3N16 - Holcomb Valley

Big Bear Lake, California (San Bernardino County)
Last Updated: 04/09/2018
5/5 (7 reviews)
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 1-2
Length: 26 miles
Highest Elevation: 7500 feet
Duration: About 1 hour 30 minutes
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: East
Nearest Town: Big Bear Lake
Nearest Town w/ Services: Big Bear Lake
Official Road Name: 3N16
Management Agency: San Bernardino National Forest
District: Mountaintop Ranger District
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Highlight: 3N16 - Holcomb Valley

3N16 provides a scenic, enjoyable drive for all offroad enthusiasts. At roughly 26 miles long, this overland trail will take you through the backwoods of the San Bernardino National Forest. Along with some great views, 3N16 also has a historic route for which more information can be found at Big Bear Discovery Center or the trail review, Gold Fever Trail. 3N16 is the main connector between most of the trails in Big Bear including Holcomb Creek, Dishpan Springs, John Bull, White Mountain, Gold Mountain, and many more. Just be warned that there are several water crossings along this trail that can swell up in flash flood conditions. While snow on this trail can get over 5 feet deep in the winter. Please plan accordingly and travel in pairs.


Route Information

Technical Rating: (1-2)

Dirt road. Dry, or less than 3" water crossing depth. Some ruts. Slight grades, up to 10 degrees. 2WD under most conditions. Rain or snow may make 4WD necessary. Usually one and a half to two vehicles wide.

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3N16 aka Holcomb Valley Road is the perfect trail for all off-road enthusiast that love some overland trail rides. At about 26 miles long, the trail starts in Running Springs and goes all the way to Big Bear, ending near Baldwin Lake. 3N16 passes several hard trails such as Dishpan Springs (3N34), Holcomb Creek (3N93), 2N06X, John Bull (3N10), Gold Mountain (3N69), and many other great and exciting trails. 3N16 Holcomb Valley Road is a great trail for first time off-roaders and also provide plenty of entertainment for the more experienced. For the history of Holcomb Valley, please visit Gold Fever Trail at: http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1615-gold-fever-trail Important Note: While the road is 26 miles long, only the 11 miles from the Crab Flats Camground junction with 3N34 to Forest OHV Road 3N56 are open to non-street legal vehicles. Reminders: 1. Non-street legal vehicles cannot use the portion of 3N16 to Green Valley Lake Road. 2. Non-street legal vehicles cannot use the portion of 3N16 from 3N56 to the Dump Access Road. 3. Street legal vehicles only on roads or trails into the communities of Big Bear, Fawnskin, and Green Valley Lake. You can find more information on the historic background of the area at the Big Bear Discovery Center: Hours of Operation: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 5 days/week Closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays Located at: 40971 North Shore Drive/ Hwy 38, Fawnskin CA 92333 Phone: (909) 382-2790

Seasonal Information

Spring:The area often has warm days with cold nights.
Summer:The area can have warm to hot days with plesent nights
Fall:The area often has warm days with cold nights.
Winter:Snow can fall on these trails throughout the winter.


1. Trailhead (South End)

Trailhead on the south end. This is a great spot to air down and disconnect your sway bar if you plan on doing other trails. Airing down will also help make the ride a lot smoother. 34.233556, -117.089418

2. Bridge - Old Deep Water Crossing (3.75 mi)

Now a bridge, this used to be a deep water crossing. This crossing could easily get over 3 feet deep in the middle when you were able to cross the water. But now there is a bridge that takes you over the lite reconstructed water flow. See 3rd pictures for what the crossing used to be like.

