Forsee Creek is yet another beautiful hiking trail in the San Gorgonio Wilderness that I recently took all the way to San Bernardino Peak. The scenery and surroundings definitely lived up to my expectations for this area and the views at the peak were outstanding. I started out at the Forsee Creek Trailhead at about 7am on Memorial Day and the parking lot was about half full of cars already – I’m guessing overnight backpackers mostly.
This trail started gaining elevation immediately, and it was a pretty stead climb the whole way. The entire hike was mostly under the cover of trees, in a forest-like setting. The first half or so hugged the side of the mountain and provided excellent views to the north. The eastern switchbacks also had great viewpoints where I could see down the gully all the way to the huge valley that the 38 highway runs through, and the mountains beyond.
I passed Jackstraw Springs Trail Camp about halfway up the mountain, but Trail Fork Springs was the first sign of any water. There wasn’t even very much water at the Trail Forks junction – at least not along the path. I turned right and continued up to the saddle between San Bernardino Peak East and Anderson Peak, at which point I could see all the way down to Forest Falls! It was pretty exciting to see the other side of the mountains (also where I had done the Momyer Creek hike just the previous weekend!) since I had never made it this far before. Also at this point I was thrilled that I could see all the way to Big Bear Lake:
I was determined to make it to San Bernardino Peak, which meant actually summiting the higher San Bernardino Peak East, then descending and ascending again, so I turned right and continued along the trail. This part of the hike was a very pleasant, pretty flat trek along the pine needle covered ridge. San Bernardino Peak East was a huge pile of rocks jutting out to the south, and I could see San Bernardino Peak a short distance off.
I made my way across to San Bernardino Peak, which was another pile of rocks about 10-ft wide. I admired the views while I ate my sandwich and rested for awhile. The almost 360° view was pretty clear all around – to the north was Big Bear Lake, to the east was Mt. San Gorgonio, and to the south was Forest Falls; the west was the only direction the view wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t as cold at that elevation as I expected it to be, or as windy.
The way back was all downhill the same way I had come up. There are so many trails leading to & from this mountain ridge that you really can take several ways down, but I took the same way because it was the shortest of the two that would take me back to my car. This was an incredible hike and I hope you get the chance to do it, or if you already have, please let me know what you thought in the comments below!
Distance: 16.4 miles
Elevation Gain: ~3,890 (net)
Passes & Permits: Adventure Pass for parking, Wilderness Permit for hiking
Driving Directions: Take highway 38 from Mentone, CA towards Big Bear. Stop at the Mill Creek Ranger Station for a Wilderness Permit and an Adventure Pass. Continue on the 38 for 16.7 miles to the turnoff for Jenks Lake Road West. Turn right onto Jenks Lake Road West, then take the first right onto a dirt road with a sign for the Forsee Creek Trailhead Parking area. Stay to the left and continue along the bumpy dirt road until you see the sign for the trailhead.
Trail Directions: The trail takes off to the left of the sign and the first intersection is a turnoff .4 miles in for Johns Meadows to the right. Continue left for another 4.1 miles and you will pass a turnoff for Jackstraw Springs Trail Camp. Stay left again, for another 1.8 miles. When you reach the junction of Trail Fork Springs, there will be a tree with 3 signs on it. The sign pointing right indicates “Camp Angelus,” rather than San Bernardino Peak, but you do want to go right. The trail T-intersects at the top with a sign pointing to Dollar Lake Saddle to the left. Again, you want to go right. You’ll pass yet another trail taking off to the left towards Forest Falls; stay straight ahead to San Bernardino Peak. Basically just take every right after Jackstraw Springs Trail Camp and you’ll end up at the peak.