San Gorgonio - Momyer
- 6900 ft.
Max Elevation Reached
- 11,502 ft.
- Very Strenuous
Trailhead - Link
Earth KML - Link
Download GPX - Link
The hike described here takes you up to the
summit of Mt. San
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
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
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
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
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
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.
25th and July 26th, 2009
Started from San Diego - 8:00 am on 25th
Started from Trailhead - 11:33 am
Reached Saxton Camp - 7:22 pm
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
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
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
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
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
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,
out food supplies and trash on nearby trees and got into our tent by 10
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,
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
got back to our car and started driving back into
civilization. First stop ... McDonald's ... and a strange sense of
materialness returned ...