TRIP DATES: November 13-15, 2020 LOCATION: San Bernardino Mountains (Crestline/ Lake Arrowhead) CAMP: Thousand Pines via Campspot HIKES: Hot Spring, Heart Rock, & Pinnacles
National Take a Hike Day 2020
There are 60k+ trails in the National Trail System and with the convenience of a cabin near Lake Arrowhead this past weekend, I got to explore 3 of the trails in San Bernardino National Forest within 24 hours!
I’ve been stuck in a rut lately. Maybe it’s the shorter days with daylight savings, maybe it’s the recent cold weather, or maybe my body has just gotten used to being at home since the mountains have been closed for most of Fall due to wildfires. Whatever the reason, I was eager to get back out and a quick little cabin getaway was just what I needed to reboot my mind and body.
You can easily book a campsite through Campspot – they’re the largest online marketplace for family campgrounds, cabins, glamping sites, and RV resorts with 500+ campgrounds (=100,000 campsites) in 49 states and even some in Canada! There’s also a “hiking” filter to help you search camp options that are near hiking trails. Although I do spend most of my nights outdoors in a tent in the summer, cabins and day hikes are my preference for the cold season.
I reserved the Oakwood Cabin at Thousand Pines Campground in Crestline, CA this past weekend because there were several trails in that area that I have wanted to explore for years but never wanted to make the effort during peak hiking season. Once the weather cools down though, it’s hard to want to drive out there for just a short day hike with made a cabin rental the perfect solution.
Thousand Pines Campground in Crestline is right by Lake Gregory, just 8 miles from Lake Arrowhead, and a 1.5-hr drive from LA/OC which makes it a great local weekend getaway. It was the cutest camp area in the middle of the forest surrounded by lush trees, fresh snow, cabins/yurts that were well-spaced out so each family has privacy, activities onsite such as archery and rock climbing, and the friendliest staff!
I loved that we could go for a sunset hike and come back in the dark to a warm cabin, a hot meal, a shower, and a bed.
Hiking Trails Near Crestline/ Lake Arrowhead
Each of the hiking trails was different and unique – one was a dry canyon to hot springs and a creek, one was a forested trail in the lush mountains ending at a small waterfall with a unique rock formation, and one was all desert/ boulders that resembled Joshua Tree/ Alabama Hills.
We arrived at our campground at 2 pm and were in a rush to make it out on a hike before we lost the daylight. After unloading our stuff in our cabin and driving out 30 mins, we arrived at our trailhead for the hot springs at 3 pm on Friday the 13th.
Crowds: We didn’t see anyone else on the hot springs trail and very few people on the pinnacles trail. My guess is because the days are shorter and it’s too cold to do sunset hikes – once the sun disappears, temps drop significantly. The heart rock trail was our only broad daylight hike and since it’s an easy one, there were a good amount of people on the trail but we were usually alone.
Hot Springs Hike
HIKE TO: Deep Creek Hot Springs TRAIL: Bradford Ridge MILES: 5.09 miles (out & back) TIME: 2:40 hrs (1:14 hr down / 1:26 hr up) DATE I WENT: 11/13/20 DIFFICULTY: moderate-strenuous ELEVATION: 3513 ft ELEVATION GAIN/ LOSS: 856 ft LOCATION: San Bernardino National Forest
This is a hot spring I’ve been wanting to hike to for years but have avoided due to crowds on the weekend and stories of car break-ins. There are 3-4 trails that lead to the Deep Creek Hot Springs and I opted for the more strenuous route because I like a good workout (hiking can burn 400-550 calories per hour) plus it was closest to access from Lake Arrowhead.
Note: this might be the only hot springs I will ever blog about – PLEASE don’t forget to practice Leave No Trace: Pack out what you pack in. Leave it better than you found it.
The Bradford Ridge Trail is steep and in all of my research prep, every blog warned about the steep section and it honestly freaked me out. I’m glad I didn’t let that stop me from going though because although it was definitely steep (the max grade is 55% and the steepest section drops 581 ft in 0.5 mi), the trail conditions weren’t as bad as I built it up in my head – in fact, it wasn’t bad at all.
When we arrived at Deep Creek, there was a pleasant surprise of Fall colors in the canyon still and since there are many hot springs pools, we had a couple of them all to ourselves. We didn’t explore every pool but we did find a couple of amazing ones and watched the sunset and the stars come out before hiking back in pitch-black darkness. I actually forgot my headlamp (I knew exactly where it was back in the cabin *facepalm*) and had to use my cell phone flashlight but since it was a crescent moon, there was little light out which made star gazing incredible but the darkness was discomforting.
