Companion blog: Adventures In Stoving

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Interactive San Gorgonio Wilderness (SGW) Map

In my recent Six Hiking/Backpacking Loops in the San Gorgonio Wilderness (SGW) blog post, I featured a series of maps.  I think these maps are important because they accurately fix the positions of things like trail camps and water sources and because they identify a series of map errors.  However, these maps are static (i.e. no zoom or scroll) and are only snippets -- a section of the map relevant only to that loop.  What happens if you want to do a route that's partly on one snippet and partly on another?  Well, you have to piece things together as best you can.  Wouldn't it be nice to have a "big picture" map of the SGW?

San Gorgonio Wilderness boundary sign, Forsee Creek Trail
With that in mind, I set out to put together an interactive map of the entire SGW using CalTopo as my host.  The product of my efforts is displayed below.  Let's hope that CalTopo doesn't change their format or "go dark" or something!

The map below is probably best opened in a separate window.  You'll need to zoom in (a lot!) to make any sense of the notations.

As with all maps, this map is only as accurate as of my last visit to the wilderness.  Conditions, particularly in winter, could change at any time.  Wilderness travel, especially off trail, is inherently hazardous.  Plan thoroughly, carry the proper safety gear, always leave word with someone as to your route and intended time of return (and let them know when you're back safely!), and mentally be willing to turn back if conditions are unsafe.  Carrying "proper safety" gear generally means that you can survive (not be comfortable) an unplanned overnight in the wilderness in the current conditions.  Obviously you're going to need to carry a lot more gear in the winter than in the summer.
Looking north from the vicinity of the summit of Alto Diablo Peak, San Gorgonio Wilderness

  • Trailheads are shown with a "P" (for "Parking") symbol.  There are eight official trail heads, numbered 1 through 8.  I've also shown a couple of other useful alternate trailheads, such as the East Barton Flats "trailhead" which I've numbered "5b" since it's in the same general area as the South Fork trailhead ("5").
  • Map Errors.  When the topo map is wrong, I've crossed out the incorrect markings in red.
  • Trails.  There are many perfectly good trails in the SGW that for whatever reason just aren't shown on the map.  I've marked such trails as a dashed black line.
  • Trail Camps.  There are 26 official trail camps in the SGW.  I've marked each one with a red tent icon, and I've numbered them 1 through 26.  See the cross reference in Appendix II, below.  Note that in some cases the official printed position of the trail camps is just dead wrong (e.g. Alger Creek, Mineshaft Flats Camp, Big Tree Camp).  The red tent icon marks the correct location.
  • Old Trails.  By "old" I mean trails or roads that really aren't fully followable anymore (although sections may be clear as day).  I've shown old trails with a black line that is a combination of dashes and dots.  These are trails of yesteryear that you can only find bits and pieces of today.  Sometimes it's fun to see if you can find stretches of these old trails (or roads), but they aren't really useful anymore as a means of getting from point to point in a timely fashion.  
  • Routes.  "General" routes (not specifically winter) are shown with a dotted gold line.  These generally aren't trails although use trails have formed on some of the heavily used peak routes.  Often there will be nothing on the ground that you can follow; these are cross country (XC) means of getting about.  You'll need to be familiar with map and compass work in order to follow these safely.  These routes may involve steep terrain, heavy brush, deadfalls, travel on rock up to class three, and tricky navigation.  See Backcountry Travel Classifications for a discussion of what "class three" travel is.  I have not been on every route in the wilderness.  These routes are only a very general description in the form of free hand drawings on the map.  I make no warranties as to accuracy.  I may occasionally show a route in gray.  Routes in gray are poor routes.  They're there if you want to try them, but there's going to be heavy brush or other difficult going.  Have at it if you like, but you've been warned.
  • Winter Routes.  Although you could use these routes any time, they're fairly popular when snow and ice blanket the Wilderness making trails either dangerous or hard to find.  I've shown these routes via a dotted dark blue line.  Again, these routes are only a very general description in the form of free hand drawings on the map.  I make no warranties as to accuracy.
  • Water sources.  Water sources are shown as light blue dots.  Next to the blue dot is a roman numeral from I to V which represents my estimation of the reliability of the water source.  The meaning of the numerals is as follows:
    I - Unreliable.  Assume no water unless you have a current report to the contrary.  Example:  Columbine Spring.
    II - Less reliable.  Water typically in early season although water possibly later in wet years.  Example:  The spring upstream from Fish Creek Camp.
    III - More reliable.  Water frequently into late season.  Example:  Limber Pine Springs.
    IV - Very reliable.  Water almost always into late season.  Example:  High Meadow Springs.
    V.  Extremely reliable.  Water always into late season even in multi-year droughts.  Example:  Forsee Creek. S Fork Santa Ana River, Falls Creek, N Fork Whitewater River, etc. 
  • Cautions.  If you see a little yellow triangle with an exclamation mark on it, I'm giving you some kind of warning about the condition of the route or trail.  I may also label a route or trail itself with cautions.

South Fork Meadows, San Gorgonio Wilderness

I hope you find the map useful.  If you see errors or omissions, please let me know in the comments below.

