The Best Camping In Big Bear California
With the population of a small town, Big Bear Lake and the surrounding area hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors most weekends of the year, as even at 7000 of elevation, temperatures remain mild enough to entice Coastal Californias bustling city denizens to escape their concrete jungle in exchange for a natural paradise. In the winter, though perhaps a bit too cold for comfortable camping, Big Bear transforms into a ski community, despite not receiving particularly abundant snowfall.
The grizzlies for which the area was named are now long gone, and the region has become an outdoor enthusiasts playground steeped in history, such as the fact that it was home to the worlds second bus line. Hot springs in the region inspired developers to transform the place into a Dirty Dancing-esque resort background, surrounded by velvety forests and the lake itself, and even as time wears away at our nostalgic concepts of now perhaps antiquated vacation destinations, the general atmosphere remains.
For those of us who make our way, and our stays, by RV, camping options are ample, in both these resort-style establishments and the copious national forest camping that surrounds them.
Dispersed Camping In Big Bear
Camping in the backcountry is my favorite place to camp. You can find sites that possibly people have never set foot on before. Dispersed camping is exploring into wilderness areas where camping is allowed along back roads or trails.
Some wilderness areas require a Wilderness Permit. It is best to check-in with a ranger at the Discovery Center or call ahead to ensure you are heading into the right area.
It is important to remember that restrooms or drinking water is not available in the backcountry. The campsites operate by the pack-in, pack-out policy, so be sure to come prepared.
Although there are countless places to camp in the San Bernardino National Forest, there are a few rules to follow for safety measures.
Where Is Big Bear Lake
High up in the majestic San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear Lake is arguably home to some of the most beautiful alpine mountains in Southern California. Big Bear Lake is an adventurers basecamp offering numerous camping styles that accommodate glampers, RV, and tent enthusiasts. Big Bear Lake engulfs a mountainous valley with its highest peaks reaching around 9,000 feet. The highest peak near Big Bear Lake is San Gorgonio mountain at 11,052 feet.
For traveling, you have three options to get up to Big Bear: Hwy 330/18 from the West , Hwy 18 from the North , and Hwy 38 from the South .
Big Bear Lake is also home to bald eagles. You can see the live Big Bear Eagle Cam to say hi and see what the birds are up to.
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Big Pine Flat Campground
Big Pine Flat campground is located about 7.5 miles north of Big Bear lake, on Forest Road 3N14, just past where 3N16 crosses. It is located at an elevation of 6,820 feet. To get there: from Hwy 38, head north on Rim of the World Drive out of Fawskin. After the pavement ends, the road turns into Forest Road 3N14. Continue another 7 miles to the campground. Of the five campgrounds here, it is the furthest away from the lake and the longest drive on dirt roads to reach. Most sites within the campground are sunny with a few shadier spots. All roads and sites within the campground are dirt, but well marked. There is a beautiful little meadow within the campground as well as plenty of sagebrush and other small native plants. Drinking water is available on a limited basis, so RVs/trailers are encouraged to fill up before arriving to the campground. Campground is strictly first-come, first-serve only no reservations.
Amenities 19 single-family tent/RV sites, vault toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, campground host, drinking water. Campsite space/spur length is 30 feet.
Activities Hiking, biking, off-roading, relaxing.
Best features Secluded, drinking water available, beautiful grass meadow, on-site camp host.
Worst features Few amenities, long drive on dirt road to campground, metal picnic tables get very hot on sunny days.
Yellow Post Camping In Big Bear
The yellow post camping sites in Big Bear are truly off-the-beaten-path gems in the wilderness. Access is to the yellow post sites are on a first-come, first-serve basis and are only available from May to October or November depending on snow conditions.
Yellow post sites will have fire rings and maybe a picnic table to help make camp a little more enjoyable. Bathrooms and running water are not available. There are approximately 12 yellow post sites, and the camping areas are limited for up to 8 guests and 2 cars maximum.
The cost to stay is free, and you can stay for up to 2 weeks. Be sure to get your California Campfire Permit to use the fire ring. Be sure to pack-in/pack-out all your items as no trash service is available.
The forest roads leading out to the yellow post sites can be steep. It is always recommended to use a 4 wheel drive vehicle and a proper emergency kit if you get stuck.
More Info about Big Bear Yellow Post Sites.
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Buy It Where You Burn It
If you plan to build a campfire, please ‘Buy It Where You Burn It!’ Firewood from outside the area can harbor insects and diseases that are non-native to our National Forest. Bringing invasive species into new locations can kill large numbers of trees and shrubs. For this reason, it is important that you ‘Buy It Where You Burn It!’
- Why is moving firewood such a bad idea?
- Which firewood-related pests should I be concerned about in California?
- My firewood has no visible signs of insect or disease infestation. Is it OK to transport it?
Collectively, we can keep the San Bernardino National Forest safe from accidental fires and damage from invasive species! Be an ally with us and know before you go, happy camping!
