STAY IN TOUCH
hike san gogonio views

San Gorgonio Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Video
  • San Gorgonio Trail Maps
  • Do You Need a Permit?
  • How to Get to the San Gorgonio Hike
Total Distance (?)18.5 miles (29.8 km)
Hike Time10 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Very Hard
Total Ascent (?)5,470 feet (1667m)
Highest Elevation11,503 feet (3506m)
Fees & PermitsParking Fee & & Free Day Use Permit
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Mill Creek Visitor Center
Park Phone909-382-2882

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

Hioh Creek Camp Sign
You don’t have to tackle all 18 miles in one day, you can also split the hike into an overnight at High Creek Camp. Photo Mitch Barrie

After a stretch where no permits were needed, they have been reinstated.

Here are some tips on checking for snow on the trail.

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.

san gorgonio hike bathrooms
Bathrooms are in this building in the middle of the parking lot.

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. Be prepared for changing conditions and potentially spending the night if something goes wrong.

If you want to check if there’s snow on your hike, read this guide.

Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.

Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
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 Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.

Gaiagps

Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2021.

My June 2021 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

San Gorgonio Trail Maps

Click Here To View Map

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

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Fenix 6 Pro

How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.

3d Map

san gorgonio hike 3d 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.

Elevation Profile

san gorgonio hike elevation
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.

San Gorgonio Hike Directions

It’s easy to say thank you for this guide!

Support these free hiking guides by buying anything at Amazon or REI using the links below. I get a small commission and there is no extra cost to you. I depend on your clicks to run the website without annoying ads or sponsorships.

Buy Anything on Amazon   Buy Anything on REI.com 

Don’t do this hike in the winter unless you have mountaineering experience.

Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

san gorgonio hike parking
There’s a lot of parking at the trailhead. During weekends it fills up quickly.
san gorgonio hike board
Look for the hiking board that marks the beginning of the hike.
san gorgonio hike start
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.
san gorgonio hike trail signs
Avoid the cabins and keep heading straight. There are trail signs to point you in the right direction.
san gorgonio hike road
The road gets really primitive and rocky. Sections of the road were washed out by flooding. Keep going straight.
san gorgonio hike at mill creek
A little before 0.5 miles, you’ll see a big trail sign. Follow the arrow to the left and cross Mill Creek.
mill creek crossing
Crossing Mill Creek can be tricky. The trail splits apart and comes back together. Look for the brown trail signs on the other side.
san gorgonio hike signs
Signs mark the start of the Vivian Creek trail proper on the other side of Mill Creek.
san gorgonio hike goes up
Now you go up. And up. Oh, and up. This part is steep but it’s a great way to wake up your body.
san gorgonio hike views
It’s a tough mile or so up, but the views are great. Take your time.
San Gorgonio Wilderness sign
Towards the top of the climb you enter the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
san gorgonio hike levels off
A little after 1.6 miles the trail levels off.
san gorgonio hike trail
There’s a tricky part by a fallen tree. Hike to the right. The left has an area with a ‘no camping’ sign.
san gorgonio hike by vivian creek
Enjoy this mellow part of the hike along Vivian Creek. The grade is gradual and the scenery is lush.
cris hazzard eats on san gorgonio hike
This section is a good opportunity to eat and fuel up.
san gorgonio hike turn-off
At about 3.3 miles there’s a turn-off. Stay left towards High Creek.
san gorgonio hike junction sign
Here’s a detail of the previous junction sign. Again, head toward High Creek.
san gorgonio hike climbs
Now you start climbing again. The switchbacks are tough but not as bad as the first part of the hike.
view of mt baldy
Take breaks to turn around and check out the views. That’s Mt Baldy in the distance.
signs for High Creek camp
At around 5.8 miles you’ll start seeing signs for High Creek camp.
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.
san gorgonio hike switchbacks
There’s a stream at High Creek, cross it and continue up some long, gradual, rocky switchbacks that seem to go on forever.
ridge on san gorgonio hike
At about 7.3 miles you reach a ridge. To the right is a little view area. The trail goes left.
san gorgonio hike viewpoint
The viewpoint is close and worth a stop. It has sweeping views to the south.
san gorgonio hike climb
Head back on the trail and start climbing again. You can see the terrain starts to change here.
views of Mount San Jacinto
As you climb, you’ll have great views of Mount San Jacinto to your right.
view of San Gorgonio Mountain peak
At about 7.5 miles, you’ll start to get views of your final destination, the San Gorgonio Mountain peak.
sparse trees on san gorgonio hike
The trees are sparse as you climb. If the weather is bad, you’ll really know it by this point of the hike.
steep section on san gorgonio hike
The trail gets steep in this section.
san gorgonio hike crosses the tree line
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.
cairns on san gorgonio hike
The trail splits apart and comes together in some sections. Look for cairns if you get lost.
Bernardino Peak Divide Trail sign
At about 8.8 miles, hike to the right as the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail joins from the left.
san gorgonio hike trail junction
Shortly after that, there’s another junction. Stay left toward San Gorogonio peak.
san gorgonio hike trail
Almost there! They call San Gorgonio “old greyback” because it’s a grey hump.
cris hazzard with san gorgonio sign
BOOM! You made it! There’s a mandatory pose with the sign when you summit. There’s also a USGS marker you can poke around for.
rock shelter on san gorgonio hike
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.
san gorgonio hike panorama
The panorama from San Gorgonio is awesome. You’re so high up that you can really see the curvature of the earth.
cris hazzard on san gorgonio hike
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!

This guide last updated on June 3, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

Please help me make these guides better by answering a few short questions. Thank you!

Related Guides

Popular Articles