Updated: Sep 13
Big Bear is practically synonymous with Southern California Off Roading. But as popular of a destination as it is, the region has never had a well established overland track-- until now! Enter the 139 mile long Big Bear Overland Track, or simply the Big Bear Track, which features everything that folks from across the Southland have come to love about the region-- from its pine forests to Gold Fever history, desert vistas, Big Bear Lake, and a plethora of jeep tracks of all difficulties to keep things interest.
Trip Length & Season
Adventure Rating: Epic Trip Length: 2.5 - 4.5 days weeks, 139 miles Season: June to early November, but lower elevation trails may be access year round. Check snow levels if heading out earlier in the season.
Digital Maps & GPX Files
Technical Ratings & Terrain
Avg Technical Rating: 2-3
Peak Technical Rating: 5-6
Typical Terrain: The Big Bear Track is incredibly varied. You'll drive everything from mellow graded dirt roads, to rocky jeep tracks that can get narrow and loose, and even a few sections that may require spotting here and there. Despite the shorter length of this track, this rockier sections typically translates to less miles traveled per day.
Recommended Vehicle / Moto / Adventure Vans
Recommended Vehicle: High clearance 4x4
Recommended Moto: A mid-weight or dual sport bike is best for this track. You should be comfortable riding rocky, and moderately technical jeep trails.
Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s not recommended.
Fuel, Provisions, and Recommended Gear
Fuel: There are numerous optoins to refuel along the track, specifically at Big Bear Lake. Provisions: Provisions can be obtained in the same general vicinity as fuel. Gear: no specialized gear is recommended for this adventure.
John Bull Trail Distance: 4 miles Technical Rating: 6-7 John Bull is perhaps the most infamous trail in the Big Bear region. You'll need a rather capable rig to take on John Bull Trail, something like a Jeep Rubicon on 37s with armor or a long travel kit for Toyotas. Your "standard built" overland vehicles like stock Jeep Rubicons or 4Runner TRD Pros should not attempt this trail! Expect to spend a lot of time climbing over boulder fields, spotting, and navigating a snail's pace in 4-low.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Technical Rating: This mildly technical trail gets its name from two giant boulders that vehicles must "squeeze" through. The trail passes through the incredibly scenic Holcomb Pinnacles. Take it slow, or use a spotter and you should be fine. Full size rigs be forewarned, you'll likely end up with body damage if you attempt the squeeze! There are also a few obstacles along the way to test out your vehicle's articulation.
Holcomb Creek Trail:
Distance: 8 miles
Technical Rating: 6-7 You'll need a capable rig if you plan to tqake on Holcomb Creek. Expect lots of rocks and medium sized boulders that wreak havoc on rigs that aren't equipped with enough clearance and armor. Holcomb Creek is a nice option if you'd like to spice things up a bit. Plan to spend several hours in 4-low navigating Holcomb Creek.
Keller Peak Trail
Distance: 11.5 out-and-back
Technical Rating: n/a, paved road This track can be done at either the beginning of end of your adventure. The 5.8 mile paved road brings you to the Keller Peak Lookout, which features some of the best views in Big Bear and the San Bernardino Mountains.
Big Bear can get very busy on the weekends during the summer, but that doesn't mean you can't find a fantastic site even when things get a bit crazy. Some of our places to camp include:
Holcomb Valley Area
Bear Creek Camp
Horse Spring Campground
Dispersed camping west of Juniper Springs group camp
Burns Canyon area (just south of the start of Smarts Ranch Road)
DP1 - Redlands 'R'
DP2 - Keller Cliffs
DP3 - Bear Creek
DP4 - Bluff Lake Reserve
DP5 - Grand View Point
DP6 - Lone Tree Flats
DP7 - Sugarloaf Mine
DP8 - Wildhorse Meadows
DP9 - Smarts Ranch Trail
DP10 - Jacoby Canyon
DP11 - Lucky Baldwin Mine Historic Site
DP12 - Metzger Mine
DP13 - Little John Bull Trail
DP14 - Gold Fever Trail
DP15 - Ross' Grave
DP16 - Pigmy Cabin (site)
DP17 - Holcomb Valley Pinnacles
DP18 - Belleville Cabin
DP19 - Hangman's Tree
DP20 - Grasshopper Quartz Mill (site)
DP21 - Two Gun Bill's Saloon (site)
DP22 - Wilbur's Grave
DP23 - Last Chance Placer
DP24 - Holcomb Valley
DP25 - White Mountain-South Peak
DP26 - Green Valley Overlook
DP27 - Butler Peak Fire Lookout
DP28 - Hanna Rocks
DP29 - Big Bear Lake
DP30 - Keller Peak Lookout
Land Managers & Other Resources
Permits & Papers