3. Turn Right at 3N34 Intersection (Dishpan Springs/Crab Flats) (4 mi)

Turn right at Crab Flat Cutoff to stay on 3N16. If you go straight, the trail takes you to Crab Flat Campground and Dishpan Springs Trail - 3N34 You can find more information for Dishpan Springs Trail at: http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/783-dishpan-springs-3n34

4. Continue Straight at 3N93 (Holcomb Creek, Pacific Crest Trail, Water Crossing) (7 mi)

Continue straight through the water crossing which is roughly 4 inch's deep. If you wish to access Holcomb Creek - 3N93 turn East. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses 3N16 between the creek and 3N93 (Pacific Crest Trail is a hiking only trail.) You can find more information for 3N93 at http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1037-holcomb-creek

5. Stay to the North at 2N06X Intersection (9 mi)

Stay to the North at the trail head for Lower Largo Flats - 2N06X. 2N06X breaks off to the South of 3N16. You can find more information for 2N06X at http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1056-2n06x

6. Stay North at 3N97 Intersection (10.75 mi)

Follow the main path which stays East/West. 3N97 is a short path with nothing on it from this side.

7. Continue Staight at 3N14 Intersection (Coxey Road) (12.4 mi)

Continue straight at 3N14. If you choose to go North, this will take you down the mountain toward Hesperia. If you go South, this will take you into Fawnskin. For more information on 3N14, please visit: http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1579-coxey-road-3n14

8. Continue Straight at 3N11 Intersection (Cut-off to White Mountain) (12.5 mi)

Continue straight at 3N11. This is the cut-off to White Mountain 3N17. You can find more information for White Mountain at http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/830-white-mountain You can find more information for 3N11 at: http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1881-3n11

9. Continue Straight at Intersection (Cut-off to White Mountain) (14.7 mi)

Continue straight. This is the other White Mountain cut-off, 3N17. 34.325608, -116.978255 You can find more information for White Mountain at http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/830-white-mountain

10. Continue Straight at 3N17 Intersection (White Mountain) (15.75 mi)

Continue straight. This is the east most end of White Mountain, 3N17. 34.327818, -116.960621 You can find more information for White Mountain at http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/830-white-mountain

11. 3N89 (16.5 mi)

3N89 - Hitchcock heads off to the south. The trail takes you over to 3N08 near one of the yellow post sites.

12. Continue Straight at 3N54 and 3N08 Intersections (18 mi)

Continue straight at 3N54 and 3N08. For more information on 3N08, please visit: http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1584-3n08

13. Continue Straight at 3N12 Intersection (Delamar Mountain) (18.5 mi)

Continue straight at 3N12. For more information on 3N12, please visit: http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/827-3n12-delamar-mountain-road

14. Holcomb Valley (19 mi)

The history of Holcomb Valley goes; Bill Holcomb was hired by other prospectors to hunt bear in the hills. On a hunting trip up Polique Canyon, he first saw Holcomb Valley off to the North just 2 miles away. The group back at Starvation Flats later named this area Holcomb's Valley. The following day, Bill and Ben Choteau (Cherokee Indian), wounded a "Monster Grizzly." The blood trail lead them to a quartz ledge which caught Bills attention. While up there, they took some large pieces of the quartz where they planned on taking back to town to test it and while washing the rock off in the stream they discovered abundant amount of gold lying in the stream bed. The news spread quickly and by July 1860 the valley was swarming with prospectors.

15. Go Right at 3N10 Intersection (John Bull) (19.5 mi)

Go right at 3N10 John Bull. This is the westerly side of John Bull. Many people feel this is the harder route because it is easy to get stuck on the down hills, this is if you slip off the rocks during the hard obstacles. You can find more information for John Bull at http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1045-john-bull

16. Go Left at 2N09 Intersection (Polique Canyon) (19.6 mi)

Go left at 2N09. If you go straight, this will take you to 2N09 - Polique Canyon (Trail Rating 1-2) and eventually drop you back on Highway 38. You can find more information for 2N09 at http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1578-2n09

17. Continue Straigt at 3N09 Intersection (Van Dusen) and Holcomb Valley Campground (21 mi)

Continue Straight at 3N09 Van Dusen (Trail Rating 1-2). This trail will drop you on Highway 38 by the Big Bear Discovery Center. You can find more information about Van Dusen Trail at 3N09 – Van Duesen Canyon On the other side of the road is Holcomb Valley Campground. This unique campground gates never close meaning you can camp here year around. But the campground amenities like the bathrooms do close and are only open to for the Spring to Fall.