Free Camping Near Big Bear Lake California
Where beauty lives, money follows, is a famous quote, found on t-shirts everywhere in Roman times Its easy enough to spend money in Big Bear, so luckily the camping part of the affair can be completely free.
The San Bernardino National Forest is a massive situation, blanketing over three-quarters of a million Californian acres. The forest serves up free camping via a relatively unique concept they call yellow post camping, essentially metal pipes sticking out of the ground, numbered and painted yellow. A fire permit is required for any type of flameincluding stovesat these spots, and its subject to current fire conditions. Some of the spots are first-come, first-served and others can be reserved. The ones closest to Big Bear Lake are known as the Coon Creek Yellow Post sites, and all 19 of these are indeed first-come, first-served. The first few are large enough for many RVs, and they narrow out as you find yourself deeper into the forest.
Nearby Jenks Lake offers dispersed camping as well. Both options are free and, while not exactly a cakewalk in, dont necessarily require four-wheel-drive or particularly high clearance.
Note that the Coon Creek Yellow Post sites are closed in the winter, should you be the type of RVer brave enough to visit during the colder months.
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Where To Learn More About Camping In Big Bear
The Big Bear Discovery Center is the home base for everything wilderness related to Big Bear. You can find all the answers to any camping related questions you have by calling or visiting the Discovery Center.
Located along the north shore of the lake, next to the Serrano Campground, the Discovery Center provides all the free resources needed for exploring Big Bear and related camping information.
Rv & Trailer Camping In Big Bear
Big Bear Shores RV Resort is the top-rated RV spot on the mountain. The best sites are located on the lake. Amenities include cemented parking pad, 24-hour security, cable television, tennis courts, and an outdoor swimming pool.
Holloways Marina & RV Park is lakefront on the south side of Big Bear Lake and has 115 RV level sites with full hook-ups, table barbeques, and cable tv. The camp office includes a laundry room and a convenience store.
Water enthusiasts can choose from boat rentals, kayak, and paddleboard rentals. The famous Pirate Ship Tour departs from Holloways Marina, and guides you the Time Bandit for a 90-minute adventure.
For anglers, reserve a charter fishing experience and hook into a monster rainbow trout. The Fishin for $50k Trout Derby is a popular weekend in June every year where fishing goes for bragging right for the biggest fish of the year in Big Bear.
Big Bear Mobile Estates and RV Resort is near the lake and peaceful getaway. The service is friendly, and the community is very welcoming. Long-term parking is available for campers looking to call the mountains home.
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General Rules For Dispersed Camping:
- Wood or charcoal fires are never allowed. Propane or chemical fires are permitted as long as fire restrictions allow, and you obtain a California Campfire Permit.
- Pack out all trash
- Campsite must be at least 200 ft from streams and water
- Camping must be at least ¼ mile from designated campgrounds
- Camping must be at least ¼ mile from private property.
Camping In Big Bear Lake California
Situated in the majestic San Bernardino mountains, Big Bear is arguably home to some of the most beautiful alpine scenery in Southern California. Along with camping in Big Bear, the area offers many recreational opportunities to those who want it, from winter snow skiing to summer hiking, biking, and boating. Big Bear is home to numerous campgrounds that accommodate both RV and tent enthusiasts.
As a Southern California resident for 43 years, Ive had my share of Big Bear camping. Its just too close and convenient to ignore. Big Bear is an easy 1-3 hour drive from Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside/San Bernardino counties. So what does Big Bear have to offer in recreational camping? What campgrounds are easiest to get to? Which ones require reservations? Do any of them have RV hook-ups? Read on, discover and learn. Then head on up there and enjoy all that Big Bear camping has to offer.
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San Bernardino National Forest
This is a peaceful campground tucked into the hills near Arrowbear Lake on the way to Children’s Forest and Keller Peak Lookout. It makes a great overnight stop when exploring the San Bernardino Mountains. Camping is free, but there are no restrooms or drinking water. Each campsite does have a picnic table and fire ring, however an updated fire restriction has forbidden fires during the summer, and any type of fire use requires a campfire permit year round.
The sites are first-come, first-served with no reservations. A maximum of eight people and two vehicles can stay at each site for up to 14 days. The sites are open in the winter even when Keller Peak road is closed, but they are only accessible by hiking or skiing.
Note: For more information call the San Bernardino National Forest Ranger Station at 909.382.2600.
Camping Near You Find A Free Campsite
Whether you just need to know where to camp nearby or you want to plan a free camping road trip, we’ve got you covered. You can simply use your smart phone’s GPS to find camping near you or even use our trip planner to plan your route from coast to coast.
Our community provides the best free camping information available. Free campgrounds can be hard to find. Freecampsites.net makes it easy. We give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.
This is a platform for sharing campgrounds and camp sites you have discovered. We are community driven, and while we will be adding many free camping spots, we hope that you will add some of your favorite camping places as well. By sharing camping information freely, we can all spend less time researching campgrounds, spend less money, and more time camping. If everyone contributes a few campsites, we’ll all have more places to go camping.
