epic. It has over 10,000 feet of climbing, 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.
My Best Hiking Gear List
I hike a lot, and I go through a lot of gear. Here’s my best hiking gear list. This list features all the hiking gear that is worth your time, skipping the junk that you don’t need. I take a high-tech and low-tech approach, giving you the convenience of hiking with technology while offering low-tech backups in case the fancy gear fails. Everything you see in this hiking gear list is what I use on every hike that I do. I update this page regularly when I test and use new hiking gear.
LA Mountain Hikes
LA is not usually thought of as a mountain hiking city, but some of the best LA hikes are in the high mountains, all within an hour or so of downtown. In fact, some of these peaks are only a few thousand feet lower than Mt Whitney. Check out these great LA mountain hikes.
The Best LA Hikes
Hiking isn’t what comes to mind when you think of LA, but there are actually some pretty awesome LA hikes. You have cool trails and parks like Runyon Canyon nestled in the middle of the city. There’s also the iconic hike to the Hollywood Sign. If you’re in the north part of the city, Topanga State Park is a big outdoors playground with lots of good hikes. If you’re on the south side of LA, check out the hikes in Orange County. The great southern California weather means that most can be hiked year round.
Read More A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
Copyright © 2017 HikingGuy · All Rights Reserved
I'm a proud member of the
Sierra Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Adirondack Mountain Club,, the American Alpine Club, the National Audubon Society, and the American Hiking Society.
This information provided by HikingGuy.com is presented as a public service to those wishing to enjoy the outdoors. The recipient may use this information with the understanding that HikingGuy.com makes no warranties, although every attempt will be made to ensure the information is accurate. This website is not intended to replace official sources and information should not be considered error-free or not be used as the exclusive basis for decision-making. The use of the information provided by this website is strictly voluntary and at the user’s sole risk. HikingGuy.com assumes no responsibility or liability whatsoever associated with the use or misuse of this data.
Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. Regardless,
I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.