San Gorgonio Mountain (via Vivian Creek)

Converging ridges below the summit

Objective: Summit San Gorgonio Mountain, San Bernardino Mountains, California
Distance: 18.6 miles (out and back)
Peak Elevation: 11,503′
Elevation Gain: 5,400′
Difficulty: Strenuous

San Gorgonio Mountain, aka Old Greyback, is the highest mountain in Southern California. It is also one of the Three Saints, along with Mt. San Antonio (Baldy) and San Jacinto Peak. Summiting San Gorgonio (highest peak in San Bernardino County) is a well-earned badge of honor. The Vivian Creek Trail is the steepest, most direct route to the top. There are many campsites if you do not want to do this as a day hike.

Directions to Trailhead

From the 10 E at Redlands, take exit 79. Continue east on W Pearl Avenue for 0.2 miles. Turn left at Orange Street and drive 0.6 miles. Turn right onto E. Lugonia Avenue (CA-38 E) and drive northeast for 13.8 miles. At an intersection, head straight onto Valley of the Falls Road. Continue for 4.4 miles to the Falls Recreation Area, past the town of Forest Falls. Drive to the parking area at the end of the road.

Directions to Summit

Parking: From the parking area, walk past the locked gate along the rocky road to the trailhead.
0.51 miles: Trailhead: From the trailhead, Vivian Creek Trail begins by crossing Mill Creek Wash.
3.22 miles: At the junction with the Halfway Camp spur trail, keep left to stay on the main trail.
5.67 miles: After High Creek Camp, High Creek is the last source of potable water.
8.71 miles: At the junction, turn right onto the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail.
8.90 miles: At the junction with Sky High Trail, keep going straight and follow the trail up to the summit.
9.30 miles: You have reached San Gorgonio Mountain. Turn around and head back.

Snow on San Gorgonio

Trek Highlights

The parking area is half a mile to the trailhead. There is a path through large boulders in Mill Creek Wash that reconnects with Vivian Creek Trail. The steepest portion of the hike has a mile of switchbacks climbing 1,000’ out of Mill Creek Canyon. Other than that, the well-groomed trail ascends rather steadily with an even grade.

The next couple miles are an enjoyable shaded stretch next to Vivian Creek on a soft path with pine needles. There are some tree roots that seem to form a gentle staircase. Regal yellow moths with big black spots flutter next to a green chaparral slope. After a high manzanita hedge, a nice little waterfall cascades off a high creek. High Creek Camp has generous amounts of shade and the last source of potable water.

Then the trail climbs up some switchbacks with purpose to the ridge just below tree line. With about two miles to go, a bump blocks the view of the peak. After half a mile on a sunshine ridge with a cool breeze, you will encounter a final set of switchbacks.

The ridge follows a long sandy path that eventually connects with the summit ridge to the east. You can now see San Gorgonio’s flat gray top. The summit plateau is broad with a mound of rocks at the top. With its notable prominence, you can see So Cal’s far off tall peaks. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mt. Whitney.

Red Tape

Display your adventure pass. Permits are required for both day and overnight hikes. If you need a permit, fill out the online form, which can be found here:


Spanish missionaries in the area during the early 17th century named the peak after Saint Gorgonius.


Mill Creek Wash
Lush and shady Vivian Creek
Magnificent green slope studded with white boulders
Little waterfall before High Creek Camp
High Creek
Initial ridge after main switchbacks
First sighting of San Gorgonio
Summit plateau in sight
Selfie sign
Clouds rolling in