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Vivian Creek Trail to San Gorgonio Peak is a 17.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Forest Falls, California that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, trail running, camping, and backpacking and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
17.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
5,492 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

hiking

trail running

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

snow

Wilderness permits are required for all overnight hikes. San Gorgonio is the tallest mountain in Southern California, and a right of passage for serious hikers in the area. At 11,503', "Old Grayback" provides an excellent high altitude training for those preparing to summit Mt. Whitney, and only 90 minutes away from Orange County. There are several trails leading up to San Gorgonio, but none as steep as the Vivian Creek trail, which in less than eight miles to the summit climbs over a vertical mile. One and two-tenths miles from the trailhead is Vivian Creek Camp (7,100'). Campsites are located upslope to the right of the trail after reaching the stream: one is halfway up the slope, and the other is at the top of the slope (no camping within 200 feet of the trail or creek). One and three-tenths miles from Vivian Creek Camp is Halfway Camp (8,100'). Water is obtained from the creek 200 yards before camp. Two and three-tenths miles further is High Creek Camp (water available - 9,200'). The summit of San Gorgonio (11,499') is 3 miles beyond High Creek. The upper end of this trail offers outstanding views of Yucaipa Ridge and Galena Peak, as well as sweeping panoramic views from the top of Mt. San Gorgonio. After the South Fork Trail, this is the second most used trail in the Wilderness.

3 days ago

Just hiked this trial this weekend. ALL snow. 24” of fresh powder made the summit impossible for our team. Setup for the night at High Camp. Great hike. Cold at 24°. Well worth the experience. Will come back for the summit soon.

6 days ago

I finally completed the 6 pack of Peaks. This hike is freaking hard. We left at 6:05 am and finished at 4:30 PM. Spent less than 15 minutes at the top for photos. 1st mile after you cross dry river bed is a killer. The last couple miles the same, killer. I did this hike about a month ago. All snow now I'm guessing. Mt Whitney next August!

backpacking
20 days ago

On November 11th, we arrived at the Mill Creek ranger station to pick up our camping permit. We arived before they opened to increase our chances of getting a walk in camping permit. With it being a Sunday we lucked out and had our choice of campgrounds. The ranger station sets aside one walk in camp permit per sight per day. Our plan was to hike to the summit and camp at the summit camp site that night. We arrived at the trail-head around 9 am. our packs weighed about 35 ibs each. We started with 4L of water and a filter to resupply our water at high creek camp ground. We carried extra food, fuel, first aid kits, layers, cooking supplies, and the normal camping load. The extra gear was due to the extreme weather that was forecasted. The first mile is by far the steepest. After two hours we arrived at half-way camp ground. Don't let the name foul you, it's only 1/3 of the way to the summit. We reached this site in about 2 hrs. After a quick break, we pushed on to the next camp site, High creek. High creek is around 6 miles in. At this point we were at about the 4 hour mark. High creek is a very nice camp ground and is defiantly the most popular. I recommend applying for this camp site well in advance. But if not, just show up earlier and if your first in line, you'll be a walk on! Whats nice about this camp ground is that its protected from the weather, a nice water source, and great camping spots! We spent about an hour here. We refilled our water from the creek via filter and cooked a nice mountain house meal. As we started pushing for the summit another 3 miles up the mountain the temperature started to drop fast. The last 2 miles are pretty exposed. You'll hear countless people comment about how windy and bone-chilling it gets the last 1.5 miles as they descent. Don't worry to much, if you have layers and a good windbreaker, you'll be fine! Also be sure to bring a good pair of gloves and a beanie. Once we reached the summit at around 5pm, we were welcomed with a beautful sunset on top of the highest peak in SoCal! There was a few small patches of snow. The summit camp ground is about 50 feet away from the summit and is extremely exposed. Although they're about 6 manmade rock shelter to reduce the wind hitting your tent, it still makes up for a windy night. As we set up camp we both experienced our hands going almost completely numb from the cold. As the sun disappeared we set up our tent just in time. At this time it was a rush to warm our hands and jump into our sleeping bags. It was so cold that we decided not to cook that night. The forecasted called for the low to be around 5 and with the windchill to be around -13. We were told the winds would be around 15 but awoke to a wind advisory of 50+ gusts! Luckily we had the proper gear! Our phones stopped working due to the cold and our camel bac froze. At around 1 am we woke up do a midnight summit. It was truly a special moment being on-top of SoCal and only us were crazy enough to experience this that night. I'll never forget all the stars and the sense of purpose that night Brough to us. A sense of belonging that only nature could bring. At around 8 am we broke camp and hiked down making stops at the same camp grounds as before. The climb took us 8 hours and the descent took us around 5. Ultimately, This was a very fun hike! Although a day hike is doable, backpacking this trail seams more enjoyable. Next time I'd love to make this a 3 day trip. Camping at high creek the first night, hiking to the summit day 2 and sleeping back at high camp the 2nd night. That would be more relaxing. This hike is tough but worth it.
Side notes: altitude sickness is possible after 8,000 feet. Both my friend and I got sick at the summit for about two hours after we set up camp, This was due to the heavy packs and fast paced hiking to reach the summit before sunset. If you become sick just stop where your at for a little while until you feel better. If you don't feel better turn around below 8,000 ft and adjust!
Bring a water filter so you can save weight by refilling at high creek.
Start early! It gets dark fast!
Look out for wildfires! We saw multiple firetrucks putting out such fires as we drove home.
Hike with a friend! Trails like this are safe, but weather/ injuires can happen fast and to anyone.
Leave no trace, keep this place beautiful.
Have fun! Enjoy not just the summit but the journey that leads up to it. As you climb notice the different ecosystems!
Camping at the summit was a great time but I wouldn't recommend it with the summit being so windy!

