3NO3A - Horsethief Flat

4.8/5 (4 reviews)
Big Bear City, California (San Bernardino County)
Last Updated: 03/08/2019
Zoom in to see trails...

Trail Information

Highlights

Situated in the Big Bear area, just outside of Baldwin Lake, lays Horsethief Flat. This challenging off-road trail winds its way through the higher forest elevations,and down into a desert valley. The tall pine trees that paint the trail provide shade on a warm summer day and offer great picnic locations. The trail lets you experience what the area has to offer with a drastic change of landscape in a few short miles. This trail is a must do on a weekend wheeling trip to Big Bear. Or a day trip, the choice is yours!

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Trail Reviews

4.8/5 (4 reviews)
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 07/24/2021

I went here with my wife and 2 kids today. This was our second attempt after trying it a couple of months prior on our stock Jeep JL Rubicon with 33s and deciding to stop, turn around, and head back halfway, right when we got to the first vista of Johnson Valley and once the trail got a bit more technical with bigger rocks and drops. My wife wasn't confident we could do it with our clearance (I would have pushed but happy wife, happy life). Now we have a 3.5-inch lift with 37s M/T, so we were going to conquer it. This was a great trail, although the information on the write-up and video, albeit being good, is incomplete, thus making it inaccurate. When you enter the trail from Smarts Ranch Road (3N03), the sign reads "Most Difficult" black diamond. If you only drive until you get to the Horse Thief Flat this rating could seem a bit too much. Yes, there are a couple of challenging or technical spots where good tire placement is necessary and high clearance is indeed necessary but nothing out of the ordinary. I’d rate it “moderate” at its most challenging part. If you leave it there that would be the assessment, although, Horse Thief Flat trail (3N03A) doesn’t end there, it continues all the way down until you reach the desert on the way to Johnson Valley. This is where the picture changes drastically, on the last stretch of this trail, which, on our maps appears as an “unmarked road”. Exiting the flat there is a short (1000ft) really fun and steep climb (230ft ascent at 25° incline) all the way up to a 5200ft elev. summit where you get amazing vistas of the mountains you came from as well as the desert. Now you need to go down, and the next half mile is as steep as the previous climb but this time going down. This is the stretch that, to me, grants this trail that “Most Difficult” rating. You are descending from 5200ft to 4550ft elev. in a half-mile stretch. That is roughly a 650ft descent on a narrow steep ridge with many obstacles, eroded, and covered in loose rocks and stones. Most of the time you will be braking and allowing the car or truck to slide down over the rocky road (sometimes needing to get close to the ridge due to big rocks in the way). The whole stretch my Jeep marked a pitch of 22-23° and at a couple of points a roll of 10-12°. You can imagine my wife and 8yr old daughter were, let’s say, tense… (my 6yr old son was having a blast, lol). I spent the whole stretch talking to them and reminding them that I was in control and I felt like I could do it. I think that helped my, vertigo suffering, wife, and my daughter remain calm and reassured. But, as it usually goes, saving the best for last. There is the last, last, little stretch, where after a 45° right turn you enter the rollercoaster drop to end the trail in style. It is a 300ft stretch that can easily freeze you when you get out and study it at 27° pitch with much looser and accumulated rock that will easily have your rig slide sideways while braking and sliding down. If you remain calm and in control, you can correct the slide with your steering although those others in the car with you might have their hearts racing a bit. ;) Anyway, I hope that this brings a little more detail and clarity on this forgotten trail to those who decide to go further than the Horse Thief Flat (which is an amazing dispersed camping spot). It is a challenging stretch where you will get a workout for your legs and arms while driving. If you are not prepared for something like this leave it at the flat and head back the way you came. But if you are looking for a fun challenge, this is definitely one! ;)
Trail Review: 3NO3A - Horsethief Flat - Jaume Mora
Trail Review: 3NO3A - Horsethief Flat - Jaume Mora
View More Images
Status: Open
Rated 4/5
Visited: 07/25/2020

Enjoyed the trail. The classification as moderate is accurate, perhaps moderate light. We were in a Jeep Rubicon, 3.5” lift and 35” tires - no problems at all. The end of the trail is probably more fun in the Spring when there is water in the creek. Nice views of the Johnson Valley side. Would do it again.
Trail Review: 3NO3A - Horsethief Flat - Arlene Wohlgemuth
Trail Review: 3NO3A - Horsethief Flat - Arlene Wohlgemuth
ken
100
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/03/2019

did it in a 4x4 2016 Tacoma long bed Sport TRD with 33 " tires and a 3" lift-- it was hard-- scraping and crunching, but no damage. Just challenging enough to be fun. Harder on the way back up-- but the Tacoma took everything I gave it. Worth visiting, because the oasis at the end is darling.
Rob
1950
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 12/03/2017

A group of us went to Horsethief Flat in early December 2017. What a great trail! This has to be one of the most scenic trails in all of Big Bear. Amazing how fast the scenery changes. The trail is moderate in difficulty, with some small rock crawling, off camber sections, and if you go further out to the summit climb, it can get very steep. It is a shelf trail most of the way, so personally I would not traverse this trail in rain or snow. I would agree with the rating of 4-6/10 (the 6 would only be for the steep hill climb to the summit which is actually beyond the map shown here at trailsoffroad.com....see below for GPS coordinates for the summit). We kept going beyond where the Trailsoffroad.com map ends and made our way further east to the summit climb which had a spectacular view of Johnson Valley at the top. I would highly recommend that if you do this trail that you make your way over to the summit located at 34.320171,-116.765542 This seems to be a somewhat overlooked/underrated trail. I highly recommend it.
Trail Review: 3NO3A - Horsethief Flat - Rob

From the Community

Start a free trial and get this level of detail on every trail guide
Go All-Access