Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
4,400.00 ft (1,341.12 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
17.20 mi (27.68 km)
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Vivian Creek and the South Fork Trail are the most heavily used hiking trails in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, and permits are often full on weekends and holidays. Forsee Creek Trail is a lesser known trail on the north side of the range that provides access to the same high elevations and sweeping vistas. It can be done as a loop that descends down the South Fork Trail, which was once considered one of the most scenic trails in the wilderness. The Lake Fire of 2015 burned most of the area around the South Fork Trail, and it has just recently reopened to hikers. The greenery of the trail has been replaced with stark stands of burned out trees, and the landscape has a different kind of beauty. Seedlings and pioneer plants are starting to come back in the region, and this hike is an opportunity to watch an ecosytem recover from a major forest fire.

The Forsee Creek Trailhead starts from a dirt parking lot about half-mile up a rough dirt road that is passable by all cars as long as care is taken to not fall into the deeper ruts. From there, it is a short uphill hike to the first fork in the trail that heads west toward John's Meadow, which is a great beginner overnight backpacking destination. For this trip, stay left at the fork and continue the steady uphill climb to Trail Fork Springs, which is the source of Forsee Creek. This is usually a reliable water source, but it can get down to an almost unusable trickle in the fall. From the springs the trail forks west toward San Bernardino Peak or east toward Shields Peak. For the loop, it is easier to go west. The trail flattens at the ridge, and several peaks are easily accessible by going off trail and scrambling to the summit.  The most easily accessible peak is Alto Diablo, which is just a short 30-yard detour off the trail and which offers panoramic views of Big Bear Lake, San Gorgonio, and Yucaipa Ridge. 

The trail goes down to Dollar Lake Saddle and passes several backcountry campsites along the way. High Meadow Springs is near the trail, but it is only a good water source in unusually wet years. Trails leaving from the saddle will take you down Momyer, up toward San Gorgonio, or down toward Dollar Lake if you want to complete the loop. Dollar lake is a half-mile detour off the trail and is a popular campsite, but you must camp at least a quarter-mile away from the lake. Then the rocky trail continues down to South Fork Trail and the fork toward Dry Lake. There is a reliable water source in the form of the South Fork of the Santa Ana River shortly past the fork toward Dry Lake. From there the scenery changes to the burned forest and goes past Poopout Hill, which offers a great view of San Gorgonio Peak in the distance. The next notable feature is Horse Meadows, which is a beautiful mountain meadow with some historic buildings just 1.5 miles from the road. At Jenks Lake Road, if you've arranged for a car shuttle, you can shuttle back to the Forsee Creek Trailhead or just run or walk down the road 2.5 miles back to the trailhead.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Less traffic. Great views. Springs.

Cons

Scenery and vegetation somewhat diminished by recent fire.

Trailhead Elevation

6,800.00 ft (2,072.64 m)

Highest point

10,590.00 ft (3,227.83 m)

Net Elevation Gain

3,800.00 ft (1,158.24 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Old-growth forest
Big vistas
Wildlife

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

Yes

Permit self-issue on site

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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