Hikes in San Bernardino National Forest

Region in California, United States

San Bernardino National Forest encompases a vast area of 823,816 acres of wild land, which is largely split into two separate mountainous regions. These consist of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains of the Transverse Range, as well as the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains of the Peninsular Range, which make for a rugged, yet truly beautiful landscape that begs to be explored. With plenty of charming lakes, winding rivers, and low-lying valleys to break up the undulating terrain, there is always a new and exciting adventure waiting around every corner.

With its close proximity to several high population areas in Southern California, the San Bernardino National Forest is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the entire state. Featuring hundreds of miles of hiking trails (including the world-renowned Pacific Crest Trail), beautifully scenic mountain peaks, seven designated wilderness areas, and forty-seven Yellow Post campsites, there are nearly endless possibilities when it comes to exploring this vast and beautiful part of So Cal.

10 Amazing Hiking Routes In San Bernardino National Forest

The diverse landscape of the San Bernardino National Forest includes rugged mountain peaks, great expanses of woodland terrain, sprawling deserts, and beautiful lakes, making it perfectly suited for exploration on foot. Not only are there plenty of terrain types that will keep you busy for countless hours, but there are trails that suit every age and skill level. So whether you are a seasoned trekker looking to navigate backcountry mountain paths, or are setting out with the family for a low key creekside adventure, you can check out the below list of amazing hiking routes in San Bernardino National Forest for inspiration.

  • Deep Creek Hot Springs Trail: A fantastic hiking route in San Bernardino National Forest, this trail will lead you through a stretch of desert terrain to reach a series of relaxing thermal pools set along the expanse of Deep Creek.
  • The Living Desert Wilderness Loop Trail: Featuring beautifully scenic views overlooking the Coachella Valley and access to the nearby zoo, this hiking route is perfectly suited for a great family-friendly adventure.
  • Bonita Falls Trail: While the Bonita Falls Trail may be a bit on the short side, it is an exceptional route that features easy-going terrain and wonderful views looking out onto a cascading waterfall.
  • Jenks Lake Trail: For those adventurers that are after a relaxing forest walk with views of a scenic lake, the Jenks Lake Trail is the perfect route that can be enjoyed with the entire family.
  • Castle Rock Trail: The Castle Rock Trail is a steep hiking route in the Big Bear Lake area of San Bernardino National Forest that will lead you uphill to a rocky vantage point with gorgeous views overlooking the water.
  • Heart Rock Trail: Another quick and easy family-friendly hike, the Heart Rock Trail is a lovely adventure through the forest that will take you to a viewpoint looking onto the Seely Creek Falls and an interesting weathered rock depression in the shape of a heart.
  • Bear Lake Woodland Trail: A lovely interpretive trail in the San Bernardino National Forest, this hike will see you traverse a short loop along laidback terrain that features informative signs to learn about the flora and fauna of the surrounding area.
  • Bertha Peak Trail: This amazing route will lead you up the rugged terrain of the Cougar Crest Trail in order to summit Bertha Peak, where you will experience wonderful views overlooking Big Bear Lake.
  • Pine Knot Trail to Grand View Point Hike: Another great route in the Big Bear Lake area, this trail will take you uphill through some beautiful stretches of forest and meadow to access the stunning lookout at Grand View Point that offers sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Champion Lodgepole Hike: This is a fantastic hiking route in the Big Bear Lake area that will lead you up the steep trail past Castle Rock and Bluff Lake to visit a tall Lodgepole Pine that is estimated to be around 450 years old.

When is the Best Time to Hike in San Bernardino National Forest?

Many of the hiking trails within San Bernardino National Forest are accessible year-round; however, some - particularly those that are at higher elevations in the mountains - are not suitable in the winter. If you are looking to get the most out of your hiking excursion in the wild expanse of the San Bernardino National Forest, try timing your trip for the spring to autumn seasons when the weather is most favourable.

Other Outdoor Activities in the San Bernardino National Forest

With hundreds of miles of recreational trails in the area, hiking is certainly one of the most popular activities in the San Bernardino National Forest; however, there are a wide variety of things to do outdoors if you are hoping for a different experience. In the summer, popular adventures include cycling, camping, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing, as well as water sports like kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. For those who prefer the winter months, alpine activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and even snowmobiling are available in the higher elevations of the nearby mountains.

Fantastic Adventure Tours Near the San Bernardino National Forest

While there are countless hiking trails within the boundary of the San Bernardino National Forest that are just waiting to be explored, the sheer number of options can sometimes make planning a fun hiking trip a bit confusing or complicated. If you want to visit the area but don’t want to deal with all the fuss of planning a trip, why not check out these amazing adventure tours in California and leave all of the small details to the adventure travel professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions About the San Bernardino National Forest

Is camping permitted in San Bernardino National Forest?

There are a wide variety of options for camping within the boundaries of San Bernardino National Forest, including 47 Yellow Post Campsites that are free.

What animals can be found in the San Bernardino National Forest?

The vast expanse of the San Bernardino National Forest is home to over 440 species of wildlife, including spotted owls, flying squirrels, and black bears, although the latter are not native to the region.

Are dogs permitted in the San Bernardino National Forest?

