Jenks Lake

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 Featured in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!

Jenks Lake San Bernardino Mountains
Jenks Lake
Jenks Frog Creek
Crossing Frog Creek

Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the trails described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Jenks Lake Trail

  • Location: San Bernardino Mountains near the San Gorgonio Wilderness area.  From Redlands, drive east on highway 38 for about 28 miles, just past the Jenks Lake Road turnoff (you can drive to the lake, but to do the hike here, continue on highway 38).  Park in the Barton Flats campground area.  When snow is present, a National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Mill Creek Ranger Station (more info here)
  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season:  May – October
  • USGS topo map:  “Big Bear Lake”
  • Recommended gear: bug spray
  • More information: Trail information here; trip description here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7

Created by Captain Lorin Shaw Jenks as a trout pond, Jenks Lake remains a popular fishing destination in the San Bernardino National Forest.  The moderate hike to and around the lake is a nice introduction to the area and a great way to beat the heat during the summer.

From the Barton Flats Visitor Center, or from the turnout on Highway 38 if the visitor center is closed, pick up the signed Rio Monte Panorama Trail, which parallels the roads for about 0.2 miles.  Pick up the signed Jenks Lake Trail which bends south.  You cross attractive Frog Creek (0.4 miles) and continue up the hill on a few loose switchbacks.  About a mile from the start, you get a good glimpse of the San Gorgoino Ridge and a view southwest through a gap in the trees.

At 1.2 miles, the trail reaches the lake.  A long wooden pier makes for an excellent viewing platform.  The 0.7 mile loop around the lake can be hiked in either direction.  Heading clockwise, you pass first by a picnic area with outhouses, then continue on a dirt road to a private campground at the east end of the lake.  A short climb up a steep slope brings you to another road, which you follow around the lake’s south shore, ending up at a stone walkway and viewing platform where interpretive plaques describe the history of the area.  From here, continue back to the trail and retrace your steps down to the visitor center.


  1. Hey thank you for posting this. Although we could not find the Barton Flats Parking lot..:X (there was a lot of snow and it was unclear where the trail was) to hike up to the lake, we found a great trail just past the Lake. It was beautiful.

    1. Yeah, it’s a nice area up there, but during the winter navigation can be a little tricky. It’s really nice in the summer. Thanks for reading & happy new year.

  2. Just hiked this trail on Sunday. (Feb 5). Unforunately at just 0.4 miles we had to turn back. 2-3 feet of snow and having it collapse under my feet in places finally got the better of my knees. It was absolutely gorgeous though. Its one of my favorite trails. We camp at Barton Flats.

    1. Sorry to hear about your difficulty with the snow but it does sound like you had quite the adventure. Feel free to share any pictures to the NHLA Facebook page.

  3. Hi there! I understand that the lake is technically closed right now, but you are able to hike year round, correct? We are actually looking to shoot our engagement photos here & are trying to figure out if we’re still able to & where the easiest place to meet our photographer. Not in it for the fitness & would like to remain as non-sweaty as possible, since we will be taking pictures. Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Bridget, according to the San Bernardino N.F. website Jenks Lake is closed. I don’t know if that means blocked off or open but you can get cited for being there (the last time I was at Jenks Lake was about 3 1/2 years ago, before the Lake Fire.) Here’s the link:

      If you’re looking for an alternate spot for engagement photos, check out Lake Fulmor near Idyllwild.

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