Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 33.82416°N / 116.75762°W
Additional Information County: Riverside
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 7772 ft / 2369 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Black Mountain Lookout

Black Mountain #1 lies in the northwestern San Jacinto Mountains within the boundaries of San Bernardino National Forest. The likely reason for the 'Number 1' designation is it is the highest of eight Black Mountain summits in southern California from Santa Barbara County to San Diego County. In fact, Black Mountain is arguably the most overused peak name in the state of California as it appears 49 times in the USGS database along with 2 Little Black Mountains and Black Hill (see Etymology for more references).

However, one feature that sets this summit apart from its other Black Mountain brethren is its active lookout tower that is manned from roughly Memorial Day until Veteran's Day. The summit views are impressive with spectacular views of the San Jacinto Peak massif including Fuller Ridge and Castle Rocks, the San Bernardino Mountains and Banning Pass. The tower is manned by volunteers so unscheduled closures are possible. See this link for more information.

Black Mountain

Black mountain is easily visible from SR 243 is crowned with granitic rocks typical of the San Jacinto Peak massif. It is also adorned with a forest mixed with conifers such as Coast Douglas-fir, Ponderosa Pine, White Fir, Jeffrey Pine, and Lodgepole Pine apparently giving it its "black" appearance.

Summit access is attained by either the Black Mountain Trail or the Black Mountain Road. For those who want to feel like they earned the summit, I recommend the pleasant, relatively steep hike up the well-maintained Black Mountain Trail. For those who like driving more than hiking or want an easy summit en route to the Fuller Ridge Trail, you will want to use Black Mountain Road. This road receives periodic maintenance, but is still a pretty rough drive due to heavy wash-boarding. A low clearance vehicle could surely navigate Black Mountain Road, but high clearance will certainly speed up your trip.

Getting There

Directions to Black Mountain Trail from North:
Drive I-10 to Banning. Exit at 8th Street (SR 243). Turn right at end of ramp and proceed as follows:
At 0.2 mile, turn left (W Lincoln Street).
At 0.7 mile, turn right (San Gorgonio Avenue).
At 1.4 miles, keep left on SR 243.
At 11.8 miles, pass the Vista Grande Ranger Station.
At 12.8 miles, turn left at signed "Black Mountain Trail."
Drive 100 yards to the end of the road and park here.

Directions to Black Mountain Trail from South:
Drive SR74 to Mountain Center and turn north on SR 243.
At 4.4 miles, pass turnoff for Idyllwild Ranger Station on right.
At 12.5 miles, pass turnoff for (4S01) "Black Mountain Road."
At 16.6 miles, turn right at signed "Black Mountain Trail."

Black Mountain Road drive up option from North:
Follow directions above with the following exceptions:
At 12.8 miles, pass turnoff for "Black Mountain Trail."
At 15.6 miles, pass Indian Vista scenic stop on right.
At 16.9 miles, turn left at (4S01) "Black Mountain Road."

Black Mountain Road drive up option from South:
Drive SR74 to Mountain Center and turn north on SR 243.
At 4.4 miles, pass turnoff for Idyllwild Ranger Station on right.
At 12.5 miles, turn right at 4S01, "Black Mountain Road."

Once on Black Mountain Road proceed as follows:
At 1.5 miles, fork. Keep left.
At 4.8 miles, turn left at Boulder Basin Campground. Continuing straight goes to Fuller Ridge/PCT trailhead.
At 5.3 miles, arrive in Boulder Basin Campground. Drive through the campground and park at the left road fork signed "Locked Gate Ahead". There is room here for 3 or 4 cars.

Standard Route Descriptions

Black Mountain Trail:
From the parking area (5120'), hike up Black Mountain Trail (2E35) for 3 1/2 miles to the Black Mountain Lookout Road near the summit.
Turn right on this road and follow to the summit lookout tower. It is possible to shortcut the road by turning right just before reaching the road, then following a use trail to near the top of the Lookout Road. The last bit of 'trail' is actually paved asphalt with railings. Total RT distance is 8 miles with 2700' elevation gain.

Drive Up Option:
From the parking area (7520'), hike up the Lookout Road on the left (signed "Locked Gate Ahead") and follow to the summit lookout. Total RT distance is about 1 mile with 250' elevation gain.

