Camping – San Bernardino Mountains

Trail Camping

Camping facilities are divided into categories:

  • Developed Camping with a range of facilities for family and group sites (often with NRRS reservation options)
  • Undeveloped Camping which provides a “rough it” opportunity in more isolated areas designated as Yellow Post Sites, Designated Remote Area, and Wilderness Campsites.

For those campgrounds without a reference to the NRSS in their site description, you should contact the Ranger Station that has jurisdiction over the site. There are no direct phones numbers for any of the campgrounds.

Developed Camping

There are 23 family and 23 group campgrounds. These sites charge a modest fee and can usually be reserved well in advance. Most of them are open from May to October. No Adventure Pass is required as long as your vehicle is parked within the campground.

  • Family Campgrounds: There are 23 sites, most of which are equipped with vault or flush toilets, fire rings and/or stoves, picnic tables, and parking spaces. Drinking water is available on site. The more sophisticated campgrounds such as Serrano, Barton Flats, and San Gorgonio also have showers and electrical hookups.Parking space is provided though there may be restrictions on the number or size of vehicles.
  • Group Campgrounds: Group campsites can accommodate groups of 10-100 people. The amenities and restrictions on total number of campers and vehicles varies from site to site. There are 23 group sites.

NRRS™ – National Recreation Reservation System™ handles reservation requests for the USDA Forest Service, including many of the family and group campgrounds in the San Bernardino National Forest. Reservations can be booked through the NRRS online or by phone:

  • 1-877-444-6777 (toll free)
  • 1-877-833-6777 (TDD)
  • 518-885-3639 (international)

Phone reservation hours (PST):

  • April 1 through Labor Day: 5 AM – 9 PM
  • After Labor Day through March 31: 7 AM- 4 PM

To Make a NRRS Reservation

You will need to supply the following:

  • Name of the camp
  • Arrival and departure dates
  • Type of site required (tent, RV, etc.)
  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • Payment: certified check or credit card (VISA, MasterCard, AMEX, Discover)
  • Golden Age or Golden Access passport number (if applicable)

Reservation Policies of the NRRS

  • Family camp sites can be reserved up to 240 days in advance.
  • Group camp sites can be reserved up to 350 days in advance.
  • Canceling or changing a reservation: $10 service fee. If the cancellation occurs within 3 days for a family site or within 14 days for a group site: additional charge of the first night’s fee.
  • No-Show: If you never arrive: $20 service fee plus charge for the first night’s fee.

Be sure you verify with an NRRS representative or with their Internet site about any other policies (or changes to policies) that may affect your camping plans.

Also verify any special requirements or limitations on usage of the particular campsite.

Undeveloped Camping

The Forest Service provides a variety of camping opportunities outside of the developed campsites. These undeveloped sites provide more solitude and more of the “roughing it” experience. Camping options include

  • Yellow Post Sites
  • Designated Remote Areas
  • Wilderness Areas (requires a Special Wilderness Permit from the local Ranger Station).

Yellow Post Sites

There eighteen Yellow Post Sites scattered around the Big Bear valley. They are located in remote areas, on back roads and trails, usually out of sight of other campers and vehicle traffic. Consequently, not all are accessible with the family sedan.

Most sites have picnic tables, fire rings and parking. Campfires are allowed all year as long as the fire remains within the fire ring. There are no water or toilet facilities. There is no fee to camp in Yellow Post Sites, but each vehicle must have an Adventure Pass. All of these sites are on a strictly “First Come, First Served” basis. To occupy a space, you need to register at the Big Bear Discovery Center on the day you plan to camp, and pick up a California Campfire Permit, which is free. Bring your own firewood.

Permit Needed:

  • Registration with Discovery Center
  • California Fire Permit
  • Adventure Pass (for any vehicle parked in the forest)

Fires: Campfires are allowed all year as long as the fire stays within the designated fire rings.

Designated Remote Areas

Remote Camping is designed for the more adventurous. They are designated areas well away from highways and development where camping along back roads or trails is permitted.

Check in at the Discovery Center or at the nearest Ranger Station for a map indicating the boundaries of the Remote Camping Areas, current fire restrictions, and a California Campfire Permit.

Remote Hiking Sign

General Rules

  • Camp at least 200 feet away from natural water sources, including springs, ponds, streams and rivers.
  • Campsite should be at least 1/4 mile away from any designated campground, picnic area, trailhead, private property or state highways.
  • Bring your own firewood. Wood from the Forest is not always available. Check with your local Ranger Station for the current regulations.
  • Try to park on the shoulder of the road, out of traffic, but not on native vegetation.
  • Camp out of sight of other campers.
  • Pack in, pack out.

 Permits Needed 

  • Adventure Pass for any vehicle you park in the Forest.
  • California Campfire Permit: Free, obtainable from the Ranger Station

Fires: In times of low fire danger (usually winter and early spring), campers can make woodfires or use BBQs or chemical or propane stoves. During the high fire season (summer and fall), wood fires and BBQs are not permitted. Always check with the Ranger Station about the current fire restrictions.

Wilderness Campsites

A limited number of Wilderness Campsites are available in the San Gorgonio, Santa Rosa, San Jacinto, and Cucamonga Wilderness areas. The visitor population is held down both to protect the environment and to ensure that the trekker can enjoy the mountains and Forest at its most pristine.

Wilderness areas are accessible only by foot or horseback – No vehicle traffic, including bicycles, is allowed. On summer weekends, some Wilderness areas fill to capacity. Wilderness Permits are required and may be reserved up to three months in advance. Permits are issued in person, by mail or by fax. Group size is limited to twelve people per permit.

Permits Needed

Wilderness Permit: Can be reserved up to three months in advance from the local Ranger Station. Permits are issued through the mail or in person.

Adventure Pass (for vehicles parking at the trailhead entrances to the Wilderness areas)

Fires: Lightweight stoves are recommended. Campfires are not currently permitted in the San Gorgonio, Santa Rosa, or Cucamonga Wilderness Areas. Woodfires are permitted at a few designated sites in the San Jacinto Wilderness. Check with the Ranger Station.

Camp Site

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