Yes, dogs are permitted on hiking trails within San Bernardino National Forest, although they must be kept on a leash at all times.

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Best Hikes in San Bernardino National Forest

Open details for Deep Creek Hot Springs Trail

Deep Creek Hot Springs Trail

Hard
5.8 km
281 m
2-2.5h

The Deep Creek Hot Springs Trail is a popular hiking route in the San Bernardino Forest that leads you to a series of relaxing thermal pools set along the creek. While out hiking the trail, you will traverse the rugged desert landscape until you arrive at the edge of Deep Creek where you can soak in the relaxing hot springs before heading back. Hikers should take note that the road leading into the trailhead is very rough and will require a 4x4 high clearance vehicle to safely traverse.

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Open details for The Living Desert Wilderness Loop Trail

The Living Desert Wilderness Loop Trail

Hard
7.7 km
242 m
2-3h

The Living Desert Wilderness Loop Trail is a fun adventure in Palm Desert, California that will take you through some rugged terrain for views of the Coachella Valley. While out hiking the trail, you will make your way uphill across some rocky terrain to reach a viewpoint over the valley, before descending through a small gully on the return leg of the hike. Hikers should take note that you will need to pay an entrance fee for the zoo in order to access the trailhead.

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Open details for Dogwood Campground Loop Trail

Dogwood Campground Loop Trail

Easy
6.1 km
142 m
1.5-2h

The Dogwood Campground Loop Trail is a laidback hiking route in the San Bernardino National Forest that will take you on an easy-going route with gradual elevation changes. While out hiking the trail, you will make your way through the undulating terrain and relax in the peaceful forest setting, as you work your way around the grounds of the Dogwood Campground. This hike is great when paired with a fun weekend of camping outdoors.

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Open details for Bonita Falls Trail

Bonita Falls Trail

Moderate
2.4 km
102 m
0.5-1h

The Bonita Falls Trail is a short hiking route in the San Bernardino National Forest of California that will take you out to a viewpoint overlooking a waterfall. While out on the trail, you will hike the rocky terrain along the banks of Lytle Creek, before entering into the tree cover to view the cascading waters of Bonita Falls. Don’t forget to stop off at the ranger station to purchase a daily parking pass for $5.

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Open details for Jenks Lake Trail

Jenks Lake Trail

Easy
5.0 km
149 m
1.5-2h

The Jenks Lake Trail is a laidback hiking experience in the San Bernardino National Forest that will take you uphill to a charming lake. While out on the trail, you will work your way uphill through the forest alongside Frog Creek to eventually arrive at the peaceful woodland shores of Jenks Lake. Hikers should take note that parking and navigation along the trail are easy, although you will likely want to arrive early to beat out the crowds.

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Open details for Castle Rock Trail

Castle Rock Trail

Moderate
4.3 km
250 m
1.5-2h

The Castle Rock Trail is one of the more popular hiking routes within San Bernardino National Forest, and it is for good reason. While out on the trail, you will climb up a steep and often rocky path to reach a breathtaking vantage point at the summit of Castle Rock, where you will take in views overlooking Big Bear Lake. Hikers should take note that parking is limited at the trailhead and fills up quickly, so make sure to arrive early to secure a space.

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Open details for Hurkey Creek Trail

Hurkey Creek Trail

Easy
5.3 km
113 m
1-2h

The Hurkey Creek Trail is a great family-friendly hiking route in the San Bernardino National Forest that features some rugged terrain and scenic views. While out hiking the trail, you will climb slightly uphill through some rocky terrain, where you will have some stunning views of nearby mountain peaks. Hikers should take note that wildfires in recent years have destroyed much of the shade along the trail, leaving it very exposed to the sun.

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Open details for Heart Rock Trail

Heart Rock Trail

Moderate
2.1 km
83 m
0.5-1h

The Heart Rock Trail is a laidback adventure in the San Bernardino National Forest that will take you through the woodlands to view an interesting geological feature. While out hiking the trail, you will meander along paved and rocky paths through the forest, before arriving at the weathered, heart-shaped formation known as Heart Rock. Although the trailhead is located beyond Camp Seely, make sure not to park there as it is private property. Instead, utilize the parking lot a bit further south along CA-138 and walk the remainder of the way.

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Open details for Bear Lake Woodland Trail

Bear Lake Woodland Trail

Easy
2.6 km
71 m
0.5-1h

Hiking the Bear Lake Woodland Trail is a fun adventure in San Bernardino National Forest that will provide lovely forest views and the chance to learn about local plant species. While out on the trail, you will loop around the forest and stop at a number of interpretive signs that offer valuable information on the flora surrounding Big Bear Lake. Be sure to stick to the laid out path out of respect for the environment and other hikers.

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Open details for Bertha Peak Trail

Bertha Peak Trail

Moderate
12.1 km
413 m
3.5-4.5h

The Bertha Peak Trail is a wonderfully scenic hiking route in the San Bernardino National Forest that will see you climb uphill for sweeping landscape views. While out on the trail, you will climb up the Cougar Crest Trail through the forest, before pushing up to the summit of Bertha Peak for a fantastic sightline over Big Bear Lake. While the trail isn’t overly difficult, there are some rugged sections with rocky terrain, so make sure to take your time and watch your footing.

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