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Parks & Forests
San Bernardino National Forest
Big Bear > Adventure Tours


The Desert Adventure

Believe it or not, part of the San Bernardino National Forest is desert! Just beyond the east end of Bear Valley, the arid climate creates a fragile desert ecosystem full of spiny plants and rugged animals. In this land of intensity the deceitful armor of the desert dwellers is a mere diguise for the system's delecate existence.

Big Bear's origins are in the desert itself. The Valley and its surrounding ridges were thrust up out of the desert along the San Andreas fault to form the San Bernardino Mountains. You can see the desert origins in the pinyon and juniper forests. Our desert adventure offers an added bonus -- it's home to one of California's newest widerness areas, the Bighorn Mountain Wilderness.

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Lucerne Valley Car Tour

Get acquainted with the desert through this spectacular drive. In the spring, observe the desert painted by glorius wildflower displays. Stop and look at these plants specially designed to withstand heat and lack of water. From Big Bear Valley, Highway 18 descends quickly down Cushenberry grade, following a winding path to reveal a dramatic change in vegetation from Pinyon Pine through Joshua Tree woodland to sparse creosote bush Scrub.

Season: Year-round
Audience: All
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Duration: 60 miles round trip, 1-2 hours
Points of Interest: Mojave Desert; Creosote Bush Scrub vegetation; limestone mining operations; access to the Pacific Crest Trail at Nelson Ridge; Cushenberry Springs

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Cactus Flats Off-Highway Vehicle Adventures

Enjoy exhilarating activities for the whole family in this Off-Highway Vehicle recreation area. Beginner to intermediate riders will find a variety of opportunities. Several trails have been designated for green-sticker vehicles. Check maps and signs for trail designations. There are 40+ miles of green-sticker vehicle trails and 100+ miles of dirt roads open to 4-wheel drives.

Season: Year-round (check road and trail conditions during wet seasons)
Audience: Beginning to intermediate green-sticker vehicle users, beginning to advanced 4-wheel drive
Degree of Difficulty: Varies
Duration: 40+ miles of green-sticker trails; 100+ miles of 4-wheel drive and high-clearance dirt roads
Points of Interest: Yuccas; Joshua Tree woodlands; limestone outcrops; undeveloped camping; views of the Granite Peaks and Bighorn Mountain Wilderness

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Juniper Springs Tour

Get off the beaten path and you may be rewarded with a sighting of wild burros. They have a tendency to be shy, which may be hard to believe if you've ever heard them calling to one another. Explore Joshua Tree woodlands and imagine being a miner 100 years ago trying to eke out a living in this rough country!

Season: Year-round (check road and trail conditions during wet seasons)
Audience: All
Degree of Difficulty: High clearance or 4-wheel drives only
Duration: Many miles of dirt roads; access to Cactus Flats area
Points of Interest: Large dry meadoes; Rose Mine; old Spanish arrastre in Round Valley; Tip Top Mountain; Juniper Springs

For the Adventurous, Tip Top Mountain

Are you ready for some wild fun on one side of the toughest roads open to 4-wheel drives in the forest? Take road 2N90 to the crest of Tip Top Mountain and enjoy bone-jarring, gear grinding, dashboard gripping 4-wheel drive excitment. This is off-roading at its best!

Degree of Difficulty: Challenging 4-wheel drive
Duration: 4 miles round trip from road 2N02
Points of Interest: Views of Granite Peaks, Bighorn Mountain Wilderness, and Rattlesnake Canyon

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Pacific Crest Trail

Challenge your sense of exploration to find your own version of desert solitude. The Pacific Crest Trail is an international treasure stretching from Mexico to Canada. This desert section offers one of trail's more unusual stretches.

Season: Year-round (check trail conditions during winter)
Audience: Hikers, Equestrians (No bikes or motorized vehicles permitted)
Degree of Difficulty: Varies from easy to moderate
Duration: Individual choice
Points of Interest: Arrastre Creek; Joshua Trees; stands of Pinyon Pine and Junipers

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Look for these common plants and animals on your Desert Adventure

Birds
Roadrunner
Pinyon Jay
Black-throated Sparrow
Prairie Falcon
Scrub Jay
Golden Eagle
Rock Wren

Mammals
Burro
Mule Deer
Antelope Ground Squirrel
Black-tailed Rabbit
Bighorn Sheep
Kangaroo Rat
Coyote

Reptiles
Desert Tortoise
Coast Horned Lizard
(Horny Toad)
Western Fence Lizard
(Blue Belly)
Sagebrush Lizard
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Shrubs/Plants
Creosote Bush
Mojave Yucca
Prickly Pear Cactus
Sagebrush
Hedgehog Cactus
Beavertail Cactus

Trees
Pinyon Pine
Joshua Tree
Scrub Oak
Juniper

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ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - map/sat - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - book store
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - glossary - comments
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