San Gorgonio Peak hike in the fall. I don’t know how many times I’ve bagged it so far. I’ve lost count. But I’ve been away so long that I even forgot a few turnoffs on Vivian Creek Trail. Honestly though it was just great to be back out there again! Again, the view of San Jacinto Mountain was so majestic!
It’s fall. Time to hike Mt. San Gorgonio again. It’s been for months since last time I hiked the mountain.
HOW TO GET TO VIVIAN CREEK TRAILHEAD
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 HIKE SAN GORGONIO
All year-round. Winter hikes of course require 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
Because the super full moon eclipse was highly publicized in the media, I knew it was a full moon time. As I was driving near Mill Creek Ranger Station, the moon was so huge and so bright that I had to pull over and got out of the car.
Contrary to this awesome view of the full moon, by the time we were done with the hike and back in Los Angeles, we were not able to catch any of the full blood moon phenomenon because it got cloudy. And this won’t happen again for another 18 years till 2033. However, those who were in high elevations indeed saw it and were able to take some photos of it too, I later learned.
It was still dark when all of us pulled into the upper parking lot near Vivian Creek Trailhead one by one. But, by the time when we started our hike, which was 6:36 am, it was bright enough to put away our headlamps.
A group of thirteen enthusiastic hikers headed up the steepest and shortest trail in San Gorgonio Wilderness.
First thing first. What I like about hiking via Vivian Creek is this.
View of Mt. San Jacinto.
I get to see San Jacinto Mountain pretty much throughout while on Vivian Creek Trail. And from this particular part of the ridge (Lat: 34.08747, Lon: -116.85852), which is less than a mile beyond High Creek Campground, Mt. San Jacinto looks bigger. Hikers often take a break here, if they didn’t at High Creek Campground, and take photos with the backdrop of the gorgeous San Jacinto.
As this hill enters our view, we knew it will be our last uphill battle. Rather steep one. Many struggle climbing up this part of the trail because it is very steep. It shows who is well conditioned and who’s endurance level is high or low.
While at it, I turned around and enjoyed the view again. Santiago Peak to the right loomed in the distance.
And here it is – San Gorgonio summit marker, which reads;
highest point in Southern California
But I do not know why the marker reads 11,501.6 feet, when the sign reads 11,503 feet and the USDA on their website says that it is 11,499 feet.
Mt. San Jacinto brooded calmly in a distance. It was a perfect day to appreciate the surroundings although it was quite windy at the summit.
Earlier, while going up, we ran into these guys on the trail, who eventually caught up with us at the summit. It was kind of cool that these guys actually brought a golf club.
And they teed off for a bit.
It was quite windy and cold, so once the last member of the group reached the summit, we took a few group photos and decided to descend.
A few of us who had waited quite a bit at the summit couldn’t stand the wind, so we were glad that it was time to enjoy the warmth back on the trail.
While coming down, I saw a couple of guys ahead of me who was carrying a drone. I caught up with one of them and asked him if and when he flew the drone… because I didn’t see any when we were at the summit. He replied,
We did it yesterday when it was calm.
So, they camped at the summit. I had run into a few backpackers who also did camp at the summit and heard that it was quite windy at night as well.
It reminded me of my first backpacking trip here. It was really windy. We guessed that it was probably about 50 mph wind, and the wind never stopped till we left the summit first thing in the morning.
I barely slept that night, and it was at the summit when I realized that my gas stove didn’t work above 11,000 feet. It was quite disappointing not being able to have warm food before going to bed and hot coffee in the morning.
I bet though these guys got some awesome drone video footage.
As the summer was over and the fall in full swing (although we don’t necessarily see it here in Southern California, except aspens turning yellow), the days are getting shorter, and it was not even 2 pm, and yet the shadows got longer, which actually created better compositions for photography. I love how the lighting works.
The water was plenty at High Creek. No sign of drought, although I bet it was gushing down the creek at one point in the past. Hopefully El Niño will bring a plenty of rain and snow this winter.
I have never camped at High Creek Campground. Maybe that is what I will do next time – set up a camp here and go up to the summit as a day hike, like many do.
As coming down further, I really liked the way that Mt. San Jacinto was peeking out from behind the hills.
Longer shadows toward the midday
I particularly love this part of the trail. I do not notice this view when I go up, so it is always on my way down when I take photos of this part of the trail.
All in all, it was another great San Gorgonio hike via Vivian Creek Trail. Due to the Lake Fire past summer, many of the trails in San Bernardino Wilderness have been closed since. However, Vivian Creek Trail is open, which would probably lead a higher volume of hikers to the trail than usual. Let’s just hope that it stays well maintained.
According to my Gaia GPS,
20.4 mi Distance
6 hrs 51 min Moving Time
7 hrs 40 min Total Time
3.0 mph Moving Speed
2.7 mph Avg Speed
22:34 min/mi Pace
48 min Stopped Time
5898 ft Ascent
5955 ft Descent
I paused the recording while we stayed at the summit.
As for my foot injury, it held up not bad to a degree. However, my tight left hamstring kept lingered and this pinching discomfort in the inner knee came and went randomly. And my toes were quite hurting. I better get out there often.
Thanks for reading.