Bighorn Mountain located in the San Gorgonio Wilderness in the San Bernardino Mountain Range
is one of twenty-one sourthern California peaks above 10,000 feet
(south of the Sierra Nevada). It is located a short distance off from the popular southern California high point of Mt. San Gorgonio
and is a pleasurable escape from the crowds that gather there.
Bighorn offers a bit of off-trail travel and a picturesque ridgeline to break up the monotony of the trail and table top summits of some other peaks in the area.
There are various ways to get to Bighorn Peak depending on which trailhead is selected. If approaching from one of the trailheads at the north or west, Bighorn is often linked up with Jepson Peak and San Gorgonio.
However the shortest and most direct route to big horn is from the south via the Vivian Creek Trail.
Exit interstate 10 in Redlands at Orange Street or University Avenue to reach Highway 38. Drive north several blocks to Hwy 38 and turn right. Drive northeast for about 14 miles to the intersection with Forest Falls Road. Go right and continue for 4.5 miles to the Falls Recreation Area, past the town of Forest Falls.
From the parking lot walk along the dirt road on the right side of the dry river bed for less than a quarter of a mile until you see a sign indicating that the trail heads into the river bed. Cross the rock wash perpendicularly to find the trailhead on the other side. There is no formal trail accross the river bed and its easy to waist time here trying to find the trailhead on the other side especially if starting in the dark.
From the trailhead the trail gains over 700 feet in about a half a mile of switchbacks. Follow the trail past high creek camp until you start traversing the left side of a wide open sandy bowl with a view of San Gorgonio and Dragons Head. Follow the trail up to about 10,700 ft, then head off trail for a lateral traverse across the open sandy slopes of the bowl with Dragons Head
as your bearing. Once you reach the far side of this bowl and pass over a ridgeline, you will be looking down on the ridge line of Dragons Head directly in front of you and The Tarn (dry lake bed) and Bighorn's district ridgeline to your left. Cross The Tarn at the base of Bighorn's slope gradually making your way up to the peak at its eastern most point. If you chose to follow the ridgeline from the saddle between Dragons Head and Bighorn, you will come across two false summits on your way to the eastern high point.
You can also follow the Vivian Creek Trail all the way to the summit of San Gorgonio then take the steep sandy slopes down to The Tarn to reach Bighorn, but this requires several hundered more feet of elevation gain than cutting off trail earlier. It is only recommended if you are looking to get in a summit of San Gorgonio as well.
Wilderness permits are required for overnight and day use.
The National Forest Adventure Pass is required for vehicles parked at the trailhead.
Obtain Passes and Permits at:
Mill Creek Ranger Station
34701 Mill Creel Road
Mentone, Ca. 92359
Adventure Pass information
When to Climb
This peak can be climbed year round. Snow usually starts around late January. It can get pretty sunny and hot in the summer, so many prefer fall or spring.
There are two campgrounds near the trailhead offering car camping:
Barton Flats and San Gorgonio. Both have tap water, payphone, restrooms, and showers. $15.00 per night. Both campgrounds are on hwy 38 a few miles east of Jenks lake west road.
USFS camping info
External LinksSierra Club
San Gorgonio Wilderness Association