Our Favorite Trails to Check Out When Visiting the Big Bear Area for the First Time
Written by Taylor Kempkes with photos by individual Trail Guide authors and Trails Offroad™
Big Bear, California is a mecca for offroading, overlanding, camping, and rock crawling and is a popular weekend getaway for many enthusiasts all over Southern California. But just because there are dozens of trails in the area doesn’t mean you’re likely to stumble upon the best ones on your own. This short guide aims to point you in the right direction if you are new to the offroad or overland scene and want to spend a weekend exploring near Big Bear, CA.
A “beginner trail” can mean different things to different people; it all depends on vehicle capability and the driver's comfort level. With that in mind, we’ll highlight five different trails with ranging difficulties. Whether you’re a complete newcomer to the offroad life and drive a stock Subaru CrossTrek or just picked up a new Wrangler Rubicon and want to get into the rocks, there’s a trail on this list for you.
Of all the Big Bear Area trails, 3N16 Holcomb Valley is always the first one we recommend. Not only does it serve as an access route to almost all other trails north of Big Bear Lake, but it also spans a variety of mountainous terrains and historical points of interest. Another bonus is that Holcomb Valley can often avoid some of the weekend traffic when heading into Big Bear. It might be slower than the main road, but at least you can put tires on dirt!
For an easy offroad drive with great views of Big Bear Lake, consider checking out 2N71. Located just outside the little town of Fawnskin, this trail can easily be traversed by any 4WD and most 2WD vehicles.
From Joshua Trees in the high desert to Pine Trees in the mountains, 2N02 Burns Canyon offers a diverse taste of Southern California wilderness. The trail begins just five and a half miles north of iconic Pioneer Town and takes you on a tour of the evolving landscape over its 19-mile length and 2,500-foot climb. Burns Canyon ends just east of Baldwin Lake, so it can be a great alternative to paved roads when heading up to the Big Bear area for a weekend of fun.
Holcomb Creek Road
Holcomb Creek Road is a great option for those that want something more challenging than what Holcomb Valley or Burns Canyon has to offer. This trail combines light rock crawling, hill climbs, dirt roads, and great scenery into one 4.5-mile stretch. Don’t confuse 3N08 Holcomb Creek Road with its hardcore neighbor, 3N93 Holcomb Creek Trail, or you’ll be in for a wild ride.
This short but sweet trail is always a fun option if you want to get the blood pumping a little in your 4x4. 3N07A The Squeeze starts just south of John Bull Gatekeeper. (which is worth checking out, even if you’re not up for the challenge). It twists and turns down toward Holcomb Valley past great dispersed camping. The surrounding boulder fields make for unique scenery and are a popular rock-climbing destination. Speaking of boulders, the squeeze obstacle is known to test nerves. But, with good spotting, we’ve even seen a lifted Jeep Gladiator equipped with a rooftop tent pass through damage-free. Your results might vary!