Description

The Holcomb Valley Pinnacles are located just north of Big Bear Lake in the eastern end of the scenic Holcomb Valley, an area rich in history and diversions for the outdoor enthusiast. Popular for it's numerous sport routes, this area is a moderate mecca with 75% of the 400+ routes being 5.10 and under in difficulty.

Although the elevation of the Holcomb Valley Pinnacles (HVP) ranges between 7400-7600 feet it's not just a summer climbing area, with good climbing available all year-round depending upon the severity of the winter. Summers can sometimes be hot, making those shady climbs all the more attractive, while early and late season climbing can be ideal with relatively few climbers and few distractions but the sound of the wind in the pines.

The rock at the Pinnacles is a heavily-featured granite that ranges in quality from excellent to fair with the majority of it being quite good. Routes that look difficult often go at a moderate grade because of the highly-featured rock - a good example of this is the popular Coyote Crag.

Here's a list of sport routes in the area from 5.3 to 5.12d (click to activate).

Getting There (Southern Parking Area)

These directions will get you to the southern parking area, which is recommended if you are driving a low-clearance vehicle, and/or planning on climbing at the southern/central Pinnacles.

  • Van Dusen Canyon Approach - This, the most popular approach, is up scenic Van Dusen Canyon (3N09) which is quite rocky and sees a fair amount of traffic on the weekends. Just past the pavement's end (about 0.5 miles up) is a gate that gets locked after the first snowfall and that re-opens in the Spring when the road is dry enough.

Take Van Dusen Canyon Road (3N09) to it's end at a junction with 3N16 and make a left (heading west). Drive 0.6 miles, passing the Holcomb Valley Campground on the right, and make a right onto 3N07. Drive north along 3N07 passing
Wilbur's grave along 3N07, Holcomb Valley Pinnacles , a Boy Scout Camp on the left and several large dips in the road (often several feet deep with water in the early spring) until you can make a right which parallels a fence on the right. Follow this road (3N07) until it ends at a large parking area just below Parking Lot Rock.

  • Baldwin Lake Approach - Useful if coming from the desert via Highway 18 out of Lucerne Valley.

Highway 18 to Big Bear and then make a right (staying on Hwy 18) heading towards Baldwin Lake. Circle around Baldwin Lake (often dry in the summer) and then make a right onto Van Dusen Canyon Road (3N09). Take Van Dusen Canyon Road (3N09) to it's end at a junction with 3N16 and make a left (heading west). Drive 0.6 miles, passing the Holcomb Valley Campground on the right, and make a right onto 3N07. Drive north along 3N07 passing
Wilbur's grave along 3N07, Holcomb Valley Pinnacles , a Boy Scout Camp on the left and several large dips in the road (often several feet deep in the early spring) until you can make a right which parallels a fence on the right. Follow this road (3N07) until it ends at a large parking area just below Parking Lot Rock.

  • Polique Canyon Approach - A fairly direct, but bumpy approach that is open all year depending upon the road conditions. This way avoids the traffic of the more popular Van Dusen Canyon and is faster if coming from the west.

Take Polique Canyon Road (2N09) north as it climbs along it's scenic namesake canyon, crest a hill and then descend the backside to a long straightaway which passes a large Boy Scout Camp to the west. Make a right onto 3N16, go up a small rise and make an immediate left onto 3N07. Drive north along 3N07 passing
Wilbur's grave along 3N07, Holcomb Valley Pinnacles , a Boy Scout Camp on the left and several large dips in the road (often several feet deep with water in the early spring) until you can make a right which parallels a fence on the right. Follow this road (3N07) until it ends at a large parking area just below Parking Lot Rock.

Getting There (Northern Parking Area)

These directions will get you to the northern parking area, which is recommended if you are driving a higher-clearance vehicle, and/or planning on climbing at the central/northern Pinnacles

  • Van Dusen Canyon Approach - This, the most popular approach, is up scenic Van Dusen Canyon (3N09) which is quite rocky and sees a fair amount of traffic on the weekends. Just past the pavement's end (about 0.5 miles up) is a gate that gets locked after the first snowfall and that re-opens in the Spring when the road is dry enough.

