Permit system for day hikes returning?

Home Forums Trail Conditions Permit system for day hikes returning?

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    • #2871
      chris in redlands

      I just bumped into an SGWA volunteer on the way to Johns Meadow. She asked if I had a permit, then told me “they’re starting it back up, may have already” when I told her I didn’t have one, as they haven’t been required for day hikes since the USFS let that requirement expire over a year ago.

      Is this true? Some visibility into the process would be nice. I applaud the idea, as simply jettisoning the permit system unannounced and with no public plan led to some pretty severe changes in trail use. But I certainly hope that if they’re planning to start it up again, they don’t just go back to the janky and senseless way it was originally executed. That process is cumbersome and arguably doesn’t even provide controls or data to measurably understand and manage wilderness usage, which is the whole point of it, I assume.

    • #2873

      I really hope they don’t start talking about bringing back a quota system.  Permits are one thing and really not a big deal if they are available outside the ranger station or at the trailheads, but that terrible quota system just did not work.

      I agree they should be asking for public input and really visibly advertising any potential changes.

      I think it is much nicer without the quota.  I suppose you might see more traffic on a weekend day in the summer, but parking is limited at most of the trailheads and you can’t park along the road at some of the trailheads. I haven’t noticed an increase in the number of hikers on the trails when I’m out there wandering around.

    • #2876
      chris in redlands

      “I suppose you might see more traffic on a weekend day in the summer, but parking is limited at most of the trailheads and you can’t park along the road at some of the trailheads. I haven’t noticed an increase in the number of hikers on the trails when I’m out there wandering around.”

      I guess you haven’t spent much time on the San Bernardino Peak trail since the permit system went away. Having been up and down that trail a dozen or so times a year every year for a decade or more, i can tell you that the parking lot size has not limited the crowds. Cars line the dirt road for a half mile on both sides on busy summer days. Before the Lake Fire, you’d see maybe ten or 15 cars in that lot on a beautiful summer saturday. Since then, fire-related trail closures and the growing popularity of commercialized social media hiking challenges (San Bernardino peak is one of the peaks in the popular “6-pack of peaks” challenge where you pay to participate and get badges and t-shirts, i guess) has caused usage of that trail to increase. With the canceling of the permit system, traffic on that trail has absolutely exploded.

      Are quotas the answer? I don’t know. The old quota system, which limited usage by number of permits, not users, didn’t make any sense. 1 permit could be a single hiker, or it could theoretically be a group of 12 people with 12 horses and 12 dogs. I’ve never understood the philosophy behind that.

      I didn’t mean to start a “for or against” permits/quotas discussion. That dead horse gets beaten plenty, and this is a forum for information about trail conditions. If the permit system is coming back, that is (tangentially) trail condition information. I just wanted to hear from someone connected to the SBNF who can validate or clarify what i was told by a volunteer this past weekend. Would be nice to know a little about what the SBNF is planning to do in advance, rather than have a new order come out of nowhere, or to discover that they’ve randomly let a 50+ year old system of wilderness management expire without notice or reason.



    • #2877

      It was my understanding that the permits are still required for day hiking however the quota is no longer in effect. You can simply fill out the permit and email it to them so they have record of who is where. All they ask is that you carry a copy of the permit on you while hiking.

    • #2888
      Ranger Lon

      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.


    • #2896
      chris in redlands

      Thanks, Lon. Good info.

      Glad to hear there’s some thought being given to it, and hopeful for a good system that protects the wilderness.


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