Named for its distinctive round shape, Sugarloaf Mountain is the highest point in the San Bernardino Mountains outside the San Gorgonio Wilderness, at 9,952 feet. Despite its height, it doesn’t offer a true 360-degree view from the summit, which is heavily forested. Another critique of Sugarloaf is the rockiness of the trail. However, these drawbacks are outweighed by Sugarloaf’s assets: solitude, panoramic views on the way up including the San Jacintos/Santa Rosas an the high desert and a variety of trees including junipers, Jeffrey pines, white firs and more. Its altitude also makes it a good training hike for high elevation climbs such as San Gorgoino.
After the adventure of getting to the trail head, the actual hike is straightforward. From the opening in the fence on the west side of road 2n93, begin heading uphill. The bottom of the trail is vague, but if you keep an eye out for trail ducks your route will soon become clear. You waste no time, climbing steeply (remember, you are starting at over 8,600 feet above sea level so there is little time to acclimate.) After a quarter mile, the trail levels out, meandering through a pleasant mixed forest. Here on the mountain’s eastern slope, desert vegetation (junipers, sagebrush and even a few cacti) mingle with the conifers characteristic of the higher altitudes.
The trail dips downhill to a saddle (0.9 mile) where it intersects the routes coming in from the south via Wildhorse Trail Camp and the north via Green Canyon. You are now on the “official” Sugarloaf Mountain Trail, which climbs half a mile to an alpine meadow with no-nonsense views of San Gorgonio to the south. The trail then skirts the north side of the ridge, providing views of the high desert, climbing to an unnamed bump (2.4 miles from the start.)
From the bump, descend to another saddle, where Sugarloaf’s true summit comes into view. You begin your final ascent, through a thick stand of Ponderosas and a few scraggly junipers, some of which have completely twisted on themselves. Half a mile of huffing and puffing (with some great views of the Santa Rosa Mountains to reward your effort) gets you to the eastern edge of the summit, where it’s an easy jaunt through the pines to the high point, marked by a large sign. Between the trees you can get glimpses of the mountains on Big Bear Lake’s north shore and Holcomb Valley beyond.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.