Take Van Dusen Canyon Road (3N09) to it's end at a junction with 3N16 and make a right (heading east). Drive 1.4 miles and make a left onto 3N32. Follow this as it winds it's way north and then eventually west until you come to a fork in the road with a cairn. Make a left here, right takes you onto the John Bull Trail, and continue as it heads west and then back south. The last bit of the road passes between some boulders which larger trucks/SUV's may not fit through, so drive at your own risk (parking is available along the road before the boulders if needed). Continue a short distance to a large parking area near Wilbur's Tombstone.

  • Baldwin Lake Approach - Useful if coming from the desert via Highway 18 out of Lucerne Valley.

Highway 18 to Big Bear and then make a right (staying on Hwy 18) heading towards Baldwin Lake. Circle around Baldwin Lake (often dry in the summer) and then make a right onto Van Dusen Canyon Road (3N09). Take Van Dusen Canyon Road (3N09) to it's end at a junction with 3N16 and make a right (heading east). Drive 1.4 miles and make a left onto 3N32. Follow this as it winds it's way north and then eventually west until you come to a fork in the road with a cairn. Make a left here, right takes you onto the John Bull Trail, and continue as it heads west and then back south. The last bit of the road passes between some boulders which larger trucks/SUV's may not fit through, so drive at your own risk (parking is available along the road before the boulders if needed). Continue a short distance to a large parking area near Wilbur's Tombstone.

  • Polique Canyon Approach - A fairly direct, but bumpy approach that is open all year depending upon the road conditions. This way avoids the traffic of the more popular Van Dusen Canyon and is faster if coming from the west.

Take Polique Canyon Road (2N09) north as it climbs along it's scenic namesake canyon, crest a hill and then descend the backside to a long straightaway which passes a large Boy Scout Camp to the west. Make a right onto 3N16, go up a small rise and continue east (passing the Holcomb Valley Campground on your left) for 1.8 miles until possible to make a left onto 3N32. Follow this as it winds it's way north and then eventually west until you come to a fork in the road with a cairn. Make a left here, right takes you onto the John Bull Trail, and continue as it heads west and then back south. The last bit of the road passes between some boulders which larger trucks/SUV's may not fit through, so drive at your own risk (parking is available along the road before the boulders if needed). Continue a short distance to a large parking area near Wilbur's Tombstone.

Camping

Camping is free and legal almost anywhere in the forest surrounding the Pinnacles, but there are a number of already established campsites near the northern and southern parking areas, as well as scattered sites to the west of Parking Lot Rocks.


As an alternative there are numerous pay campgrounds in the Big Bear area, with the Holcomb Valley Campground ($21 a night), being the closest to the climbing area.

Climbing Gear

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.

Guidebooks

Hidden Treasures East is the only comprehensive guidebook for this area and includes the majority of new routes in the area.

The Southern California Sport Climbing Guide has a limited amount of information on the area making it more of a "select" guide, but be warned that it's full of errors (and not just the Holcomb Valley section).

California's Gold

California's Gold with Huell Howser explore Holcomb Valley.


386 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Holcomb Valley Pinnacles

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
 174
Gold Standard
Sport
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
 282
Bye Crackie
Sport
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 293
Coyotes at Sunset
Sport
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 106
Shoot at Will
Sport
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
 180
Golden Poodle
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 107
Ricochet
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 185
Claim Jumper
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 168
One Armed Bandit
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 184
Powder Keg
Sport
5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b
 235
Pistol Pete
Sport
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 122
Lost Orbit
Sport
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
 129
Doc's Holiday
Sport
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
 175
Coyotes in the Henhouse
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 79
Long Arm of The Law
Sport
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
 70
The Incinerator
Sport
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Gold Standard Central Pinnacles > Gold Wall
 174
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Sport
Bye Crackie Central Pinnacles > Coyote Crag
 282
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Sport
Coyotes at Sunset Central Pinnacles > Coyote Crag
 293
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Sport
Shoot at Will Central Pinnacles > Tombstone Pit
 106
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Sport
Golden Poodle Central Pinnacles > Coyote Crag
 180
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Sport
Ricochet Central Pinnacles > Pistol Whipped Wall
 107
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Claim Jumper Central Pinnacles > Claim Jumper Wall
 185
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
One Armed Bandit Central Pinnacles > Claim Jumper Wall
 168
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Powder Keg Central Pinnacles > Motherlode Rock > Motherlode Rock - N Face
 184
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Pistol Pete Central Pinnacles > Doc Holliday Wall
 235
5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b Sport
Lost Orbit Pinnacles South > Lost Orbit Rock > Lost Orbit Rock - E Face
 122
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
Doc's Holiday Central Pinnacles > Doc Holliday Wall
 129
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Sport
Coyotes in the Henhouse Central Pinnacles > Claim Jumper Wall
 175
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Sport
Long Arm of The Law Central Pinnacles > Motherlode Rock > Motherlode Rock - W Face
 79
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
The Incinerator Central Pinnacles > Incinerator Wall
 70
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
More Classic Climbs in Holcomb Valley Pinnacles »

