Hike to San Gorgonio Mountain and Dragon's Head

When Jorge told me that Christine was coming to town to do the A16 3-Peak  Challenge, hiking three 10,000 foot peaks in 3 days: Mount Baldy, Mount San Jacinto, and Mount San Gorgonio, I asked if I could join them on the last leg to San Gorgonio, so that I could climb two of the peaks in that area that are on the HPS list: Dragon's Head and Bighorn Mountain.

Getting a permit to hike San Gorgonio is pretty difficult nowadays, especially if you want to hike on the weekend.  For this reason, Jorge secured permits for a Monday hike. 

I got up at 4:00am to drive to the Vivian Creek trailhead in Forest Falls, where I met Jorge, Diana, and Christine.  We started hiking just after 7:00am, first along a road to the spot where we crossed a large wash to the actual starting point of the Vivian Creek trail.  The first 1.2 miles to the Wilderness sign is very steep, made worse by the temperature and humidity.  After a short break, the next 1.5 miles took us through a relatively flat wonderful forest to Half Way camp.

From there the climbing started in earnest, going up switchbacks continuing for 2.5 miles up through the woods to High Creek Camp at about 9,200 feet.  Here, we took a large break, before attacking the very tedious switchbacks to the saddle that has a nice view of the Dragon's tail. 

The trail turns to the left, slowly climbing the ridge and up some switchbacks to where it straightens out above the tree line.  The view dramatically changes here to a lunar landscape with here and there some hardy limber pine. Being above 10,000 feet, the going is slow, but by taking several short breaks I reached the junction with the trail to dollar Saddle.  Turning right, I hiked up to the next junction, just below the summit.  Right after this point I reached a rock pile, from where you can see the true summit not too far away.  Here, Diana and I waited a few minutes for Jorge to catch up with us before climbing the final few hundred yards to the top where Christine had been waiting for us patiently.

At the summit, we all celebrated the great accomplishment of Jorge, Diana, and Christine, having completed the challenge in 3 consecutive days!! After putting on our party hats we took the requisite pictures and tried to break open the piñata Diana had carried with her.  Not having a lot of luck using a hiking pole, Diana ended up stabbing at it until it finally opened and released it's treasure: SMARTIES!

After finishing our lunch, Jorge suggested we hike to one of the peaks I had been planning to do today.  Even though I was perfectly happy with reaching the summit of Gorgonio, I told him that we could take a closer look to the route we would need to take to get there,.  After walking down the trail for a little bit we arrived at the point where we had a clear view of the steep drop to the saddle below the summit of Dragon's Head.  We all decided to go for it, and we quickly zigzagged about 500 feet down the slope.  Here we took short break, and after leaving our packs behind climbed up the steep ridge to the summit with amazing views down the chasm on the left.  The actual climb looked harder than it was, before long we were at the summit, enjoying the incredible views of the surrounding mountains. 

Even though Bighorn Mountain was very close, we decided that we would save that peak for another time, and carefully hiked down to collect our packs and climb back up the steep slope to the trail that would take us back  to the junction with the San Gorgonio trail.  Here we recovered for a few minutes, and told Christine to go ahead and hike back down to the trailhead at her own (faster) pace.  The three of us took our time going down, taking short breaks every couple of miles, until Jorge took the lead right after we passed Half Way Camp with a super strong pace that was very hard to follow!  Fortunately he slowed down just before the Wilderness Sign, and let Diana and I go first down the steep final section of the trail to the wash.  While crossing the wash I noticed the wonderful sunset, possibly made more colorful because of the Sand fire.  At the opposite side of the wash I waited for Diana and Jorge to walk the final half mile back to the cars, which we reached just before the sun went down at 8:00pm

After rinsing off the salt from my face and congratulating Jorge, Diana, and Christine with their incredible achievement, we said our goodbyes and I drove back home.

Not having hiked the Vivian Creek trail in quite a number of years, I was again impressed with the beautiful forest and sudden change of the landscape once you reach the tree line.  I am also thankful to Jorge for motivating me to hike up the amazing Dragon's Head!