San Gorgonio Mountain

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San Gorgonio Mountain
San Gorgonio, snowcapped, clouds.jpg
Elevation 11,503 ft (3,506 m) NAVD 88[1]
Prominence 8,294 ft (2,528 m)[1]
Parent peak Olancha Peak[1]
Listing Ultra
Hundred Peaks Section[2]
California County High Points[1]
Translation Saint Gorgonius (Spanish)
San Gorgonio Mountain is located in California
San Gorgonio Mountain
San Gorgonio Mountain
Location San Bernardino County, California, U.S.
Range San Bernardino Mountains
Coordinates 34°05′57″N 116°49′29″W / 34.099162°N 116.824853°W / 34.099162; -116.824853Coordinates: 34°05′57″N 116°49′29″W / 34.099162°N 116.824853°W / 34.099162; -116.824853[1]
Topo map USGS San Gorgonio Mountain
First ascent 1872 by W. A. Goodyear and Mark Thomas
Easiest route Strenuous Hike

San Gorgonio Mountain, also known locally as Mount San Gorgonio, or Old Greyback, is the highest peak in Southern California and the Transverse Ranges at 11,503 feet (3,506 m). It is in the San Bernardino Mountains, 27 miles (43 km) east of the city of San Bernardino and 12 miles (19 km) north-northeast of San Gorgonio Pass. It lies within the San Gorgonio Wilderness, part of the San Bernardino National Forest. Spanish missionaries in the area during the early 17th century named the peak after Saint Gorgonius.

Since it is the highest point in a region which is separated from higher peaks (e.g. in the Sierra Nevada) by relatively low terrain, San Gorgonio Mountain is one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the United States. It is ranked 7th among peaks in the 48 contiguous states[3] and 18th among overall.[4]

A large and broad mountain, it is not particularly craggy, and from a distance, it only appears to be an extremely high hill, earning it the name of greyback. Despite not being particularly striking in appearance during the summer, it is the only mountain in Southern California with a summit a significant distance above the tree line. As such its bright white winter snow cap, unobstructed by vegetation, makes the mountain noticeable from many miles away. The mountain hosts the longest line of sight in the contiguous United States; it is plainly visible from the summit of Mount Whitney, 190 miles away.[5]


The shallow slopes of San Gorgonio Mountain earn it the name of Old Greyback

Like most other peaks in the Transverse Ranges, the summit is a technically easy class 1 hike. Several trails lead to the broad summit of San Gorgonio Mountain, which rises a few hundred feet (100 m) above the tree line. Most routes are very strenuous and require well over 4,000 feet (1,200 m) of elevation gain.

The trail leading from the Fish Creek Trailhead to San Gorgonio Mountain has about 3,400 feet (1,000 m) of gain, less than the routes from the South Fork and Vivian Creek trailheads. Hikers should always take caution because some junctions on this trail are not well marked.

Aircraft wreckage[edit]

On December 1, 1953, a Douglas C-47 Dakota, serial number 45-1124, crashed at the 11,000 feet (3,400 m) level on the eastern face of the mountain. The C-47 was en route from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska to March Air Force Base near Riverside, California when it struck the mountain at night in the middle of a storm. "The aircraft was last heard from at 9:51 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, Monday." Thirteen people died.[6][7]

Nearly one month after the C-47 accident a Marine Corps HRS-2 helicopter, bureau number 129037, crashed on the mountain in coordination of the efforts of recovering the victims.[8] The three crewmen of the helicopter survived the impact.[9] Most of the wreckage of the two aircraft remain on the mountain and are accessible via the Fish Creek Trailhead or the South Fork Trailhead.

In more recent years, the mountain claimed the lives of Frank Sinatra's mother[10] (January 16, 1977) and Dean Paul Martin (March 21, 1987), son of Dean Martin, in unrelated plane crashes. Martin was an Air National Guard pilot and the McDonnell Douglas F-4C he was flying disappeared in a snowstorm and the wreckage was found on the mountain several days later.[11]

Pan looking west and southwest from Mt San Gorgonio.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "San Gorgonio Mountain, California". Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  2. ^ "San Gorgonio Mountain". Hundred Peaks Section, Angeles Chapter, Sierra Club. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  3. ^ "USA Lower 48 Top 100 Peaks by Prominence". Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  4. ^ "USA Peaks with 6000 feet of Prominence". Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  5. ^ Longest lines of sight
  6. ^ "Transport Plane Wreckage Hunted", Playground Daily News, Fort Walton, Florida, 4 December 1952, Volume 7, Number 44, page 2.
  7. ^ G. Pat Macha (2013). Historic Aircraft Wrecks of San Bernardino County. The History Press. pp. 72–75. ISBN 978-1-62619-012-2. 
  8. ^ "The San Gorgonio C-47 9/5/05". SmugMug. Joe Idoni. 5 September 2005. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
    "Private-Law 88-159". Statute-77. Government Printing Office. 30 December 1963. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
    G. Pat Macha (2013). Historic Aircraft Wrecks of San Bernardino County. The History Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-62619-012-2. 
  9. ^ "C47 Transport Crashes on Mount San Gorgonio". Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  10. ^ Bill Bell, Michelle Caruso, Ana Figueroa, Corky Siemaszko (May 18, 1998). "Facing Life Without Him Sinatra's Wife Seeks Solace". NY Daily News. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  11. ^ Chicago Sun-Times (March 26, 1987). "Dean Martin's son's jet found wrecked". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 28, 2012. (subscription required)

External links[edit]