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Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
One of my favorite areas locally in SoCal. I have many happy memories of this place. My only complaint is that some bolts have been placed where natural protection could have been afforded easily. Sep 4, 2006
With a high concentration of well protected, mostly moderate climbs, this fun area is very unique for many a SoCal climber. Highly recommended for the intermediate climber; with good holds, and great protection, no matter what the grade (e.g., 5.6 through 5.11). Apr 28, 2007
Jordan Ramey
Calgary, Alberta
Jordan Ramey   Calgary, Alberta
Van Dusen Canyon Approach speedometer marks: After turning onto Van Dusen Canyon Rd it's 3.5 miles from pavement's end to 3N16. Head right. We didn't see a sign for 3N16, but it cuts out into an open meadow after a hundred yards or so. 1.5 miles to 3N32 (labeled) and turn left. 1.5 miles to the Northern Parking area (turn left at small rock pile).

Can be done in a regular car up to the narrow boulder passage if driven very carefully. Our subaru had no problem. Depending on your speed it's about 20-35 minutes driving on dirt roads, with only 1.5 miles of somewhat slow driving. Aug 6, 2007
BGraham
Reno, NV
BGraham   Reno, NV
Is HVP doable in the winter? How is access when theres some snow? I want to get up there in a couple weeks and dont want to get shut down. thanks! Dec 16, 2008
C Miller   CA  
Climbing is possible every month of the year as long as you wait a few days after a storm and have 4wd to get back there.

The best way in is via Polique Canyon Road, but in a high snow year (this year might qualify) you might not make it due to accumulated snow on some of the north-facing slopes midway on the drive up the canyon. Dec 31, 2008
SteezeMeggie
Big Bear City, CA
SteezeMeggie   Big Bear City, CA
I hiked from Van Deusen Canyon in Big Bear City to the Holcomb Valley Pinnacles on 04/10/10. It was a sunny, yet windy day. The Pinnacles are located in a sunny and secluded area. There were two other people there, serious climber/campers. I climbed Coyote Crag only, the rock was strong and had great holds. It is a great place to go for beginner climbers. The winds were around 40mph, but that was a special occasion since we had storms blowing in. I would suggest the Holcomb Valley Pinnacles for all levels of climbers, there is something for everyone and enough room for it all. You're in the middle of no where, it's great!

I hiked out from Van Deusen Canyon in Big Bear City, went left on Holcomb Valley Rd. (3N16) took 3N07 past Wilbur's grave, looped right from 3N43, took me around four hours to get there. Climbed. Headed home and took the trail across to the cabin to 3N16 to Van Deusen, hike home was around two hours. Apr 13, 2010
one of the best sport areas in socal. a must for climbers 5.10-12 range. motherload wall, doc holiday wall, and claimjumperwall best. those walls have 2 days worth on them. many others too. lost orbit good too Mar 27, 2011
RAZORsharp
Carlsbad CA
RAZORsharp   Carlsbad CA
The North Parking lot is riddled with camp fires. NO CAMP FIRES. it is a national forest with signs posted everywhere! stoves are okay, charcoal and firewood collecting are ILLEGAL. Lets keep the access we have to this beautiful crag by respecting the rules placed by knowledgeable rangers. Gusting winds and dry pine needle beds do not mix well! Jun 27, 2011
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
I'll second that. 4x4ers and climbers alike. Any climbers camping there should educate.