Big Bear has long been a popular outdoor recreation for people all over Southern California. Whether you're into hiking and camping, water sports, snowboarding and skiing, or off roading, Big Bear has it all. Trails like John Bull, Holcomb Creek, Dishpan Springs, and Gold Mountain have helped to cement Big Bear's status as a go-to destination for folks seeking out challenging jeep trails in rather close proximity to the greater Los Angeles Area. Given Big Bear's reputation in the off roading world, we felt it was long overdue that Big Bear be awarded with an overland track, and so the Big Big Overland Track, or simply the Big Bear Track was born. The 139 mile semi-loop showcases the best of Big Bear, traveling through the lowland desert and into the pine forests with exquisite views of the Big Bear region and surrounding desert. Along the way you'll get to experience rocky trails, old homesteads, learn about the dreadfully violent history of Holcomb Valley and Gold Fever, explore lookouts, and so much more! The Big Bear Track may be traveled in either direction, but for the sake of this route we begin just outside of the city of Highland. You'll kick things off big hitting the dirt on Old City Creek Road, which has fantastic views of the San Bernardino area as you climb out of the desert lowlands. For the most part, this is a relatively tame dirt road road, except for the occasionally bump here and there. Keep an eye out for the Redlands 'R' (DP1) within the first several miles, which can be spotted if you look up the mountain to your left. A few more miles down the road you'll come across the impressive Keller Cliffs (DP2). After Keller Cliffs, the track climbs up the hill before descending down across Bear Creek (DP3). There are some fantastic camp sites further upstream that requires taking one of the side roads (Start on 7 Pines Road) in a round about fashion to reach camp. Next, take the route up the mountain. This next section of trail is mostly mild, save for a few slower going rocky sections. The views are fantastic as you climb into the higher elevations of the desert until finally reaching the Pine Forest. However, you'll be surprised at how lush portions of the section of track are! Once you reach Clark's Summit, the track drops down above Big Bear Lake taking you past Bluff Lake Reserve (DP4), and several campsites in the pine forest. The track brings you to Grand View Point (DP5) and past the top of Snow Summit Ski Resort. As you begin to wrap around Sugarloaf Mountain, you'll find yourself on Wildhorse Meadows Road. Aptly named after the meadows which it passes (Wildhorse Meadows), this section of track passes through a mixed juniper and pine forest. Expect some bumps along the way from the rocks, but nothing along this stretch of trail would be considered technical. The dirt dumps you out onto the pavement of Higway 38, which you'll take for a few miles before jumping back onto the dirt as you make your way over the hill onto Smarts Ranch Trail (DP9). Smart Ranch is one of our favorite stretches of the Big Bear Track-- passing by interesting rock formations, and an impressive mixed forest comprised of Joshua trees and pinyon pines. As you leave Smarts Ranch, you'll cross the pavement and begin your climb up Jacoby Canyon. Jacoby Canyon is a favorite around Big Bear, with just enough spiciness to keep things interesting. You'll pass some fun rocks to climb over along the way, but nothing that could be described as more than mildly technical. The track does a short stint on Little John Bull Trail (DP13), that also features some fun rocky sections, but again, nothing too crazy. If you're looking to take things up a notch or three, check out John Bull Trail in the alternative routes section. Take Union Flat downhill until you reach Gold Fever OHV Trail. The Gold Fever Trail runs through the heart of Holcomb Valley, which experienced its very own gold rush back in the 1860s. There are a number of discovery points to check in this very short stretch of track. Like many boomtowns across the west, Holcomb Valley has its fair share of tall tales, many of which end with violence. In fact, within the first couple of years its founding, more than 50 murders were said to have occurred throughout the valley and the nearby hills. Today, you can visit locations like Hangman's Tree (DP19), where outlaws went to die as vigilante justice was served on a regular basis in the valley. In addition to the various discovery points associated with Gold Fever Trail, the Holcomb Valley Pinnacles are a great place to explore on foot or in vehicle (check out The Squeeze in the alternative routes). Leaving Holcomb Valley behind, the track makes a loop out past White Mountain before turning back towards Big Bear lake. This section of track travels primarily through the pinyon pine and scrublands, but has fantastic views. You'll be slowgoing for quite some ways, as this section of trail is narrow in many parts with lots of rocks and numerous off camber sections. As you wrap things up on Coxey Road, you'll arrive at Holcomb Valley. Most folks should opt to stay on the rather mellow Holcomb Valley, but Jeeps with larger tires and long travel rigs that are built for rock crawling, may wish to take on the rowdy boulder fields of Holcomb Creek Trail. Holcomb Valley is a fun trail featuring a couple of water crossings. Things begin in the pines but eventually ends in the desert scrublands. The final leg of the Big Bear Track follows Snow Slide Road. Be sure to make the quick out-and-back to Butler Peak Fire Lookout (DP27), which has fantastic views of Big Bear Lake. Hannah Rocks (DP28) is another cool place to explore just a few miles before the trail ends at Big Bear Lake (DP29), the terminus of the official route. For those looking to visit all 30 discovery points, you'll need to burn the pavement up Keller Peak (DP20, see alterternative routes), which has perhaps the best views in all of Big Bear.