OVERVIEWThe San Bernardino National Forest is located approximately 75 miles due east of the city of Los Angeles. It contains four distinct mountain ranges and five Wilderness Areas encompassing more than 800,000 acres.
* The San Bernardino Mountains include the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area and a portion of the Bighorn Wilderness Area
* The San Jacinto Mountains include the San Jacinto Wilderness Area
* The Santa Rosa Mountains contain the Santa Rosa Wilderness Area
* The eastern end of the San Gabriel Mountains contain the Cucamonga Wilderness Area
Click this link for a Forest Service map of the the entire San Bernardino National Forest
This page will focus only on the San Bernardino Mountains and the eastern end of the San Gabriel Mountain Range or the mountains located North of the San Bernardino 10 Freeway. For information related to the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Ranges please refer to the Peninsular Ranges page.
SAN BERNARDINO MOUNTAINS
The San Bernardino Mountains are one of the most popular getaway destinations in Southern California with many outdoor activities including climbing, hiking, camping, skiing, boating and much more. It is roughly bordered by the Mojave or High Desert to the north, the San Gabriel Mountains to the west, Joshua Tree National Park to the east and the eastern San Gabriel Valley to the south. The crown jewel of the mountain range is San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, a large subalpine expanse. The San Bernardino Mountains are also home to several popular ski resorts located at or near Big Bear Lake. Lake Arrowhead to the west and Big Bear Lake to the east provide many sporting activities for water enthusiasts. The close proximity to Los Angeles makes the San Bernardino Mountains a favorite second home or weekend getaway destination for many in Southern California.
One can truly enjoy a wide variety of flora and fauna in the San Bernardino Mountains. Lower elevations are thick with chaparral and the eastern flanks will include Joshua trees, Junipers and Pinyon pines. Higher elevations will include several pine varieties including Jeffrey, Sugar, Ponderosa and Coulter. Amongst these you will also find some species of Oak, Fir, Cedar, Maple and Dogwood. At the highest elevations you will see Lodgepole and Limber Pines. Higher elevations will also include significant groves of Manzanita. This evergreen shrub or at times small tree has very distinctive and attractive red branching with green foliage. There is also abundant animal life as well including larger species such as Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep, Black Bear and Mountain Lions. Don't be surprised to see flocks of Ravens circling above as you approach the highest elevations.
Note: From time to time one will notice significant dead tree stands in the Forest. The primary cause of this has been an invasion of the Bark Beetle due to the 1999-2002 drought seasons. See here for more information on the Bark Beetle.
SAN GORGONIO WILDERNESS AREAThe San Gorgonio Wilderness Area encompasses over 94,000 acres and 100 miles of designated trails belonging to the San Bernardino National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management. It is located in the southeast region of the San Bernardino Mountains. The wilderness area is comprised of virgin forest land, high alpine meadows and lakes. There are ten peaks within its boundaries that are in excess of 10,000 feet or more than 3,000 meters. This includes Mount San Gorgonio, Southern California’s tallest peak at 11,499 feet.
|SAN GORGONIO WILDERNESS AREA|
|MOUNT SAN GORGONIO||JEPSON PEAK||CHARLTON PEAK||GALENA PEAK|
|At an elevation of 11,499 (3505 M) this is the highest peak in California south of the Sierra||At 11,205 (3415 M) Jepson offers some of the best snow climbs in Southern California||At 10,806 (3294 M) Charlton is one of the more popular peaks in the 9 peak traverse||At 9,324 (2842 M) Galena is the anchor peak of Yucaipa Ridge|
The Nine Peak Traverse
|SAN GORGONIO WILDERNESS AREA 9 PEAK TRAVERSE|
|The Nine Peak Traverse is a challenging and visually rewarding sub-alpine experience covering 26 miles and nearly 8,000 feet of gain/loss. All 9 summits are in excess of 10,000 feet (3,000 M+) and offer stunning views of the wilderness area. The most common approach is from the west off highway 38 at the Angelus Oaks Trailhead (elevation 5,760). After climbing nearly 5,000 feet in roughly 6 ½ miles one reaches San Bernardino Peak (10,649) the first summit. From here the traverse continues East along a tall sub-alpine ridgeline eventually climbing Southeast ultimately reaching Mount San Gorgonio. Most will make this a one way traverse choosing to descend the Vivian Creek Trail to the parking area north of Forest Falls. A pre-arranged parked car or a carpool is highly advisable. The traverse is generally completed as a multi-day backpacking trip. For the truly well conditioned this route can be accomplished in a single day. Those attempting this in a single day should already be pre-acclimatized to altitude, otherwise the result can be extremely discomforting.|
|Click on Map Icons for information about the start, the finish and each peak For another 9 peak variation check out Travis' Trip Report And For those who have unlimited endurance try Rick Kent's 17 Peak Day hike|
GETTING THEREThe San Bernardino Mountains have several highway access points. Depending on your destination you may have more than one route to choose from. Highway 330 /18 is the most popular way to the Big Bear Lake area. Heavy traffic and winter conditions can severely impact travel times. The San Gorgonio Wilderness area is best accessed from Highway 38. See the table below for route descriptions.
Click on the corresponding road sign in the left column to get current road conditions as reported by Caltrans.
Caltrans Road Conditions Highway Map
CAMPINGFAMILY AND GROUP CAMPGROUNDS
The San Bernardino Mountains have 16 family and 19 group campgrounds. 11 of the family and all of the group campgrounds require reservations.