hiking
23 days ago

Short version: I've done it twice this year. Last February and this weekend (Nov 17). Beautiful but difficult. I'm in my mid fifties and in relatively good condition. So, for you young folks... read this review with that in mind. I've hiked Whitney once, San Jacinto a half dozen times, and have covered 15 - 20 mile days in succession on short sections of the PCT. Don't read anything more into all that other than I am an experienced novice that loves to hike.

This little trail is harder than all of my previous hiking.

Long version: Unless you are in hiking shape... not running or surfing or weightlifting shape... but hiking shape with the body used to having 30pds+ strapped to it and walking up hills for hours... regularly and who is? I recommend making a 3 day trip out of it.
Day 1) parking lot to High Creek camp which is 3000'+- of climbing in 6 miles with full pack
Day 2) High Creek Camp to the top and back, which is 2500'+- up then down over 6 miles with day pack
Day 3) 6 miles and 3000' downhill back to car.
This pace would seem to offer what I go to the mtns for which is both a challenge as well as time to put the feet up, get a book out and kick back in the trees. Both times that I've done this hike I've only camped one night. Both trips were awesome but somewhat painful and slightly rushed. Why not add one more night and slow the whole thing down a bit is the realization I came to this morning after downing another post weekend Ibuprofin with my coffee.
If your schedule is tight then the Redbull 10hr+- up and back in a day with only a day pack seems the most popular.
For me hiking is challenging, slowing down is more of a challenge. Probably more than you wanted to know but hope it helps.

Finally, I researched this mountain well prior to my Feb hike as I was considering going solo. I found out that even for experienced hikers with snow and ice gear hiking sometimes on beautiful weather days... this mountain has been very deadly; be careful!

