15.7 miles, Full day
One of the best-kept secrets of Southern California is San Bernardino Mountain. Just five miles away from the highest peak in SoCal — San Gorgonio — San Bernardino tops out at a respectable 10,649 feet. Hiking from Angelus Oaks, this 16-mile out-and-back trail climbs over 4,600 vertical feet. It makes for a very long day hike or a great weekend backpacking trip.
This trail has amazing views that begin very early in the hike. San Bernardino Peak is one of the lesser known (and lesser traveled) peaks in SoCal, providing a nice break from the more crowded trails like Mt. San Antonio.
There are three distinct sections to this trail. The first section climbs steadily up well-engineered switchbacks through oak and pine forest. You gain a lot of elevation quickly, but the trail is smooth and not too steep.
The second section gently climbs through manzanita, with beautiful views to the north towards Big Bear.
The trail beings to climb up the final slope as you near Limber Pines. There is a small seasonal creek that you’ll cross about 1/2 mile before Limber Pines.
Limber Pines is where the weekend backpackers often setup camp, and it makes a great place for a break before your final climb.
The third and final section follows switchbacks up the steep slope to Washington’s Monument, then parallels the ridge to the top of San Bernardino Peak.
This is the fourth of six southern California summits in the 6-Pack of Peaks bundle. Done in sequence, they provide great training anyone preparing for bigger hikes such as Mt. Whitney or Half Dome. Each hike in the 6-Pack is progressively higher in altitude, and all have respectable distance and vertical elevation gain.
The first challenge with this hike is finding the trailhead. I was able to find it on Google Maps, but the directions Google gave me neglected to point out that many of the streets in Angelus Oaks are missing street signs. Not helpful. The key is to look for the fire station (it’s on Manzanita). Turn torwards the station, then an immediate left on the frontage road. That’s where you’ll see what might be the most detailed road sign I’ve ever seen.
You’ll drive about 1/4 mile along a bumpy dirt road. You can take a passenger car up there driving slowly, though a high-clearance vehicle is recommended.
The trailhead parking requires an Adventure Pass. There is a message board and the ranger regularly posts updates (“rattlesnake seen on the trail” or “be sure to carry your permit”). Check the board for any special notices before heading up the only trailhead which begins just to the left.
Permits are required to hike this trail, even as a day hike, and group size is limited to a maximum of 12. Permits are free, and can be obtained from the San Bernardino National Forest Mill Creek Ranger Station in Mentone, 34701 Mill Creek Road or you can fax the permit request form to (909) 794-1125.