Tuesday, September 9, 2008

San Gorgonio

San Gorgonio peak is the highest of them all and it not to be taken lightly. Standing at 11,499 feet, it is the highest peak in southern California and often has snow on it until early summer. It can be accessed from several different trailheads and is a popular backpacking destination for hikers from all over the country.

San Gorgonio is surrounded by wilderness and therefore a permit is required to be in the area for both day and overnight trips in any season. The description below if for the Jenks Lake/Southfork Trailhead, information for the other trailheads can be obtained at: http://sgwa.org/

2009 San Gorgonio hike information (posted 9/2/09)

Seven Summits San Gorgonio hike September 19-20

San Gorgonio is a challenging and rewarding hike and a fitting final yearly peak for the Seven Summits of Big Bear hikers. After hiking progressively longer peaks throughout the year, San Gorgonio will require all the skills and training you have built up, plus a good deal of heart. Total hike distance is around 22 miles with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

This year's hike is planned for September 19th and 20th and will be an overnight backpacking trip with an organized group and leaders Heather and Ted DeVito. We will be hiking from the South Fork with the overnight stop near Dollar Lake.

If you would like to hike San Gorgonio in one day then you will need to get your own permits and partners together. Information on day permits, hiking conditions and more can be found on the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association's web site: http://www.sgwa.org/

The overnight hiking group will have 20 available hiking slots, which must be reserved in advance. Priority goes to hikers who have been hiking this year's Seven Summits challenge, and among them on a first-come-first-serve basis. The organizers reserve the right to exercise discretion in choosing hikers for any reason, not the least of which is fitness level, as this becomes a safety concern for the entire group.

The main plan for this group hike is to leave the parking area early and enjoy a leisurely yet strenuous 7 mile hike to the camping area near Dollar Lake. A hot dinner - a feast, if you will - will be served, thanks to the equestrian efforts of the SGWA. From there the summit is another 5 miles, which we'll do early the next morning. On this shorter jaunt, you'll carry only what you need to make the summit and then grab the rest of your gear on the way down as we make our way back to our cars on the afternoon and evening of the second day. The cost of joining the overnight hike will be only $10, which will cover the hot dinner costs.

In order to join the overnight trip, you MUST attend either one of the mandatory preparation meetings to be held at Equada Outfitters in the village on Wednesday, Sept 9th at 7pm and Sunday, Sept 13 at 10am. Peter Fulkerson, the proprietor is an experienced outdoorsman and works closely with the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association. He will be giving an overview of the hike, hiking conditions, how to pack, what is mandatory to bring and NOT bring, and general expectations (for first-time overnight hikers). If for a very good reason, you are unable to attend either of the meetings you MUST contact Peter at info@equadaoutfitters.com (use Subject: San G prep) or call him at (909) 866-6186 to make arrangements.

Reserve your space for the San G overnight hike by emailing Heather at mountainfitnesscenter@gmail.com (use Subject: San G reserve). If you have questions about doing a day hike on your own, please do your homework and research the information at http://www.sgwa.org/ before posting your question on Active Big Bear.

Trail Basics

from Jenks Lake up South Fork to Dry Lake - 24 miles round-trip
from Jenks Lake up South Fork via Dollar Lake- 22 miles round-trip
Peak Elevation:
Trailhead Elevation:
Jenks Lake - 6880'
What to bring:
Please attend meeting at Equada for overnight mandatory gear list.

Permits: You will need an Adventure Pass for your vehicle, plus if you are doing the one day hike on your own, you must have wilderness permits to hike San Gorgonio. Permits must be arranged in advanced. See http://www.sgwa.org/permit.htm


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Jenks Lake - Driving Directions

Take Hwy 38 out of Big Bear towards Angeles Oaks. After passing South Fork Campground, turn Left on the paved Jenks Lake Road East which you will drive for 2.5 miles until you find a large paved parking lot on the right hand side complete with restrooms.

Jenks Lake - South Fork - Dry Lake Trail Directions

The trail begins just across Jenks Lake Road where you drove in from. You will be climbing up the trail for less than 1.5 miles where you will reach a meadow with a small structure, shortly after that you will cross over a dirt road. In about another mile you see a wilderness boundary sign (hopefully). At this boundary marker you will also see a sign for a photo op which will take you on a very short side trail to “Poopout Hill”. Here there is a a scenic view of the mountain in all its glory and a wilderness information display. Eleveation here is 7820 feet.

The trail now climbs up the valley another 1.8 miles toward South Fork Meadows where you will come to a sign post which points the way to Grinnell Ridge. Do not take this trail, unless of course you want to go there! Continue straight for 0.3 miles until you come to a sign post which will point straight ahead to Dollar Lake or indicate a left turn to Dry Lake. Although you can reach the summit from Dollar Lake, this trail guide is for the South Fork trail and will go through Dry Lake. You will cross a stream almost immediately after this turn, and then start the 1.8 mile hike up toward Dry Lake. When you see the lake (or lack of a lake), congrats you have made it to Dry Lake at 9070 feet!

You should encounter a sign that points out where you can camp overnight in Dry Lake Campground or Lodgepole Campground. The first has only one or two good camping sites. The second, in the largest draw, has almost all the sites as well as Lodgepole Spring. Remember that camping must be at least 200 feet from meadows, streams, springs, trails, and other occupied sites is spread through two drainages.

If you are not stopping to camp here, continue on the west side of the lake headed south for 0.2 mile. You will then be heading up a small valley to the southwest which can be a little hard to spot in all the down trees and rocky terrain. Just stay on the north side or right side of the valley and you will find the trail. Continue up the trail for less than a mile and you will pop out in a clearing that will give you a nice view of where you are eventually headed. Continue on trail for about ½ mile and you will come to “Trail Flats Camp,” which will be indicated with a nice flat area for camping and there is also a sign high in the tree. You can pick up the trail by looking north or 90 degrees to the left where you will see a cairn about 75 feet away. From here you will climb another 0.7 miles to Mine Shaft Saddle at 9850 feet, which is clearly marked with a sign post.

At this intersection, you'll be able to head to San Gorgonio or Fish Creek (or, of course, back down to Dry Lake). You will be taking the turn to San Gorgonio to the south. Reconfirm your course with another sign posted on a tree to the left. From Mineshaft Saddle the trail is known as the Sky High Trail - a steep, rocky section usually covered in snow from late fall to spring. In less than a mile and at about 10,400 feet you will encounter the leftover wreckage from a C-47 airplane that crashed here in 1952. Next you will come to a series of switchbacks that will lead you up and eventually around to the south side the mountain. On the way up you will be treated to some amazing views of the desert as well as San Jacinto. In about 3-3.5 miles you will come to another sign post and the merge from the trails climbing the summit from the south and west. Just another 0.4 miles to the east and you have reached the summit.

You will know you are there by the people all hanging out on the rocks depending on when you go up, or by the fact that you cannot go any higher! There are several “ammo boxes” that have various summit registries. The official Seven Summits of Big Bear marker and punch can be found in the blue ammo can on the south side of the summit. Take in the views to the north of Big Bear Valley to the east, of the desert to the south toward San Jacinto, and to the west toward the San Gabriel Mountains. Don’t forget to get a photo of the 11,499 foot marker.

To get home, well, just go back down the same way. Or if you want check out one of the other ways back down, such as through Dollar Lake to change it up a bit, but we'll leave the navigation up to you! Have a safe and fun hike on San Gorgonio.

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