Lake Peak which can be better described as a long ridge sits due east of Mount San Gorgonio, Southern California's tallest mountain. Together the two form the upper drainage of North Fork River, one of three major tributaries of Whitewater River, which eventually drains into the Coachella Valley.
Lake Peak is located in the eastern portion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness area of the San Bernardino Mountains. At an elevation of 10,161 it is the 13th tallest peak within the San Bernardino National Forest. It along with Grinnell Mountain and the Ten Thousand Foot Ridge make up the eastern flank of the San Gorgonio Wilderness area before elevations drop off dramatically. Lake Peak is named after nearby Dry Lake which gets its name from drying out late in the season in low precipitation years.
The Summit plateau of Lake Peak is approximately one mile long stretching west to east with gentle changes in elevation. Pine Trees dot the summit ridge obscuring distant views along the top. This can give the climber a false sense that the next rock outcropping may be the summit. The credited "True" summit is at the western end and has no distinct characteristics or markings.
Views from the summit are impressive. Directly west you see the steep unforgiving eastern slope of Mount San Gorgonio. To the South you look out over North Fork Meadow and beyond to the San Jacinto Mountains. To the southeast the Ten Thousand Foot Ridge looms impressively with steep drop offs on both sides.
Getting ThereTake Interstate 10 to the city of Redlands exiting Orange Street and heading north for approximately 1/2 mile. Turn right on E Lugonia Ave, Highway 38. Lugonia becomes Mentone Blvd in the City of Mentone and then Mill Creek Road and eventually State Highway 38. Follow Highway 38 approximately 33 miles turning right on 1N02 the turnoff for Heart Bar Campground. Follow the well maintained dirt road for approximately 1.2 miles. Turn right onto 1N05 which is a steep at times less well maintained dirt road. The road can have sizable ruts and rocks especially after years of heavy rain and snowfall. Low clearance vehicles can be challenged on this road. Continue on 1N05 for approximately 7 miles. You will pass the Aspen Grove Trailhead at approximately 2.8 miles. From here you will pass two forks in the road stay right each time. The trailhead is well marked with a parking area and signage at approximately 7.6 miles.
Fish Creek Trailhead (1W07) Elevation 8000
The Fish Creek Trailhead starts off gently descending west. At approximately 1/2 mile the Aspen Grove Trail joins Fish Creek Trail. From here the trail heads southwest and into Fish Creek Canyon and you begin your ascent. Soon the trail will parallel Fish Creek Meadow. Lush bushes, tall grasses and wildflowers last well into the summer months. A good portion of the lower trail offers morning sun protection. At higher elevations the trail wraps around Grinnell Mountain remaining moderate in ascent. At approximately 4 1/2 miles you arrive at Fish Creek Saddle ( Approx. 9800'). From the saddle turn left or south and climb the slope to the summit ridge veering right at the top to reach the top.
Red TapeThere are two requirements to access this peak:
1.) You must have a National Forest Adventure Pass for any vehicle parked at a trailhead. Fees are $5.00 a day or $30.00 for an annual pass. They can be purchased at any ranger station or select local merchants.
2.) You must also obtain a free permit to enter the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. This applies to both single and multi-day entries. Permits can be obtained at the Mill Creek Ranger Station located in Mentone, 34701 Mill Creek Road. Phone nummber:(909) 382-2881.
A supply of self issued permits is left out each night at the Mill Creek Ranger Station. Popular trailheads go quickly. Beacuse of the remoteness of the trailhead and the difficult dirt road this trail is less commonly accessed. You can also request a permit up to three months in advance via fax at (909) 794-1125.
Barton Flats 6500' Fees: $15 & 20
San Gorgonio 6500' Fees: $15 & 20
Heart Bar 6900' Fees: $15+
South Fork 6400' Fees: $15+
There are a few choices for wilderness camping on the way to and near Lake Peak.
Fish Creek Trailhead
Fish Creek Camp - Elevation 8,600 Early Season water in camp
Fish Creek Saddle - Elevation 9,900 No Water
Lodgepole Springs - Elevation 9,000 Local Water Source near Dry Lake
When to Climb and WeatherThe San Gorgonio Wilderness Area can be enjoyed year round. The summertime is the most popular season. Winter approaches should include crampons and ice axe as appropriate.
National Weather Service Forecast and current conditions for the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area
External LinksSan Gorgonio Wilderness Association
A great resource for trail information, current trail conditions, weather and education:
San Gorgonio Wilderness Association
San Gorgonio Wilderness Association - Backcountry Bulletin Board
Ask your San Gorgonio Wilderness questions here
San Bernardino National Forest
San Gorgonio Wilderness Trail Information