Here is the scoop:
The Forest Service allowed an order to expire on August 31, 2017 and did not reissue a replacement. This put us in the current situation where Day Hikers could not be required to have a permit to enter the San Gorgonio Wilderness effective on September 1 2017. Since the permit is not currently required, there is no quota to enforce. We recommend a permit as it is a good safety precaution for us to have some details of where people are planning to go, and it gives us a partial indication of how much the trails are being used for day trips.
To be clear – Day hikes do not require permits at this time, but Overnights have always required permits.
The Forest Service is finalizing a new order that WILL bring back permits for Day Hiking into the Wilderness and quotas for the number of permits are expected to be part of the process. We cannot tell you when this will happen, only that they have told us it is being finalized and will be coming soon. When it is released, SGWA will post this PROMINENTLY on our web site, and we will update the Day Hike permit request form to reflect the need for approval. If you are looking at this web site, you should not be confused about whether you need a permit or not.
Today, May 1 2019, Day Hikers do not need a permit.
Quotas: We understand that it causes problems when you want to go somewhere and cannot get a permit. Chris’ point about the overcrowding on San Bernardino Peak trail parking highlights one reason why a quota can be useful. Vivian Creek/Big Falls also had this problem immediately following the expiration of the order. Last Summer, every weekend I would get a call from the Big Falls volunteers to tell me that the parking was already full shortly after 7AM. The lack of parking meant that any family trying to use the picnic area was being blocked out by an unlimited flow of hikers. Some weekends we had between 200 and 300 permitted hikers, and who knows how many without a permit. So, will there be people inconvenienced by a new quota? Sure, but how many of you really want to hike up the mountain with 300 of your “closest friends” all at the same time? That doesn’t sound like an enjoyable Wilderness experience to me.
Ultimately, the Forest Service will dictate to us at the Mill Creek Front Desk what the rules will be and we will operate under them. If you wish to give your input on this topic, I’ll be glad to pass it along to our liaison at the Forest Service.