Red Tape

A National Forest Adventure Pass is required to park at either location. These passes run $5 per day or $30 per year. Details on this pass and how to purchase online are located at the link above. You can also pick one up at these locations in Idyllwild, CA.


Detailed camping information for the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain (Group Camp) campgrounds and Fuller Ridge trailhead primitive campground is found on the San Bernardino National Forest website. The two maintained campgrounds have toilet facilities, but no water.

When to Climb

Black Mountain can be climbed year round, but the Forest Service closes Black Mountain Lookout Road when it snows. Snow is common in winter and temperatures can reach the 80's in summer but this is a heck of a lot better than the 100 degree plus temperatures in the surrounding valleys. If hiking the Black Mountain Trail in the summer an early start is best and bring plenty of water as the trail and campground at the base of Lookout Road are dry.

Current Weather in Idyllwild, California


From HPS Summit Signatures:
Named for various reasons the (non)color black is the most popular descriptive term for place names in California. According to Gudde it appears several hundred times. Black is mentioned before any color in the Bible. It comes first in the development of perceptual awareness in individuals. It is unique among color names in that it is universally recognized and named. It is used because of geological formations (such as the lava flows on Black #6), dark green chaparral, atmospheric conditions and sometimes for in early American sealer. Black Mountain (#5) was named by USGS Surveyor A. P. Hanson, (1883).

Appeared on USGS maps by 1900. Peak was on the original 1946 HPS Peak List. Weldon Heald climbed this peak in 1937.

Black Mountain Fun Facts
- Query of USGS Black Mountain Database reveals:
- 49 Black Mountain summits
- 2 Little Black Mountain summits
- 1 Black Hill summit
- 4 counties (Fresno, Kern, San Bernardino and Sonoma) have four different Black Mountain summits and Sonoma also has the two Little Black Mountain summits - get some originality guys!
- Sierra Club Hundred Peaks Section List has peak guides for 6 Black Mountains (including this one)
- Sierra Club San Diego County Chapter website lists 2 Black Mountain summits on their list of 100 summits.

Miscellaneous Info

The Boulder Basin Rock Climbing website is a useful link for you 'rock jocks' out there as there are opportunities a-plenty here.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-9 of 9
Bob Burd

Bob Burd - Nov 5, 2009 12:12 am - Hasn't voted

More than 13...

The USGS database lists no less than 52 summits named "Black Mountain" in California. It is indeed the most overused by far.


NavySeabee - Nov 5, 2009 4:53 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: More than 13...

Wow! Shoot me the link and I'll include it in the page. Thanks Bob.

Bob Burd

Bob Burd - Nov 6, 2009 12:16 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: More than 13...,P1_CLASS,P1_STATE:"^Black%20Mountain$",Summit,California


hgrapid - Nov 5, 2009 12:56 pm - Voted 10/10

Signature photo

There is a problem with the signature photo. If you click on it, it goes to a general image list. Put 570585 into the signature photo box. Otherwise, great job!


NavySeabee - Nov 5, 2009 4:53 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Signature photo

Funny because that photo ID is already in the primary image ID box. I'll keep playing with it.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - May 25, 2010 5:30 pm - Voted 10/10

Rock Climbing

I don't know if you know anything about the rock climbing in the area, but there seems to be alot of it around the peak and at the campground. Probably worth mentioning. Here is a link talking about some of the climbing- Boulder Basin Rock Climbing. There is still something wierd going in with the primary image thing. Also, I posted a bunch more photos to the page.


NavySeabee - May 28, 2010 5:09 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Rock Climbing

I posted the link you provided to the page and I really like all the new photos! All mine were taken just after dawn.

halhiker - Oct 6, 2014 3:53 pm - Hasn't voted

Seasonal opening

The tower tends to be open Memorial Day until Veteran's Day and not year round as stated. Black Mountain Road is closed once the snow falls. Also, the tower is manned by volunteers so is only open when volunteers have signed up.


NavySeabee - Oct 8, 2014 5:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Seasonal opening

Thanks for the updates. Changes made!

Viewing: 1-9 of 9



Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.