Rattlesnake Canyon - RC3331

4.9/5 (43 reviews)
Big Bear City, California (San Bernardino County)
Last Updated: 05/22/2023

Trail Information


Ghost Town
Snow Wheeling
Rattlesnake Canyon or RC3331 is a popular overland route that takes you into the San Bernardino Mountains from Old Women Springs Road in Johnson Valley California. Known for its amazing views and rich history, this popular easy to intermediate off-road trail will leave you wanting to come back. While on the route, expect easily navigable rocky areas, mud, soft sand, Joshua Trees, amazing views, flowing springs, and great memories. Near Orange and Los Angeles County, this trail sees a lot of people looking for the ultimate escape from the city life. Come out and see why this is one of the most popular offroad adventures in the San Bernardino Mountain Range.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Rattlesnake Canyon is a popular constantly changing overland route that usually stays in the ratings of 2-4. Because of the year-round spring, the trail conditions constantly change which the trail floats in the 2-4 rating. Most stock high ground clearance 4x4's should easily be able to do this trail with some line picking to get through the harder areas. Don't be afraid to get out of the vehicle and look for alternate paths or at any of the obstacles on the trail. Most of the obstacles are deceivingly hard but are very easy. Along the route, there are a couple of rock patches, mud, sand, Joshua Tree forests, and springs that provide water along the trail. The trail does drive through a live cattle ranch so please be polite the entire time on the trail and do not honk or mess with the cattle. The north end of the trail does pass through private property but it is an easement for the road. Thus, make sure you are extra cautious and drive slow as you pass the house that is against the hills just before waypoint 2. While on the route you will see many abandoned cabins from the mining days up there along with year-round springs. The trail does get snow in the winter which makes this even more fun. If you want something hard, Motino (Mojito) Wash splits off the trail roughly 11.6 miles in. This trail is one of the hardest trails known in Big Bear range. Once at the top of the trail, you can go either left or right. Left takes you to Pioneer Town where right takes you up to the east side of Big Bear City.
The trail is shared with live stock, please be careful and do not disturb the live stock.

Trail Reviews

4.9/5 (43)
Official Crew
Rated 5/5
Visited: 05/22/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Its open
Rated 3/5
Visited: 05/10/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

As of this writing it's open but the sand is currently fairly deep. It was easy enough in our Rubicon in 4H but I wouldn't try it at the moment in anything that didn't have soft sand worthy tires and some clearance. The west side is worth exploring, plenty of interesting nooks and features but imo the trail itself is more of a corridor to/from Burns Canyon etc and the 247 than a destination in itself.
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/27/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

First time on this trail and we liked it a lot. I should note there had been some substantial in in the area in the days/weeks before I went, there was clear evidence of the running water further into the canyon but the trail was largely unaffected. This is listed as a difficulty of 3-4 but I am inclined to say it leans toward the 2-3 difficulty, mostly because there are a few rocky corners that might require extra attention to navigate (especially if you have lower clearance) and much of the canyon is sand. The sand wasn’t difficult at all when we went, perfect if it had been dry for a longer period of time the sand could be more difficult. We took our time and stopped to climb a few rocks and explore the surroundings so it took us 2-3 hours to reach Burns Canyon (the southern terminal end). As far as ‘desert’ trails go tie one is really cool. The trail goes from the desert floor up the mountain enough to see several changes in flora and fauna…and near to top there is a great place to stop, cool down and take in the views. I’m marking the difficulty description as ‘spot on’ but I think it will be easier for those who hit the trail with a 4x4 and some skill (or adventure)
Official Crew
Visited: 08/03/2022

Ran up to see what damage the rain had done after seeing posts in the Mojave and Death Valley. Didn’t think this trail would be as affected given there wasn’t as much rain here as those locations, but boy was I wrong! It’s a wasteland. Completely washed out. Lots and lots and lots of wood from the trees that came down from the hills. Most of the fun rocky “obstacles” or gone, with just remnants of what those corners used to hold. Lots of sludge at the start (bottom of the canyon) which was a bit intimidating to navigate through as I was first to lay tracks and those walls can give in, but there are safe lines. Sad to see it so torn up, but on the bright side…..the dreaded washboard has been cleansed and it is no longer torture to get through the wash on the Lucerne side. Comes back after the rocks and towards the Joshua trees though! Good reminder! Be safe, more rain coming this week!
Rated 4/5
Visited: 07/24/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

I had only been on this trail as a passenger, and it was a lot more fun driving this time! Took all of the off shoots, including what my pals call "Kiddie Pool Cyn", which had the two hardest obstacles of the canyon. A nice long and hot ramble up this very pretty (is it under-rated for its beauty?) trail. Had a great day with all the guys and gals and cant wait to come back to this one... probably wait until it cools off a little bit though. Started this from the desert, and ran it up hill to 2N02, and then over to 2N01.

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