18. Miners Cabin (21.5 mi)

Old Miners Cabin from the Gold Rush in Big Bear. For more information, please visit The Big Bear Discovery Center and ask about the Gold Fever Trail. The original cabin was burned down in November 1983. The forest service rebuilt the cabin to represent what it was once before. The original cabin only had 4 foot tall walls and at the highest point in the roof was from the ground to ceiling 6 foot.

19. Go Straight at 3N32 Intersection (Union Flat) (22.2 mi)

Continue strait at 3N32. If you turn off on 3N32, this will drop you into the middle of John Bull at John Bull Gate Keeper. Prior to reaching John Bull - 3N10 (Hard), there is a trail called "The Squeeze" - 3N07A (Moderate). to the east. You can find more information for 3N32 at: http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1569-3n32 You can find more information for 3N07A the Squeeze at: http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1568-the-squeeze-3n07a You can find more information for 3N10 John Bull at: http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1045-john-bull

20. Continue straight at 3N02 Intersection (Burnt Flat) (23.75 mi)

Continue straight at 3N02. If you go North, this will take you to the east most end of John Bull - 3N10. You can find more information for John Bull at http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/1045-john-bull

21. Stay North at 3N69 Intersection (Gold Mountain) (24.5 mi)

Stay North on the trail at Gold Mountain 3N69 (Hard). If you take the trail south, you will be running Gold Mountain backwards. Many people say going this direction on Gold Mountain is much easier. You can find more information for Gold Mountain at http://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/835-gold-mountain-3n69

22. Lucky Baldwin Mine (25.2 mi)

Lucky Baldwin Mine 34.303006, -116.829308 This history on the mine is gold was discovered in 1873 when Barney and Charley Carter were enroute to the Ross Mine. While camped for the night along the North Shore of Baldwin Lake, Barney went to inspect the "Shiny Stuff" in the quartz ledge immediately above their camp. His brief exploration led to the a mountain of gold ore. Elais J. "Lucky" Baldwin purchased "Carters' Quartz Hill" for $30,000. By 1876, Baldwin had 180 men working his mine and a 40 stamp mill was in place. The concrete footings can be seen to the west. The site of the large mill and cyanide processing plant was added in 1899. The mill was in operation as late as 1923. (Watch for the wooden structure on the right / south side of the road. This was once a Ore Bin, built in 1945.)

23. Stay South at 3N61 Intersection (Jacoby Canyon) (25.3 mi)

Stay South at 3N61 Jacoby Canyon. If you take 3N61, this will drop you onto Highway 18 on the backside of the mountain range. For more information on Jacoby Canyon, please visit: https://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/834-3n61-jacoby-canyon

24. East End of the Trail. (26 mi)

East end of the trail. 34.303755, -116.822680

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 34.233556, -117.089418

Starting Point: Running Springs, CA

From Highway 18 in Running Springs, take Green Valley Lake Road which is roughly 2.5 miles to the dirt turn off on the left side of the road. 3N16 (34.233731, -117.089501)


Since 3N16 is the main backbone of Holcomb Valley, this trail has more camping along it then we can describe. The trail has endless dispersed camping spots that will cater to everyone's needs along with some unique places with stunning views. The more popular places to camp along this trail are near 3N14 where Big Pine Flats Campground is and then past that near Holcomb Valley Campground near 3N07. 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: San Bernardino National Forest Camping
Camping: 3N16 - Holcomb Valley

Writer Information

Josh Noesser

Mapping Crew - California
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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.