29 days ago

Wow! A tough hike for sure, especially if you’re hauling enough gear to camp over night. Weather was amazing, clear but somewhat cold. The temp over night was around 20 degrees. The trek to High Creek Campgrounds with 40 lbs. worth of gear was a challenge. From Forest Falls to High Creek is a 3k elevation gain in 8.5 miles. It’s a haul! Then the summit is another 2,400 ft to the top. Round trip is really 22 miles back to the car. Took my 14 year old son, we both got a workout! Watch your time, both the hike in and out we ended up hiking in the dark with headlamps for the last few hours. There’s water at High Creek so you can replenish there if you have a pump/filter.

hiking
1 month ago

This was the second time I've gone up to Gorgonio is as many months. The last trip up was 9/16/18 and I'll be going again on 11/24/18. The first time was great! I met up with a group called "Girls that Hike' an they allowed me into their graces and so I ended up hiking with them all day. What a great group!

On my second trip up, I met up with the Outdoor Athlete Enthusiasts, a group I met through Facebook! We met at 5:00 am, the trial head and proceeded from there. What made my second trip so amazing is there there was snow starting at around 9,500 ft! What we reached the summit it was covered in snow! I've read quite a few reviews and the majority seems to agree, this is a difficult hike and although I can agree, It's certainly not the most difficult hike that I've done!

Although, very short, I found that Mt. Baldy via Register Ridge a more challenging hike as far as elevation gain! On Register Ridge, you're gaining around 4000 ft of elevation in just 3.5 miles (or so) and a portion of that (half mile or so) is on the the Devils Backbone trail with is relatively flat on that portion of the trail! If you want to make it interesting, don't join the Backbone trail when it intersects Register Ridge! Take the short walk to Harwood summit and enjoy some nice views of the high desert! Think about it, two summits on one hike? That's kinda cool, don't you think?

OK, Back to Gorgonio...

When you head out from the parking lot, it seems pretty mellow. Once you get across the creek to the switchbacks, that first mile with test you to the extreme! Once you get past that stretch, it's a pretty good hike! You will encounter some difficulty but over it's not to bad! Beware of the "False Summit"! Before I went up, I'd read about it and watched videos describing it but I got snookered in by it! LOL!

Once at the summit, the views are breathtaking! The first time I went up, it was very clear and you could see for hundreds of miles in all directions! On my second it was clear to the north and east but behind us, the clouds moved in and it was amazing to watch it go from clear to cloudy! I'm talking dark ominous clouds! I though we were going to get rain but it never happened! The hike back was great! It was like being in a dark spooky forest! My daughters said that it reminded them of a cemetery in a scary movie! LOL!
I love this hike, I've made it my goal to learn this mountain! This next time I may camp out up there! Not sure yet! So, If you're up for a challenge, I strongly recommend this hike! It's one you'll not soon forget!

hiking
1 month ago

This was the second time I've gone up to Gorgonio is as many months. The last trip up was 9/16/18 and I'll be going again on 11/24/18. The first time was great! I met up with a group called "Girls that Hike' an they allowed me into their graces and so I ended up hiking with them all day. What a great group!

On my second trip up, I met up with the Outdoor Athlete Enthusiasts, a group I met through Facebook! We met at 5:00 am, the trial head and proceeded from there. What made my second trip so amazing is there there was snow starting at around 9,500 ft! What we reached the summit it was covered in snow! I've read quite a few reviews and the majority seems to agree, this is a difficult hike and although I can agree, It's certainly not the most difficult hike that I've done!

Although, very short, I found that Mt. Baldy via Register Ridge a more challenging hike as far as elevation gain! On Register Ridge, you're gaining around 4000 ft of elevation in just 3.5 miles (or so) and a portion of that (half mile or so) is on the the Devils Backbone trail with is relatively flat on that portion of the trail! If you want to make it interesting, don't join the Backbone trail when it intersects Register Ridge! Take the short walk to Harwood summit and enjoy some nice views of the high desert! Think about it, two summits on one hike? That's kinda cool, don't you think?

OK, Back to Gorgonio...

When you head out from the parking lot, it seems pretty mellow. Once you get across the creek to the switchbacks, that first mile with test you to the extreme! Once you get past that stretch, it's a pretty good hike! You will encounter some difficulty but over it's not to bad! Beware of the "False Summit"! Before I went up, I'd read about it and watched videos describing it but I got snookered in by it! LOL!

