Your Guide to Four-Wheeling in the Holcomb Valley

The Holcomb Valley, also known on maps as 3N16, is in the greater Big Bear Lake area of the county of San Bernardino in the golden state of California.

The Holcomb Valley trail is quite long. It’s 26 miles beginning at Running Springs.

If you are looking to explore Big Bear and the nearby Baldwin Lake, you can just by going through all 26 miles, starting at Running Springs. You get to see all of the Big Bear Lake area.

You will find that this local San Bernardino county trail is not at all that complicated. If you are looking for a perfect trail for a total beginner, start with this one

In fact, based on official difficulty ratings, this trail comes in at a very manageable difficulty level of 1 to 2. Most people can manage such a trail.

What Do off-Road Enthusiasts Get From This Trail?

The glorious thing about the Holcomb Valley is you can choose to hike it. 26 miles is quite manageable for a hike. Or, you can go off-roading.

If you are an off-road enthusiast, you are in for a treat. It’s not just rock and sand or gravel or just dead, brown bush. There are many parts of Southern California with that kind of scenery.

Not so with the Holcomb Valley, which boasts of diverse scenery.

It also depends on the time of the year that you go. While the summer can treat you to a tremendous amount of drab, brown scenery, if you come around in spring or just before summer begins, you’ll see a lot more greenery and plant life diversity.

With that said, there’s quite a contrast of sceneries and views from Dishpan Springs, Gold Mountain, Holcomb Creek, John Muir Trail, and other trails.

Crossing a River Is a Lot of Fun

Another great attraction that has excited off-roaders about the Holcomb Valey area involves river crossing.


We’re not just talking about one, well-traveled river crossing that is very safe. We’re talking about several water crossings throughout the trail. This is one major selling point.

In contrast, they restrict a lot of fairly easy trails to one to maybe three water crossing points. Talk about boring!

Not so with Holcomb Valley because there are so many different water crossings at different parts of the trail. If you were to go through this off-road trail several times, you won’t be repeating the same experience.

With so many different variations of navigating this trail, it makes for an exceptional experience every time.

The whole Holcomb Valley is an overland trail that takes you through the backwoods of the San Bernardino Forrest. The trail consists of rocky road crossings, rock and tree stumps, vertical ledges, river crossings, and dirt roads.

As you can tell from such a list of amazing features, you’re in for an exciting adventure.

It’s not like you’re just going through a dirt road that may be uneven on certain parts but very much boring and standard. There’s so much to see of the actual texture and feel of the trail you are going through.


What About Camping?

The Holcomb Valley Trail offers quite a range of camping sites. If you are worried about ending up at a camping location that’s dark and surrounded by trees, there’s no need to worry.

Most of the camping sites along the Holcomb Valley trail have amazing views of the greater San Bernardino area and Big Bear Lake. Take your pick.

There are lots of shaded areas so you don’t have to worry about things getting too hot. If you prefer to be close to the water, there are also campsites near lakes and rivers

For outdoor park facilities, all campsites comply with California standards. We’re talking about picnic tables, restrooms, and other standard amenities. You don’t have to worry about getting stuck in a campsite with no bathroom facilities or power.

Your Handy Guide to Four-Wheeling in the Holcomb Valley of San Bernardino County, California

  • Since the trail has many roads and you can take as many routes and scenic drives, there are lots of twists and turns. You have to pace yourself. There’s no rush.
  • Also, the twists and turns in the trail are quite safe. You don’t have to worry about going too fast and getting not some sort of accident. They are all quite manageable.
  • To get the most out of your mountain navigation, the key is to make sure you study your map and acquaint yourself with the waypoints and local landmarks.
  • Still, for navigability and knowing your way around, this trail is pretty straightforward. You don’t have to worry about getting lost.

Get a Copy of the Gold Fever Trail Map

If you’re looking for some old-school trails and want to get a feel for the gold rush mindset that used to make these hills and trails come alive, get a copy of the gold fever trail map. You’d be glad you did.

Use a 4×4 or an enhanced SUV. Most off-roaders already know this, and they know what to expect.

Please understand that while the trail is very rookie-friendly, the ride can get rocky. Brace yourself.

What Are the Trails Like?

The trails consist of dirt roads. So it’s important to make sure you bring the proper face masks or some sort of covering for your skin because if you go there during summer, don’t be all that surprised when you get clouds of dust kicked up all over the place.

When it rains though, it can get quite muddy.

Again, this is not that big of a deal if you are off-roading with a properly equipped and designed 4×4 vehicle.

Also, if you plan to visit this part of California during the winter, please understand that it can get freezing.

Since this is California, it can get so sunny in the morning and noontime, and it can give you a false impression of what the nighttime will be like.

It’s not unusual, especially during the spring, for the early parts of the day to be really warm and nice and get really frigid cold at night.

Always check the weather before heading out and bring the appropriate gear.

Watch Out for Season and Weather Changes

In general, California’s weather is quite mild. Now, however, there are certain times of the year when the day is going one way and it ends differently.


Don’t get caught flat-footed. Prepare for drastic temperature changes.

Follow the Signages and Route Signs Along the Trail

There are many helpful signs along the trail. They’re placed there for a reason. They were not just put on because the state park service had nothing better to do.

Those signages and route signs help you make the most out of the trail. At the very least, they prevent you from getting lost.

As you off-road at a higher rate of speed, these signages also tip you off to interesting local features you may otherwise have overlooked

Follow Trail Rules and Regulations

California has basic regulations regarding off-road terrain. Make sure you stick to them.

Again, there’s nothing fancy here. Just stick to the rules.

At certain parts of the trail, there will be other off-roaders, and people play fast and loose with the rules.

Avoid doing the same. Others might get injured. At the very least, their enjoyment of the trail might be limited.

As Much as You Can, Always Travel in a Group

A group, as defined here, comprises two or more people. Preferably, you should off-road with two or more vehicles.

This way, if something goes wrong on the trail or somebody gets injured, there will always be somebody there who can access help or take people to the hospital.

Thoroughly Check Your Vehicle Before off-Roading

Let’s face it. When you look at a typical off-road vehicle, you can’t help but feel a tremendous amount of confidence and safety. After all, these amazing pieces of automotive engineering look very rugged.

But you have to go beneath the surface. Make sure that all your fluid levels are correct and make sure that everything is in good working condition.


As you go off the beaten track, you don’t want to be in a nasty surprise. If you travel alone, things can get quite hairy on the trail, even if you have a mobile phone.

Stay on Designated Trails


If you’re just starting out with The Holcomb Trail, stay on the designated trail and keep yourself from running over vegetation and animals.

As you get familiar with the trail, then you can experiment, but as much as possible keep things as you found them.


Although the Holcomb trail may look awesome and well-managed, there’s a delicate balance between plant and animal life as well as geographic features.

By everybody working together to make sure that they leave the trail as they found it, there will be more experiences for other off-roaders to enjoy.

Bring Traction Pads

These can help you should things turn out in a way you didn’t expect. Precautionary steps can translate to much peace of mind later on.

The Final Word

There are lots of things to do in Holcomb Valley besides four-wheeling. But believe me, if you just want to go off-roading and four-wheeling, you will have your hands full.

But on top of that, you can also bring a bike or your walking stick with you. There are several natural features you can bike around, hike through, and even rock-climb.

Don’t forget to at least camp in one of the designated spots because these have amazing views of the Holcomb Trail and Big Bear Lake.