Located in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, Morton Peak rises about 4600ft above sea level. With nearby San Bernardino Peak and San Gorgonio towering thousands of feet over Morton's summit, it could easily be overlooked. Personally, I wouldn't drive very far for this hike, but if you're passing through the area, it's well worth a look see.
Originally built in 1934, Morton Peak Lookout was destroyed by a fire in 1959. Since it's reconstruction in 1961 and refurbishment in 2001, it remains a functional fire lookout, as well as a vacation destination for the public. For information on booking a night in the historical fire lookout, visit bigbear.com
or call 1-800-4-BIG-BEAR. If you do stay, you have the option of driving to the peak. Road conditions are pretty fair. Might be a little washed out and/or muddy considering snow melt and rain. I saw a couple my first time up and they made the drive in a PT Cruiser. High clearance seems to be recommended. Better safe than sorry.
The hike begins at a trailhead
on the north side of California State Route 38. It follows a forest road for about 1.15 miles before heading west passed a locked gate
and up to the peak. Only those staying in the tower have access to unlock the gate. From the gate, it's another mile and a half to the top. The climb is rather gradual, gaining about 680ft. Just below the top, the road passes the Santa Ana River Trail. Granted you didn't arrive on a smoggy day, beautiful 360 degree views, and solitude await you at the top. As if you needed a reminder, please respect the tower and the area in general.
Parking at Morton Peak's trailhead and its adjacent vista point do not require any recreation fees.
If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.