San Gorgonio, or as we affectionately call it, San G is the tallest of the Three Saints of Southern California. At 11,503 feet above sea level, the summit of this hike is not exactly easy to get to, but it is oh so worth it when you get up there.
The round trip distance on this hike ends up coming out to roughly 18 miles, with ~4500 feet of gain along the way, don’t plan on doing anything else the day of this hike. We met (as a group) in Redlands at around 5:30 AM, and drove from their to the trailhead, arriving right around 7. This let us make final preparations and be on the trail before 8, which worked out well, although I think next time I hike this mountain I’m going to try for an earlier start.
The beginning portion of this hike seems pretty easy, as it as a nice easy slope along a very rocky (and dry) river bed, however just when you might be starting to get bored, the first set of switchbacks appear (basically immediately after crossing the river). These switchbacks will warm you up, and give you a nice taste of what is to come.
After surviving the first set of switchbacks, there is a nice long flat section of trail which meanders through some beautiful woods, along Vivian Creek (the namesake of the trail). This part of the hike is a great time to just soak in the woods, and pace yourself, the hard parts are yet to come.
After a while, you will find “Half Way Camp,” which despite its name, is not the half way point of the hike. Finding this camp is your warning that the switchbacks are about to come back — with a vengeance.
If you keep on going through the switchbacks, you will eventually get to High Creek camp, which was packed when I was there last. Fortunately, if you continue past High Creek for another mile or so, you will find a great place to take a break, which also happens to be the point on the trail where the transition from the East side of the mountain to the West side happens. While this transition is probably largely dependent upon the weather of the day, while we were up there it was at that point that we really started noticing the cold, largely because we were no longer protected from the wind by the mountain (and taking an extended break for lunch certainly ended up letting us cool down a bit).
Towards the Summit
From this transition point, you only have a couple of miles left to the hike, but they take a very long time as you are starting above 10,000 feet (from the transition point) to the summit (at 11,503’).
This trail actually reminded me a lot of the stretch of trail on Mount Whitney from Trail Crest to the summit (except for the fact that a) there was vegetation and b) we were ~2500 feet lower). After doing this hike, I understand why a lot of people use it as a Whitney training hike (although it certainly isn’t a requirement).
San G provides a very nice view from the summit, you can see well beyond Big Bear (and Big Bear Lake) which is kind of neat. On the day I went, there were a large mass of clouds towards Los Angeles (i.e. Western San Bernardino County and Los Angeles County.) It was still a cool view regardless, although it was very cold up there. I didn’t have a thermometer or anemometer, but my guess it was probably in the low 40s with a 30-40 MPH wind, gusting occasionally up to 50+ MPH. Needless to say, it was a bit chilly, and the wind really bit to the bone.
We summited around 4:00 PM, and sunset was around 6:40 PM, so lights were a real necessity on this hike. On top of the sun going down, it actually went behind some storm clouds first, making things darker for us earlier than they otherwise would have been.
An important rule to remember when climbing a mountain (or hiking in general): the top is only the halfway point.
This hike was pretty uneventful. Everyone seemed to have a good time, although there were a couple of minor injuries from small falls (the dark can make things tricky, especially when you are tired). I was expecting to finish this hike in the dark, so I had an abundance of lights (and batteries) with me, but if anyone hadn’t been prepared for that they could have ended up in a pretty bad state, as the trail is to shaded and to rugged to attempt to do by moon- or star-light.