At one point, I heard a loud thump on the ground and knew there was a large animal nearby which freaked me out more so I started singing loudly and tried to distract myself. A little bit later, I heard other animal noises in the distance which resembled the sound of one creature getting attacked by another – maybe I’m building it up in my head but needless to say, I was freaked out the entire way back especially since I’m scared of the dark too. It’s been a while since I’ve hiked at night so my imagination gets the better of me… but it was 100% worth it.
Heart Rock Trail at Camp Seely
HIKE TO: Heart Rock TRAIL: Heart Rock Trail (aka Seely/Seeley Creek Trail) MILES: 1.84 miles (out & back) TIME: 2:40 hrs DATE I WENT: 11/13/20 DIFFICULTY: easy ELEVATION: 4147 ft ELEVATION GAIN/ LOSS: 258 ft total from trailhead to end (gross 521 ft) LOCATION: San Bernardino National Forest
This short and easy trail has been on my bucketlist for years but because it’s so short, I never wanted to drive out just for this.
This little gem was only 10 mins away from our campground. The trail is straightforward, but we were distracted in conversation on the forest road and missed the turnoff to enter the actual trail 0.19 mi in from the parking lot outside Camp Seeley. Luckily, there was a connecting trail 0.37 mi in, and the Heart Rock Trail is only 0.9 mi one-way total. It starts at Camp Seely and hikes above along Seeley Creek the entire time. When you get to the end, there’s an overlook of heart rock which sits above a waterfall or you can climb down to it.
Climbing down into the hole was more challenging than I expected since the granite rock is very slippery. If you climb into the hole from above (which we saw a couple do when we first arrived – see photo below), the granite is very slick and a little steep so be prepared to drop into the hole.
If you climb into the hole from the left side (which I did), well it’s still a slippery struggle. I have long legs and had to hug the wall, crawl over and straddle it before dropping in just a few inches.
Climbing out was a different story since there are no hand-holds on the inside to grip onto if you miss a step sliding out. Luckily there’s a small ledge on the outside of the hole to assist you but please be cautious as it is all very slippery! I was terrified of slipping off and almost made my partner come give me a hand, but if you can control your weight distribution and grip the wall with your thighs, you’ll just inch your way down.
The Pinnacles of Lake Arrowhead
HIKE TO: The Pinnacles of Lake Arrowhead TRAIL: Pinnacles Trail MILES: 3.88 miles (out & back) TIME: 2:40 hrs DATE I WENT: 11/13/20 DIFFICULTY: moderate ELEVATION: 5730 ft ELEVATION GAIN/ LOSS: 976 ft LOCATION: San Bernardino National Forest
I had no idea Lake Arrowhead had terrain like this – I actually discovered the Pinnacles in my research for nearby hiking trails after I booked my campground.
The Pinnacles Trail resembles Joshua Tree and Alabama Hills a lot with the boulder terrain. The official Pinnacles Trail actually starts by the Arrowhead Fish & Gane Conservation Club but there is a trail from the official Pinnacles Trail Parking lot (there’s a sign and Google Maps goes directly there) that connects you to the Pinnacles Trail in 0.29 miles. Once you’re on the Pinnacles Trail, you’ll vaguely follow a dry wash with the trail on your right side. The first half of the trail has a gradual incline and the entire trail is fully exposed.
At about 1 mile in, the fun part starts – the trail climbs 678 ft in 0.84 miles. The second half of the trail climbs up a lot of boulders and the cairns help mark the trail. There’s a worn-trail for the most part, but it takes a little bit of route-finding so if you’re planning to hike down in the dark as we did, it’s helpful to track your hike up so you have a route to follow coming down.
When you reach the top of the pinnacles area, the easiest way to get to the top is to crawl through the small triangular hole (when you see two small spaces, it’s the hole on the left; we went right which took a bit longer to go around and up).
The 360 degrees sunset view from up here is stunning with sights of Silverwood Lake, Mt. Baldy, Twin Peaks, and some other ones I can’t name. Once the sun went down though, it got cold fast.
Bonus Trail: Lake Arrowhead
On Sunday morning after checking out, we headed over to Lake Arrowhead for my first time. It was hard to find public access to the lake but we ended up on the South Shore Trail for a walk along the lake near the village.
If you’re looking for a quick little getaway from LA, I’d recommend getting a cabin near Lake Arrowhead and exploring this area! It’s just 1.5 hr outside of LA and feels like a completely different world, especially with the snow!