Cross Country Hiking–ok?

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    • #1672

      Hello everyone.  I’m new to this forum and would appreciate help with two questions.

      1)  Is it ok to hike cross country or is it against the law to leave the trails?

      2)  I practice “leave no trace” camping.  Are we required to camp at a specifically designated campsite (Manzanita Flats, Columbine Springs, Limber Pine Bench, San Bernardino Peak, etc.)?  I know there are some locations where camping is specifically prohibited…Horse Meadows, Poopout Hill, Dollar Lake Saddle.  I’m not talking about those.  I’m talking about off-trail locations.

      I don’t want to offend anyone so please don’t take this the wrong way, but I would appreciate an answer from someone who actually knows the rules, not just what someone thinks or has heard.  Sometimes it is difficult to get accurate information when rules are complicated or change.  An example is when I asked a person at a ranger station if we need an Adventure Pass at the San Bernardino Peak trailhead at Angelus Oaks.  They said we do.  When I later researched this on the official website, I noticed that it is no longer required there.

      I would really appreciate your help!

      Thank you.


    • #1675

      SGWA issues the wilderness permits and monitors wilderness usage.

      As far as I know there are no clear cut cross country route rules.

      Traveling cross country routes or off trail can be very difficult thus it is kind of left up to the experience traveler to interpret the rules.


      1. To travel in the San Gorgonio Wilderness requires a permit.

      2. There are no fires allowed anywhere in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

      3. You can’t travel in any current fire closure areas unless there an exception.

      4. Camping must be 200ft or more from any trail or water .

      5. You must have shovel or hand trowel in possession for use in burying human waste during overnight camping.

      6. No Shortcutting a switchback or mutilating, defacing, removing, disturbing, injuring, or destroying any natural feature. (Minimal Impact / Leave No Trace other than foot prints)

      7. Must give a starting trailhead and exit if different.

      8. Camping in a location other than that specified on the Permit. 36 CFR 261.10 (k) and 261.58 (e).



      You should try to get a San Gorgonio Wilderness permit by writing in a camp location area that you plan on. But you won’t be allowed to camp in any other permitted designated camp sites.

      If you have trouble with approval then select a permitted designated camp site nearest your destinations with the thought you could go there if you needed.

      SGWA volunteer

    • #1680

      You can go cross-country in the SGW – its not encouraged, but folks do it.  The most popular  XC route I know of (and have done numerous times) is up the northern face of San G from the Dry Lake Trail.  Its mostly scree, but you’ll avoid the ‘slog’ a-r-o-u-n-d the peak on the Sky High Trail to the summit.

      As for non-designated campsite camping, you’d have to get an ‘explorers’ permit from the ranger station.  They usually don’t issue those for popular areas with designated campsites, but will probably give you one if you’re planning to camp on the outskirts or in a more remote area of the SGW.

    • #1681

      Thanks to both of you for your excellent and helpful responses.  I will definitely look into the “explorer’s permit.”

    • #1682

      Hi Frank.  I see you got good replies so you don’t need an answer to your questions.  Since it appears you are a fellow xc enthusiast, there are a few routes that are very nice that I have done many times.

      1. If you’re going up the San Bernardino trail, it’s very nice to follow the Limber Pine Spring drainage on up to the ridge.  I like the trail route also because it affords a spectacular view from the point just before Washington Monument.

      2. When they re-open Forsee, if you stay to the left along the edge of the drop off starting at about 9000 feet elevation you get some awesome views and it’s no harder than the trail. It is also only about 1/2 the distance so it will be a bit steeper. Still, this is one of my favorites.

      3.  When they re-open South Fork, if you turn right when you hit the wilderness boundary at Poop-out Hill, you can easily follow the ridge-line up to the top of the main ridge.  The route is both clear of brush/barriers and it easy to make out, as you simply stay on the ridge as it climbs.

      4. Another possibility for SF is if you just stay in the drainage going towards Dry Lake instead of following the trail.  Again, you can’t get lost, you simply stay at the bottom of the ravine.  There is a very pretty spring on the right hand side as you go up, and you can actually make out flat places where an old road used to run.

      5. The north face route mentioned by Wanderluster is my preferred route to the peak during winter, but it is very steep and the scree is awfully loose for trying to climb up that way.

      6. If you’re looking for an interesting site to camp away from everyone, I heartily recommend the 10,000 foot ridge.  Almost no one goes out there and it is tremendously fun to explore since it’s almost completely level. You’ll have to pack in all your water, though, which is why most people never venture over there.

      Hope you have fun.  Post a TR and pics if you can!



    • #1683
      chris in redlands

      This is turning into a great thread!

      Another fun cross-country route is the ridge that goes up to Dobbs Peak from where the vivian creek trail first enters the hanging valley after the first steep set of switchbacks. Just cross the creek, gain the ridge, and stay on it. It’s a popular enough cross-country route that there’s even a faint trail in places, and you can continue from Dobbs peak to the ridge and San G if you’re so inclined. No bush-whacking!

      You can also walk directly up Mill Creek to the Jumpoff, up the Jumpoff, and over to Galena Peak, or if you want a bigger day, from the top of the Jumpoff, drop a couple hundred feet of elevation to the east until you can see a big rocky drainage that splits two slopes of thick brush and heads up toward San Gorgonio. If you follow that drainage up until you can head west to the ridge (once you’re above the dense manzanita) this ridge will send you to meet the Vivian Creek Trail where the switchbacks above High Creek camp give way to the long stretch along the ridge that starts around 10,000 ft.

      If you’re new to cross-country travel, be sure you’re able to assess your abilities, the hazards of the terrain ahead, and your escape plan if you get in too deep and have to turn around, and don’t attempt a new (to you) x-c route alone. Don’t let your enthusiasm outweigh your good judgment. Failing to do that almost cost me everything one day about six years ago on the west face of San Bernardino.

      It’s fun, but you want to be sure to keep it safe enough to have fun another day.



    • #1697

      Hi Chris.  Good to see you’re still here on the board.  I’ve been out of action for a while so I hadn’t been posting.  I’m hoping things are better now (injuries had shut me down) so I can’t wait to get back out there.  Funny, in all the trips I’ve made out in the wilderness I’ve never done the Dobbs route that you mentioned.  I’ve heard of it, but somehow never did it.  Gonna try that out as soon as I can land a permit for Vivian!

      I’ve gone up the Mill Creek Jump Off, but man is that a tough slog up the loose sand, scree and stones.  The whole time I felt like I was going to end up sliding right back down to the bottom and have to start all over again.



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