August 9, 2017 at 11:07 am #390709
Philip YParticipant1,749 point
Hiked the South Fork Trail to Dollar Lake on Saturday, August 5th. It was about a 12 mile out and back with about 2,700 feet in elevation gain. This area was devastated by the Lake Fires a few years ago. The views on this hike are still pretty awesome, even though in most areas you are looking at a sea of dead trees. Life is coming back though and some trees did survive. Poopout Hill, at 2.2 miles in, offers an excellent view of San Gorgonio. I would recommend hitting Poopout on your way down the mountain. It is only a few hundred feet off the South Fork Trail. There are stone benches up there and the ever present San Gorgonio Wilderness sign marks the hill and the beginning of the wilderness area. Makes for a great photo op with San Gorgonio in the background.
Permitting for this trail is done through http://sgwa.org/wilderness-permits/ the same method you would use for Vivian Creek or Angelus Oaks. So, plan in advance! The trailhead is pretty easy to find. Once you get onto CA-38 E/Mill Creek Road you will drive about 20 miles to Jenks Lake Rd W. You’ll go right on Jenks Lake Road and drive in about 2.5 miles. On the right hand side of the road you will see a “South Fork Parking” sign, with an arrow pointing to your left. This sign is right at the left turn into the parking lot, so pay attention or you may pass it. This is a pretty large parking lot and adventure passes are required to be displayed.
The trailhead is at the south end of the lot near the bathrooms. Once you get on the trail you will immediately cross Jenks Lake Road. The first 1.2 miles takes you to Horse Meadows and has an elevation gain of about 620 feet. Most of that in the first half mile. The trail has been cleaned up pretty well over the last few years. My hats off to all those volunteers that spend countless hours cleaning up and removing fallen trees from blocking the trail. There is some life coming back, but most of that is low lying brush and grass. Horse meadows is considered a historic site. It was preserved very well during the fires by the first responders and other volunteers.
Right as you leave Horse Meadows you will cross an east/west dirt road. If you go left (or east) you will end up on a 2 mile loop that goes to Poopout Hill and then back down to the South Fork Trail. Or, if you continue on the South Fork Trail for 1 mile, you will end up at the same spot as the loop and only a few hundred feet from the top of Poopout Hill. Either way the elevation gain is about 350 feet. As I mentioned earlier, great place to stop on your way down.
The next part of the trail is a 1.3 mile stretch that takes you to the Lost Creek Trail which turns up north. This stretch of the trail is still pretty flat, with only about 220 feet in elevation gain. If you turn left on the Lost Creek Trail, you will quickly cross the South Fork Santa Ana River. A good source for water filtering. If you continue about a mile in on the Lost Creek Trail you will hit Grinnell Ridge Camp.
Instead of turning on the Lost Creek Trail, continue south on the South Fork Trail for another .3 miles and you will come to a fork. This is about 3.8 miles into the hike. On your left heading southeast is the Dry Lake Trail. A favorite destination for overnighters and the longer route to San Gorgonio Peak. On your right heading southwest is the Dollar Lake Trail which takes you 2.4 miles up to Dollar Lake Saddle and the San Bernardino Divide Trail. This is the steepest part of the hike with an elevation gain of 1,770 feet. This also takes you to San Gorgonio Peak via the San Bernardino Divide Trail and it is about 5 miles shorter than the Dry Lake Route. We are taking the San Bernardino Divide Trail on the August 19th.
For this hike, I didn’t hike to the Saddle. Instead at about 1.7 miles up I took the trail on the left to Dollar Lake Camp and had lunch, then headed back. I decided not to take the half mile decent to Dollar Lake. This portion of the trail had not been worked on, so there were lots of trees and debris blocking the trail. Everywhere you looked there was a sea of dead trees.
This hike was a recon hike for me. We will be coming back to the South Fork Trail on the 19th of Aug and hike up to the Dollar Lake Trail (3.8 miles), then to Dollar Lake Saddle (2.4 miles). Once at the Saddle, we will continue southeast on the San Bernardino Divide Trail for (3.5 miles) to San Gorgonio Peak. We should only need to filter water at the fork for the Dollar Lake Trail and Dry Lake Trail. Topping off on the way up and on the way down.