Featuring incredible views and challenging mountain trails above 7000 feet in altitude, San Gorgonio Wilderness is the perfect destination for RV lovers wanting an adventure. Located in San Bernardino County around two hours from Los Angeles, San Gorgonio Wilderness consists of 96,595 acres that are jointly managed by USDA and BLM. The area is perfect for dry-camping, and due to some of the land being managed by the BLM you can stay here for free in your RV.
Originally designated in 1964, San Gorgonio Wilderness attracts over 200,000 visitors during the summer months who are looking for mountain adventure in an easily accessible location. While there still aren't any major amenities out in the wilderness, it isn't too far from civilization. The wilderness area is part of the Sand To Snow National Monument and is located close to the San Bernardino National Forest and Big Bear Lake. The terrain is very diverse in this area and can vary from desert, hills, canyons, and mountains.
The main highlight for visitors to this wilderness is to observe and explore San Gorgonio Mountain. This is the tallest peak found in California that is south from the Sierra Nevada and a must for serious hikers. If you are looking for other hiking opportunities you won't be disappointed as there are 81 miles of trail in the USDA section of the wilderness and a further 20 in the BLM section thanks to the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Other activities in the wilderness include wildlife viewing, hunting, and fishing in the two streams that meander throughout the area.
You will need a permit for overnight stays within San Gorgonio Wilderness, but they are available free of charge online. If you are wanting to stay in a campground near the San Gorgonio Wilderness we recommend choosing one in the San Bernardino National Forest or the Banning Stagecoach KOA Journey if you want to stay outside of the mountains.
Visitors traveling to San Gorgonio Wilderness have two options. Most people will be coming from the west near San Bernardino, Palm Spring or Los Angeles, so if this is you, all you have to do is follow the CA-38 (past Yucaipa or Greenspot depending on which way you decide to drive ). The wilderness is found on the eastern side of CA-38 near Angelus Oaks. For people coming from the Inland Empire, you can approach the wilderness from the opposite side of CA-38 and head down the mountain range until you reach Angelus Oaks.
You will need to bring all of your own supplies into the wilderness area, so remember to stock up before your arrival. Since there are plenty of towns and cities located at the bottom of mountainsides you will have a large choice of where to visit.
There are no developed roads within San Gorgonio Wilderness, so be prepared to park your RV and trek into the areas that you wish to explore. During the colder months, you need to expect snowfall and be ready to attach chains to your rig. If you are concerned about the weather conditions it would be a good idea to give the Forest Headquarters a call before beginning your journey.
Although there are no RV friendly campgrounds within the San Gorgonio Wilderness there are plenty to choose from at the nearby San Bernardino National Forest.
One of the closest to the wilderness is the Barton Flats Campground that is located around eight miles away. The campground is located in a wooded area that features 51 sites, all of which are primitive with no hookups available. Out of the 51 sites, seven are accessible and there are also plenty of double sites available for you to choose from. Other amenities in the campground include showers, toilets, a dump station, picnic tables, and firewood that can be purchased. Pets are also allowed at Barton Flats Campground but they must be leashed at all times.
If you plan on camping here, be prepared for little to no phone reception. Visitors who want to stay on a weekend will have to book a minimum of two nights and a minimum of three on a holiday weekend. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance. Barton Flats Campground is open from the end of March to the middle of November.
A great option for RV lovers seeking more amenities and wanting to stay outside of the mountains is the Banning Stagecoach KOA. Featuring over 95 sites suitable for RVs up to 65 feet in length, Banning Stagecoach KOA has large and level sites with many different site hookup options.
You can choose between back-in or pull-through sites and those with 30 or 50 amp full hookups. Other amenities in the campground include showers, restrooms, a pool, playground, game room, recreation area, and a dump station.
If you have a bigger rig you may have some trouble navigating around the campground, but there will be staff on hand to assist you if need be. You should be able to get cell phone reception on all of the major networks and pets are also allowed. Banning Stagecoach KOA is open all year round and reservations are encouraged.
Another great option for RV camping near San Gorgonio Wilderness is the San Gorgonio Campground. Like Barton Flats Campground, the San Gorgonio Campground is located within the San Bernardino National Forest and is around nine miles from the wilderness.
The amenities are also quite similar, with San Gorgonio Campground having 54 sites available for small RV rigs. There are no hookups available, but the campground is equipped with showers, toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and water collection points. If you choose to stay here you will also have easy access to the superb Santa Ana River Trail and a dump station is also closeby.
San Gorgonio Campground has the same rules and regulations as Barton Flats Campground, so if you decide to stay over a holiday or weekend you will have to stay for extra nights. All sites are also reservable and the campground is open from the end of April to the end of August.
The main attraction to visitors to San Gorgonio Wilderness is the miles and miles of beautiful mountain trails. Thousands of people travel to the area to climb San Gorgonio Mountain since it has the highest peak in southern California. This trail is only recommended to very experienced hikers, but there are many other smaller trails you can do if you aren't looking for something that strenuous.
If you do want to climb San Gorgonio Mountain be prepared to arrive before dawn so you can get a parking spot at the trailhead.
Thanks to the Whitewater River flowing through San Gorgonio Wilderness, you will have the chance to do some stream fishing during your visit. This is a rare chance to cast out a line in this arid region of California and many anglers will try their luck to catch some fish during their time in the area. You will have to bring all of your own fishing gear since there are no rental facilities located closeby.
Once you have finished hiking or fishing for the day, a great way to relax is to head to the Falls Picnic Area. Located at the home of the original trail to get into the wilderness area, here you will find some great amenities, such as picnic tables, water collection points, and toilets.
While there are no BBQs provided, you are permitted to bring in your own regardless of whether it is gas or propane. To top it all off you can also view the nearby Big Falls if there has been recent rain.
Once the weather begins to get colder at San Gorgonio Wilderness, the area is a hotspot for people wanting to have some fun in the snow. Many visitors bust out their skis and snowshoes to explore the trails in a different light, but after a big snowfall, you can also just build snowmen or have a snowball fight. During the wintertime, it will take longer to drive up into the mountains and may also need to attach chains to your tires.
Another great way to enjoy your visit to the area is to head to the nearby Big Bear Lake. Known as a major tourist destination, during the wintertime there are plenty of ski fields open for you to enjoy if you prefer groomed trails. Or you can head to the freestyle terrain park if you are feeling more adventurous. While you can't access the lake during the wintertime, you can still make use of the trails that surround the lake and take in the beauty of the area.
Due to most of San Gorgonio Wilderness being completely undisturbed, there are plenty of opportunities for you to view some of the local wildlife. Throughout the wilderness there are deer, while in the more remote areas bighorn sheep and mountain lions have been spotted. Bears can also be quite common, but usually, they are unwelcome guests trying to eat any trash that has been left behind. If you are a birdwatching fan remember to bring your binoculars as there will be many species to check out.