Ascent of San Bernardino Peak on 2018-06-05

Climber: Joseph Esparza

Date:Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:San Bernardino Peak
    Elevation:10649 ft / 3245 m

Ascent Trip Report

The San Gorgonio Wilderness is a land replete with alpine wonders and montane delights second to none south of the Sierra. This trip, the Forsee Loop, covering the fourth highest peak in Southern California (Anderson Peak), and the entire western edge of the great San Bernardino Divide, is surly among most golden trips the within this region of the Golden State.


Category: Very Strenuous
Miles: 17.3
Elevation Gain: 4,600'
Location: San Bernardino National Forest, San Gorgonio Wilderness
Directions: HERE: Note-The road to Forsee Trailhead (1.5 miles) if a fair dirt road, passable in 2WD cars going slowly.

The Trail: From the Forsee Trailhead at 6,700', take the path as it winds through the mid-montane forest habitat comprised mainly of Incense Cedars, White Fir, and Jeffery Pine. The trail is steep even in the early goings, and it only increases its grade to the crest at 10,400'. In about 0.5 miles, you will reach a trail split with one path heading east, marked "Trailfork Springs", and the other heading west, marked "John's Meadow." This essentially is the origin of this loop trip, as you will ascend one side, and exit the other. I recommend heading up the main headwall of the mountain towards Trailfork Springs, as the tight, compact, and heavily shaded switchbacks are more psychologically rewarding than the long, winding, exposed route past John's Meadow is.

Bear in mind, this headwall is steep, and the trail reflects this in its grade. The narrow single-track trail though is extensively wooded in its early stages by White Fir, and around 9,000', gives way to Lodgepole Pines. This section is relatively straight forward; bear the switchbacks patiently, and enjoy the expanding views across Santa Ana Canyon. Close to 10,000', after the once thick forest has thinned considerably, view expand towards the San Gabriel Mountains, and the nearly-even-with-your feet, Mount Baldy. At 10,400', and six miles from the trailhead, you reach Trailfork Springs and Divide, the former of which usually hold reliable water though mid-summer at least. At the divide, take the Lower San Bernardino Divide Trail towards "Camp Angelus", and begin heading west. After about ten minutes, you will reach another trail split, with the Upper San Bernardino Divide Trail. From this point, there is a rising knoll on your left. This is Anderson Peak, the fourth highest mountain the Southern California at 10,840'. The route to its summit is competently cross-country, about 0.5 miles and 300' of elevation gain. Bring a good topo map for guidance on reaching it. From its tree-strewn summit, the viewshed of the highest peak in the wilderness, San Gorgonio Mountain, is breathtaking. Rising like a grey giant out of the sky, it towers over all other mountains its vicinity between mid-Mexico and the Sierra Nevada.

After relishing the splendid summit view, follow your cross country route back to the trail split with the Upper San Bernardino Peak Trail, and then continue along the ridge-line to the west, as the path then begins to climb toward boulder-stacked San Bernardino East Peak. The views into the Inland Empire are best from this peak, though the clarity of the cities is highly dependent upon seasonal lower atmospheric conditions, such as smog and fog. That being said, the drop into Mill Creek Canyon is precipitous to say the least, and represent a drop of over a vertical mile, seemingly just below your feet! From the summit of San Bernardino East Peak (10,691'), the trail drops considerably into a small saddle straddling the gap between San Bernardino East Peak and San Bernardino Peak (10,649'). Rising again, the trail being the traveler to the summit of San Bernardino Peak, which due to the large numer of limber pines on its summit, does not offer nearly the same terrific views its higher parent peaks offered. Still, this is a classic So Cal mountain, and historically significant, as just 400' below its summit, at Washington Monument (10,240') you pass a surveying site from 1852. This site was erected up by Colonel Washington of the U.S. Army just six years after the United States acquired California from Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. He and his men calculated a baseline datum, which would set the cartographic precedent for all future maps of the region, influencing even today the arrangement of the area's road layout.

From the Washington Monument, take the trail down the westface of San Bernardino Peak, as it winds almost endlessly though oceans of montane chaparral, comprised mainly of foul-smelling Chinquapin, and more pleasant Manzaita. Around 8,400', there is a marked trail divide towards John's Meadow. This path is not shown on most maps, but is certainly obvious, and will connect you to John's Meadow, and 2.5 miles from there, the long-awaited trailhead.

Hiked 6/5/2018. San Bernardino County, CA. No Adventure Pass Required. No Wilderness Permit Required for Day Hiking.
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