I thank you for joining me,


Appendix I -- List of Trailheads
The numbers below correspond to the numbers shown on the interactive SGW map.
1.   Vivian Creek Trailhead
2.   Momyer Creek Trailhead (pronounced "Moe Myer")
3.   San Bernardino Peak Trailhead
4.   Forsee Creek Trailhead
5.   South Fork Trailhead
5b.  East Barton Flats "Trailhead"
6.   Lost Creek Trailhead
6b.  Old Heart Bar Road "Trailhead"
7.   Aspen Grove Trailhead
8.   Upper Fish Creek Trailhead
Note:  The numbers were derived as follows:  I started at the Vivian Creek trailhead and worked my way clockwise around the perimeter of the SGW. Official trailheads got an integer. Unofficial trailheads received the integer of the nearest official trailhead followed by a lower case letter.
Allison Falls, San Gorgonio Wilderness

Appendix II -- List of Trail Camps
The numbers below correspond to the numbers shown on the interactive SGW map.  Maximum group size is 12 persons.
1.  Columbine Springs
2.  Johns Meadow
3.  Limber Pine Bench
4.  Jackstraw Springs
5.  Trail Fork Springs
6.  Anderson Flat
7.  Alger Creek
8.  Dobbs
9.  Saxton
10. Vivian Creek
11. Halfway
12. High Creek
13. Shields Flat
14. High Meadow Springs
15. Red Rock Flat
16. Dollar Lake Forks
17. Grinnell Ridge
18. Dry Lake View
19. Dry Lake
20. Lodgepole Spring
21. Trail Flats
22. Summit
23. Mineshaft Flat
24. Big Tree
25. Fish Creek Saddle
26. Fish Creek
Note:  The numbering system used in this list is fairly arbitrary.  I started on the left (west) side of the map and generally worked my way to the right (east) side.


  1. Thanks Hikin' Jim. Great detail.

    1. Hi, Ken,

      Glad you like it. I thought it might be helpful to people, particularly the corrections, missing trails, and water sources.


    2. I can't thank you enough for all this hard work u put into this. I plan on hitting the traild this summer.. Never hiked/backpacked here. I do the eastern sierras. But this is only 2 hrs from home. So thanks!! We are one!!

    3. Kevin,

      Glad you like it. It's a really great area for backpacking although the Sierra Nevada Mountains are pretty incredible.


  2. Jim,

    Another thank you for all the hard work putting this together. It will definitely help me out in my next adventure in the SGW.

    Keith (tekewin)

    1. Hi, Keith,

      Thanks for your comments and thanks also for your recent help over on the San Jacinto forum.


  3. Thank you for all of the hard work it took to put this together!!

    1. Hi, Andy, you're welcome. Hope it's useful and inspires you to get out more.


  4. Can you carry a gun on the trails with you...or is that a stupid question

    1. As far as I know, you can, although I've never heard of or experienced anything in the SGW to be afraid of. Black bears are only interested in your snacks, mountain lions don't want anything to do with people generally, and there's nothing else big enough to take on a man out there (well, maybe a rattlesnake, but I don't think it would be worth the weight of a gun for a snake).

      Discharging a weapon is a different manner. Firing your weapon is only allowed in accordance with state hunting regulations. No target shooting in other words.


  5. Which camps would you recomend for dogs? I have two rhodesian ridgebacks that know backcountry, but I know dogs are not everyones idea of wilderness. Where do you think we would find some room without bothering anyone.

    1. Dennis,

      Try the Grinnell Ridge Camp. Normally it's one of the least used in the Wilderness. Nice roomy area. Water about 1/4 mile away in springtime at Mosquito Spring. If Mosquito Spring is dry or you can't find it, there's water 1 mile S at the S. Fork of the Santa Ana River.

      Check with the rangers about regulations; I think you might need to have dogs on leash.


  6. Hey Hikin' Jim… Some friends and i are planning a day hike Feb 8th. Which trails would you recommend for intermediate/semi-advanced hikers to get to the peak. We are all excited for the climb and the views but i think we are all a little concerned with the crazy storms we've had the last couple weeks and the amount of snow that will be on the ground. and if the trails will be very visible.. And which trails have a decent amount of water for refilling?
    thanks for all your efforts in organizing and sketching out all these trails. thats awesome that you took the time to create updated trails and shared them with all of us..

    1. Hiking San Gorgonio can be really tough this time of year. I haven't been up yet this year, but ice axe and crampons are pretty standard gear for these conditions -- and of course you need to have gone through the training to know how to self arrest.

      That said, I would go in from the S Fork trail head and then just take a cross country path up to San Gorgonio's summit from the S Fork Meadows area. You will probably not be able to follow the trails this time of year and will need to rely on map and compass work.


  7. Hi HJ, thank you for the great blog you have created. I know how long these types of detailed blogs can take. We greatly appreciate all your efforts. A group of us are planning a SG trip in mid October. We've done Baldy, San Jacinto, Whitney and now we hope to add SG. Thanks again for all the amazing information and incredible detail you have provided for fellow hikers. People like you are amazing! Deb B., San Diego

    1. Hi, Deb,

      Thanks. Always nice to be appreciated. Super glad it's useful.


  8. This is amazing! I was looking for exactly this. I found your blog from the site: where you posted a link. THANK YOU!!!

  9. Hey, glad to hear it's useful. Hope you get out there soon.


  10. Hello HJ,
    The link to this map is broken. Is there an updated link? I know this an older post, but I still find the information very valuable. Thanks for sharing all of this! Your information has helped me several times and I definitely appreciate it!

    1. It appears that Caltopo has changed the format for linking to saved maps. Try

    2. I think I've corrected the problem. Please let me know if there are still problems.

  11. Love the picture of Allison Falls. I last went with my father sometime in the late 70s. If I'm not mistaken, the name has something to do with the White family. Jim White was the foreman at Horse Meadows and worked my dad back in those days.

    1. Pretty cool. I don't know the derivation of the name, so I appreciate the comment. HJ