Please come back and let us know what you find!
We are not actively seeking Wal-Marts, truckstops or other parking lots and will not be adding very many of these. There are enough Wal-Mart and truck stop directories out there already. However, if a member of the community finds one of these locations to be useful for overnight RV parking and creates an entry, we may approve the listing.
Please come back and let us know what you find!
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Big Bear Yellow Post Sites
These 13 yellow post sites are individual camping sites. Each campsite is available on a first-come-first-serve basis. No reservations.
Each site is limited to a maximum of 8 persons at any one time. There is limited parking at these sites for 2 vehicles. Amenities includes 1 picnic table and 1 fire ring. There are no restroom facilities. There is no drinking water.
Campfire permits are required for any type of fire use – campfires, or stoves. Campfires may not be allowed certain times of the year. Where are the Sites?Contact the Big Bear Discovery Center for current fire restriction information and road conditions. 382-2790 .These yellow post sites are on dirt roads, north and south of Big Bear Lake. Please refer to the yellow-post site map available below or pick one up at the Big Bear Discovery Center. High-clearance vehicles are recommended and four-wheel drive vehicles may also be required to reach these sites, depending on current road conditions. RV’s and trailers are not recommended.
Yellow Post Maps:
Dispersed Camping Near Big Bear Ca
The following campsites were selected based on our own experiences camping there, or based on the popularity of other boondockers
Jenks Lake East 25.4 miles to Big Bear Lake, CA Probably the most popular place to camp along Highway 38 inside San Bernardino National Forest, this area is marked on US Forest Service maps as East Flats, but is more commonly known as Jenks Lake East. The name East Flats stems from Barton Flats, a popular place for camping and hiking. The actual camping is found along Forest Road 1N84 which loops around the East Flats area. To get here, you take Highway 38 to Jenks Lake Rd E, and follow it to 1N84. You can camp pretty much anywhere off of 1N84, and there are numerous sites to choose from. Read reviews on FreeRoam.
Yellow Post Sites Yellow Post Sites are single campsites marked by a yellow post along forest roads throughout San Bernardino National Forest. Each site is intended for a single party of campers. Once your party has occupied a Yellow Post Site, no other party is allowed to set up camp there until after you leave. These were originally intended for hikers and trailer riders, and as a result, the roads leading to them are bumpy and rutted. However, many Yellow Post Sites are still easily accessible by most vehicles and RVs
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Off The Grid The Best Secret Campgrounds In The Big Bear Valley
If its summertime in southern California then a camping trip to Big Bear Lake should be in your travel plans. There is not a better place to camp in southern California than Big Bear Lake. A trip to the San Bernardino Mountains and camping at Big Bear Lake is only a short two-hour drive from Los Angeles. There are more campgrounds then you might think in our mountain town among the pines at over six thousand feet. Most outdoor adventurers head to crowded Serrano Campground when they think of camping in the southern California mountains and while Serrano Campground is walking distance to the lake, I would not consider it one of the best campgrounds in Big Bear, California.
Serrano Campground is the busiest campground in the Big Bear Valley. You need to make reservations at this lakeside campground six months in advance. They do cater to tent camping and RV camping but I personally have other considerations when labeling the best campground in Big Bear. Serrano Campground, being so very busy, is one of those campgrounds where all the campsites are basically on top of each other.
To me, that is not the optimal way to camp. The pros of staying at a developed campsite are major though Such as restrooms, potable water, electrical hookups, picnic areas, garbage cans, bear boxes and tent pads. Staying at a developed campground like Serrano or Hanna Flat Campground also involves paying a fee, usually around twenty-nine dollars a day.
Camping In Big Bear With Your Dog
When you first think of Big Bear, most people immediately picture one thing, snow. I am hear to tell you that you need to look at Big Bear for much more than your annual ski trip. Big Bear offers year round outdoor adventures, for you and your dog, and over the last two years, I have found some great campsites out there. I dont know what has stopped me from camping up here frequently in the past, but I have been up to Big Bear a few times in the last two years, and I must stay, there is something for every type of camper. The campgrounds range from sites with potable water and outhouses, to the more primitive, Yellow Post sites, which only have a fire ring and a table. So whatever adventure youre in the mood for, Big Bear probably has it.
Now, even though some sites are available year round, in my opinion, the best time to camp in Big Bear would be either late spring, or early fall. During these times, temperatures are in the 70s during the day, and 40s at night, and oh ya, no snow! This is perfect weather for almost all outdoor activities, including my favorite, hiking. Speaking of, All Trails has a great list of some of the most popular hikes in the area, all of which should be dog friendly, here is a linkAll Trails Big Bear. In a soon to be released post, I will review one of the hikes we went on, as well as some other activities do do while at the lake. So now lets get to actual campgrounds
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