Day hike permits no longer required – end of an era… Thoughts?

Home Forums Trail Conditions Day hike permits no longer required – end of an era… Thoughts?

This topic contains 11 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  cyndijohnson 1 week, 5 days ago.

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  • #1968

    chris in redlands
    Participant

    Quietly, at some recent point in time, the USFS decided to stop requiring permits for day hikes into the wilderness. This is a giant reversal on decades-old policy. I’m up at the junction for jackstraw springs right now and was curious what you think about it.

    I was going to discuss it with folks I ran into on the trail today, but so far on this beautiful Sunday, I’ve not encountered a single person.

     

    Chris

  • #1970

    zippetydude
    Participant

    In speaking with the ranger last weekend I had the impression that the order requiring quotas had expired (temporarily) but that it might be replaced by another order much like the Lake Fire closure expired but was then replaced by another order. Also, it seemed like he said it would still be required to get a permit.

    As far as having no limitations on numbers, if it starts to get overcrowded like Baldy then I hope they reinstate the limits right away. Who wants to show up on the peak and have a couple hundred people up there? I enjoy running into others on the trail, but if it turns into an overcrowded mess that would be a shame.  Nothing wrong with giving this a try, but I hope it’s a cautious try.

  • #1971

    chris in redlands
    Participant

    If that’s the case, I wonder why they’ve let the orders expire? How long has the permit system been in continuous operation? Since the creation of the wilderness in 1964? I can’t find any history of the permit system online. I also wasn’t aware that the order requiring permits was something that required renewal…I guess I assumed it was a permanent policy that would have to be actively canceled.

    Has the Lake Fire closure order been renewed? I can find no evidence that it has.

    I could just be looking in all the wrong places, but it would be nice if the USFS was a bit more transparent about this stuff. A press release or something would be nice.

    Yesterday was a fantastic day in the mountains. I saw literally two people; one guy in the distance who was leaving the eastern high point of Anderson as I arrived at the true summit, and one guy going up who I passed on my way out around 9,000 feet.

    If I had to guess, the eventual outcome of not requiring a permit for day hikes in the SGW will be increased traffic on the Vivian Creek Trail and maybe the South Fork Trail. This would be accompanied by reduced traffic on every other trail. I’m basing that on the assumption that even with the permit system in place, everyone who set out for a day hike ended up going on a hike somewhere in the wilderness. Lots of them intended to go up Vivian, but had to settle for some other trail. Some of them even had to go up Momyer (gasp!). Now they’ll all go up Vivian.

    So it’ll be the same number of people in the wilderness, just concentrated on one or two trails. Is that better or worse for the wilderness than spreading them out all over the mountain? For my money, it sounds like a better arrangement…I’ve long ago given up hiking the Vivian Creek trail except on weekdays and in the winter. Too many people, even with the permits. Fewer people on the trails that I enjoy is fine with me.

    I don’t think the San Bernardinos will ever be the crowded San Gabriels. The San Gabriels are too close to LA. I’m thankful for those mountains…they keep the crowds out of the San Bernardinos.

  • #1972

    chris in redlands
    Participant

    If that’s the case, I wonder why they’ve let the orders expire? How long has the permit system been in continuous operation? Since the creation of the wilderness in 1964? I can’t find any history of the permit system online. I also wasn’t aware that the order requiring permits was something that required renewal…I guess I assumed it was a permanent policy that would have to be actively canceled.

    Has the Lake Fire closure order been renewed? I can find no evidence that it has.

    I could just be looking in all the wrong places, but it would be nice if the USFS was a bit more transparent about this stuff. A press release or something would be nice.

    Yesterday was a fantastic day in the mountains. I saw literally two people; one guy in the distance who was leaving the eastern high point of Anderson as I arrived at the true summit, and one guy going up who I passed on my way out around 9,000 feet.

    If I had to guess, the eventual outcome of not requiring a permit for day hikes in the SGW will be increased traffic on the Vivian Creek Trail and maybe the South Fork Trail. This would be accompanied by reduced traffic on every other trail. I’m basing that on the assumption that even with the permit system in place, everyone who set out for a day hike ended up going on a hike somewhere in the wilderness. Lots of them intended to go up Vivian, but had to settle for some other trail. Some of them even had to go up Momyer (gasp!). Now they’ll all go up Vivian.

    So it’ll be the same number of people in the wilderness, just concentrated on one or two trails. Is that better or worse for the wilderness than spreading them out all over the mountain? For my money, it sounds like a better arrangement…I’ve long ago given up hiking the Vivian Creek trail except on weekdays and in the winter. Too many people, even with the permits. Fewer people on the trails that I enjoy is fine with me.

    I don’t think the San Bernardinos will ever be the crowded San Gabriels. The San Gabriels are too close to LA. I’m thankful for those mountains…they keep the crowds out of the San Bernardinos.

  • #1975

    shawnsisler
    Participant

    Great topic and comments.

    Public input can be helpful in determining what is needed to protect and limit the impact on the wilderness.

    The Wilderness Act of 1964 requires management of human-caused impacts and protection of the area’s wilderness character to insure that it is “unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as wilderness. The Wilderness Act mandates opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation and that wilderness is a place that is in contrast with areas where people and their works are dominant.

    We will see if that still holds true for the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

    San Goronio Wilderness permits are still required for overnight camping!!!

    SGWA volunteer

  • #1978

    stbrnnr
    Participant

    I do hope you’re right, Zip, about this being a temporary (and offseason) transition.  Currently the limited day-hike permits cap all the “meet-up” crowds (to 12 heads max per permit) and uber-popular social media challenge participants that–regardless of distance from LA–have to summit SG and SB to complete their events (have you noticed the impact of these same programs on San Jacinto traffic?).

