Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Wildhorse Creek Trail Camp
- Location: San Gorgonio Wilderness east of Angelus Oaks. From I-10 in Redlands, take the exit for highway 38 and drive northeast for 33 miles. A few miles past Jenks Road East and just before Heart Bar, look for the signed Wildhorse Trail Head on the left side of the road (just past mile marker 33.30). Be careful of oncoming traffic when turning into the dirt pullout (and watch out for a gap between the road and the dirt).
- Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Big Bear Discovery Center
- Distance: 8 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
- Suggested time: 4 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Distance, altitude, elevation gain)
- Best season: April – November
- USGS topo maps: Moonridge
- Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; hiking poles
- More information: here (from “San Bernardino Mountain Trails”); trip reports here (includes extension to Sugarloaf Mountain)
- Rating: 9
The Wildhorse Trail is somewhat overshadowed–figuratively and literally–by the San Gorgonio Wilderness to the south, but this is a hike that no serious So-Cal trail buff should miss. The moderately graded, easy to follow trail is a great introduction to high-altitude hiking, and can be a good training exercise for longer trips. Hikers can expect a wide variety of scenery, and surprisingly little company, even on summer weekends.
From the parking area, follow the trail leading north. It soon crosses a fence and merges with a fire road. Look for the single-track to branch off again (signed) to the right, as it begins its ascent, soon leaving the sounds of highway 38 behind.
The early views include the San Gorgoino Mountains to the south and the huge bulk of Sugarloaf to the northwest. As you get higher, you’ll see a slice of the Santa Ana River Canyon, and even a little bit of the desert to the east.
After three miles of moderate ascent, the trail rounds a bend and makes a pleasant descent through pines. One more mile brings you to the Wildhorse Trail Camp, where you can sit on some logs beneath the shade of the evergreens and relax before turning around. The return trip, during which you get the full effect of the views of Sugarloaf and the San Gorgoino ridge, is particularly enjoyable.
Keep in mind that, despite the trail’s high elevation, the south-facing slopes are quite barren of trees, and tend to get hot during the summer. Hats and sunblock help if you start at mid-day.