4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Accept the day-long (or days-long) challenge of climbing Southern California's highest peak: San Gorgonio Mountain.

The barren 11.5K-foot summit of San Gorgonio Mountain, the highest elevation in Southern California, is a classic destination for San Diego hikers. The century-old Vivian Creek Trail route to the top from the south is the easiest of about eight distinct routes or variations; even so, you face a round-trip of 15.6 miles with a total elevation gain and loss of 5700 feet. Some people backpack the route over two or three days, while fit dayhikers clock in at ten hours or less. Be aware that until about mid-September dangerous afternoon thunderstorms may visit Gorgonio's higher slopes.

Whether dayhiking or backpacking, you must secure a wilderness permit from the Mill Creek Ranger Station, at Mill Creek Road (Highway 38) and Bryant Street, east of Redlands. You will pass this facility if you are driving up from San Diego by going through San Bernardino and Redlands. The station currently opens at 8 a.m. weekdays and 6:30 a.m. weekends. Some permits may be available by self-registration outside the door before those hours. Others may be available in advance by mail. You will also need a National Forest Adventure Pass ($5) per day, for parking at the trailhead. Call 909-794-1123 for more information.

The trailhead lies at the east end of Valley of the Falls Boulevard (Forest Home Road), just east of the cabin community of Forest Falls. Valley of the Falls Boulevard intersects Highway 38 at a point 6.2 miles east of the Mill Creek Station and 14 miles east of Redlands.

From the paved parking lot at the road end, walk east (uphill) past a vehicle gate and follow a dirt road for 0.6 mile to its end. Go left across the wide boulder wash of Mill Creek and find the Vivian Creek Trail going sharply up the oak-clothed canyon wall on the far side. The next half mile is excruciatingly steep; and this pitch is worse on the return, when your weary quadricep muscles must absorb the punishment of each lurching downhill step.

Mercifully, at the top of the steep section, the trail levels momentarily, then assumes a moderate grade up alongside Vivian Creek. A sylvan Shangri-la unfolds ahead. Pines, firs, and cedars reach for the sky. Bracken fern smothers the banks of the melodious creek, which dances over boulders and fallen trees.

Near Halfway Camp (2.5 miles) the trail begins climbing timber-dotted slopes covered intermittently by thickets of manzanita. After several zigs and zags on north-facing slopes, you swing onto a brightly illuminated south-facing slope. Soon thereafter, the sound of bubbling water heralds your arrival at High Creek (4.8 miles) and the trail camp of the same name. Be ready for a chilly night if you stay here; cold, nocturnal air often flows down along the bottom of this canyon from the 10,000-foot-plus peaks above.

Past High Creek Camp the trail ascends gently on several long switchback segments through lodgepole pines and at length attains a saddle on a rocky ridge. The pines thin out and appear more decrepit as you climb crookedly up along this ridge toward timberline. At 7.2 miles, the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail intersects from the left. Stay right and keep climbing on a moderate grade across stony slopes dotted with stunted pines.

On the right you pass Sky High Trail, which bends around the mountain and descends toward Dry Lake and South Fork Meadows in the north. Don't give up! Keep straight and keep going. A final burst of effort puts you on a boulder pile marking the top of the San Bernardino mountain range.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Strings dominate at Oct. 20 Mainly Mozart

Prokofiev, Mozart, Beethoven at Del Mar Fairgrounds
Next Article

Spanish hacienda at the southern edge of La Jolla

This Bird Rock estate features “an exceedingly rare oceanfront pool overlooking the surf.”

The barren 11.5K-foot summit of San Gorgonio Mountain, the highest elevation in Southern California, is a classic destination for San Diego hikers. The century-old Vivian Creek Trail route to the top from the south is the easiest of about eight distinct routes or variations; even so, you face a round-trip of 15.6 miles with a total elevation gain and loss of 5700 feet. Some people backpack the route over two or three days, while fit dayhikers clock in at ten hours or less. Be aware that until about mid-September dangerous afternoon thunderstorms may visit Gorgonio's higher slopes.

Whether dayhiking or backpacking, you must secure a wilderness permit from the Mill Creek Ranger Station, at Mill Creek Road (Highway 38) and Bryant Street, east of Redlands. You will pass this facility if you are driving up from San Diego by going through San Bernardino and Redlands. The station currently opens at 8 a.m. weekdays and 6:30 a.m. weekends. Some permits may be available by self-registration outside the door before those hours. Others may be available in advance by mail. You will also need a National Forest Adventure Pass ($5) per day, for parking at the trailhead. Call 909-794-1123 for more information.

The trailhead lies at the east end of Valley of the Falls Boulevard (Forest Home Road), just east of the cabin community of Forest Falls. Valley of the Falls Boulevard intersects Highway 38 at a point 6.2 miles east of the Mill Creek Station and 14 miles east of Redlands.

From the paved parking lot at the road end, walk east (uphill) past a vehicle gate and follow a dirt road for 0.6 mile to its end. Go left across the wide boulder wash of Mill Creek and find the Vivian Creek Trail going sharply up the oak-clothed canyon wall on the far side. The next half mile is excruciatingly steep; and this pitch is worse on the return, when your weary quadricep muscles must absorb the punishment of each lurching downhill step.

Mercifully, at the top of the steep section, the trail levels momentarily, then assumes a moderate grade up alongside Vivian Creek. A sylvan Shangri-la unfolds ahead. Pines, firs, and cedars reach for the sky. Bracken fern smothers the banks of the melodious creek, which dances over boulders and fallen trees.

Near Halfway Camp (2.5 miles) the trail begins climbing timber-dotted slopes covered intermittently by thickets of manzanita. After several zigs and zags on north-facing slopes, you swing onto a brightly illuminated south-facing slope. Soon thereafter, the sound of bubbling water heralds your arrival at High Creek (4.8 miles) and the trail camp of the same name. Be ready for a chilly night if you stay here; cold, nocturnal air often flows down along the bottom of this canyon from the 10,000-foot-plus peaks above.

Past High Creek Camp the trail ascends gently on several long switchback segments through lodgepole pines and at length attains a saddle on a rocky ridge. The pines thin out and appear more decrepit as you climb crookedly up along this ridge toward timberline. At 7.2 miles, the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail intersects from the left. Stay right and keep climbing on a moderate grade across stony slopes dotted with stunted pines.

On the right you pass Sky High Trail, which bends around the mountain and descends toward Dry Lake and South Fork Meadows in the north. Don't give up! Keep straight and keep going. A final burst of effort puts you on a boulder pile marking the top of the San Bernardino mountain range.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

The Guardian of Memory: brokenhearted at the border

Carlos Spector stacks the grain in a neat pile for the birds to fight over.
Next Article

24 Hour Fitness was my bathroom

“We played to like five people that night and reluctantly ate raw ground pork to avoid being rude.”
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close