05/17/2021 at 11:48 am #5227
Hi Im new and just starting to research but cant find the distance between Vivian Creek Trailhead parking to Vivian Creek Camp. Looked on google, hiking project and all trails (:P) Can anyone shed light of this distance and elevation? We are coming from San Diego and were thinking about getting permits to camp at Vivian Creek Camp May or June. Day 1 drive in the afternoon hike to set up camp, Day 2 wake up early and hike via Vivian Creek to San Gorgonio summit and camp back at Vivian Creek Camp that night and drive home the next day. Thanks for your input.
05/17/2021 at 12:03 pm #5228Alon WiedenmanParticipant
Welcome to the wilderness! Did you already get permits? They are required. Once you do that you’ll see a link on the permit to a mileage sheet. But… I would suggest some caution. People get lost and in trouble on the trail, and lack of basic skills, like how to read a topo map, is a major factor. It may not be what you want to hear, but I would suggest learning those skills before taking a trip like this. I know REI offers some, not sure where else to suggest. I can advise that Tom Harrison maps are good ones to get and there is one the covers the SGW. There are also good online mapping tools like caltopo and gaia that you can then print the map out on paper and have a digital copy on your phone. Try not to become over reliant on your phone though, knowing how to use a paper map with compass is a critical skill.
For what it’s worth, your plan involves a pretty big day on day 2. Vivian Creek camp is only about a mile an a half in, making day 2 about 17 miles with significant elevation, and then a drive home.
- This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Alon Wiedenman.
05/17/2021 at 12:42 pm #5230
Thanks. I just came back from Duck Pass Trail in Mammoth! Yes I have gone into the permit process but still didn’t see the mileage. Need to figure out a date first before I reserve. Meant to add I’m also an experience hiker just trying to get as much beta as possible on this area. I did Whitney in a day and I won’t do that again…I know my limits 🙂
05/17/2021 at 2:52 pm #5233
Here’s a link to pdf of the mileage sheet. It is indeed not attached to the pdf of the permit (I just went up there last week, and checked the printout of my permit).
The hike is a bit like Whitney, except for differences in altitude, heat and trail conditions. Vivian is on the south side of the mountain, in full sun for most of the day. It gets very hot. The summit is often warm and calm, but high, cold winds are not uncommon.
Most of the trail is in good condition except the initial climb from Mill Creek to near the Vivian Creek campground. This section is loose rock rubble and is steep.
05/20/2021 at 3:13 pm #5250
Hi kirodeo10! I saw your comment about just returning from Duck Pass. CAN YOU supply what date you were at the pass and what conditions were like? Any info would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!
05/17/2021 at 5:04 pm #5234
Thanks Ted. I appreciate that. Will take all that into consideration. So what I understand is Vivian is the shortest in the steepest? On the other routed are there campsites open?
05/17/2021 at 7:50 pm #5235brichardssonParticipant
the north side route – south fork using the dollar lake trail, is virtually the same length as the vivian creek trail.
the difference is that vivian creek has a lower trailhead, so you’ll have more gain.
but this gain is front loaded – the first mile is a beast – and then it mellows out. i have daytripped san g more than once (on the vc trail), so i think your idea of summiting from the camp is completely reasonable if you’re in good shape. it’s just under 8 miles to the summit from that camp, with just over 4k’ gain to do.
other plus sides are that you have more/better water sources on vivian, and you also have a better view, as the south fork trail was heavily impacted by the fire.
san g is absolutely nothing like whitney, so i would not let that worry you.
if you have any experience at all, which you certainly seem to, you’ll be fine on the vivian creek trail. there’s a reason why it’s the most popular trail on the mountain after all.
05/17/2021 at 10:15 pm #5236
Last week I also hiked South Fork, which is slightly easier than Vivian due to less elevation gain. Until a major wildfire six years ago it was pleasantly shaded. It still has some early morning and late afternoon shade due to being on the north side.
It has a particularly nice area, South Fork Meadows, which nearly always has a good flow of water and an abundance of wildflowers. You can do a loop from the meadows, through Dollar Lake one way and Dry Lake the other. There are a few campgrounds, not all of which have water. This is a very dry year, so water sources higher up might be unreliable in another month or two (everywhere on the mountain).
