Holcomb Crossing Trail Camp Loop
- Location: San Bernardino National Forest, between Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake, near Green Valley. From Highway 18, just east of Running Springs, turn left on Green Valley Road. Go 2.6 miles and turn left on a dirt road signed for Crab Flats (forest road 3N16). Follow the signs to the campgrounds, ignoring several side roads that branch off. Road 3N16 is in pretty good shape, but after about 3 miles, you will have to ford Crab Creek, which, according to the guidebook, is “impassable” in high water. Even in low water, high clearance vehicles are best. After crossing the creek, continue to a junction (3.8 miles from Green Valley Road) and turn left on forest road 3N34. Go 0.5 miles and park in a turnout at the side of the road, near the vehicle trail numbered 1W17. The trailhead coordinates are N 34 15.888, W 117 05.408. A United States Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Arrowhead Ranger Station
- Distance: 5.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 900 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: March – June; September – November
- USGS topo maps: Butler Peak
- Recommended gear: sun hat; insect repellent; sunblock
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
- More information: Description of a backpacking trip including Holcomb Crossing Trail Camp (longer route) here; Description of Holcomb Crossing Trail Camp here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
This enjoyable loop explores some of the less-traveled area of the San Bernardino National Forest east of Lake Arrowhead. Highlights include a variety of plant life (black oaks, manzanitas, pines and more); panoramic views of the eastern San Gabriel and western San Bernardino Mountains and interesting geology, including an almost spherical boulder. Timing can be important: a lot of the trail is exposed, so if you hike during the summer, plan accordingly. Conversely you have to drive about 4 miles of dirt road, including a fording of Crab Creek, to reach the trail head, so heavy rains will likely prevent you from doing this hike during the winter or early spring. Expect to battle bugs as well.
From the parking turnout, follow road 3N34 due west for a pleasant if not particularly interesting 0.8 miles to the Tent Peg Group Camp (ignore a road branching off to the right about half way there.) Just past the camp by an information board, turn right on a single-track trail signed for Hawes Peak; it’s also listed as 2W08 on some maps. The trail descends for an enjoyable 1.6 miles, yielding views of Hawes Peak and its neighboring summits straight ahead and Lake Arrowhead and the distant San Gabriels on the left (you may also get a glimpse of the Pinnacles). You pass the spherical boulder, negotiate a few fallen trees, duck in and out of a woodland and meet the Pacific Crest Trail at 2.4 miles.
Turn right and head east on the P.C.T., passing a junction with the Cox Creek Trail. This stretch is largely shaded and fairly level, making it one of the more enjoyable sections of the loop. After about a mile you reach a 4-way junction. You can shorten the hike by heading right (uphill) on 1W17, a steep vehicle trail. However, if you have time take a scenic 1/2 mile detour by heading straight on the P.C.T. to Holcomb Crossing Trail Camp.
Here, beneath some tall pines, you can sit and enjoy the sound of nearby Holcomb Creek. It’s fairly easy to work your way down to its banks. When ready, retrace your steps to the junction. Complete the loop by heading southwest on 1W17. A steep and sometimes tedious ascent brings you back to the parking area.
Text and photography copyright 2014 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.