3N10 – John Bull

Big Bear City, California (San Bernardino County)

Last Updated: 10/19/2020
5 / 5 ( 24 reviews )
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Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 5-7
Length: 2.96 miles
Highest Elevation: 8200 feet
Duration: About 6 hours
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: West
Nearest Town: Big Bear City
Nearest Town w/ Services: Big Bear City
Official Road Name: 3N10
Management Agency: San Bernardino National Forest
District: Mountaintop Ranger District


Highlight: 3N10 – John Bull
One of the must do off-road trail in Southern California and maybe even the United States. 3N10 - John Bull is a legend in the off-road community and there is no question why this epic offroad trail is on the Jeep Badge Of Honor App. Often used as the proving grounds when planning for legendary trips the Rubicon or the Dusy-Ershim, this trail will test a vehicle to their breaking point and further. If you are thinking about attempting to conquer this extreme 4x4 trail, you can expect large boulders over 36 inches round, loose rocks that love to do body damage, and big trees that seem to jump out of nowhere and kiss your vehicle and leave a body damage mark that you will get to tell stories about for a long time. But be warned though, this trail will put the driver to the test just as much as the machine. So if you are in Southern California and looking for an amazing yet challenging trail, look no further then this difficult trail, 3N10 - John Bull Trail in Big Bear's Holcomb Valley settling within the San Bernardino's National Forest in Southern California.


Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Lightly Modified 4X4 (Small Lift and Larger Tires)
The trail gets it rating from waypoint 2, The John Bull Gatekeeper. In this area, there are rocks up to 3-foot around and a undercut ledge that is about 3 feet tall.

Technical Rating

Rocky or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 24" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 24" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 54" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.
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Community Consensus

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Commonly referred to as the mini Rubicon Trail, John Bull is one of the most difficult trails in the San Bernardino Forest trail system. Large boulders, tight turns, and small squeezes between trees are just some of the obstacles you will encounter. Once you arrive at the infamous "Gate Keeper" you will start crawling your way up boulder fields with rocks the size of small cars. Mixed with loose dirt, traction is minimal and ground clearance is your friend. Short wheelbase vehicles tend to fair better, but a properly armored SUV or pickup truck can make it though without many hang ups. There is no right or wrong way to run the trail, but most run it west to east. There are a few areas where it would be tricky to get by a group of vehicles that are going the opposite way.
Stay the trail, people are leaving the trail which will result in the trail being closed. Also, respect the historic items out there. Make sure the rocks you find or logs laying around are not tools or cabins of the old mining days. Many of the items have been destroyed recently.


1. 3N32 Cutoff - Stay West (0 mi)
The trail starts at the end of 3N32. You will want to stay to the west to get to the main trail and the famous John Bull Gate Keeper. East is John Bull East aka Little John Bull The trail to the gate keep is doable in most high ground clearance stock 4x4's.
2. John Bull Gate Keeper (0.22 mi)
This obstacle is probably tied in difficulty with the large rocky area aka as Tin Man, this area is a popular gathering spot because of the ample shade, cell service, and entertaining show of watching many people try to make this one area and fail. It is recommend that you have 33 inch tires, rock sliders, and a working locker to make it through this spot. Expect rocks larger then 32 inches and ledges over 24 inches. The rock garden is more then what you see as you turn around the corner. In fact John Bull Gate Keeper is actually about 300 yards long and is the full S-Turn up the mountain to where this wild obstacle ends. So if you think you go through the first rocks you can relax, just wait to see what is around the corner. The area is constantly changing meaning the line will likely be different each time you go. Sometimes the area is easy and other times the area is difficult. That is just one of the exciting reasons people like this trail. Recently in Aug of 2020, a large bolder fell in the hill climb of the obstacle which you can see in the 2nd photo. This is probably the hardest obstacle of this section at this time.
3. Large Rocky Area - AKA Tin Man (0.43 mi)
This area is the other super hard part of the trail. If you don't have a lift and at least 33 inch tires, you will likely drag your rocker panels. The rocks in this area are over 36 inches large and have drop-offs over 32 inches tall. Because of all this, the area does see rollovers and major breakage. If you break, please try to get your vehicle off the trail into the open spot just at the top of this obstacle.
4. Tipsy Tree - Continue Straight (1.5 mi)
Once a tree squeeze with a off-camber drop/climb, this obstacle has seen some wild times throughout the years. Now, one of the trees has fallen leaving the tree that did most of the damage. The obstacle itself is an off-camber ledge of roughly two and half to three feet tall. When dropping down or going up, due to the racked ledge, it causes the vehicles to fall over and hit the the tree. The best line is to swing wide and keep your distance. Do not make a bypass and go off trail. Things like that close trails in a national forest.
5. Overlook (1.68 mi)
This overlook used to be a yellow post campsite. At some point, a tree fell blocking the path down to the area. However, many people still stop close to the overlook and hike over. On top of the overlook, you are roughly 3,000 feet above the valley floor in front of you.
6. West Long Rock Garden (2.13 mi)
This is the longest rock garden on the trail, and it has some rocks that would love to catch your differential. Keep an eye out, and you will be fine.
7. West Small Rock Garden (2.26 mi)
This is the first rock garden when traveling from the west side outside of the west gate keeper. This little play area is fun, but be warned, the rocks are big enough to do damage to your rocker panels.
8. Dirt Hill / Tailing Pile (2.73 mi)
The dirt hills are a popular hang out and photo spot on the trail. This is actually a tailing pile from the old mining days in Holcomb Valley. Because the area is so large. This is a good spot to camp away from the crowds and get a good show of nice rigs going by from time to time.
9. Western Rock Garden / Gatekeeper (2.87 mi)
The rocks in the area are about 3-foot round and this area is often called the west gatekeeper. In 2019, there was a large tree that block the trail, but the not long after, the tree was cleared (See Picture 3 for what it looked like).
10. Western Trailhead - Stay West (2.92 mi)
If you decide to run this trail from west to east, this marks the beginning of the John Bull Trail. You will want to stay to the west to avoid the other trails in the area. About 200 yards up the trail you will see the sign for John Bull. To the west is 3N43 Harvey Mine which is a moderate trail that take you to 3N07 Van Dusen Creek.
11. 3N10 meets with 3N16 (3.4 mi)
To get to John Bull, turn North at 3N10 - West Connector from 3N16 – Holcomb Valley Road at this location.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Fawnskin, CA

