The Big Bear area offers a wide variety of camping choices. From family-friendly to remote camping, the San Bernardino Mountains has the best camping in southern California.
If you’re looking to “get away from it all,” get a forest permit, grab your pack and head into Mount San Gorgonio. We parked at the South Fork parking lot and hiked up past Dollar Lake. We set up camp on the ridge line above 10,000 feet. There was a fresh stream coming out of the side of the mountain, which took care of all of our needs. This mountain range has breath-taking views and ancient pine forests. Campers must hang their backpacks from a tree at night due to the occasional black bear.
If you want a remote camp site that you can drive your gear to, try one of the yellow post camp sites. We love yellow post camp site #54 and have camped there often. The site has a picnic table and a fire ring. We enjoy the beautiful high desert views of the east valley. It’s also a short hike (one hour) to the top of the ridge next to Wild Horse Canyon. Once there, you can see the entire valley between Sugarloaf Mountain and Mount San Gorgonio. This camping area is located about 20 minutes east of Big Bear Lake, south of Hatchery Road.
Serrano Campgrounds is fantastic for families, RV’s and those that enjoy showers. These beautiful campgrounds are located on the north shore, adjacent to Big Bear Lake. Reserve early if you can, this camp ground fills up early.
If you prefer family friendly camping that’s deeper in the forest, try Hanna Flats. This facility also has bathrooms and showers. Be sure to pick up your food ahead of time. The nearest grocery store is in Big Bear Lake, about 45 minutes away.
There are also camp sites for hikers, especially along the Pacific Coast Trail. Our favorite is the Arrastre Creek Horse Camp, near Onyx Summit. It can only be reached by hiking or horseback. The area is down below highway 38, in an ancient cedar forest that also has giant silver pine trees. The camping area has running non-potable water for livestock, a fire ring, picnic table and room for several groups of campers.