San Bernardino Peak, together with its twin peak, San Gorgonio Mountain, just five miles away and 900 feet higher, anchors the western-most end of the San Bernardino Mountains. At 10,649 feet (3246 meters), San Bernardino Peak is quite a landmark.
The standard route is via the San Bernardino Peak Trail starting at the Angelus Oaks trailhead. From Angelus Oaks trailhead (5,960') to the summit of San Bernardino Peak is 7.9 miles with 4700 feet of elevation gain. This trail takes you from deep pine forest to exposed manzanita slopes and visits the old Washington Monument survey point at 10,290 feet. In 1852, Colonel Henry Washington and his Army survey party were directed to erect a monument atop San Bernardino Peak. The monument was to be an east-west reference point from which all future surveys of Southern California would be taken.
The higher slopes of San Bernardino Peak are beautiful and rugged subalpine terrain. A number of trail camps along the way offer spring water and rest. The Angelus Oaks "San Bernardino Peak" trailhead is less visited than others at the edge of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, but still it receives a lot of use especially during summer weekends.
The San Bernardino Peak Trail from the Angelus Oaks trailhead (5,960') begins ascending through a mixed forest of pine, fir and oak, switchbacking up the wooded slope. You mount a ridge, walk along its crest for a brief distance, then continue climbing. You're welcomed into the San Gorgonio Wilderness by a wooden sign, 2 miles from the trailhead at about 7,000 feet. A bit beyond the wilderness boundary sign, the grade grows less steep.
As you climb above 8,000 feet, the Jeffrey pine becomes widely spaced. Shortly, the trail penetrates a manzanita-covered slope. Soon you'll arrive at the Manzanita Springs trail junction (at 8,240' and 4.3 miles from the trailhead), with trails coming from Johns Meadow and Columbine Springs. Columbine Springs (8,000') is 0.7 miles from the junction. After the junction, the trail ascends over slopes covered with manzanita and homely chinquapin. In 1.4 miles from the junction, it reaches Limber Pine Bench (at 9,360' and 5.7 miles from the trailhead). Another 1/4 mile up the trail is Limber Pine Springs, usually a dependable source of water.
Then, the trail begins a long traverse south, switchbacking up to Camp Washington, a trail camp with plenty of views but nothing to drink. One-hundred yards from the trail is Washington Monument (10,290'), which looks like little more than a pile of rock rubble. Finally, the trail climbs another 1/2 mile, where it intersects a brief side trail that takes you to the summit of San Bernardino Peak (10,649').
For day use a permit is required on any of the trails in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. These are free and self-issued. If camping overnite anywhere within the San Gorgonio Wilderness a permit is also required. These permits can be obtained at the San Bernardino National Forest Mill Creek Ranger Station in Mentone, 34701 Mill Creek Road. You can also request via fax at (909) 794-1125. The Barton Flats Visitor Center on Hwy 38 and the Fawnskin Ranger Station in Big Bear can also issue these permits.
In addition to the wilderness permits a National Forest Adventure Pass is required for each vehicle that is parked at any trailhead. Fees are $5.00 a day or $30.00 for an annual pass. These can be obtained from any of the ranger stations or from many of the local merchants.