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San Bernardino Mountains
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San Bernardino Mountains

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San Bernardino Mountains

Page Type: Area/Range

Location: California, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 34.10060°N / 116.828°W

Object Title: San Bernardino Mountains

Activities: Hiking

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Elevation: 11499 ft / 3505 m


Page By: tarol

Created/Edited: Jan 12, 2006 / Dec 27, 2013

Object ID: 171121

Hits: 57717 

Page Score: 95.51%  - 53 Votes 

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The 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 Gorgonio from Dry Lake
San Gorgonio and Jepson Peak viewed from Dry Lake

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.


The 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.

At an elevation of 11,499 (3505 M) this is the highest peak in California south of the SierraAt 11,205 (3415 M) Jepson offers some of the best snow climbs in Southern CaliforniaAt 10,806 (3294 M) Charlton is one of the more popular peaks in the 9 peak traverseAt 9,324 (2842 M) Galena is the anchor peak of Yucaipa Ridge

The Nine 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.
View Larger Map
View of Charlton Peak, Jepson Peak and Mount San Gorgonio from Anderson Peak9 Peak Summits Charlton Peak, Jepson Peak and Mount San Gorgonio
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


The 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.

Take 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. Approximately five miles up the road you will pass the Mill Creek Ranger Station and shortly thereafter enter the San Bernardino National Forest. From Highway 38 and the adjoining roads you can access the south, east and north sides. Highway 38 will eventually lead you to Big Bear Lake and City from the southeast side. It takes longer to arrive in the Big Bear area but is a popular alternative route during weekend and holiday traffic.
Take Interstate 10 to the city of Redlands. Next take the Highland / Running Springs Highway (CA-330) exit north onto Highway 210. Follow Highway 210 for approximately 4.5 miles taking the Mountain Resorts exit onto Highway 330N. You will reach Running Springs in approximately 15 miles. Here 330 merges with and becomes highway 18. Big Bear Lake is another 17 miles further up the highway. This is the most direct and heavily traveled road to the Running Springs and Big Bear Lake areas. The road is mountainous and windy. During the winter it is susceptible to heavy snow fall and ice. At peak times heavy traffic can stretch the drive into several hours. Plan accordingly. Always carry chains.
Take Interstate 10 to the city of Redlands. Next take the Highland / Running Springs Highway (CA-330) exit north onto Highway 210. Follow Highway 210 for approximately 4.5 miles taking the Mountain Resorts exit onto Highway 330N. At approximately 14 miles or just before you reach Running Springs turn left at Live Oak Drive. Travel approximately 1.5 miles and turn left again onto Rim of the World Highway (CA-18) Travel five more miles and you will enter the Lake Arrowhead Area. Turn right on Highway 173 to Arrive at Lake Arrowhead
From Highway 15 in Victorville exit Bear Valley Road heading east. Travel 22 miles to Lucerne Valley. Turn right onto Highway 18 and travel approximately 25 miles arriving at Big Bear Lake. This route receives less snowfall during storms and has the least amount of mountain driving.
From Interstate 10 in Colton proceed north on Highway 215. At approximately four miles take the Highway 210 split north. Highway 210 will soon curve and proceed east. Exit Waterman and proceed North. Waterman Avenue becomes the start of Highway 18. Continue on for 13 miles and you will arrive in Crestline.
From just North of the 15 – 215 Freeway merge exit the Rim of the World Highway 138 heading east. Follow the highway approximately 20 miles into crestline and continue until you reach highway 18. Turn left and follow 18 to your destination of Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs and Big Bear Lake.

Caltrans Road Conditions Highway Map



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 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