Dragons Head via San Gorgonio Summit from Vivian Creek Trailhead

Dragons Head via San Gorgonio Summit from Vivian Creek Trailhead

Page Type Page Type: Route
Additional Information Route Type: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Time Required: A long day
Additional Information Difficulty: Walk-up
Sign the Climber's Log


Dragons Head (10,866 ft. elev.) is a worthy peak located just south of Mt. San Gorgonio. Its summit registers reflect entries since the 1970’s so you’ll get a sense of connection to the hikers of 30 years ago. If you’ve gotten yourself to the summit of San Gorgonio, this page describes a cross-country route to Dragons Head.

Getting There

This route starts from the Vivian Creek Trailhead. Coming from the west, take Interstate 10 to the University Street exit in Redlands. Turn left onto University and proceed through the campus of the University of Redlands to Lugonia Ave/Hwy 38. Turn right at Lugonia and proceed about 14 miles through Mentone and up into the mountains to Forest Falls Road. Bear right onto Forest Falls Rd. and take it about 4.5 miles (passing through the Town of Forest Falls) to its end where you will find, on the left, the trailhead parking lot for the Vivian Creek Trail. Now get yourself up the approximate 8-mile route to the summit of San Gorgonio and you’ll be ready to visit Dragons Head.

Route Description

From the summit of San Gorgonio head over to its southern side and start down the slope picking yourself the most convenient route. As you start down, you’ll be able to see a field of trees and, just beyond that, an oval-shaped dry lake bed described as The Tarn on the USGS topo map. You’re going to be dropping 900 feet from the summit of San Gorgonio to The Tarn so it is a respectable descent.

When you get to The Tarn, proceed westerly (right), and a little up, to a saddle about ½ mile from The Tarn. This saddle lies just north of Dragons Head. From the saddle, the sharply profiled ridge to the summit bekons. It is no more than 200 vertical feet to the summit from the saddle heading southwest along the talus and scree ridge. Once at the top, locate the secure ammo box containing several notebook registers containing entries going back to the 1970’s. One thing that will catch your eye is the sheerness of the peak’s east face compared with its west slopes. Off in the distance, you can see the Whitewater River meandering through the canyons as well as Mt. San Jacinto hovering over the desert floor. Here is a shot of The Tarn from the summit of Dragons Head:
The Tarn near Dragons Head Mtn., San Bernardino Mtns.

To get back to the Vivian Creek Trail, return to the saddle and contour in a northwesterly direction toward the trail. You will drop into and cross a small creek before heading uphill again to join the trail. Depending on your speed, it will take you 30-40 minutes to get from the saddle to the trail. When you reach the trail, you will be well above High Creek so you have a ways to go to get back to the trailhead.

Distance: 17-18 miles on trail and some cross-country
Elevation Gain: 6,000 feet

Essential Gear

No special gear required in summer or any other time when the terrain is snow and ice free. Otherwise, snowshoes, crampons and ice axe may be necessary, as appropriate, during the winter season. Also keep in mind that, on the way in, last water on this route is at High Creek on the Vivian Creek Trail. So plan your water supply accordingly.

External Links

San Gorgonio Wilderness Association