This Hike To The Highest Point In Southern California Is Not For Amateurs

It's no secret that California is one of the absolute best states for hiking in the U.S. And if you're looking for a challenging hike with some jaw-dropping views, it's time to make your way to the San Gorgonio Wilderness in Southern California. At around 11,500 feet, the San Gorgonio Peak is the tallest peak in Southern California and a training ground for experienced hikers looking to take on Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental U.S. Fun fact time: You can actually see the summit of San Gorgonio Mountain from Mount Whitney nearly 200 miles away. With that in mind, know that hiking San Gorgonio Mountain isn't going to be your typical weekend hiking experience.

If you're not an avid hiker or haven't gone hiking in a while, you might want to take it easy with another hike in the area, such as the 6-mile San Jacinto trail that starts after a trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. A super fun way to start a hike! However, if you are ready to take on a challenging ascent up to San Gorgonio Peak while enjoying beautiful views of the Southern California wilderness, then the Vivian Creek trail is for you. Here's what you need to know.

This hike to San Gorgonio Peak really is difficult

Whether you're a spry young one, an experienced hiker, or another kind of athlete, this trail will definitely have you second-guessing your life choices. Okay, okay, we're being a little dramatic! But we really can't overstate the challenge that the Vivian Creek trail poses for hikers. Here's why.

This trail is a 5,400-foot ascent to the tallest peak in Southern California along a 17.5-mile loop. The first half of the trail starts at Vivian Creek trailhead and meanders along a creek bed until you reach the real start of the trail. From here, you will begin your ascent along a beautiful but arduous switchback trail. The uphill climb from here onward is constant, with very little relief for the next 8 miles of trail.

Once you reach the top, the views are some of the best in the state. However, the peak is a bit rocky, and you might consider bringing a hiking pole. It will help you navigate the area and keep steady along the steep downhill descent, which can be equally as brutal for some hikers.

Consider breaking up the hike into two days

If you're reading this and finding the thought of conquering San Gorgonio Mountain in a day intimidating, you're not alone. There is a great solution to this, though. Break up a day of seemingly endless hill climbs into a two-day challenge.

There are three locations where you can camp if you'd like to do the hike in two days instead of one. There is the Vivian Creek Camp, Halfway Camp, and High Creek Camp. There is water you can filter and drink at both Halfway Camp and High Creek Camp, so be sure to bring a water filter so you can stay hydrated. Just be aware there is no camping allowed within 200 feet of the trail, so find a spot a good distance away wherever you set up camp.

If you're fine with summiting San Gorgonio Mountain in a day but want to save the downhill portion for the next day, you can also camp on the summit 3 miles after High Creek Camp. It is very windy at the peak so come prepared with the appropriate clothing and be sure to secure your tent. If you're lucky and the sky is clear, you might even get a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. A great treat after a hard day's work!