Questions & Answers (7)

Q: Just got a new jeep Rubicon. Just want to get the car dirty. Is this easy enough to ride alone?
–tavares forby (01/03/2019)
A: Yeah, there is a lot of snow right now. If in San Diego, check out Fish Creek and the Slot. You can also check out the pumpkin patch and a few others. Closer and no snow risk.
–Josh Noesser (01/04/2019)
A: Coming up from San Diego... Is there a lot of snow? Is it icy?
–tavares forby (01/04/2019)
A: The trail is easy, but with a snow that can be a different story. Where are you located?
–Josh Noesser (01/04/2019)
Q: Planning Holcomb Valley in a couple weeks and camping out there one night. Is the snow a huge hazard? We have 2 4x4 jeeps lifted with AT tires.
–Josh Farol (01/02/2019)
A: Snow can be a hazard always up in the Holcomb Valley Area. Watch how much snow falls is the and plan accordingly. With that said, just create a fall back plan if that doesn't work. Maybe something down near rattlesnake canyon. I have been up there more than once with the snow getting over 3 feet deep... Can you do it, likely, is it guaranteed, no.
–Josh Noesser (01/02/2019)
Q: I’m going to try it for the first time in a Ranger on 32”s- my 4wd isn’t working (axle has been pulled off for now) but was wondering if I’d still be ok in 2wd. Planning to camp at either Hanna flats or Holcomb valley. Thanks!
–Ray Reyes (10/09/2018)
A: As long as it is dry, you should be fine.
–Josh Noesser (10/10/2018)
Q: I am going up to big bear this weekend would like to find some roads that are not expert but challenging that go to old mine and cool points of interest. I have a jeep Rubicon with 3inch lift and 35" tires. Looking for a fun afternoon trip with family
–John denley (04/03/2018)
A: Are you wheeling with a group? Rule #1 of Offroad is never wheel alone. If you are wheeling with a group, check out "The Squeeze" it has coyote crag at it. 3N16 at the end has the Baldwin Mine, also Gold Fever Trail has many unique features. 2N02 on the other side of the range has a lot of old mining relics along the trail.
–Josh Noesser (04/03/2018)
Q: I'm planning a trip to Holcomb in my stock 2017Subaru crosstrek. What trails would anyone recommend?
–Lizt (11/03/2017)
A: Good Day LizT, There are a lot great trails up in Big Bear that your Subaru can easily handle. I would recommend 3N16 – Holcomb Valley Road, Gold Fever Trail, 3N14 – Coxey Road, and 3N12 - Delamar Mountain Road. All of these trails are on the TrailsOffroad website or you can simply click the trail links above for more information on those trails
–Josh Noesser (11/03/2017)
Q: I have a ford f150 with 6 inch lift not 4 wheel drive. Would i be ok taking this route?
–Joe martinez (09/28/2017)
A: Odds are you will be fine. There are a couple of steep-ish hill climbs for a 2wd, but you will likely be able to do it if you air down.
–Josh Noesser (09/29/2017)
Q: Is the 26 miles trail open over the labor day weekend? I understand that there is now a bridge on the old deep water crossing, but can you still do the water crossing and bypass the bridge, or is the bridge the only option?
–randy tang (08/24/2017)
A: Yes the trail should be open all the way through. Unfortunately it is a bridge only now. There is still the water crossing at Holcomb Creek but it was pretty shallow last time I went through it.
–Josh Noesser (08/24/2017)

Trail Reviews (15)

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This was a nice, mellow trail in my stock 4runner. We saw plenty of Subaru's out there, having no issues, but I would recommend a higher clearance vehicle--depending on experience. The trail was fairly rutted in many areas. I took my 2 year old daughter out for her first off-road trip and she had a blast. We had to keep it VERY slow, for her sake, but there is so much to see you really don't need to rush. We printed directions from this site and downloaded a Google Earth map of the area (for offline use), and had no troubles finding our way. The trails are cleanly marked at intersections and the scenery was gorgeous. We did not cross any water but there were a couple of mud puddles that were easily avoidable, if need be. We put it in 4wd a few times but it was definitely not necessary. We were crawling the steeper uphill sections to keep it smooth for my daughter. We made a day out of this trip, spending about 4 hours on the trail and ending at the Lake to go play with the ducks. We made a great lunch (propane-only grills were are allowed on 8/25/18) and stopped many of times along the way to explore on foot. All in all, this is a fun place to take the family (if they are comfortable off-road) and it looks like a great place to go wheeling. Much appreciation to this site for answering my questions and giving me the information (confidence) I needed to take my little girl on her first off-road trip--safely.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I have done this trail twice now in my stock Subaru Crosstrek. Perfect trail for a nice drive through the mountains without the crowd. I did this trail and 2N02 in the same evening. Plenty of wildlife! Enjoy!