Just try to imagine this place being gutted. Jul 4, 2011
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
Derrick you can get pretty darn close if you have a high clearance 4x4, by taking the northern approach you can park at Wilbur's Tombstone and camp thereabouts. Otherwise, if you take the southern approach you'll be camping about 20 minutes from the central area. Sep 1, 2011
Joseph Stover
Batesville, AR
Joseph Stover   Batesville, AR
Not sure how the 4x4 road is, but it looked possible to drive in a ways and camp closer to the central area - there was a small camper parked about halfway between parking lot and central area. Getting to Parking Lot Rock is fine for any vehicle probably. Polique Canyon Road approach was easy and smooth. It was hot, but compfy in the shade and cold at night. Neat area. Jul 9, 2012
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
Paul thanks for the GIS map - Thunderbird Wall is mis-located; it should be opposite Claim Jumper Wall. Either that or rename it as Skyy Slab. Jan 15, 2013
spencerstewart Stewart
Big Bear Lake, CA
spencerstewart Stewart   Big Bear Lake, CA
Hey all! Some of us in Big Bear started a climbing store in Fawnskin. If you ever need anything, the prices aren't inflated or anything, and 5% of all sales goes towards cleaning up local crags like Holcomb Valley Pinnacles. Cheers!! And let me know if you have any serious suggestions. www.bearclimbing.com May 20, 2014
Approaching the north parking area from the south--you can get within a couple hundred yards in a 2003 Toyota Corolla. There is one mandatory scrape over an embedded boulder in a narrow section of the trail, and the rest of the driving is slow and tricky.

There's no good reason to do this--it saves a few minutes of walking, maybe, at risk of getting stuck or damaging your vehicle (hello, aluminum VW oil pan). But in case you were wondering, it can be done.

(Derrick, yes, lots of alternatives, well documented on MP, check it out!) Jun 15, 2014
Zachary Falkner
Missoula, MT
Zachary Falkner   Missoula, MT
Holcomb Valley Campground is $21 a night as of June 2016 Jun 19, 2016
Alex Fletcher
Anaheim, CA
Alex Fletcher   Anaheim, CA
I've been to Holcomb Valley on four separate occasions in the last couple months and have not climbed the same route twice or had any lack of things to climb in any given style. There is tons to do here and every trip is different. If staying out of the sun is your goal there's always a different wall to choose from each day that will keep you in shade. The camping is nice and comfortably cool temperatures grace you at night even in mid summer. The busiest I've ever seen it was July 4th weekend. Where wait times could add up, other times I've been there I could count the number of other people I saw on one hand or even none at all. If you're thinking of planning a trip here, absolutely do come out and enjoy. Jul 23, 2016
Visited 6/4/17 This place is a total joke. Rephrase: The people frequenting this place are a total joke. I haven't been here in three-four years and this place is a shit show..............literally. People's shit not even buried all over, tampons everywhere, stacks of trash bags people didn't even take home everywhere, trash, trash and more trash. The attitudes people have there were something else too. I recommended to someone they not put there baby in a baby seat at the bottom of Coyote Crag 5' from the wall and she replied, "I'm out here 5 days a week." I didn't even acknowledge or engage in any more with her. Apparently if you go here 5 days a week, rocks will magically not break off and fall on your baby, people will not drop quickdraws on your baby and no one will ever fall on you baby............she is impervious to accidents.

I'm no super crusher and never will be. I'm a weekend warrior at best now. The SoCal climbing seen is a mockery for this exact reason. I understand I'll be bastardized for saying all this, but going to places like Holcomb seeing how its treated and with people's attitudes here I can't help it. Jun 5, 2017
Scott Coffin
Riverside, CA
Scott Coffin   Riverside, CA
Got caught in a 45-minute cats&dogs thunderstorm up here (07/29/2018). My very low-clearance Hyundai Elantra definitely was NOT going to make it through the 3.5 foot-deep puddles on the dirt road back (at Holcomb Valley Pinnacles road, before getting to 3N16). Some locals driving by in Jeeps told us that those puddles wouldn't dry for days, and we'd probably be stuck up there for a while. Not wanting to sleep up at Holcomb for the week, we decided we'd take our chances with some off-roading. We eventually made it through by weaving around trees and through dirt puddles, but we avoided the puddles that would gurgle my engine and leave us floating.
Moral of the story: you CAN make it out of here after heavy rain in a low-clearance vehicle. Just be prepared to do some wacky sh*t. Also, you should probably be prepared in general (bring extra layers, loads of food & water, and a few sleeping bags, just in case).
Have fun and climb safe! Jul 29, 2018