San Bernardino Mountains

The San Bernardino Mountains are a mountain range in Southern California, USA. The mountain range is high and robust and is located north / northeast of San Bernardino. The beautiful mountain range stretches across two counties in California. The region around the mountains of San Bernardinos is very popular with tourists and locals who like to hike and ski.

Many of the local rivers come from the area, and it rains much more than it does in the desert areas. The biodiversity around the mountain area is unique and varied. It is one of the state’s areas with the greatest biodiversity. The mountain is a habitat for the Mountain yellow-legged frog. The indigenous people have lived in and around the mountains for over 10,000 years. The mountains were used as hunting grounds, especially during the summer months.

San Bernardino Mountains

It was not until the end of the 18th century that the Sanskrit explorer renamed the San Bernandino Valley. Development among the colony took place very slowly until 1860, when the greatest gold rush in the mountains ever occurred in Southern California. The gold attracted settlers who settled around the mountains and a city began to take shape. Timber began to be extracted  on a large scale in the late 19th century.

At the beginning of the 20th century, rock formations were built around the water reservoirs. The mountains began to be designed to transport timber and water supply. Today, four major highways cross the mountains. All development has had a negative impact on both plant and animal life in the area.

San Bernardino National Forest

The San Bernardino National Forest is located about 120 kilometres east of Los Angeles. It contains four distinct mountain ranges and five wilderness areas covering more than 800,000 hectares.

The San Bernardino Mountains include the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area and part of the Bighorn Wilderness Area. From time to time, you notice the dead tree standing in the forest around the mountains. The primary reason for this has been an invasion of the bark beetle due to the drought that was during the years 1999-2002.

Getting there

From Los Angeles: Take the I-10 East towards San Bernardino. You can exit on Orange Street (towards CA-38 / Big Bear) or University Street. Follow CA-38 E into the forest.

From San Diego: Take the I-15 North towards Riverside. Take the CA-215 N exit towards Riverside/San Bernardino, then take the CA-210 E exit towards Redlands. From there, take the CA-330 N exit towards Mountain Resorts, which will lead you into the forest.

From Las Vegas: Take the I-15 South towards Los Angeles. In Barstow, switch to the I-40 W towards Bakersfield. Exit onto CA-18 towards Lucerne Valley, which you can follow into the forest.

Please note these are general directions. Depending on where in the forest you want to visit, different routes may be more appropriate. Please consult a detailed map or GPS before setting out.


The San Bernardino Mountains are one of the most popular vacation destinations in Southern California, with many outdoor activities, including climbing, hiking, camping, skiing, boating and more. It roughly borders the Mojave or High Desert to the north, the San Gabriel Mountains to the west, Joshua Tree National Park to the east and the eastern San Gabriel Valley to the south. The highlight of the mountain range is the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area.

The San Bernardino Mountains have several popular ski resorts located on or near Big Bear Lake. Lake Arrowhead to the west and Big Bear Lake to the east offer many water sports activities. Los Angeles is so close, so it has become a popular destination for many in Southern California.

Things to do

San Bernardino National Forest offers a variety of recreational activities for visitors. Here’s a list of some activities that you might want to consider:

  1. Hiking: The forest offers numerous hiking trails suitable for all skill levels, such as the popular Cougar Crest Trail and Castle Rock Trail.
  2. Camping: There are numerous campgrounds available for both tent and RV camping.
  3. Picnicking: Many areas of the forest are equipped with picnic facilities, making it a perfect location for a family outing.
  4. Mountain Biking: San Bernardino National Forest provides a number of trails suitable for mountain biking.
  5. Fishing: There are several lakes and streams in the forest where you can fish. Some of the most popular locations include Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead.
  6. Boating: Boating is a popular activity at Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead.
  7. Wildlife Viewing: The forest is home to many species of wildlife, such as deer, black bear, and various bird species.
  8. Winter Sports: During the winter, visitors can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing at resorts such as Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.
  9. Nature Photography: With its diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife, San Bernardino National Forest is a paradise for nature photographers.
  10. Rock Climbing and Bouldering: San Bernardino offers a lot of opportunities for these activities, especially in the Holcomb Valley area.
  11. Astronomy: With clear skies away from city lights, the forest is a great place for stargazing.


Bear lake

Big Bear Lake is a unique mountain resort community located 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles and surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest. It sits at an elevation of about 6,750 feet, and the alpine surroundings are filled with stunning scenery and wildlife, making it a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

The city of Big Bear Lake itself is small, with a population of around 5,000 as of my knowledge cutoff in 2021, but it swells with visitors during peak vacation seasons. The total area of the city is 6.63 square miles, of which over 30% is water.

The actual Big Bear Lake for which the city is named is a man-made lake, created in the 19th century for irrigation and livestock purposes. Today, it serves as a hub for numerous recreational activities, including fishing, boating, water skiing, and jet skiing. It has a surface area of 2,971 acres, making it the largest recreational lake in Southern California.

Snow sports are another huge draw to the area. Big Bear Lake is home to two major ski resorts: Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, collectively known as Big Bear Mountain Resort. Together they offer a wide variety of winter sports options, including skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

Off the slopes and away from the lake, visitors can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and more in the extensive trail system surrounding the area. The city is also home to the Big Bear Discovery Center, which offers educational exhibits and nature programs.

In addition to its natural attractions, Big Bear Lake offers cultural and entertainment options. The Village, the city’s central business district, offers shopping, restaurants, and other amenities. The area is also host to numerous festivals and events throughout the year, from music and film festivals to fishing derbies and sporting events.

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking for adventure or simply want to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the area, Big Bear Lake offers something for everyone.

Arrowhead Lake

Lake Arrowhead is a private lake and census-designated place (CDP) in the San Bernardino Mountains of San Bernardino County, California, within the San Bernardino National Forest. It is an iconic mountain resort in Southern California, often compared to the scenic beauty of Switzerland.

Covering a surface area of approximately 782 acres, Lake Arrowhead is nestled at an elevation of 5,174 feet. The lake itself was originally formed in the 1920s, and unlike many of the other lakes in the area, it is private, exclusively for the use of homeowners in the Arrowhead Woods housing tract and their guests.

This charming alpine setting is noted for its stunning views and abundant wildlife. The surrounding forest is home to a variety of fauna, including deer, raccoons, squirrels, and a wide array of bird species.

The community of Lake Arrowhead has a population of around 12,000 as of my knowledge cutoff in 2021. It is a highly sought-after destination for tourists, offering a wide range of recreational activities. These include water sports such as fishing, water skiing, and boat tours during the summer, and snow-related activities in the winter.

Lake Arrowhead Village serves as the central hub for shopping, dining, and entertainment in the community. The Village hosts various events throughout the year, including free summer concert series, Oktoberfest, and holiday celebrations. Additionally, it is home to the Lake Arrowhead Queen, a paddlewheel boat that offers tours of the lake.

Apart from recreational activities, Lake Arrowhead is also a center for education and research. The University of California operates the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center and Bruin Woods Family Resort on the north shore of the lake.

Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a bit of both, Lake Arrowhead’s tranquil setting and wide variety of activities make it an appealing destination for all.