San Gorgonio Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||18.5 miles (29.8 km)|
|Time||10 Hours (Total Time)|
|Total Climbing||5,390 feet (1643m)|
|Dog Friendly||Off Leash Okay|
|Park Name||Mill Creek Visitor Center|
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.
San Gorgonio’s nickname is “old greyback” because of it’s grey and rounded peak; it’s the only peak in Southern California with a summit significantly above the tree line. The upper slopes are rocky and barren, similar to Mt Whitney. In fact, San Gorgonio is the only mountain that can be seen from Mt. Whitney, 190 miles away. It’s height and position above the San Gorgonio Pass have made it the scene of some tragic plane crashes. Frank Sinatra’s mother died in a plane crash on the mountain. Dean Martin’s son also died in a separate plane crash here.
Planning for the San Gorgonio Hike
- UPDATE: YOU NO LONGER NEED A QUOTA 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). I recommend filling out the permit online here, and then emailing it in to the rangers. Print a copy out for yourself and bring it with you.
- You have the option of splitting this day hike into an overnight backpacking trip. There are a few camping options. High Creek Camp, at 9,440ft is the most popular option (and it has water).
- You still need an approved permit for an overnight hike though. The permit is relatively easy to get (based on availability)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Read the Altitude Sickness on my Mt Whitney guide to learn more.
Where Is The San Gorgonio Hike
Use this trailhead address: 41900 Falls Rd Forest Falls, CA 92339.
You need a parking pass for the trailhead. 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.
Gear For the Hike
This is a serious hike and you need to be well prepared with layers, water, and food. The summit is in an alpine zone and is exposed. Check the summit weather and call the ranger office to check conditions before you leave. Don’t do this hike in the winter unless you have mountaineering experience.
Here’s what I bring:
- Good hiking boots
- Trekking poles
- Daypack with 4.5-6L of water
- Extra Layers
- Emergency gear to spend the night
- An emergency beacon
My Top Gear Picks
Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:
- Garmin InReach Mini Emergency Beacon – Hiking out of cell phone range? Make sure you have one of these two-way satellite texting devices in case your hike doesn’t go as planned. You can read my full review here.
- Injinji Sock Liners With Darn Tough Hiking Socks – This combo is a great way to avoid blisters out on the trail. I have some insider-hiking tips for avoiding blisters here. Pair them with modern, high-tech hiking boots (for women and men) and your feet with thank you.
- Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.
I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.
See My Full Gear List
San Gorgonio Trail Maps
I highly recommend bringing a good paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x Plus and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.
Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
San Gorgonio Hike Directions
Subscribe to HikingGuy on YouTube
Turn by Turn Directions
So you bagged San Gorogonio? Then you need to set your sights on Mt Whitney next!
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