Posted by: GeekHiker | June 25, 2008

HIKE: Dry Lake

Dry Lake, located in the San Bernardino National Forest, is a bit like a weekend getaway to a high Sierra Lake.

Minus, of course, the long drive. Unfortunately, in this year’s drought-ridden California, it was minus most of the water as well.

Still, the trail makes a fine day hike or overnight backpack, taking the traveler high into the mountains to a bowl behind Mt. San Gregorio in which the lake sits. Camping spots are plentiful, and water is available from a trickling spring. (Note: this spring can dry up in the summer; be sure to check water availability before departing for an overnight trip!)

From the trailhead parking lot, cross the road and pick up the South Fork Trail (IE04). You’ll circle around a small canyon and start ascending through a mixture of chaparral and pine forest. You’ll soon arrive at a dirt fire road; be sure to go straight across and pick up the trail on the other side.

Dry Lake 02
Chaparral along the lower part of the trail

About a mile from the start you’ll arrive at the wide, grassy Horse Meadow, home to a historic pack station. Some days volunteers will be out, answering questions and providing ice water.

Dry Lake 08
Horse Meadow

Continuing up the slope, the trail will enter the forest proper. A mile past Horse Meadow, the trail arrives at the boundary of the San Gabriel Wilderness. A short trail to the left will take you to Poopout Hill, which has two informational signboards and an expansive view of Mt. San Gabriel and the wilderness you’re about to enter.

Dry Lake 04
View from Poopout Hill

(Note: crossing into the wilderness, for both day hikes and overnight backpacks, REQUIRES a permit. See below for more information.)

Passing the wilderness sign, the trail continues a slow and steady incline through the forest until finally crossing the braided South Fork of the Santa Ana River.

S Fork Santa Ana River Photomerge Small
Crossing the river. Dry Lake is the South Fork’s headwaters, a couple of miles upstream from this point.

After crossing the fork, the trail steepens a bit, crosses the river again, and begins a series of moderately steep switchbacks up the canyon wall. As you climb (about 1,000 feet of elevation gain over the mile and a half of switchbacks) your views into the canyon and surrounding peaks grows.

S Fork Trail Photomerge Small
Ever-expanding views from along the switchbacks

At the end of the switchbacks, the trail continues straight up the canyon, following the course of the (dry) creek. Finally, you arrive at Dry Lake:

Dry Lake 06
First view of Dry Lake from its outlet

Mostly dry this season, the large expanse of green grass indicates where the water actually is. In fact, several families of ducks (and ducklings) seemed quite content here.

Camping is available on the south shores of the lake (owing to the location within a wilderness area, no fires are allowed). Water, as of this writing, is available at Lodgepole Spring, just east of the lake.

Dry Lake Photomerge Small
Morning light over Dry Lake

Return by the same route.

More photos here.

Total Distance: 13 Miles

Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,200’/2,200′

Permit Requirements: Permits are required for entry into the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Permits are available at forest Ranger Stations or online at the website below.


Directions: From Interstate 10, exit at Orange St (Highway 38 ) in Redlands. Drive .6 miles north and turn right at Lugonia Ave. Follow Lugonia Ave. (which will become Mentone Blvd, which in turn will become Mill Creek Road, all still Highway 38 ) 24.5 miles to Jenks Lake Rd and turn right. Follow Jenks Lake Road to the South Fork Trail Parking area on the left. National Forest Pass required. NOTE: the National Forest Pass is for parking only; it is NOT a Wilderness Permit, which must be obtained separately.



  1. Poopout? *snortle*

  2. Every time I see or hear the words “San Bernardino” I remember a friend who used to refer to sunburn as sun-burn-adino. I hope you had your sunscreen.

  3. Wow, that’s gorgeous. I need to get out of the city more!!

  4. LOVE the lake! Looks like a great hike.

    *Wishes she lived in CA so she could hike these places, too*

    Hikes like this do not exist in my neck of the woods.

  5. I’m missing California already. Great pictures. I agree with JaG – “Poopout hill” LOL

  6. Thank goodness other readers commented on Poopout. I mean really, how the heck did it end up with that name? I’d like a follow-up blog here.

    Gorgeous pictures. And I’m jealous you saw a family of ducks. Cute! 🙂

  7. Just A Girl – Yeah, that was my reaction too!

    Charlotte – *snicker* Yep, always in the pack.

    SingleFabulous – Yes, you should!

    East Coast Teacher – LOL It is a bit flatter back there, but you do have better lakes and ponds and such…

    Homer-Dog – Sorry, man. Thanks for the compliment!

    Mel Heth – Hee hee hee. The ducklings were funny since they couldn’t quite swim in a straight line yet, they kind of weaved back and forth as they paddled along…

  8. Completely unrelated comment but since your email hates my email….

    Two people have found my site using the search phrase, “what does geekhiker look like?”

  9. Just reading about the volunteers with ice water made my mouth go dry and I got all thirsty! had to pause in my reading to go get something to drink! I’m glad reading abotu Poopout hill didn’t have similar results.

  10. Is it too late to comment on Poopout? I’m guessing, yes 🙂

    Looks gorgeous! I need to go camping… although mention of San Gorgonio made my legs tense up a little….

  11. Dingo – That is odd… and, in a weird, way, cool…

    Dingo – I hope I haven’t given you a “drinking” problem. I slay me.

    Aly – Nope, comment away. Heh.

  12. […] Generally, I acted as a kid with a new toy…..which all came to a screeching halt when I read this […]

  13. Delightful trivia… I recently learned that the lake was formed when some old geezer plugged the creek with rocks back in the 30’s. That sure beats any dam building I did when I was a kid.

    Unless we have a really dry winter, go up in the spring and you’ll see it full of water.

  14. […] HIKE: Dry Lake « The (Single) GeekHiker. older » Hiking Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point | Modern Hiker » No Responses to "HIKE: Dry Lake « The (Single) GeekHiker". Add a comment? or Follow comments by RSS? Be the first and share your thoughts! […]

  15. Nice hike – just did it myself recently. Nice pictures, keep up the good work!

  16. […] information: Trip descriptions here, here, here and […]

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