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.
When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.
This whole area was badly damaged by forest fires in recent years. Although the area is reopened, John's Meadow Trail is in bad shape and non-existent and dangerous in spots. Your best move is to bag the San Bernadino summits and then return the same way. Thanks to Troy C for the update.
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 now DO need a quota-based permit. And 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. You can get all the permits and instructions on the San Gorgonio Wilderness Associate website here.
Can't get a permit for your date? Try OutdoorStatus.com and get a text message as soon as a cancelled permit opens up!.
Gear For the Hike
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.
As a hiking guide, I test lots of hiking gear. On my picks page, I'll show you all of the gear that I actually use. I don't accept paid promotions or talk about the stuff that doesn't make the cut. It's just the gear that works best, so you don't have to waste your money.
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.
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!).