My attitude toward hiking the San Bernardino Peak Trail via Angelus Oaks was not the greatest. We planned to hike Gorgonio but didn’t apply for a pass in time (womp womp), so we needed to find a backup. Plus, I woke up to find my breakfast moldy. Luckily a stop at Starbucks solved the breakfast issue, but the morning didn’t exactly start well.
Mount Gorgonio is the highest peak in Socal, so we were doing that in my mind. Nothing was going to be Mount Gorgonio. Before hiking San Bernardino Peak, I thought it was the “easy way out” and an easy peak. WHAT? It’s 16.5 miles with nearly 5000 feet of elevation gain…but Goeorgonio is longer and higher. Anyway, it was completely our fault and we didn’t look to see if we needed passes until the night before. If you are doing the Gorgonio hike on a Saturday, passes will likely be out 2 weeks in advance.
Luckily, my attitude changed within a few minutes of starting the hike of San Bernardino Peak. Thank goodness we were out there for 8 hours, and it would have been a long day if I hadn’t.
About San Bernardino Peak:
Elevation Gain: 4700
San Bernardino Peak Hike Trail Address:
5766 Frontage Rd, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305
Something to keep in mind, this San Bernardino Peak Hike Trail Address gets you to the fire station. After that, you’ll need to take a rugged (and bumpy) dirt road to get to the actual San Bernardino Peak Hike Trailhead. The dirt road is fairly easy to follow (we did it in pitch black).
You also need a day hike permit to do the San Bernardino Peak. They are easy to fill out, and you can find the information online. Print a copy and have it in your pack to be safe. Rangers are not always patrolling, but when they are, you will be asked to leave without a copy of your pass.
Gear Used for San Bernardino Hike:
My Experience Hiking the San Bernardino Peak:
I like San Bernardino Peak because it’s long but not extremely technical and you are never just climbing straight up a mountain. You climb for about 8.5 miles and then go back down. You don’t have to worry about super steep hills, it’s just a long climb the entire time. You do need to be in decent shape because it will take you anywhere from 8-12 hours. Don’t underestimate the San Bernardino Peak because it’s not easy. You can easily use it as preparation for Mount Whitney.
There is a lot of fire damage on the San Bernardino Peak Trail. I knew it had been closed for a while, but I didn’t realize how much fire damage there was. It’s really sad to look at for the first few miles of the hike.
We started around sunrise at 6 am. We weren’t entirely sure how long it would take to climb San Bernardino Peak, and I prefer the promise of light versus waiting for darkness to set in. Plus, I also wanted to get home at decent time. I probably wouldn’t start any later than 7 am.
The San Bernardino Peak starts at the San Bernardino Peak trailhead. There is enough space for about 20 cars. When we arrived Sunday around 5:45 am, it was already half full. We thought, “wow, we are late, ” but later realized that many people had camped overnight. At 6 am, we were probably the first people starting our hike, but it seemed quiet at San Bernardino Peak that day anyway.
Getting to the San Bernardino Peak is quite an adventure. After you get to the firehouse, you’ll take a back dirt road that is rutted out and bumpy. We were fine in our Sedan but the only sedans there. So keep in mind you probably don’t want a low-riding car.
As you start the San Bernardino Peak, you’ll notice it’s a lot of climbing. You climb roughly 600 feet most miles. There is a break around mile 4, and you only climb 200 feet. The first few miles of the San Bernardino Peak are the steepest with the exception of the last .1 up to the peak.
As we continued hiking up San Bernardino Peak, we noticed how many switchbacks there were. Unlike many peaks like San Antonio that go straight up, San Bernardino Peak trail winds around. This adds a mile or two lengths but makes it more tolerable.
Around mile 1.5, you see the San Gorgonio Wildnerness sign. Was I salty because Gorgonio was the hike we wanted to do? Nah, I got over it.
One of the more fun things about San Bernardino Peak is that you always have views. Throughout the hike, we saw Mount Baldy, Angeles National Forest, and Band in Bear Lake, and we could even see glimpses of the desert.
Around miles 3-4, you get to the Manzanita Flats. Was this my favorite part because it had the least amount of climbing? Maybe. JK. Looking over, you will see Big Bear and San Bernardino. It feels like you’re “almost there,” but the toy still has several miles and about 2000 more feet of climbing. I actually haven’t been to Big Bear yet, and it was my first glimpse of the lake.
We saw some people camping around the trail junction when we reached Limber Pine. If I were to camp, I would probably choose Limber Pine Campground. It has beautiful views!
You can also take a small detour and see Washington’s Monument. It’s another scenic spot along the hike and worth the extra .05 detour to get there.
Around mile 7, you’ll see a fun lookout with a rock made on the bench. I think this was one of my favorite views of the entire hike. It’s worth the short trip out to view (really, it’s like .05).
You can also see San Jacinto Peak in the distance. Around mile 8, the trail splits, and you go up probably the steepest section. But then you make it to San Bernardino Peak, and the pile of rocks marks the spot.
At the top of San Bernardino Peak, you see beautiful views of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake, San Jacinto Peak, San Gorgonio, and Mt Baldy.
Then you head back the same way you came. As we started the climb down, it was hard for me to imagine we were only halfway there. As we headed downhill, a storm cloud began brewing, and we realized it would rain. I honestly began to feel worried.
While we both had jackets, we weren’t super prepared for heavy rainfall, and it wasn’t forecasted to rain either. What the heck?! Now we know, always be prepared for random rain in the mountains (in the back of our mind we knew this?).
Around mile 11 of the San Bernardino Peak hike, it did start raining. We also heard thunder and saw lightning in the distance. Luckily, we hustled back down, but it just became rain for the last few miles. It was kind of interesting to watch the rain and thunder clouds form out towards Mount Baldy (definitely glad we didn’t do that hike). We saw a couple of people coming up during that time who said they were going to camp overnight.
The San Bernardino Peak hike is one of my favorites among the SoCal peaks. It’s long but never terribly steep, and it’s not too technical to get a good groove the entire time. Plus, it has some of the best views of any of the SoCal Peaks. Looking back, I am glad we didn’t do San Gorgonio that day. It looked like a fair amount of rain in that direction.
Other SoCal Peaks I’ve Done:
You can see all hikes here.
Questions for you:
Has it ever rained on a hike you?
Have you hiked the San Bernardino Peak trail?