Vivian is a slightly shorter drive which probably contributes to its popularity. After the fires this past summer it’s the only open trail that runs through unburned forest. It has some meadow areas along Vivian Creek and High Creek which are very nice in wetter years.
You can also go up via Fish Creek, on the eastern side of the mountain. This has the least elevation gain, but a long drive on a somewhat rutted dirt road. There are a pair of campsites along the way.
05/18/2021 at 9:22 am #5237
Second what others have said. The Tom Harrison map is perfect, because it has elevations of key points on the trail and the distances between them. You can find it at any of the REI’s in the San Diego area. There is also a digital version. It works with the free Avenza app, and is available for both iPhones and Androids. I recommend the digital version for cross-country and snow trips, because you can locate yourself quickly on the map, but it is not necessary for trail hiking.
The Vivian Creek camp area is low compared to Halfway Camp and High Creek, but has advantages: roomy, shady, and water right there. Makes sense for the three day trip from San Diego you outlined. But the mosquitos can be bad in the evening! I would take mosquito repellant, and suitable mosquito-proof clothing.
05/18/2021 at 9:30 am #5238
One more comment. Theft might be more of a problem in the Vivian Creek camp area, than at the higher camps. Since I have never backpacked San Gorgonio, I would defer to the opinions of others on that subject.
05/18/2021 at 10:19 am #5239
Thanks all. Familiar with Tom Harrison maps. Easy to order online as well. The mileage sheet helps, thank you! I also appreciate the info from those who have done these routes. Very helpful!
05/18/2021 at 11:22 am #5240brichardssonParticipant
my only gripe about the harrison maps is that they are notoriously inaccurate, in both mileage and locations. not enough to really get you lost, but enough to be majorly annoying.
the avenza map ap is great, i download the usgs quads from them for wherever i go.
05/20/2021 at 3:47 pm #5251
here is my trip report from duck pass…
Attempted 5/14 with wilderness permits. Had to park at Tamarack Lodge because of the road not being open past that point yet. We decided to camp at Skeleton Lake and day hiked up to Barney. Big 25 wind gusts but temps only dropped to 40ish that night. DP Trail hard to find even w maps/navigation because of snow and Ive hiked it before in August 2020. We only spent one night up there because of a severe weather alert on 5/15 for thunderstorms. They got a dusting last night 5/15. Snow is melting but still quite a bit on the trail from a cold Spring. Lots of varied conditions up to Barney, 3 ft of snow, post holing, mud, snow melt, clear trail… With current conditions this is doable at least to Barney with gaiters, poles/snow baskets and micro spikes, IMO. Saw some folks skinning/traversing across from Barney. Still a beautiful hike!
05/21/2021 at 10:27 am #5262
Thank you very much! Good info!
05/20/2021 at 6:46 pm #5252
I have only hiked Duck Pass in the summer. Not so fond of the lower trail, even in the summer, but love the upper trail, the view from the pass, and the territory beyond. Sounds like quite a battle with spring conditions.
05/21/2021 at 10:34 am #5263
Thanks very much! I prefer the basin in winter. Good to get on-the-ground conditions.
06/01/2021 at 6:48 am #5249
If you find errors on the Tom Harrison maps please share them with Tom. He will try to verify and incorporate the changes in the next edition.
The only printed option to the Tom Harrison map is the USFS map/guide:
A digital verion of this map is also available:
When the Mill Creek Visitor Center reopens you’ll be able to purchase the printed USFS map there.
One additional option, covering only the eastern side of the mountain, is the National Geographic Pacific Crest Trail map guide 1011. It’s available as a printed booklet and digitally.
Measuring distances with good accuracy along a winding trail in the mountains requires using a surveyors wheel. GPS is unreliable due to blockage of the horizon and tree cover. Elevations measured with GPS are even less reliable except perhaps at the top of a ridge or mountain (with good views of the horizon in most directions).
Digital maps have no better accuracy than printed maps, are usually based on the USGS maps, and sometimes are extremely out of date. A $100 Garmin Topo digital trail map that I recently purchased to use with my Garmin GPS for a Grand Canyon backpack lacked the connecting trail to the campground that we were staying at on the Colorado River – a trail that had been in existence for at least a couple of decades. The trail, and the campground, did appear on most printed maps.
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