    If SB trail limit is ~14 permits per day as I’ve been told, a total of 168 heads could in theory be coming and going if each permit went to a meet-up/ 6-peak challenge group.  Without such permit and head-count limits…what might the impacts on SB and Vivian trails be in next year’s high season?  Shudder to think!

    I did Forsee loop a few weekends back–dozens of hikers on the SB trail section–some blasting loud music from portable blut00th speakers–dozens more on the SB summit.  Was a scene and it’s unlikely I’ll be going anywhere near that side of the range again on weekends bet Memorial and Labor Day holidays.  The rest of the range touched by that loop was how it should be and has long been (imho) for a true wilderness experience.

    Rangers and Volunteers: please reinstate the mandatory permit program for next year–at least between those holidays mentioned.  Or at minimum on Vivian and SB trails, so long as these public challenge events continue to run.  Thank You! (SGW permit system supporter since 1980).

  • #1979

    chris in redlands
    Participant

    Fads come and go. I believe we’re nearing the zenith of the current trend toward outdoor activity. What’s cool today is passe tomorrow, and what of the meetup groups and crowds? Are they patently bad for the wilderness or are they contrary to your idea of what is best? The two may well be different, without either being right or wrong.

    If it is the intention of the forest service to eventually reinstate the day hike permit system, I’m on board. I just hope that in implementing it, they revamp the old way of issuing permits. Not just the silly fax machine process, but the idea that a number of permits is meaningful, rather than a number of people, pets, and stock. As it was when it expired, a single permit could have one lone individual on it, or it might be a dozen people, each riding a horse with a dog in tow. That’s not a very good system for monitoring or managing wilderness impact.

    <span style=”font-size: 16px;”> Respectful enjoyment of the wilderness with minimal impact can be accomplished with or without permits. Solitude is and always will be available in the San Gorgonio wilderness. If you are having trouble finding it, you’re just not looking hard enough. So is camaraderie and organized social group endeavors. Not my cup of tea usually, for a day in the hills, but it’s easy to avoid, so it’s hard to complain. </span>

  • #1980

    chris in redlands
    Participant

    Fads come and go. I believe we’re nearing the zenith of the current trend toward outdoor activity. What’s cool today is passe tomorrow, and what of the meetup groups and crowds? Are they patently bad for the wilderness or are they contrary to your idea of what is best? The two may well be different, without either being right or wrong.

    If it is the intention of the forest service to eventually reinstate the day hike permit system, I’m on board. I just hope that in implementing it, they revamp the old way of issuing permits. Not just the silly fax machine process, but the idea that a number of permits is meaningful, rather than a number of people, pets, and stock. As it was when it expired, a single permit could have one lone individual on it, or it might be a dozen people, each riding a horse with a dog in tow. That’s not a very good system for monitoring or managing wilderness impact.

    Respectful enjoyment of the wilderness with minimal impact can be accomplished with or without permits. Solitude is and always will be available in the San Gorgonio wilderness. If you are having trouble finding it, you’re just not looking hard enough. So is camaraderie and organized social group endeavors. Not my cup of tea usually, for a day in the hills, but it’s easy to avoid, so it’s hard to complain.

  • #1981

    shawnsisler
    Participant

    It is good to hear some positives for the SGW permit system.

    I know the fax machine is archaic but it is a free service and USFS doesn’t like using email. Most Wilderness areas use http://www.recreation.gov for permits which isn’t free and usually comes with a cost of $5 per person and a reservation fee of $6.

    Note there are still rules to obey in San Gorgonio Wilderness and groups are restricted still of 12 max. Groups visiting the wilderness need to be in smaller groups when possible. Large groups which have split to conform with group size limits should each have a leader and plan on traveling separately. Also they should make extra effort to minimize all unnecessary noise and impacts.

    We can only hope they comply or inform them of the impact it can be to the wilderness experience.

    SGWA volunteer

  • #1982

    zippetydude
    Participant

    So there is no need at all for a permit when I do a day hike? Do I read that correctly?  Also, does anyone know if there is a contingency plan in place so that if it does suddenly get overrun then the permit system could be reinstated quickly and effectively?  Or perhaps just have the permit system in place from May through August? I have visions of hundreds of people heading up and down Vivian Creek Trail on summer weekends…

    z

  • #1983

    shawnsisler
    Participant

    That is correct that no day hike permit is required for San Gorgonio Wilderness.

    And you might be right that next year the summer months might get really crowded.

    USFS usually doesn’t require permits for day hikes except places like Mt Whitney Portal, Half Dome are a  few but if you have been there they can still feel very crowded. Hopefully our trailhead parking lot size will limit the amount of visitors. I will just feel sorry for the overnighters that might have trouble finding a place to park next year. And the traffic congestion in the nearby town of Angeles Oaks and Forest Falls.

    SGWA volunteer

  • #1985

    cyndijohnson
    Keymaster

    Here is the actual verbiage issued from the USFS:
    “Wilderness permits are not required, but they are highly recommended as a safety precaution for anyone going into one of San Bernardino National Forest’s eight wilderness areas. Wilderness permits provide a record of visitors to the area, which enables Forest Service personnel to monitor whether all visitors return. If you choose not to obtain a wilderness permit, it is highly recommend that you leave your itinerary with a friend or family member. Some signs leading to wilderness areas may have outdated information about permit requirements; the Forest Service is working to correct those as quickly as possible.”
    I may be wrong on this, but I think one of the reasons the Wilderness was opened so fast after the Lake Fire is that there was a fairly accurate record of just how popular those trails are. If I were still able to be out on the trail, I’d want visitors to know that having a permit tells the FS these trails are important to people.

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