The Inland Empire, also known as "The IE," is an area approximately 60 miles from north to south and some 50 miles wide. It spans Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. This is an area that is roughly 2/3rds the size of Connecticut. The area is surrounded by mountain ranges and hills on all sides, with only a few natural passes to Los Angeles and Orange County to the West. San Diego County lies to the South and Palm Springs to the East.
The natural beauty of the mountain rim on 320 degrees of the horizon is punctuated by a vertical elevation of over 10,000 feet in at least four places. The Inland Empire is perhaps the only place in the United States where you are 45 minutes from ski slopes and 45 minutes from the beach; during some times of the year, the weather allows both skiing and ocean swimming on the same day! The Inland Empire offers many outdoor sports such as snowboarding, motorcycling, biking, racing, and four-wheeling.
The eastern pass to the low desert climbs to 1600 feet, with 10,000 ft.-plus peaks on both sides of Interstate 10. Most notable are Mt. San Jacinto Peak to the south and San Gorgonio and San Bernardino peaks to the north. This and much of the surrounding vista are due to the natural competition between two massive tectonic plates, the Pacific and North American plates. The resulting battle created the highest vertical plate structure in North America, beating even the Rockies as much of the plate itself is buried thousands of feet under the valley floor.
The elevation range makes the topography very interesting and creates climatic ranges from near desert to alpine, with oak trees and conifer forests just a few minutes drive up on the famous Rim of the World highway. The San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and San Jacinto mountain ranges catch the precipitation that is missed in the lower valleys, which has created canyons with steep walls and wide level valleys.
People have been attracted to the natural wonders of the area for two hundred years and continue to enjoy the natural amenities today in every conceivable way. With a rich history, natural wealth, and a robust economy, the Inland Empire is an area full of surprises.
The climate has long been a major reason for human occupation in the San Bernardino Valley. Its early Native American inhabitants followed the seasons up and down the elevations to suit their comfort and food-gathering habits. Later, the climate attracted those with health problems, and eventually the citrus industry made Redlands and Riverside famous worldwide. Today, the economy is one of the largest and fastest-growing in the nation and boasts the 13th-largest metropolitan market.
Major cities include San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ontario, served by the Ontario International Airport. Smaller but substantial cities include Rancho Cucamonga, Montclair, Pomona, Redlands, Corona, and others.
How the Inland Empire got its name? The Inland Empire is also known by other names, including Inland Southern California, San Bernardino Valley, and Inland Counties. This identity crisis continues today - perhaps overshadowed by better known counties on the coast, or its past agricultural and rural atmosphere. Many may wish to keep it that way, but if the last decade is any indication, the Inland Empire will continue to be Southern California's backyard and an enormous economic engine, outperforming even our more well-known neighbors by many measures.