U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

San Bernardino National Forest


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Forest Information

The San Bernardino National Forest is located in southern California to the east and southeast of San Bernardino, CA. It is comprised of 670,381 acres. There are 25 developed campgrounds of which 19 meet the selection criteria.

High above Pomona, San Bernardino, and Riverside, California, San Bernardino National Forest offers its visitors a range of recreational activities and camping locations. So close to these and other major population centers, one would think each trail, campground, and vista would be packed, shoulder-to-shoulder with people. However, except for holiday weekends, this isn't the case. The San Bernardino National Forest, like many National Forests, is relatively undiscovered and filled with amazing sights and experiences.

Some people have known about the riches available in this National Forest for a long time and are willing to share. They give back and share through an extensive network of volunteer organizations. These volunteers and their organizations helped establish the Forest's wildernesses of Santa Rosa, San Gorgonio, and Cucamonga. They also construct and maintain numerous Forest trails. Support from the volunteer organizations continues to help San Bernardino National Forest maintain its healthy and robust character.

One important contribution from the Forest's volunteer organizations is found near Serrano campground - Big Bear Discovery Center. Up and growing, the Big Bear Discovery Center features an army of well-informed volunteers (ask them anything from the name of a bird you just saw outside to trail conditions and they will know) as well as several informative exhibits and an array of programs. Thursday's "Nature Night" seminars, led by various experts, is one example. The weekend campfires, geared to the whole family, is another. Topics at these campfires range from the local wildlife to Native American music and beyond. But the Center's programs don't stop with the end of summer. There is a long list of activities and programs throughout the year.

Another feature of the San Bernardino's Serrano campground is one loop (Snowberry) with full hook-ups for recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts. This loop fills quickly but the campground's other three loops offer something which Snowberry has little of - shade. Although Serrano isn't "on" Big Bear Lake, it is close enough for campers to consider a day on the water. Several nearby businesses offer boat rentals or campers can bring their own. Another thing about Serrano - it is close enough to the communities of Big Bear Lake and Big Bear City for a cook's night out or maybe fun on a water slide.

Several camp sites within Serrano have a view of Snow Summit, the ski mountain across Big Bear Lake. At the bottom of those ski runs is a Forest campground popular with car and tent camping enthusiasts called Pineknot. Not particularly RV-friendly, Pineknot is a great location for tent camping mountain bike enthusiasts. The Snow Summit Ski Resort Mountain offers lift-rides to the mountain's top and access to trails that will challenge "professional" and amateur mountain bikers of all ages. And there are local and national competitions held here each year; contact the Forest Service for more information.

Between Serrano and Pineknot campgrounds is Moonridge Animal Park, "Home of the Grizzlies." A cross between a zoo, education center, animal hospital, and rehabilitation center, Moonridge is an excellent way to safely meet some of the area's animals. Grizzlies to turtles, and more can be found here. The "Feeding Tour," held only on weekends, is really cool. (For more information call 909-584-1171.)

For campers looking for quiet solitude and something to challenge themselves physically, there are Boulder Basin, Wildhorse Family and Ribbonwood Equestrian campgrounds. Boulder Basin campground is the place for anyone interested in developing their rock-climbing or "bouldering" skills. This pine shaded campground is surrounded by boulders that will challenge. However, as impressive as the boulders are, one camper insisted, "The hiking is even better." Although not convenient to Idyllwild, a day trip to this little community is worthwhile especially during its annual "Jazz in the Pines Festival," held the last weekend in August.

Wildhorse Family Camp (a.k.a. Heart Bar Horse camp) and Ribbonwood Equestrian (with 8 sites - not included in this campground review) campgrounds are each comprised of single loops with good stock facilities and hot showers for two legged campers. (Sorry, no bathing facilities for horses.) Wildhorse features a short connector trail to Wildhorse Creek and Santa Ana River trails which provides views of the San Bernnardino National Forest. Ribbonwood has the same features as Wildhorse plus two corrals per campsite and is located in a high desert environment of Pinyon pine and Ribbonwood so shade is limited. On the other hand, Ribbonwood does have three trails (horse and foot only) into the San Rosa Wilderness, a delightful undiscovered feel, and sites that can be reserved through www.recreation.gov.

The San Bernardino National Forest has so much to offer. How can one decide? There's the desert camping experience found at Pinyon Flats or Applewhite campgrounds or a shady camp site, far from the crowds, at Dogwood and Dark Canyon campgrounds. Looking for some gold rush history? Try Holcomb Valley campground. For off-road-vehicle enthusiasts, there is Big Pine Flat campground with Rehonda Ridge trail. Dispersed camping is permitted in the Forest's wilderness areas but these locations are not included in this campground review. (Contact the Forest Service directly for specific information.)

People think of Southern California as being all Pacific Ocean beaches, amusement parks, and hordes of people trapped on crowded roadways. Few imagine towering pine covered mountains with trails meandering across mountain meadows and tree covered mountains. Campfire dinners, star studded crystal-clear night skies, comfortable temperatures, fishing, hiking, boating, wildlife viewing, solitude and personal challenges - these are just a few of the things to be found in the San Bernardino National Forest. Come, discover this Forest so near it is all but worlds away.

SUPERVISOR OFFICE 1824 S. Commercenter Cir. San Bernardino, California 92408-3430 909-383-5588 RANGER DISTRICT OFFICES Arrowhead P.O.B. 350 28104 Hwy. 18 Skyforest, California 92385 909-337-2444 Big Bear P.O.B. 290 North Shore Dr. Fawnskin, California 92333 909-382-2790 Lytle Creek 1209 Lytle Creek Rd. Lytle Creek, California 92358 909-887-2576 San Gorgonio 34701 Mill Creek Rd. Mentone, California 92359 909-794-1123 San Jacinto P.O.B. 518 54270 Pinecrest Idyllwild, California 92549 909-382-2921

Fred and Suzi Dow