What are the current trail conditions?

Our Trails page and the Forum are the two best places to find out current trail conditions.  Please check out these two sites before calling the Mill Creek Ranger Station (909) 382-2882 (closed Tues/Wed).

Can I have a campfire?

No campfires are permitted within the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Gas Backpacking stoves are allowed. You do not need a separate permit for your stove – your wilderness permit will cover it.

Campfires outside the wilderness are permitted in public campgrounds and yellow post sites, Information on current fire conditions and campfire restrictions may be found on the San Bernardino National Forest page.

What passes or permits are required?

Free wilderness permits required for all day use and overnight camping in the San Gorgonio wilderness. They may be requested in person, by email, or by FAX up to three months in advance from Mill Creek Ranger Station. [apply for a permit]. You may obtain your permit in person at the Mill Creek Ranger Station, Barton Flats Visitor Center (summer only), or the Big Bear Discovery Center. All visitors parking a vehicle on the San Bernardino National Forest at developed parking areas (in addition to the three other Southern California Forests) must also have the required Adventure Pass  posted in their vehicles.

Some trailheads may require an Adventure Pass be displayed on your vehicle. Vivian Creek, South Fork trailheads require Adventure Passes.

What is SGWA and how do I become a volunteer?

The SGWA is NOT a hiking club – we are an all-volunteer organization working in and around the San Gorgonio Wilderness as Naturalists, Trail Patrol, Trail Crew, and serving other vital functions necessary for the care and preservation of the San Gorgonio Wilderness. If you think you are interested in volunteering, please have a look at our Volunteer Program page and apply online.

When does the Volunteer Program start?

This question is asked often. Most details regarding the Volunteer Program can be found on the Volunteer Program page.  Generally our program orientation is an all day event, the third weekend in May.

What campgrounds and other services are nearby?

Barton Flats, San Gorgonio, South Fork, and Heart Bar are the closest developed campgrounds to the wilderness.  These areas require a separate fee and reservations (except for South Fork which is first-come, first-served) are recommended during the summer time.  Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov. These campgrounds close during the winter.

There is no campground at Forest Falls.

There are some yellow-post campsites near the Heart Bar/Coon Creek area.  These are dispersed camping areas with no facilities (no water, no toilets, no trash pick-up).  If you have a CA Campfire Permit, there are certain times of the year when you may have a wood or charcoal fire at these Yellow-post sites.  Be sure to check current fire restrictions at the Mill Creek Ranger Station, Barton Flats Visitor Center (summer only) or Big Bear Discovery Center before you go.  Yellow-post sites are first-come, first-served and the road to them is closed during winter months.  Please pack out what you pack in if you camp at these sites.

The closest towns to the San Gorgonio Wilderness are Angelus Oaks, Forest Falls, Big Bear Lake, Mentone, and Yucaipa.  The first two have limited services whereas the later three have more amenities including gas stations, larger markets, and hotels.

Are there bears? Do I need a bear canister?

Yes, there are black bears in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, and there have been a number of bear-human confrontations.  The following information is designed to help the visitor protect both person and property from the creatures of the wild.

Bears are usually more afraid of people than people are of bears. Bears are Bearmainly herbivores, eating berries and other vegetation, while not passing on the opportunity for food items left by campers. They have a large range and move quickly through the mountains. People and bears normally avoid each other. One of the few catalysts for people and bears to interact is climatic.

Southern California has been undergoing a period of drought. This climatic condition has caused deer, bear, and other animals to move to lower elevations in search of food. Sometimes, this search for food has placed animals and humans in confrontational situations. In many cases, this competition and confrontation has disturbed the balance of solitude sought and desired by these animals.Hungry bears will walk through camps and go through packs and food bags. They will rip and tear at scented items not easily offering up their contents. When bears become accustomed to obtaining food from backpackers, they learn to approach people and camps continually. Such bears often must be killed to avoid human injury, and so end up dead because of the carelessness of campers.

To avoid loss of property and physical danger, the SGWA now only advocates the use of bear-proof canisters to store food. We recommend purchasing or renting (see below) bear-proof canisters, such as those made by Garcia Machine. The Garcia canister weighs only 2.7 pounds and also makes a great camp seat. The retail price through the SGWA is only $67.50 (it is selling for over $75 at most stores). All SGWA contributing members receive a 20% discount on this price!! To purchase your canister, please visit our Back Country stores at the Mill Creek Ranger Station or the Barton Flats Visitor Center.

