I wanted to get the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail hike done before the end of 2022. We tried a few weeks ago but realized we didn’t have a permit so it wouldn’t work out. Could we have risked it? Maybe but that is a terrible idea, and I didn’t want to get 9 miles into the hike and be told to turn around because I didn’t have my pass.
So anyway, that led to taking a day of vacation to hike the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail. Hey, it was a vacation well spent, and I did something for 10 hours on my day off.
The San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail marks our 8th (out of 12) SoCal Peak Trail. It is also a good build-up for hikes such as Mount Whitney or the Halfdome.
SoCal Peaks We’ve Done:
- San Jacinto Peak
- Strawberry Peak
- Mt. Wilson
- Mount Pinos, Sawmill Mountain, and Grouse Mountain
- Mount San Antonio (aka Mount Baldy)
- Bighorn Peak and Ontario Peak
- Hiking San Bernardino Peak Trail via Angelus Oaks
San Gorgonio is the longest trail as well as the highest peak. So it is probably considered the “hardest” of the SoCal peaks. Although, truthfully, I think Mount Baldy was harder because of how steep it was, and the loose rock is going both up and downhill.
About the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail:
Total distance: 18.5 miles
Total Vertical: 5,580
Elevation at Peak: 11, 503
Gear Used to Hike San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail:
- 2 liters of water of liquid IV
- 2 liters of Gatorade
- Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bars X2
- Bonk Breaker Energy Chew X 2
- Two grocery store cheese rolls
- Hoka Mafate 4
- Ultimate Direction Fastpackher 30 (new to me but great for holding everything)
Clothing: I would advise bringing several layers for the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail. During the hike, we experienced everything from 70 degrees to feels like 21 (due to the wind) at the top. I layered with pants, a tank, a long sleeve, a windproof jacket, a hat, and gloves (in addition to an extra set of clothing). I was happy with my choices and used all of my gear at some point.
About the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail:
The San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail is the most popular route and the shortest. I was surprised to learn there weren’t any shorter routes. But it makes sense because San Gorgonio is tucked behind many other peaks, and there is no easy way to get there. You can’t even see the mountain until about 4-5 miles in.
Keep in mind San Gorgonio gets snow. When we went on October 18th, there were already remnants of snow. I wouldn’t go in the late fall or winter months unless you’re an expert. We had a variety of weather on our hike, from 75 degrees to feel like 21 (with the wind). We opted to do it in one day, which was 10 hours.
There are a few options for camping, but from walking by, High Creek Camp seems to give you the best view. Just make sure you have a permit. Camping at the summit could be extremely windy, and truthfully it’s not a spot I would pick because of it. Are the views great? Yes, of course, but it’s just so darn windy.
San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trailhead Address: 41900 Falls Rd Forest Falls, CA 92339.
There are about ten parking spaces at the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trailhead. The Big Falls Trailhead parking lot is a little further toward the main road, adding about .5 to the trail each way.
You’ll also need a parking pass. We have the National Parks Pass that gets into every national park, monument, and national forest. The Adventure Pass gets you into every Southern California park.
San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail Hike:
The San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail is pretty well marked. We went on a Tuesday, so we only saw about 10-15 people, but typically you’ll see more.
One thing to keep in mind about the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail is altitude sickness. Altitude sickness often starts with swollen fingers and can become more severe, like headaches or nausea. No hike is worth risking it. We didn’t have any altitude sickness on this particular hike, but we are not strangers to it.
You’ll notice the 2020 Apple Fire once you reach the summit. The Apple Fire burned over 30k acres and was started due to a diesel vehicle’s exhaust malfunction.
Once parked at the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail, you’ll begin your hike. The small path goes straight up Falls Road. The first mile of the San Gorgonio hike is tough. I honestly began to wonder how I was going to do all 18.
I didn’t realize there were a few private roads along the route, but we stayed along the main trail. Once you see a sign on the left, you’re going to turn left and hike across mill creek. I thought this was Vivian Creek for what the entire hike is named after. The stream will be dry, but keep in mind that Mill Creek floods are not passable during heavy rains.
Once you reach the other side, you’ll see a sign stating you need a permit to the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area boundary. Here comes the tricky part. In the next about .8, you’ll climb almost 1000 feet. It’s hard! I almost gave up ten times. But keep in mind, you’ve already mounted a fifth of the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail hike. If the hike were that steep the entire time, it would only be about 10-11 miles round trip.
Around 1.7, you’ll see the Vivian Creek Camp. The next few miles are pretty straightforward, just long. While it is uphill, it doesn’t feel like that. Thank goodness, I didn’t think I could do it after the first mile.
Around 3 miles into the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail, the hike gets steeper again, and you’ll hit some switchbacks. You’ll be able to look down and see Mill Creek. It’s hard to believe you were just down there. It feels better to know you climbed that much.
Around 5 miles of the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail, you’ll reach High Creek Campsite. If I was camping at San Gorgonio, this is where I would camp. It has beautiful views. There are sensitive habit areas that you’ll have to watch out for. Just look for the cleared areas. Another perk of the High Creek Campsite is the snow-flowing stream. It’s likely the last place you’ll find water.
After the High Creek Campsite, you’ll head up more switchbacks. Around mile 7 are one of my favorite views and one of the first spots you see San Gorgonio. It’s crazy you’ve hiked for over 4 hours and haven’t seen where you are going. It’s a gorgeous spots to add layers and get fuel before the steep climb to the Gorgonio peak. You’ll see Palm Springs, the Apple Fire, and San Jacinto.
It was super windy during the time of the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail. I once again thought about giving up. I was tired, the wind was whipping, and it felt like I was going backward. You see a ridge in the distance and think that’s the San Gorgonio Peak. I honestly did, until we got there and realized it was a false summit. The real San Gorgonio peak is another quarter of a mile ahead.
You’ll see an area to camp towards the summit. While it’s beautiful, it was so windy, I would still choose Hike Creek (to be honest, I think High Creek is almost as scenic).
Finally, we reached the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail. It was windy at the top, but there were a few shelters we took refuge in. You can see a lot at the San Gorgonio peak, including most of La, Palm Springs, some of the Antelope Valley, Mount Baldy, San Jacinto, San Bernadino, Big Bear Lake, and Santiago Peak in the distance.
After relaxing for a bit, we headed back down the same way we came. Look out of the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail because we almost went down there…and that would mean we weren’t getting home that night. The downhill of the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail was rough, but we finished about an hour faster than the uphill.
We finished the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail in about 10 hours (5.5 up and 4.5 down). It’s one of the most challenging hikes I’ve done, based on length, but the grade can be steep too. It is worth it, but it’s essential to be prepared. I would likely do it again if someone else wanted to. The best time to hike San Gorgonio is May-October. Even in early October, there was snow at the top!
You can see Strava here and more hikes here.
Questions for you:
Have you done the San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail?
What is your favorite hike?