Beginning September 1, 2020 day hikes up many popular trails in the San Bernardino National Forest will require a wilderness permit, and new trailhead quotas have been created to reduce overcrowding on the trails and help preserve the wilderness experience.
Permit & Quota Information to Know Before You Go
Where permits are required, they are free, but are not available for self-issuance at the trailhead. You will need to plan ahead and get your permit in advance from the proper ranger station. In addition, group size is limited to a maximum of 12 people.
San Gorgonio Wilderness
In the San Gorgonio Wilderness, all trailheads now require a wilderness permit for day hikes, and there is a new limit of 144 day hikers per trailhead, per day. Popular destinations in this area include San Bernardino Peak and San Gorgonio, that tallest mountain in Southern California. There are numerous trailheads that support this area, so even with the new quotas, you should be able to get a permit starting from one of the trailheads. You can get your permit for the San Gorgonio Wilderness by calling the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association/Mill Creek Ranger Station at (909) 382-2882 or reserving via email through the SGWA website.
The Cucamonga Wilderness also has a new limit of 144 day hikers per trailhead, per day. Whether you need a permit in advance depends on where you start, and where you travel within the Cucamonga Wilderness. This is because the new rules only apply to the portion of the Cucamonga Wilderness which lies within the San Bernardino National Forest (basically east of Icehouse Saddle). If you are heading to Etiwanda or Cucamonga Peak, or starting from the Middle Creek Trailhead, you’ll need to get a permit and are subject to the trailhead limits.
If you are hiking from Icehouse Canyon Trailhead to Icehouse Saddle, Ontario Peak, or the Three Ts (or any other areas that remain within the Angeles National Forest) the limits do not apply. You still need a permit, and the group size is still limited to 12, but self-issue permits are available at the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead.
To obtain a permit to travel within the portion of the Cucamonga Wilderness that falls within the San Bernardino National Forest, contact the Lytle Creek Ranger Station at (909) 382-2851 or fill out their online permit application form.
San Jacinto Wilderness
In the San Jacinto Wilderness, wilderness permits have always been required. But now there is a permit limit for the Devils Slide trailhead (30 permits per day) on Saturday and Sundays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Note that each permit can have multiple people on it, up the the maximum group size of 12. No limit on weekday permits.
Other trailheads, including Deer Springs and Marion Mountain are not as popular and have no permit caps on them at this time. To get a permit for any of the trailheads heading into the San Jacinto Wilderness, contact the San Jacinto Ranger Station at (909) 382-2921.
What About Overnight Trips?
Wilderness permits have always been required for overnight or multi-day backpacking treks in these area, and there is no change to those for the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Wilderness areas. If your backpacking trek is in the portion of the Cucamonga Wilderness that falls within the San Bernardino National Forest (i.e. Cucamonga Peak and other areas east of Icehouse Saddle) you will now need to contact the Lytle Creek Ranger Station at (909) 382-2851 to obtain a permit.
Got Your Permit? Remember This
Once you’ve got your permit, be sure to #RecreateResponsibly, follow the seven Leave Not Trace principles, and carry the 10 essentials. And remember that the goal of the new permit requirements and trailhead quotas is to improve your wilderness experience, allowing you to escape the crowds and recharge yourself in nature.
For more about the new rules, read the official press release from the San Bernardino National Forest Service.
Albert Sergio Sandoval says
There were no details for San Bernardino, only for San Jacinto, San Gorgonio & Cucamonga.
Do they all fall under the category within the ‘San Bernardino National Forest’?
If so, what is the name for the wilderness area around Big bear lake; north of Cucamonga Wilderness?
Jeff Hester says
Albert, re-read the section above titled “San Gorgonio Wilderness.” Both San Bernardino Peak and San Gorgonio are within the San Gorgonio Wilderness and the same permit rules apply.
Incidentally, the entire San Gorgonio Wilderness is currently closed due to the El Dorado Fire.
Great list. Hopefully these treasures do not suffer from the current wildfires.
Howie C says
Jeff, could you clarify the cost of the wilderness permits to day hike San Jacinto peak from Humber Park? Your text says: “Where permits are required, they are free, but are not available for self-issuance at the trailhead.” The State of CA parks website has a permit application that shows a fee of $5/person for either a day hike or overnight stay. Thank you.
Jeff Hester says
Howie, the San Jacinto State Park is a separate agency from the San Bernardino National Forest, and different rules apply. However, day hike permits in the San Jacinto State Park are indeed free.
For details see this page: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=636
Day Use Wilderness Permits are free and available 24 hours at:
Idyllwild Ranger Station (Park Headquarters) in Idyllwild
Long Valley Ranger Station on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway side
What a great hike!