Mt. San Gorgonio - Momyer Trail


Trail Stats


Distance - 26.5 Miles

Elevation Gain/Loss - 6900 ft.

Max Elevation Reached - 11,502 ft.

Difficulty Level - Very Strenuous

Trailhead - Link





Download Google Earth KML - Link

Download GPX - Link




The hike described here takes you up to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio. As the statistics noted above indicate, this is a very long and arduous hike and is best done as at least a two-day backpacking trip. Besides the bragging rights to having claimed the tallest mountain in Southern California, one can look forward to lush green wilderness and some serious solitude on this hike.


The Momyer trail, like every other trail in this wilderness, requires a permit from San Bernardino National Forest.    


Few hikers take this trail. Probably because there exists a shorter route to the summit in the form of Vivian Creek trail. Probably also because this trail starts at the lowest elevation among all trails to the peak, thereby gaining elevation the most. Whatever the reason might be, this trail is quite underused and fairly overgrown at points. There are stretches with thorny shrubs that must be passed carefully. There are a couple of fallen tree trunks that must be circumnavigated. But on the whole the trail is well marked and quite obvious to follow.


From the trailhead parking lot, head north towards Falls creek. Cross the creek just about in front of the parking area and continue north to locate the real trailhead. The trail quickly disappears under thick tree cover and stays in the woods for the better part of a mile before getting on to the exposed southern slopes of the mountain. This stretch involves a couple of long switchbacks with virtually no shade. The parking lot is still visible below and beyond the creek. Once again the trail disappears into the trees and stays well shaded almost all the way till the tree line.


You soon see a sign marking the boundary of the wilderness area. Soon after, there is a sign marking the junction of the Momyer Trail and the E. San Bernadino Peak trail, which forks to the left and heads up the mountain at a rather steep gradient. Relieved that you aren't headed that way, continue on straight to Alger Creek Camp. The trail actually loses some elevation before getting to the camp. This simple fact just might go unnoticed when you are awestruck by all the nature around you. But no worries, this will become painfully evident on your way back. Alger Creek camp has its namesake flowing right throuh it and is a good source of water even very late in to the summer.


Moving ahead the trail climbs to Dobbs Camp Jct. from where Dobbs Peak is clearly visible to the east and Yucaipa Ridge to the south. The trail continues on to the second camp, Saxton, at a fairly low gradient. About 0.2 miles before getting to the camp, the trail crosses a creek which forms the main water source if camping here. The stretch of trail between this water source and Saxton camp is particulary overgrown and requires careful maneuvering.


Beyond Saxton camp, the trail is rather flat till it gets to Plummer Meadows, where you cross yet another creek. This is the the last water source on this trail, so plan accordingly. The trail now continues on over a few switchbacks which take you to Dollar Saddle where it intersects the Forsee Creek Trail, the Dollar Lake Trail and the San Bernardino Peak Trail.


Heading SE, continue on to Dry Lake Veiw Camp, which is the last campground below the tree line. This is the first time that the vistas towards the north open up giving you a hint of how the north approach trails might be.


The summit is marked by huge boulders, most of which you can easily climb and pose for stunning photographs. There are also several windbreakers constructed out of smaller rocks by summit campers. These, I suppose, would provide some relief if things get too windy up there. Look for the three register boxes that now have several notebooks, loose sheets of paper, business cards, mementos and even a signed coconut shell! There is also a small summit marker quite close to the registers. It is not an official USGS marker though.


Make sure you pause for a moment and appreciate the fact that you are on the roof of Southern CA. No easy feat. Not by any standards.


You can trace back your steps Momyer trailhead and experience this wonderful trail once again. You could also pick one of the other trails that intersect the the Momyer trail and head in a different direction to a different trailhead. Use a good map, such as the Tom Harrison map of the San Gorgonio Wilderness to plan this hike or variants involving this trail. Any deviation from the standard out-and-back expedition will require a second car or significant extra walking.


