San Bernardino – 16 Mile SoCal Hike

I have been eagerly wanting to complete the six-pack of peaks challenge. However, seeing as I do not live in Southern California, it makes it a bit more difficult.

After doing some internet polling I was able to determine that San Bernardino and San Jacito seemed to be the unanimous winners of the “which hike is best” question, with San Bernardino being the more challenging of the two.

San Bernardino is a 16 mile, out and back hike to San Bernardino peak. The evaluation gain is about 5,000ft to a final peak of 10,649. I loved this trail! My favorite thing about it is that the views and terrain along the hike were very beautiful, and also varied a lot, which kept it interesting. There are two camping grounds that you can use if backpacking and spreading the hike out over two days, which is what we did.

Below is an overview of the hike and what you can expect. The crowds are light and it offers some spectacular views of Mt Baldy, Mt San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Big Bear Lake, and the Inland Empire.

Hiking San Bernardino Peak

  • Trail Head – The hike is located about 1.5 hours east of Los Angeles. There is a small parking lot right at the trailhead that you can park in, though parking is limited. You can simply type “San Bernardino Trailhead” into GoogleMaps and it should get you there. The trail is also know as 1W07.
  • Getting a Permit – Camping over night will require a permit. You can get these at the Mill Creek Visitor Center, which you will pass on your way to the trailhead. The visitor center opens at 8am, and it is best to get there right at 8am to ensure you get a permit. There are a limited number of permits available. If you are planning ahead, it is possible to do a mail-in reservation to get a permit, following the instructions found here.
  • The Hike – What I loved most about this hike was the great views all the way up and the variety of the terrain. The hike is generally pretty steep the entire way, however there is a nice plateau area in the middle to help you catch your breath on the way up. Another nice thing about this trail is that the steeper parts tend to be shaded, well still letting in a bit of sun now and then, which is great for keeping you from getting over heated. In my opinion the hike is broken up into 5 parts:

Beginning Switchbacks – The hike starts off for about 2-3 miles of some steep switch backs. Once you get a bit higher you will instantly be rewarded with some nice views.


Starting Out on the Switchbacks


Posing with the San Gorgonio Wildress sign along the Switchbacks


Views on the way up

Green Plateau – After the switchbacks there’s about a mile of flat hiking without elevation gain. This was my favorite part of the hike. You walk on a very well defined path through these beautiful green bushes with mountains all around. This part of the hike is extremely scenic.


The Climb to Limber Pine Bench – After reaching a large open area where groups tend to take breaks at, it is about another 2 mile hike to Limber Pine Bench. This part winds around, while becoming steep again.


The Push to the Top – If camping, you can drop your bags at Limber Pine Bench and hike with a much lighter load to the top. This part is pretty steep, and the last 2 miles were definitely a challenge. Once you get to the top however, you have breathtaking views in every direction and can even see all the way to the Ocean on a clear day. We were able to make out Catalina Island. There is also a nice “San Bernardino Peak” sign at the top that is great for a summit photo.


Cool tree over the trail


The Peak


Posing with the San Bernardino Peak sign


The sisters reach the top!

The Journey Back Down – The nice thing about this hike is the big challenge is all in the first half. Going back down is all down hill and can be accomplished pretty quickly in comparison to going up.

  • Campgrounds – There is a fantastic campground along the San Bernardino trail called Limber Pine Bench Campground. This is one of the most scenic campsites in the area. Limber Pine Bench is hands down the coolest place I have ever camped – so I highly recommend it.

    Setting up camp as the sun sets


    Beautiful Sunset



    Watching the city lights come to life during the sunset was pretty cool

  • Water – There is a small spring just past Limber Pine Bench Campsite that you can can purify and use for drinking water. However, it’s best to check the condition of the spring before hiking. During the summer it’s possible it will be dry and not running, and during the winter it has the possibility to be frozen.


    Filtering the creek water from under the ice


  • What to Bring – You’ll want to bring your standard backpacking gear for this trip. If can get really cold at night depending on the time of year, so be prepared. It got down to the 30s when we hiked this in November. Here’s what I brought when camping over night (try to keep it light):
    • Camping Gear – Tent, Sleeping Pad, Sleeping Bag
    • Warm Clothes – Warm pants, sweatshirt, coat, warm socks, hat, gloves
    • Food & Water – Waterbottle or bladder, snacks, JetBoil (or something else to heat water), Backpackers Pantry (or some other dinner meal)
    • Other Things – Headlamp, lantern, camera, WagBags (there are no bathrooms on the trail)
  • When to Go – We went during November and thought this was perfect. We essential had the trail to ourselves, and although it got cold at night the temperature during the day was perfect. The spring/summer is also a great time to go, however it will be more crowded.

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