San Gorgonio hike? It’s been over 3 months. And due to the fact that I injured my left foot, I was out of running and hiking, let alone conditioning, for a month, and since I came back, I’ve been busy hiking Skyline and C2C in San Jacinto, so, although it may be just a straight forward hike via Vivian Creek Trail, it was a time to go back and revisit. Besides, it was a great opportunity to catch up with familiar faces of the San Jacinto Hiking Club. Before beginning our San Gorgonio hike, I passed along the word that I got from another hiking buddy who happened to hike Mt. San Gorgonio the day before that micropikes were not necessary although there were some snow patches.
HOW TO GET TO VIVIAN CREEK TRAILHEAD
For San Gorgonio hike, it is very likely that you would be taking CA-38E via Mill Creek Station if you’re coming from the Greater Los Angeles area. However, if you’re coming from Big Bear or taking CA-18, get on 38W. Either way, you will end up on Valley of the Fall Dr. The trailhead entrance is at the end of the road.
There are two parking lots. The upper small lot is strictly for day hike and its gate closes at night. The lower larger lot is for day hike and backpacking. There’s a plenty of picnic tables around them for recreation purposes as well as restrooms.
WHEN TO DO SAN GORGONIO HIKE
All year-round. San Gorgonio hike in winter of course requires winter hike gear, such as snowshoes, microspikes, macrospikes or crampons, and an ice axe, but till snow arrives, one can hike without winter gear any time. Just be aware that days are much shorter in spring and fall compared to summer.
ITEMS YOU MUST BRING
- Permit (Receive by mail or pick up at Mill Creek station)
- Plenty of water (3L or more)
- Layers of clothing
- Adventure Pass day or annual pass or National Park pass
OUR SAN GORGONIO HIKE
While waiting for everyone to arrive and get ready at Vivian Creek Trailhead for San Gorgonio hike, the sun was coming up. However, it is the benefit of hiking in Mt. San Gorgonio that heat isn’t a huge issue because it is mostly shaded, except at the top. Of course, in summer, when days are longer, it could get hot toward the bottom on one’s way down, but it was not the case this time of the year.
We began our San Gorgonio hike at 7:01 am.
Because the trail is very clearly marked and well maintained, it is almost impossible to get lost on this trail. But I also noticed that a few trees were down and cut (and were being cut) to clear the trail along the way.
We actually came across a crew with chainsaws cutting some fallen trees near the National Forest sign, and when I actually asked them about them using the chainsaws, one of them replied that they were outside of the National Forest boundary, so they were fine, which alined with the word that I had learned a while ago when I ran into a couple of San Gorgonio Wilderness volunteers that every fallen trees were cut with two-men crosscut saws due to fire hazards in case of sparks causing fire. But the guy also pointed out that they actually didn’t belong to the National Forest, the state park nor were volunteers, so technically they could use their chainsaws wherever they wanted to.
As we got higher in elevation, we started seeing some small snow patches here and there on this San Gorgonio hike. But most of them were not on the trail, so it wasn’t really an issue.
We were getting close to the summit, but not close enough. Obviously, the San Gorgonio Peak can’t be seen from this point, and it was a good reminder that I still had to climb the last uphill section of the trail.
This is the part of the trail where I was looking up at in the previous photo. I was on the trail that ran across that brown hill in the middle ground to the right of the photo.
And after climbing for another half hour, one reaches this Mt. San Gorgonio marker, showing the peak is not too far from here. Once again, there were some snow patches but nothing serious. Because we had snow covered all over Mt. San Gorogonio, Mt. Baldy as well as Mt. San Jacinto, it was the first thing that popped into every hiker’s head with a plan to hike on this day after Thanksgiving. Luckily, the trails were clear of the snow, which was also a reminder that we’re having a winter snow season soon. Microspikes, crampons and snowshoes will be commonly seen in the coming months.
The view from San Gorgonio summit was spectacular as usual. Particularly, the view of Mt. San Jacinto is always something of a spectacle.
And it is always fascinating to observe and compare both the view of Mt. San Jacinto from San Gorgonio Peak (11,503 feet) and the view of Mt. San Gorgonio from San Jacinto Peak (10,834 feet).
And unlike the fact that one can’t see Mt. San Gorgonio while hiking in San Jacinto, while hiking in San Gorgonio, he/she always finds him/herself in the company of Mt. San Jacinto. Something about the view, or the beauty of the mountain, always pulls one closer to it. Maybe that is why John Muir fell in love with the mountain and left behind one of the memorable quotes about Mt. San Jacinto still recited now and then.
The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!
But, of course, that is when you are at the top of Mt. San Jacinto.
When I reached back down to High Creek Campground, where you get water for the last time on your way up to the summit, I noticed that the level of water was quite low. In spite of the fact that we had snow about a week ago that one may suspect that it may’ve helped increase a bit, to me it was astoundingly low, compared to the last time when I hiked here back in late August. It clearly shows the the State of California is going through the worst drought in history and that it is evident everywhere.
On my way down, I caught a view of Santiago Peak in the far distance and Mill Creek that we crossed to get to the other side from the trailhead. I actually haven’t hiked Santiago Peak, and it is surely on my list. Although it may not be challenging in terms of elevation gains, I heard that it has many pretty trails to hike on.
While I was heading down this part of the trail, I looked at the time and realized that it was only 1 pm and yet the afternoon shadows grew long, which was a quick reminder that it was winter after all even in California. However, I find this part of the day on the trail more pleasant, particularly in winter, because I do not see many hikers coming up as days are getting shorter.
And this is the wider view of the scenery from the same spot of the trail while on San Gorgonio hike. And after this point one finds him/herself in the woods without the views of adjacent mountains any more.
I love this part of the trail whenever I do San Gorgonio hike. Somehow whenever I hike on Vivian Creek Trail, I find myself taking photos this very view every time. Maybe, the grown afternoon shadows made it picture perfect. Or maybe, part of me knew that I was getting close to the trailhead. Or maybe, the way that trees were settled on the hillside.
As I was getting close to the last mile-or-so-portion to Mill Creek, I found this water stream flowing very nicely. So, maybe it was quite low near the top, but all the trickles eventually add up at the end. It was a great spot to take a break before reaching the trailhead, but I was not low on water, so I decided to keep walking. Besides, my toes were starting to complain.
Beauty can be found anywhere. If you look hard, that is. The perfect timing of the sunlight hitting the dead grass bed and transformed that into a small field of golden grass. It was quite delightful in that such a little moment of appreciation made me not only forget about my hurting toes but also realize why I was in nature – happiness.
And I looked up. Who can really complain about what nature has to offer?
And once I crossed Mill Creek, the last stretch of the trail back to the trailhead stayed in the shade pretty much the whole time. I really enjoyed the hike in the company of good friends. What makes us happy is this. This is what makes us work through weekdays and pick up another dose of the great outdoors.
Thanks for reading.