Little Bear Creek (North Shore Trail)

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On the North Shore Trail
San Bernardino Mountains east of Lake Arrowhead

Text and photography copyright 2011 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 routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Little Bear Creek (North Shore Trail)

  • Location: Cedar Glen near Lake Arrowhead.  From highway 18 in Crest Park, go north on highway 173 for 4 miles (in 1.6 miles, take a right when you get to Lakes Edge Drive).  Continue to follow 173 until you get to Hospital Road.  Turn right and in a quarter of a mile, and park in a small lot across from the hospital (or on the street).  From May to September, you take a left onto the road and drive into the campground and park there for a fee.
  • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Arrowhead Ranger Station
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: March – June; October – December
  • USGS topo map: Lake Arrowhead
  • Recommended gear: sunblock
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information: here and here
  • Rating: 8

The North Shore Trail heads downhill from the edge of Lake Arrowhead through an area burned in a fire several years ago, following the path of Little Bear Creek.  The forest is in the process of regrowing, and may remind hikers of some areas of the Palomar and Cuyamaca Mountains in San Diego that have recently been burned in fires.  There is unfortunately very little shade.

From the east end of the camping ground, look for the signed North Shore Trail (numbered 3w12).  It heads downhill, soon crosses a dirt road and continues on the other side, switchbacking along down into the valley.  The views of the western San Bernardino Mountains are great.  Since Arrowhead is almost 1,500 feet lower in elevation than Big Bear, this is more of a “transitional” zone, which at times feels more like desert than mountains.

At about a mile in, the trail stays left as an obscure path branches off to the right.  You arrive at the creek and the going becomes a little tricky here.  Fallen branches pretty much block off progress on either side, so you will actually have to follow the creek itself (shallow) for a little ways.  After working your way through a second section of the creek and around some big rocks, you arrive in a wooded area where the trail makes a short ascent and then heads downhill to once again meet the banks of the creek.  At this point, you are just before the trail intersects with forest roads 2n26Y and 3N34.  This last creek crossing is difficult (the water may be a foot deep or more) so this can be a good turnaround spot.  Otherwise, you can cross the creek and head left to the junction, where you can extend your hike on either of the roads.  If you have sharp eyes, you may notice the burned out remains of a cabin off in the distance.

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