Once at the summit, the views are breathtaking! The first time I went up, it was very clear and you could see for hundreds of miles in all directions! On my second it was clear to the north and east but behind us, the clouds moved in and it was amazing to watch it go from clear to cloudy! I'm talking dark ominous clouds! I though we were going to get rain but it never happened! The hike back was great! It was like being in a dark spooky forest! My daughters said that it reminded them of a cemetery in a scary movie! LOL!
I love this hike, I've made it my goal to learn this mountain! This next time I may camp out up there! Not sure yet! So, If you're up for a challenge, I strongly recommend this hike! It's one you'll not soon forget!

hiking
1 month ago

This is a 22 mile hike from the parking lot. I’m not sure why it says 17.
Beautiful and hard

hiking
1 month ago

Completed this hike as my 6 peaks in 6 weeks combination. A long day of ascending and descending for over 17 miles. Beautiful day with sun and temperate climate the whole hike. Chilly and windy at the top, but to be expected. I have always ascended from Dry Lake camp and this was my first from Vivian Creek.

hiking
1 month ago

Two hours east of Downtown LA lies San Gorgonio - the highest summit in all of Southern California at 11,503 feet. This is a beast of a mountain that you must be absolutely prepared for especially since it is known to have thunder & lightning storms that can come out of the blue which is exactly the dangerous situation my friend and I would find ourselves in but I'll save that story for later.

About the actual journey, I must say this was probably one of the most beautiful and scenic hikes I have ever done in all of Southern California. It starts in a dried up rocky riverbed, travels through a diverse forest w/ sequoia like trees, and goes all the way up through endless switchbacks while in high altitude. This is an endurance hike as the total mileage you will gain from the parking lot is 21 MILES. Please bring trekking poles and bring at least 5L of water.

And now here's my story. For a majority of the ascent up to the summit, the weather was mostly perfect with a slight overcast and very cool weather. It made the trek very pleasant despite some of the steeper sections. About 1 mile from reaching the summit at 10,500 feet elevation, a light drizzle started and to be honest it actually felt amazingly refreshing. After about 15 minutes and not paying too much attention to the drizzle (We made the mistake of not really observing the clouds in the distance), a thunder and lightning storm towered over the mountain! The thunder sounded so deafening being that high up and it felt like we angered the Greek God Zeus or something. The rain was relentless and the temperature dropped dramatically. My friend and I made the horrible mistake of not having a water proof jacket, extra clothes, and hand warmers. We were completely drenched from head to toe and we started to feel the effects of slight hypothermia. We were so close to the top and we knew we had to turn around and escape the mountain as we saw lightning zap the hill across from us (scary moment). After about 45 minutes of hiding under some trees, we high tailed it down the mountain after the rain let down a bit. Mind you, we had to hike back 10 MILES to get back to our car. It was quite the miserable adventure and I low key thought we were going to die a slow death on that mountain. During the long descent down, the sun magically peeped up for a bit so that we could dry off. We somehow managed to get back to our car and were just happy to be alive. There were only 6 other hikers on the trail that day too and they too had to abortion mission. My lesson here is always be prepared with waterproof jackets, extra clothes, hand warmers, and gloves when you are doing a long hike in the mountains at high altitude.

That day I learned that the mountain will always be there. We were upset we didn't summit that day but were simply just happy to escape. Nature will be quick to humble you if you are not prepared.

