Summit Mt. San Gorgonio

Vivian Creek Trail

Distance

17 Miles

Elevation Gain

5840 Feet

Activities

Hiking

Skill

Advanced

Season

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Type

Out-and-Back

Added by

Brenda Lin

Forest
Scenic

This 17-mile round trip hike climbs into the lush valley of Vivian Creek to the barren summit of San Gorgonio. San Gorgonio is the tallest mountain in Southern California at 11,503ft.

A hiking permit is required to hike in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Apply for the permit early as the Vivian Creek Trail is the second most popular trailhead for the area and quotas fill up in advance. The permits are free and the entire process can be handled via fax or mail. All the information for the permit system can be found here here.

Start hiking early. The parking lot quickly fills on busy weekends. It is also going to be a long day, and by starting early, you will avoid the worst of the heat.

The trail begins from the east end of the parking lot on an old dirt road. Follow the trail as it will take you down across the boulder wash of Mill Creek. From here, it's a steep one mile section of switchbacks, which brings you to an easier section of trail and a major highlight of this hike, the lush green valley of Vivian Creek. Climbing resumes as you pass the last water source at High Creek. And after a number of switchbacks, the forest opens up, revealing stunning vistas of Mt. San Jacinto and the Inland Empire.

The final stretch of trail is a long diagonal traverse that steadily ascends gravelly slopes to the barren summit. As you reach the summit ridge, you'll pass a clearly marked junction. Bear right and head eastward. You will hit another junction from the south, but ignore this and continue straight for another 0.3 miles as the rock piled summit lies before you. Enjoy the 360 degree views and revel in your achievement of reaching the highest point in all of Southern California.

Retrace your steps on the return route back to the trail head. Fair warning though, the descent will feel much longer than you expect. Take your time as there are some rocky sections of trail, but most of all enjoy the view. You will find the views only get better as the late afternoon sun shines a new light upon the forest.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations.

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Best in SoCal

Backpacking trips like this one are hard to come by in SoCal, and this is one of my favorite back country trips I have done so far. Its the perfect high-altitude trip for those training for Whitney and beyond. It is incredibly brutal on the way up, but so worth it when you get to the top. Be careful on the way down, almost fell so many times.

No Place Better In Socal

San G is the best shot at a true mountain backpacking experience in Southern California. Pick your battles...big elevation gain off the Vivian creek trail head or the longer less vertical approach via South Fork. Either way this backpacking trip is one for the books and a must do in my eyes. The closest you can get to feeling as through you're in the Sierras, yet still close enough for a weekend trip. Get packing!

This is a pretty brutal hike in terms of elevation gain. Some might say "unrelenting". But reaching the high point of SoCal and it's accompanying views is pretty worth it. One word of advice- If you can swing it, try for a smog-free day to summit. It'll make the views all that much sweeter!

Distance

17 Miles

Elevation Gain

5840 Feet

Activities

Hiking

Skill

Advanced

Season

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Type

Out-and-Back

Added by

Brenda Lin

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