Description - Located adjacent to southern California's large urban population, the mountains of Southern California offer unique opportunities for residents and visitors alike. The clean air, blue skies, mountain lakes, challenging trails, and beautiful views of the valley below are just some of the surprises awaiting visitors. Ranging in elevation from 2,000 feet on the valley floor to 11,502 feet at the top of Mount San Gorgonio, they contain many different habitats and over 440 species of wildlife for visitors to enjoy.
Copyright: USDA Forest Service
The San Bernardino National Forest has two spectacular drives that are part of the National Scenic Byway System
- The San Bernardino National Forest is a rich and diverse biological resource of trees, rivers and streams, fish, birds, reptiles, mammals, and a myriad of interrelated life forms and natural resources.
The Rim of the World Scenic Byway is a major access through the Forest and takes the traveler through some of the most beautiful scenery in Southern California. The eastern terminus is located at the Mill Creek Ranger Station on State Highway 38. It follows State Highways 38, 18 and 138 to the western terminus at the Mormon Rocks Fire Station. Points of interest along the byway include the Barton Flats Recreation Area, Mt. San Gorgonio, Baldwin Lake Preserve, Big Bear Lake, Heaps Peak Arboretum, Lake Arrowhead, and Cajon Pass.
The San Bernardino National Forest can be divided into three general geographic areas: the Cajon area, the San Bernardino Mountains, and the San Jacinto Mountains. The Cajon area, at the west end of the Forest, is accessible from Interstate 15 and Interstate 215. It includes some of the lowest elevation areas of the Forest. Lytle Creek is the center of activities in the Cajon area with a picnic area and campground near its banks. Bonita Falls, Lost Lake, Swarthout Canyon, Middlefork Road, and Cucamonga Canyon are other popular recreation destinations in the Cajon area.
The San Bernardino Mountains offer mountain streams and lakes, challenging trails, winter sports and beautiful views. The resorts of Arrowhead and Big Bear attract thousands of visitors each year. Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear Lake and the San Gorgonio Wilderness are only a few of the draws to this area.
The San Jacinto Mountains area is known for its contrast of landscapes. The subalpine forest of pine and fir is not far from the barrel cactus and palm trees of the desert. The area offers views of flatlands and rolling hills, as well as rocky peaks that soar above the village of Idyllwild. The San Jacintos are the backdrop to Palm Springs, Hemet and the Anza Valley. The Black Mountain Scenic Area and Lake Fulmor, near Allandale, Lake Hemet and Thomas Mountain in the Garner Valley area, are several recreation areas and points of interest. Around Pinyon Flat, Cahuilla Tewanet is a self-guided interpretive trail; other trails access the Santa Rosa Wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail.
The San Bernardino has five designated wilderness areas providing backcountry experiences: the San Gorgonio, Cucamonga, San Jacinto, Santa Rosa and the Bighorn. The Cucamonga Wilderness, which also lies on the Angeles National Forest, rises steeply from the valley floor containing rough terrain, rock cliffs, and sharp, silvered summits with elevations ranging from approximately 5,000 feet to almost 9,000 feet. Permits are required in all but the Santa Rosa and the Bighorn and can be obtained from the Forest Service offices. The number of people admitted into the wilderness areas is limited and fills to capacity on some summer weekends so planning ahead is recommended.
Camping is available in developed campgrounds, or undeveloped dispersed areas. The San Bernardino has 21 campgrounds with varying facilities. Reservations are accepted for most of the campgrounds. Dispersed camping is allowed in designated Remote Areas and at Yellow Post Sites.
Horseback riding is permitted on all National Forest roads and trails, except for short nature trails. The Spitler Peak and Fobes trails in the San Jacinto area connect with the Pacific Crest Trail. The nearby McCall Equestrian Park and the Ribbonwood Equestrian Campground both offer overnight camping. The San Gorgonio Wilderness trails are very popular and the Forest Service maintains the Heart Bar Equestrian Group Camp nearby. Big Bear has a series of gentler trails that connect with the Pacific Crest Trail.
Mountain biking is permitted on any public dirt roads, and most trails except the Pacific Crest Trail, short nature trails and trails leading to or inside wilderness areas. The three most popular mountain biking areas on the Forest are the San Jacinto Sawmill Trail, Snow Summit and Snow Valley ski areas, and the Santa Ana River area, between South Fork Campground and Angeles Oaks.
The off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail system on the San Bernardino is one of the best in Southern California and offers roads and trails for four-wheel driving, ATV and motorcycle use. The designated OHV routes and trails are located primarily in the Big Bear, Arrowhead, and Cajon areas.
For fishing, most of the lakes and streams on the Forest are stocked with rainbow trout and some also contain bass, bluegill, and catfish. Deep Creek and Bear Creek are wild trout streams.
Hunting is permitted at certain times of the year. Popular game animals are mule deer, mountain and valley quail, and turkey. Waterfowl can be hunted on Baldwin Lake in Big Bear and Lake Hermit in San Jacinto. Band-tailed pigeons, cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, and black bears can also be hunted. "Predator calling" for coyote, fox, and bobcat is done in some areas. Due to the number of cities and villages in and near the National Forest, shooting rifles is not permitted in many parts of the Forest. Shotgun and bow hunting is permitted almost everywhere except near residences.
The San Bernardino National Forest developed a Forest-wide shooting plan in 1999, which allows people to enjoy recreational shooting. Please call the local Ranger Stations for detailed maps and information. Lytle Creek Firing Line offers year-round target shooting for visitors. See Contact Information for phone number.
Winter brings opportunities for snow sports and activities. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are centered around Arrowhead and Big Bear at Snow Summit, Bear Mountain, Snow Valley and Ski Green Valley ski areas. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing depends on natural snow, which varies with elevation and exposure. There are two Nordic facilities in the Arrowhead area. Snowmobiling is permitted in the Coon Creek area near Barton Flats, and only when there is two feet of snow on the ground.
Recreation - Some of the popular recreation activities on the San Bernardino include camping, hiking, picnicking, backpacking, horseback riding, mountain biking, using off-highway vehicles, viewing scenery and a variety of winter sports.
Forest visitors on the San Bernardino, Cleveland, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests of Southern California are required to purchase an Adventure Pass and display it on their vehicle when parked in the Forest. The cost is $5 per day or $30 per year and can be purchased in any Forest Service office or over 350 businesses throughout Southern California.
Climate - Climate on the San Bernardino varies greatly with elevation. Temperatures can be 70 degrees in Los Angeles while only 40 degrees at Big Bear Lake. It can snow almost any month of the year in the highest elevations. Heavy snow is possible in the high elevations during the winter months. Most of the precipitation comes between November and April so summers tend to be dry. Summer temperatures are normally warm to hot at the low elevations and more moderate at the higher elevations. Nighttime temperatures can be cool in the mountains, even during the summer months.
The San Bernardino National Forest lies in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California at the east end of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. It is located near the cities of San Bernardino, Hemet and Palm Springs.