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Ran a majority of the trail over the weekend. Bounced in and out of the trail as we did Holcomb Creek and John Bull. I couldn't believe how perfect the weather was. The trail as seen better days. Clearly, a lot of rain must have gone through the mnts recently as there are lots of signs of it. Still passable in a 2wd but low ground clearance might be an issue. Still sucks seeing that bridge. But my New Falken Tires were amazing on the trail. Best decision I have done with the jeep was putting these bad boys on.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The road was freshly covered by snow from the recent snow storm and my 2 car group was lucky enough to be the first group on the road that morning. We made out way from Big Pine Campground to Holcomb Valley and then backtracked on March 18th. There was some icy area's where 4x4 did help to get up some of the small hills. Camping was great at the Holcomb Valley campground where a few other brave souls spent that night.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
All in all, a wonderful run. Last week it wasn't nearly as nice as this week due to the fresh snowfall. Drone footage taken where we went sledding and a few other people were airing down: https://youtu.be/Nu_fWEu0Mbw Driving Trail (3 parts): https://youtu.be/QCUDhmFsS_Q https://youtu.be/nHkir_8PLio https://youtu.be/IJByxI5n18g

Status: Open
Offroaded on:

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The entire trail was open. Beautiful day and only 3 other travelers seen.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Drove the entire route, first from 3N14 through Holcomb Valley to Baldwin Lake, and then back to 3N14. then later went down all the way past Green Valley Lake to Highway18. No problems alone the entire route.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I am happy to report that 3N16 was completely open this weekend. The bridge is up as of a month ago and the east end of the trail is open too. The fire damage doesn't look very good but at least they have reopened the trail. Road Conditions Report: I personally didn't drive the entire trail but I did navigate roughly 80% of it. In that 80% of the trail, it seemed if they have completely re-graded the entire road. It was very smooth.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I am happy to report that 3N16 was completely open this weekend. The bridge is up as of a month ago and the east end of the trail is open too. The fire damage doesn't look very good but at least they have reopened the trail. Road Conditions Report: I personally didn't drive the entire trail but I did navigate roughly 80% of it. In that 80% of the trail, it seemed if they have completely re-graded the entire road. It was very smooth.

Status: Closed
Offroaded on:
Went up today planning on going west to east as shown in the description here. Saw this sign at the trail head as soon as you turn off Green Valley Lake Rd. So the road is closed, but me and a few others made it through east to west (opposite of what it shows here) Only a couple miles heading east from crab flats is closed Definitely recommend not ignoring the signs. The road is pretty tore up from recent rains. High clearance vehicle 4wd recommended Also there is a new bridge going over the big water crossing

Status: Closed
Offroaded on:
Unfortunately 3N16 is where it splits from Crab Flats. Assuming it's from the last heavy rains. Not sure about the extent of the damage, but I hope it opens up soon.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
What a great day. The snow ended up getting so deep that no vehicle could continue. Over the day, everyone got stuck which made for a ton of fun.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Took a nice cruise down 3N16 and the trial was very nice. The rain seemed to smooth out the trial making for a very nice drive. Plus on top of that, the rain also eliminated all the dust. It was a great trip.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Went up to go skiing but the conditions were horrible. Decided to take the truck into Holcomb Valley but that almost turned into a bad decision. The conditions were ICE (Not Icy, implying there is something else then ice). The Ice was about 6-9 inches thick and was fun but sort of stressful to drive on. But the area is open and a lighter vehicle should be fine.