***East Trailhead*** Baldwin Lake Options 1 - Follow Highway 18 east of Big Bear Lake, turn left onto Holcomb Valley Rd towards the Big Bear landfill. Turn left onto 3N16 just before the landfill entrance, after about 2 miles your come up to 3N02 on your right. Turn onto 3N02 and follow it about 1 mile to 3N10, turn left onto 3N10 to enter "John Bull Trail", at just under 3 miles you will find the "Gate Keeper" this is the official start of the trail. Option 2 - Follow Highway 18 east of Big Bear Lake, turn left onto Holcomb Valley Rd towards the Big Bear landfill. Turn left onto 3N16 just before the landfill entrance, after about 2 miles your come up to 3N32 on your right. Turn onto 3N32 and follow it about 1.5 mile to 3N10, the trail dead ends into John Bull. Fawnskin From Fawnskin, take 2N09 north till it dead ends, turn right on 3N16 and travel roughly 1.5 miles and turn left on 3N32. Follow it about 1.5 mile to 3N10, the trail dead ends into John Bull. ***West Trailhead*** Fawnskin From Fawnskin, take 2N09 north till it dead ends, turn left on 3N16 and quickly go right on 3N10. The trial dead ends into John Bull.


Even though John Bull is a difficult trail, there is plenty of places to dispersed camp along the trail if you wanted to make it a multi-day event. One of the more popular places is up on the peak after the couple main rock gardens on the east end. The other is the lookout point on the west end of the trail even though the path down to it is now washed out. Past that you can setup camp at the Dirt Mounds aka Tailing Pile which is a great place with a lot of open area to camp. If you are looking for something a little nicer, you can camp at the Holcomb Valley Campground or check out one of the many public campgrounds in the area. The San Bernardino National Forest is a nearby oasis for millions of Southern Californians who want to escape for the weekend and go camping. The higher elevations of the forest mean that the summertime temperatures are cooler than the valleys below. And as an added bonus most campgrounds have shaded sites and some are near streams or lakes. Many campgrounds are adjacent to beautiful natural areas and you can find solitude on quiet wilderness trails. Some campgrounds are reserved campsites, and on weekends or holidays we definitely recommend making a reservation. To do this, visitors can go online to www.recreation.gov or call toll-free 1-877-444-6777. Most campgrounds can accommodate both tent campers and RV's. All campgrounds have picnic tables and restroom facilities, and some even have showers and other amenities. Most campsites accommodate up to 6 people and 2 tents. There may be an additional cost for more than one vehicle. The Forest Service describes camping as either "developed" (usually accessible by road and including facilities like picnic tables, restrooms and fire-rings) or "undeveloped/dispersed" (remote areas accessible only by dirt roads or trails, no facilities). During winter months some locations may be inaccessible due to snow or closed, check with the local Ranger Station for updated conditions. More info can be found at http://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/sbnf/recreation/camping-cabins. You are allowed to dispersed camp anywhere in the forest, but you are not allowed to have any open wood or charcoal fires any time of the year.
Camping: 3N10 – John Bull

Land Use Issues

This trail is open year around. But they will randomly close trails in the area during certain times of year with no warning. They are also trying to close this area for the winters, thus please contact SBFS for access information before making your trip and let them know you want to keep this trail open year around.. For more information, please contact the Big Bear Discovery Center at 41374 North Shore Drive, Highway 38 Fawnskin, CA 92333 Mailing address: PO Box 290 Fawnskin, CA 92333 (909) 382-2790 (voice) (TDD/TTY dial (800) 735-2922)

Trail Reviews (31)

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: At what time of the year does the snow usually melt on this trail and others in the Big Bear area?
–Jasmine & Jon Hughes (12/25/2020)
A: It depends on the winter. Some winters the snow melts after a few days, others it can be on the ground all winter. It usually melts after march
–Josh Noesser (12/26/2020)

Writer Information

Josh Noesser

Mapping Crew - California

Joshua Noesser grew up in Southern California but has lived in different parts of the country during his young adult life. Josh was first turned to four wheeling when he road with one of his friends dad up Surprise Canyon in the Panamint Valley at age14. After nearly 3 different roll overs later and a half dozen intense waterfalls, Josh was hooked. At 16 he purchased his first Jeep a CJ 7 and by 17 was putting his first locker in it. Currently, Josh is the owner and CEO of Nybble, an IT Solutions Company based in Orange County, California. Nybble isn't your normal IT company where everyone stays in and plays video games. Nybble's average company trip is out on the trails since a good amount of his staff enjoy wheeling too. As Josh likes to say, he offers the only IT Company with the ability to provide services in extreme locations. "If you want a server at the top of The Hammers, we will take care of that for you." Today you can find Josh out on the trail behind the wheel in one of his three different off-road vehicles. See the vehicles below for more information. If you ever run into Josh, please say high, he is a very friendly person and is always happy to have a new person join the group.
For individual use only, not to be shared.