Remember that some trails in the San Bernardino National Forest are for hiking, riding and non-motorized vehicles only. Dirt roads and trails that are open to ATV’s, dirt bikes and 4X4’s are clearly marked. The Big Bear Forest Service office can be reached at 909 866-3437 for detailed information about OHV areas, rules and regulations. The San Bernardino National Forest requires motorized play to be confined to designated trails and roads. There are no ‘open’ areas for racing or cross-country travel. Areas of the forest that have experienced forest fire are particularly fragile, so please stay on the designated roads when riding in these areas.
One of the best base camps for this sport is at Big Pine Flats. In Fawnskin (HWY 38), turn north on Rim of the World Street. This road quickly turns into Forest Road 3N14. Seven miles north is the Big Pine Flats campground (restrooms and water available). This is an extremely isolated area and a great setting for off-highway fun.
Cactus Flats is another ideal area for off-road adventures. Take HWY 18 east from Big Bear and look for Forest Road 3N03 on the right. Follow the signs into the area. There is no specific campground at Cactus Flats but the area is open for self-contained and rustic camping. No fires allowed. National Forest Adventure Pass is required to use these and all areas in the San Bernardino Mountains.
If you’ve always wanted to get away from civilization but don’t have the vehicle for it, try doing it by tour.Big Bear Off-Road Adventures (909/585-1036) will take you on deep-woods explorations at no risk to your own car. The mountains are full of springs, rivers and meadows that are well off the beaten track and can be accessed most easily by 4-wheel drive.
Discovery Center recommends the Lucerne Valley Car Tour if you want to see some interesting topography with little effort and a family car. Driving from Big Bear Lake down the back route to Lucerne Valley on paved HWY 18, families can experience a Desert Adventure quite simply. This 20 mile drive takes you from an Alpine forest environment through Pinyon Pine Groves and into a beautiful Joshua Tree forest (Cactus Flats). Park the car at any available place and step into these unusual environments at any point along the way as the high desert wilderness comes right up to the road. The view of the Mojave Desert is astounding from the top, and the change in climates and scenery on the way down the route is amazing. Continue down to the desert floor and into Lucerne Valley and return via the same route. In the spring and early summer the Joshua Trees and wildflowers may be in bloom and the unusual rock formations are always a treat.
If you have a high clearance or 4-wheel-drive vehicle and the Gold Rush is of interest to you, the Discovery Center has put together a self-guided car tour through Holcomb Valley. Holcomb Valley was the premiere sight for gold miners in Southern California. This now desolate and uninhabited high mountain valley was once swarming with miners and their suppliers. During the height of this gold rush, there were enough residents and excitement to put Holcomb Valley in the running for San Bernardino County Seat. This is a 3-hour, twenty-mile historical tour. Markers are set along the way at specific sights and if you pick up a pamphlet coded with the markers you can spend an afternoon in a beautiful, wild setting and learn a little California history along the way. Bring a picnic and explore the woods, meadows and streams along the route.