Elevation Profile



Trail Log

July 25th and July 26th, 2009


Day 1    

Started from San Diego - 8:00 am on 25th

Started from Trailhead - 11:33 am

Reached Saxton Camp - 7:22 pm


Day 2

Resumed walking - 6:15 am on 26th

Reached summit - 12:00 noon

Started walking back - 12:38 pm

Reached Saxton Camp - 3:26 pm

Resumed after tearing down camp - 4:15 pm

Reached Trailhead - 8:17 pm

Reached San Diego - 11:00 pm


Track Analysis - Link  

Photos - Link 


Notes -


Vaishnav.S, Sesh. K and I decided to scale the heights of Mt. San Gorgonio in order to prepare for our upcoming Mt. Whitney hike. In southern CA, San G is the obvious choice for high altitude endurance hike training. But Momyer Trail ... not so much. The Vivian Creek Trail, it the shortest and steepest trail up to Mt. San G's summit. However, the time around when we contacted the Rangers for a permit, that particular trail was closed due to "excess bear activity". Apparently a black bear, not all that large, had grown too comfortable with human presence. The Forest service, on the other hand, was not very comfortable with the entire situation. Anyway, we got our permits for the Momyer Trail with camping at Saxton.


Attempting to summit from Saxton camp and returning all the way back to the trailhead would have meant something like 19 miles of walking in a day! Having never done anything near this before, we were a bit apprehensive. The obvious way to avoid this, the way we saw things, was to try and camp closer (than Saxton) to the summit. So we spoke to the Rangers on the day of our hike and managed to get a "Plan B permit" for Red Rock Flats camp which is a short distance west from Dollar Lake Saddle on the San Bernardino Peak trail.


We set out with our backpacks at about 11:30 am. Mine weighed just over 40 lbs. It was HOT when we left the trailhead. In just over a mile, right when we were on the most exposed switchbacks in the early section of the trail, I had to almost give up on the whole thing. I was way exhausted, probably because I hadn't had a decent breakfast and it was lunch time already. So I had to breathe fresh life into me by quickly consuming a pack of GU, a piece of Cliff Shot Blok, a Zone bar and some Gatorade. I am not sure what, specifically,  did the trick, but I was feeling a lot better in just a matter of seconds. I was ready to go in couple of minutes.


Almost immediately, we got clouded over. A storm came out of no where and cooled things down. We were well below any ridge line and therefore did not have to worry about the lightning. 


We took several short breaks and one large break at Algers (where we had our lunch). We finally got to Saxton camp with about 40 minutes of daylight to spare. By then it was painfully clear that we wouldn't be able to make another yard beyond Saxton ... not with our heavy backpacks for sure. We used whatever daylight we had to pitch our tent, sort out our food, other essentials and trash. They would have to be separated to avoid any potential bear problems. We also back tracked about 0.2 miles down the same trail to the water source we had just passed, to collect water for dinner and the early start tomorrow. We cooked in the dark, ate in the dark, enjoyed the stars in the clear night sky, purified some water with Micropur, hung out food supplies and trash on nearby trees and got into our tent by 10 pm.


Next morning, we started walking almost as soon as we were up. We left with the bare essentials ... water and lunch. We also refilled some water at Plummer meadows. Breakfast was taken care of at Dry Lake View camp. We continued on to the summit, hardly feeling any altitude issues. We summited, took several pictures and headed back. After quickly eating up our lunch, again at Dry Lake View camp, we made it back to Saxton really fast. Here, we tore down our camp and packed up everything we had come in with. The backpacks did not seem as heavy as the day before. Probably because we were not carrying all that much water anymore. Probably also because our bodies had got used to all the load. 


We walked with few breaks and managed to get to the trailhead just after sunset. The stream crossing to get to our car seemed harder than on our way in. For some strange reason it looked like the stream was running higher. We managed crossing it somehow and got back to our car and started driving back into civilization. First stop ... McDonald's ... and a strange sense of materialness returned ...  



Quick Links

:: Home

:: About

:: Gallery

:: Off Road





Contact me | © 2009 www.shyamal.com. All rights reserved.