San Bernardino Mountains Rock Climbing
Pre-thunderstorm cloud formations,"no photo d...
Rising east of Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains, the San Bernardino Mountains are home to the tallest peak in Southern California, Mt. San Gorgonio (11,502'/3506m), as well as numerous hiking trails, campgrounds, off-road trails and thousands, yes thousands, of rock climbs.
The rock in the San Bernardino Mountains (SB's) is mostly granite which ranges in quality from excellent to somewhat grainy ala Joshua Tree, with most being quite good. Because many of the routes are newer don't be surprised if some are a bit dirty and sport some residual lichen - it's nothing a bit of traffic won't take care of.
Routes in the SB's are typically single pitch affairs with the odd exception, but what the SB's lack in height they make up for with diversity and a plethora of crags scattered far and wide. Oddly, the neighboring San Jacinto Mountains (home to Tahquitz and Suicide Rock) seem to have gotten the wealth of multi-pitch crags. Many traditional and sport routes are found here, often with both styles at the same crag. The bouldering potential here is huge and much potential still exists for those so inclined.
Three major climbing areas exist in the SB's - the Lake Arrowhead Pinnacles
, Keller Peak
and the Holcomb Valley Pinnacles
; these are areas with enough climbing to keep one busy for days or more. There also exists many other minor areas which are worth checking out for a day or less of climbing.
How to get there?
Four main routes exist for getting into the San Bernardino Mountains:
- Highway 18 (southern approach) - Starts from Hwy 30, climbs into the mountains quickly via a 4 lane road, and then pinches down to a narrow and windy 2 lane road when you hit the rim, just past the Crestline turnoff. Plan on 30 minutes to the rim and another 15-20 minutes to Running Springs.
- Highway 330 - Short and direct, this mostly two-lane highway with the odd passing lane breaks off Highway 30 in the town of Highland and ends at the junction with Highway 18 in the town of Running Springs. Expect about a 30 minute drive from Highland to Running Springs; holiday weekends can more than double this time, so plan accordingly.
- Highway 38 - Starts at Interstate 10 in Redlands and takes a scenic route through the moutains to end at the Big Bear Lake dam. Also known locally as the "back route", this road tends to avoid the traffic common to Highway 18 with it's lack of facilities along the way. Plan on a one hour drive from Redlands to Big Bear City and note that this is a two-lane road most of the way with the odd passing lane - getting stuck behind a motorhome will increase your drive time.
- Highway 18 (northern approach) - Leaves Highway 247 (aka the Barstow Road) in the town of Lucerne Valley and climbs steeply up the northern escarpment of the mountains to pop out on the eastern end of Baldwin Lake, which lies due east of Big Bear Lake. Plan on about 45 minutes to Big Bear Lake from the bottom.
Camping and Fire Restrictions
Free camping is available almost anywhere in the forest, often with established campsites near the climbing area.
Scattered throughout the area are a number of pay campgrounds with varying fees and degrees of comfort.
See the individual areas for more detailed camping information.
If sport climbing nothing more than a dozen draws are needed, and if climbing some of the traditional routes a standard rack to 3" should suffice for the majority of the routes. Check the individual area descriptions for more details.
Guidebooks to the Area
Below is a listing of current and old guidebooks, some of which are out of print.
- Singer, B. (2002). Hidden Treasures, Rock Climbing in the San Bernardino Mountains. San Bernardino, CA: Glentex Publications. - the only comprehensive guidebook for this area is out of print.
- Mayr, T. (2004). Southern California Sport Climbing Guide, 3rd Edition. Huntington Beach, CA: K. Daniels and Associates. - has a limited amount of information on the area making it more of a "select" guide.
- Singer, B. (2008). Hidden Treasures East: Big Bear Basin. San Bernardino, CA: Glentex Publications. - covers climbs in the Big Bear Area but it too is out of print.
- Slater, T. (2013). Southern California Rock Climbing, California Road Trip Vol. II. Bishop, CA: Maximus Press. - is the newest guide to feature a sampling of routes in the Central Pinnacles.
Weather station 3.7 miles from here
915 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',19],['3 Stars',225],['2 Stars',398],['1 Star',255],['Bomb',3]
Classic Climbing Routes in San Bernardino Mountains
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in San Bernardino Mountains
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for San Bernardino Mountains:
Featured Route For San Bernardino Mountains
Sunset from the top of Hungover Wall
Dave Daly on 'Arrowsphere' (5.9), Pinnacle #2, on ...
Fire on the mountain (9/01/07), Butler Peak
Tala at the Luna Boulders, San Bernardino Mountain...
Closeup of the massive bolts used in the Lucky Bal...
Tyler Logan at the crux of Highgrader, 5.11a, West...
Coxey Meadow, San Bernardino Mountains
Mike making the long reaches on Segments in Space,...
San Gabriels from Rim of the World (Hwy 18) on a J...
Butler 2 fire from Keller Peak 9/15/07
Boulders, San Bernardino Mountains
A beautiful day on Big Bear Lake
Nearing the top of Powder Keg (5.10a), Holcomb Val...
Bush Beardtongue (Keckiella breviflora), San Berna...
Bluff Lake up on the mesa south of Big Bear Lake.
Statue in Waterman Canyon, San Bernardino Mountain...
Palm Pilot (5.10b), Onyx Summit Crag
Singed trees from the Butler #2 Fire, San Bernardi...
Velveeta (5.10b), Craft's Peak
Big Bear Lake from the top of Castle Rock, Big Bea...
Storm clouds over Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino Mo...
Sunset from Skyline Trail (2N10), Big Bear South
Show All 45
Only the first 24 are shown above.