|GPS:||34.235, -117.078 Google Map · Climbing Area Map|
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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 an abundance of climbing.
Rock in the San Bernardino Mountains is mostly granite which ranges in quality from excellent to somewhat grainy like Joshua Tree, with most being quite good. Because many of the routes are newer or don't see as much traffic they can be a little dirty or sport some lichen.
Routes in the San Bernardino Mountains are typically single pitch affairs with the odd exception, but what they 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 San Bernardino Mountains - 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.
- 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
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.
- Fire restrictions are commonly in effect during the summer months, meaning no open fires, but stoves are usually not a problem - Forest Service Link to Fire Restrictions.
Guidebooks to the Area
Below is a listing of current and old guidebooks.
- Singer, B. (2002). Hidden Treasures, Rock Climbing in the San Bernardino Mountains. San Bernardino, CA: Glentex Publications. The only comprehensive guidebook for the area - out of print.
- Mayr, T. (2004). Southern California Sport Climbing Guide, 3rd Edition. Huntington Beach, CA: K. Daniels and Associates. With a limited amount of information on the area this is more of a sampling of the Holcomb Valley Pinnacles.
- Singer, B. (2008). Hidden Treasures East: Big Bear Basin. San Bernardino, CA: Glentex Publications. Details the climbs in the Big Bear Lake Area - out of print.
- Slater, T. (2013). Southern California Rock Climbing, California Road Trip Vol. II. Bishop, CA: Maximus Press. A sampling of routes in the Holcomb Valley Central Pinnacles are featured in this guide.
- Owen, C. & Miller, C. (2019). Holcomb: Sky Forest Gold. Big Bear Lake, CA: Chris Owen Publishing. A complete guide to the popular Holcomb Valley Pinnacles.
Classic Climbing Routes at San Bernardino Mountains
Days w Precip