- @justroc @just.trek

hiking
1 month ago

This hike was amazing. It's along day, so give yourself about 10 hours. Also, I highly recommend sun protection for above the treeline.

hiking
1 month ago

A monster of a hike but well rewarding. Give yourself plenty of time and start early.

hiking
1 month ago

We hike the Vivian Creek Trail, yesterday October 13, 2018, it was rainy, foggy, and cold: time 7:00AM to 3:00PM. The storm came in. Once we got to High Creek Camp Site, there was snow - you will need your snow chains and dress warm. If you need water, there are creeks and streams near Halfway Campsite at 8,285ft; High Creek Campsite at 9,400ft, but bring a water filter - use the flowing streams/areas to filter water. Bring waterproof clothes. Good experience, but be careful. It is still one of my favorite hike. :)

trail running
2 months ago

4 hours to get to the top lots of rocks but well worth it hard run down

hiking
2 months ago

The best of the 6 SoCal peak challenge.... also my friend’s and I last one too!

Anyways, the views are worth the barriers of wind or incline (switchbacks and vertical at the end). BUT we had flash floods towards the river bank due to HAIL/RAIN/THUNDER as we descended down around 2pm, also the forecast said sunny and 20% chance of rain.... but not DOWNPOUR.

Bring waterproof clothing just in case or else you’ll be walking drenched through the camping sights where most of the water starts rushing down on the trail itself.

Make sure to get out of the hike before it gets dark especially at the end of summer season

Still my favorite :)

hiking
2 months ago

Great escape from OC. Cool breezes, sometimes really windy, and fresh air. I came unfortunately unprepared as it was a spontaneous trip- I brought 1 liter of water and forgot my main bottle at home. Definitely need 2+ liters if you want to make it to the top. With photo searching, carrying my camera bag and tripod, and using trekking poles, at just a leisure pace it’ll take 6+ hours to get to the top. Love seeing so much trees, and all of the hikers I crossed were very friendly. Gets really windy at the top and at times freezing. I’m excited for my next trip and hopefully go around closer to November or December. I had also seen people who just go jogging up and down with just a hydration pack.

hiking
2 months ago

**If you start this hike before dawn, please read**

Immediately after the first "Trail" sign, do not follow the wash of the creek. The trailhead is ACROSS the wash. In darkness this sign is almost impossible to see. There are footprints along the wash that make it look like a trail, but again, do not follow the wash. Cross it. I made this mistake and ended up hiking 6 miles before we came to the conclusion that we were off track. One of the park rangers told me she had met many other people who made the same mistake. You can still coordinate your GPS location on the trail map even when you don't have service.

The next weekend (Sep 22) we went again and took the right trail. This was a gorgeous, scenic hike! The hardest of the Six Pack of Peaks but also very rewarding. It took us 5hr 4m to summit and 3hr 30m to descend. I used about 3L of water along with refilling some at the campsite on the way down.

hiking
2 months ago

Definitely an accomplishment! Great to be at the top above everything else. Make sure to take the little spur to the right at the saddle around 7.3 miles. Great views and rest before the toughest part of the climb.
We started at 630 on friday and saw only a few folks going up, summit about 1215, return took a little under 4 hours. Saw more filks on the way down, but i would not suggest a day hike starting after 7.

2 months ago

Peaked on 22nd Sept. It was a perfect day with barely any winds. Another group who summited last weekend faced 60m/hr winds at the top.
Parking: Start early and you won't have a problem. we started at 3am.
Water: Took 2 litees. Filled twice at High Creek. used clorine tablets to purify.
Trail: Tricky point at the beginning when we cross the riverbed. We had someone who had done it before with us to help us navigate this part in dark. Before descending to the riverbed, shine your headlamp pointing straight ahead until u see the reflection from the trail sign on the other end. Then walk towards that reflection to get to the right trail.

I found the beginning 1.5 mile climb not as difficult as the last 4 miles after High Creek.

Saw 2 guys with serious hunting equipment on the trail between Vivian and High Creek, hunting deers! I talked to the ranger and found out, the hunting season is on but they were not in the destinated hunting area. If u see something say something. Don't hesitate to question and report folks who seem out of place. Their arrow can hit any hiker if they hunt in non designated areas.

