The San Bernardino National Forest has eight designated Wilderness Areas covering 151,341 acres.

Wilderness is an indispensable part of American history. Native Americans depended on the bounty of wildlands for survival and held Earth and its wild places as sacred. The great western explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were inspired by the untamed beauty of wild places that became the forge upon which our distinctive American national character was created. After just 200 years from the time of Lewis and Clark, the essential wildness of America had virtually disappeared. As Americans realized that the long-term health and welfare of the nation were at risk, a vision for conservation emerged.

In 1964 our nation's leaders formally acknowledged the immediate and lasting benefits of wild places to the human spirit and fabric of our nation. That year, in a nearly unanimous vote, Congress enacted landmark legislation that permanently protected some of the most natural and undisturbed places in America. The Wilderness Act of 1964 established the National Wilderness Preservation System, the system of all America's wilderness areas, to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness."

The United States was the first country in the world to define and designate wilderness areas through law. Subsequently, countries around the world have protected areas modeled after the Wilderness Act. Wilderness is part of our history and heritage and is passed as a legacy to future generations. Indispensable to the American past, the legacy that is wilderness will remain indispensable to the American future.



Wilderness FAQ's

Should I call ahead before visiting the Wilderness?

Yes -

Call the local Ranger Station to check on road / trail conditions and what type of permits are needed.  "Know Before You Go"

During winter months some locations may be inaccessible due to snow or closed.

What is the Wilderness?

Wilderness is a federal land designated by Congress.  It is a place "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain....which is protected and managed to preserve its natural condition."  (Wilderness Act 1964) 

In the Wilderness, preservation of the land, its natural processes, native vegetation and wildlife is the first priority of management.  Human use is secondary.  All mechanized equipment and vehicles are prohibited (including mountain bikes).

Where are the Wilderness Areas?

The San Bernardino National Forest has eight designated Wilderness Areas covering 151,341 acres.  Click here for a map showing where these wilderness areas are. 

      * San Bernardino National Forest System Lands only

Do I need a permit?

The Forest Service strongly recommends you obtain a Wilderness Permit before going into any of San Bernardino National Forest’s eight wilderness areas. The permit system benefits both you and the wilderness area by helping the Forest Service monitor visitor usage and environmental impacts. 

Overnight visitors who obtain a permit and pre-arrange a campsite will improve their experience by ensuring the greatest amount of solitude, and they will gather valuable information on trails, water availability, area closures, fire conditions and responsible recreation (i.e. Leave No Trace principles).

Wilderness Permits also provide a record of visitors to the area, which enables the Forest Service to monitor whether all visitors return. This record has proven valuable in search-and-rescue operations for lost or injured hikers. If you choose not to obtain a Wilderness Permit, it is highly recommend you leave your itinerary with a friend or family member.

Signs leading to wilderness areas may have outdated information about permit requirements, which the Forest Service is actively working to correct.

Visitors to the San Gorgonio Wilderness can complete an on-line application

Visitors to the San Jacinto Wilderness can complete this on-line application

Visitors to the Cucamonga Wilderness, Middle Fork or Joe Elliot Trailheads, can complete this on-line application.

The number of people admitted to the Wilderness is limited-on some summer weekends.  Wilderness areas fill to capacity well in advance.  The best advice is to plan ahead.  Some trailheads do require a Forest Adventure Pass.  Please contact the local Ranger Station for the area you plan to visit.

How many people can enter as a group?

If you choose to obtain a wilderness permit group size is limited to 12 people per permit; 8 stock per permit.

Can I have a fire or cook in the Wilderness?

Lightweight stoves are recommended. California Campfire Permit is required for stoves and lanterns. (available on-line click here)

Campfires are not allowed in the Wilderness Areas.

Can I take my dog into the Wilderness?

Yes, dogs are permitted.  Your dog must on a leash no longer than 6 feet and under your control at all times.

Dogs are prohibited in the San Jacinto State Park Wilderness.  

Are there any other Wilderness regulations I should be aware of?

Yes - follow the link to this handout which describes wilderness regulations, ethics, and etiquette.

Backcountry Safety Tips

We want you to have a safe and enjoyable backcountry experience - please follow the link to this handout on backcountry safety.

Interested in Lending a hand in the Wilderness?

The San Gorgonio Wilderness Association  The San Gorgonio Wilderness Association is a non-profit group dedicated to protecting the San Gorgonio Wilderness, and to serving the public visiting the forest. These services are provided through the generous donation of time by nearly 120 volunteers, who enjoy our National Forest and Wilderness areas and wish to help protect these precious resources for use by themselves and future generations. 

The Forest Service Volunteer Association in Idyllwild, helps patrol and maintain trails in the San Jacinto Wilderness.  They have a downloadable Wilderness Permit for mail-in applicants, camping and hiking information.

Front Country Recreation Volunteers in Lytle Creek provide information to the public, repair and maintain trails, pick up litter, and monitor resources across the Front Country Ranger District and Cucamonga Wilderness. Volunteers attend a two-day training workshop in April every year.

Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Located as a backdrop to the desert communities of the Coachella Valley, the National Monument serves as a model for community based support. It reflects the vision of the local jurisdictions and national desires to ensure special landscapes within our country are protected as open space for current and future generations.