Missing California hiker found dead at notorious waterfall

Aaron Gagnon, with the San Bernardino National Forest, at Upper Big Falls in September 2015, shortly before the trail was closed for a year because of the high number of hiker injuries and other emergencies.

A man who went missing in the San Bernardino Mountains was found dead at the base of a waterfall notorious as a danger zone for hikers.

Robert Carey Jr., 33, of Calimesa (Riverside County) was reported missing by his family on Saturday when he failed to return from a hike on San Gorgonio Peak, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

Additional calls came in from people saying they had heard someone yelling for help in the Forest Falls area, the sheriff’s department said.

On Saturday evening, a sheriff’s helicopter crew saw an unresponsive man at the base of Big Falls, and a rescuer lowered to that site determined the man was dead. Because of the risk of a nighttime operation, the recovery of the body was delayed until the next morning.

It is believed that Carey died of traumatic injuries after falling about 80 feet.

The trail from the Forest Falls area to the 11,503-foot San Gorgonio summit is long and arduous — more than 20 miles round trip, with 6,000 feet elevation gain. Carey ‘s family said he was an experienced hiker but he was not familiar with that trail.

The Forest Falls trailhead also draws many inexperienced hikers for the walk to Big Falls, a 500-foot series of cascades. Though that trail is short, emergency rescues are frequent for people who get in trouble trying to climb up the rocks or cross the creek.

The trail beyond the lower observation deck is currently closed until May 27.

In October 2015, after 57 injuries and 45 rescues had been reported since the start of the year, the trail was closed for 12 months. Among the hiker emergencies that year was the death in September of a 25-year-old man swept away while crossing a creek during a first-date outing.

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