Click the below link to find information about locations, number of sites, ammenities and cost. Each campground description has a direct link to make on-line reservations.
San Bernardino Mountain Campgrounds
YELLOW POST SITES
Yellow Post Camp Sites are located within remote areas accessed on back roads or trails. No campfires or charcoal fires are currently allowed anywhere on the National Forest. Please check HERE for latest National Forest fire restrictions. Sites are available on a first- come first-served basis. Check with the local Ranger Station for Yellow Post Site locations and current fire use restrictions.
Wilderness campsites are accessible by foot and /or horseback only and require a free Wilderness permit. When camping in the Wilderness, lightweight stoves are recommended. Campfires are not allowed in Wilderness Areas on the San Bernardino National Forest.
Also, due to the unsupervised nature of remote camping certain activities are often more restricted than in developed camping. Campfires, charcoal BBQs, and remote camping itself may be restricted certain times of the year due to the Fire Use Guidelines. Please call the Forest Supervisor’s Office at (909) 382-2600 for the current Fire Danger Level and current Forest Use Guidelines.
RED TAPEADVENTURE PASS
Parking in some trailhead and day use areas in the the San Bernardino National Forest requires an Adventure Pass An Annual Pass will cost $30.00 and a daily pass is $5.00. Passes can be purchased by mail, phone, at Ranger Stations and select local merchants. Look for the Where to Buy Passes Link. Interagency Passes (Annual, Senior, Access, Military, and Volunteer) also cover Adventure Pass fees.
SAN GORGONIO WILDERNESS AREA ACCESS PERMIT
Entrance into the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area Requires a free permit. This applies to both single and multi-day entries. The limit is 12 people per wilderness permit. Permits can be obtained only at the Mill Creek Ranger Station, Big Bear Discovery Center and Barton Flats Visitor Center:
Mill Creek Ranger Station
34701 Mill Creek Road
Mentone, CA 92359
Phone number:(909)382-2882 Summer Hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm weekdays, 7:00 am - 3:30 pm weekends, CLOSED Tuesdays
Winter Hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm Thursday through Monday CLOSED Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Days and Hours of operation are subject to change. It is best to call and confirm.
Big Bear Discovery Center
40971 North Shore Drive, Highway 38
Big Bear Lake, California
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 66, Fawnksin, CA 92333
Ph: 909-866-3437 (local) Ph: 909-382-2790
Hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm
CLOSED Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Days and Hours of operation are subject to change. It is best to call and confirm.
The Barton Flats Visitor Center
The Visitor Center is located approximately seven miles east of Angelus Oaks on the south side of Highway 38
It is operated May through October by volunteer staff of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association.
Obtaining your Permit via Mail or Fax:
Day Hike Application
Over Night Application
Obtaining your permit in Person
A limited supply of self-issue permits are left out each night at the Mill Creek Ranger Station. The popular trailheads go quickly especially weekends.
A California Campfire Permit is required for use of a propane or gas stove, lantern or campfire outside a developed campground or developed picnic area. If you are obtaining a wilderness permit, then you do not need a campfire permit (the wilderness permit will cover your stove.) Campfire permits are available at the Big Bear Discovery Center and all National Forest Ranger Stations and must be picked up in person. Permits for campfires in remote or undeveloped areas is determined by the fire hazard conditions. Read the back of the permit and call ahead for all current restrictions.
WEATHER AND TRAFFIC CONSIDERATIONS
Big Bear Weather
The mountain climate will vary widely based on elevation. Temperatures can be as much as 30 degrees cooler in higher elevations compared to the valley floor. Heavy snow generally occurs in the high elevations during the winter months. Be aware that snow is possible any month of the year at higher elevations. Typical precipitation occurs between November and April with a dry summer season. Summer temperatures can heat up at the lower elevations and are more moderate at the higher elevations. Nighttime temperatures can be cool in the mountains, even during the summer months. Weather can change quickly, especially in the high elevations. Check weather forecasts and avoid storms.
Big Bear Lake is a very popular vacation/ski destination especially during the winter season. Chains are mandatory for all vehicles. Because the access roads to most of the Forest are winding two lane highways they are subject to severe traffic delays during winter weekends and Holidays. Allow for plenty of time to reach your destination. Be mindful that many of the weekend motorists are inexperienced snow and ice drivers.
LODGINGBIG BEAR LAKE
Big Bear Lake is located in the northeastern portion of the San Bernardino Mountains. It is a very popular vacation and weekend getaway destination all year round. Lodging in the area includes cabins, condos, motels, hotels, B&B's and more. Snow season is especially popular with three major ski resorts in close proximity. Early reservations are strongly recommended:
Big Bear Lodging
Lake Arrowhead located at the western end of the San Bernardino Mountains is also a popular getaway destination.
Lake Arrowhead Lodging
Lake Arrowhead Cabin Rentals
Running Springs is located in the center of the San Bernardino Mountains where Highway 330 and 18 intersect.
Giant Oaks Lodge
EXTERNAL LINKSSAN GORGONIO WILDERNESS ASSOCIATION AND SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST LINKS
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
U.S. Forest Service Day Hiking & Backpacking Trail Information
US Forest Service - San Bernardino Mountains Home Page
John Robinson's San Bernardino Mountain Trails - 100 hikes. A very useful resource for climbing in the San Bernardino Range - includes a map
Big Bear Discovery Center
Peakbagger's San Bernardino Mountains
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