Again: This one is not for me. Won't do it again. Too long and Peak not as interesting. Glad to get it checked off my bucket list!

hiking
2 months ago

I gave this trail a 4 Star because we miss the turn to the trail entrance . Right before wt the fork It should of been mark better after the trial head, we walk straight on the rocky sand along the waterfall for 1.5 miles until ran into a girl who went for 2-3 miles out and realize she was lost . So after all that we end up with 20.3 miles
Moderate, not too hard. You can bring 3-4 frozen water bottle is enough. Depend how you hydrate, plus a jacket , it can be really cold around September.
It’s a beautiful trial !!

hiking
2 months ago

Water update for Vivian Creek trail:
I just completed this challenging but rewarding hike September 22-23rd. Plenty of water available at Vivian Creek Camp, no water available at Halfway Camp, and plenty of water at High Creek Camp. So do not do what I did and safe yourself of 12 extra unnecessary pounds of water.

hiking
2 months ago

Great challenge! On Sept 14 there still was a trickle of water at High Creek; I could have packed 4-5 lbs lighter. I did drink about 4.5 liter - in full sun it still was warm at the top. I saw about a dozen other hikers on a Friday. Weather was great, views were fairly clear, and it was another glorious day on the trail.

hiking
3 months ago

Awesome hike! A good portion of the trail is shaded & some water was available. Be careful what you leave in your car, saw a black bear in the parking lot.
Just like everyone else has said, that first mile and those last couple miles to the peak will get ya. To me, all the miles in-between were relatively easy & enjoyable. For a bit I forgot I was in SoCal, it looked like the Pacific Northwest. On the way back, those miles were long, probably because I wanted back to the car.
My pup and I started at 715am & got to the peak at 145pm. It seemed to take everyone we talked to about 6-6.5 hours to summit. The way back took about 4.5 hours.

hiking
3 months ago

Hard hike more or less uphill for a bit over 9 miles. Water available at Vivian Creek and High Creek Camps (Sept 03, 2018). You don't need a Wilderness Permit for a day hike (but they are highly recommended to help with trail management and S&R if something goes wrong). Wilderness permits are required for all overnight hikes - they're available from the Mill Creek Visitor Center on the way in. Rangers were checking overnight permits on Sept 02, 2018. Wind can be very strong and very cold at the top - make sure you bring warm clothes!

3 months ago

Legs were shot day after, what a workout!

hiking
3 months ago

IT IS NOT a 17miles hike, it is 20 miles hike! This is a difficult trail especially the first 2 and the last 3 miles. It took me 7 hours to reach the top and 4 out of 7 hours were spent on the last 3 miles because of the high altitude and steep elevation gain. I had 5 l of water/coffee/Gatorade with me and it was enough for me. It took me 4 hours to get back. Our hike started at 5:15 am and we were back to the car at 5:30pm (11 hrs walking time, around 12 hrs total time). Be ready both physically and mentally to hike this peak !

hiking
3 months ago

We hiked a small portion of Vivian creek in June 2018. Very nice trail. Easy to follow. Has a lot of switchbacks and pretty steep climb. Pretty shady, but the next time we will start earlier in the day to avoid the heat. Adventure Pass Required for parking.

hiking
3 months ago

One of the hardest but best hikes I have ever completed. Highest peak here in southern California. Did this hike around mid August. The hike was about 60% shade due to the forest. Towards the top it was warm sunny day but also chilly cold breeze. Beware of elevation sickness and pack a large lunch!

hiking
3 months ago

Vivian Creek Trail is now open after the Valley Fire. The trail open up on 08/15/2018.
SGWA

hiking
3 months ago

The trail is back open as of August 15. Check with the Mill Creek Ranger station to confirm that it has not been closed again, but the fire has been contained more and it has been considered safe to use this trail. We hiked it on August 17 and had to hurry down from the peak due to a thunderstorm that was coming in. Overall, this is a great hike. The trail is a little rocky and eroded in spots, but definitely worth doing.

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