In partnership with the US Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest, SGWA offers bear backpacking canisters for rent at the Mill Creek Ranger Station starting at $10 for 1-3 nights.  We believe this will make it a little easier for everyone wanting to help protect the bears by properly storing food while out on the trail. Please contact the Mill Creek Ranger Station for more details at (909) 382-2882. More info on Bear Canisters

How hard are the trails? How long will it take me to hike to San Gorgonio Peak?

These questions are hard to answer because every hiker has different fitness abilities and a different pace.  There are also variables such as temperature, precipitation, wind, trail conditions, and how much weight a hiker is carrying in their pack that can affect the time that it takes to hike a trail.  We recommend taking note of a trail’s starting and ending elevations, its overall length, and also checking on the condition of the trail and the weather forecast as you are planning your hike.  We also recommend allowing for extra time in case of unexpected events.

A good place to find current trail conditions is our Forum.  Many who travel the trails on a regular basis have the most current information.  If you can’t find a current trail report just ask the question.  You will find many helpful people.

Are there trail quotas?

Yes, there are quotas in place for all visits.  By limiting the number of visitors to the wilderness the Forest Service hopes to maintain its pristine environment and wilderness character.  Quotas typically do not fill during the week or in the winter.  During summer weekends we recommend planning ahead and applying for a permit in advance so you will be able to camp at your first choice campsites if staying overnight.   Some campsites fill up weeks in advance.  You may apply for a permit 90-days in advance of your trip.

What’s the weather forecast?

Click on this link to get the National Weather Service forecast for the central part of the San Gorgonio Wilderness at approximately 9,600’ feet.

Depending upon the stability of the atmosphere, the lapse rate (change in temperature per 1000 feet of elevation) may vary from 3-5 degrees Fahrenheit. A good rule of thumb would be to subtract 4 degrees for each 1000 feet of elevation gained.  Or add 4 degrees for each 1000 feet elevation lost.  This can only be used as a guideline, and may vary considerably depending upon local atmospheric conditions.

Please keep in mind that weather conditions can change suddenly in the mountains and often without warning.  We recommend dressing in layers and always being prepared for windy and cold conditions which can occur even in the summertime.  In the winter expect alpine conditions – snow, ice, and extreme weather are often present from October through May requiring the skilled use of snowshoes or crampons and ice axe.

In summer time there are often thunderstorms in the San Bernardino Mountains.  Most often these occur in the afternoon and visitors should not attempt to summit any of the high ridges or peaks during these storms.

Is Dry Lake dry?

Often in late summer Dry Lake does indeed dry up.  In late spring and early summer it usually has some water in it, though due to drought conditions it is unlikely it will have water in it this year, 2015.   Fortunately there is a spring, Lodgepole Spring, near the lake that provides a reliable source of water for backpackers in early spring. Filter or boil water all water in the wilderness before drinking.

I noticed a patch offered through the SGWA’s store proclaiming “I Climbed the Nine Peaks”. What are the nine peaks?

From west to east, they are San Bernardino PeakSan Bernardino Peak EastAnderson PeakShields PeakAlto Diablo (a curious “pile of rocks” not recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey, but recognized by the Boy Scouts of America and many “locals”), Charlton PeakLittle Charlton PeakJepson Peak, and Mt. San Gorgonio. These peaks are generally linked up by Boy Scouts groups and others on a three-day outing beginning at the Vivian Creek Trail and culminating at the San Bernardino Peak trailhead. There are other peaks in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, but those listed above are all located along the several mile long ridge from San Gorgonio to San Bernardino Peak.

How tall is San Gorgonio Peak?

Mt. San Gorgonio’s currently accepted (by the United States Geological Survey) elevation is 11,499 feet above sea level. However, it was remeasured in 1986 to a new elevation of 11,501.6. It is the highest peak in California south of the Sierra Nevada.

Where is the San Gorgonio Wilderness? How big is it? When was it established?

The San Gorgonio Wilderness is in the eastern San Bernardino Mountains north of Interstate 10 and south of Highway 38, east of Mentone/Yucaipa, and west of Morongo Valley.  It is managed by both the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.  It is approximately 95,000 acres in size.  It was established in 1964.