A few weekends ago I led a group out one of my recently favorite trails. Another member, Chris, took me and a friend on this trail late last year and it was a ton of fun. So I decided to take a group of Overland Bound members out to experience this little gem. It’s a very easy trail with some fun sections for you to throw it in 4 wheel drive. Any obstacles can be avoided or taken if you’re up for it.
Let’s get into the details and what you can expect! First of all, safety. Make sure you have plenty of water. Fuel up and take any required breaks at the gas station in town after your drive up the mountain. Make sure you check the weather and take note that you will start at elevation but end up in the Yucca Valley, just south of Joshua Tree and pretty close to Landers if you want to take a detour and see Giant Rock or the Integratron, yup the Integratron. Bring plenty of water and of course your safety gear, comms gear, and recovery gear.
Ok, that’s out of the way! The trail itself is about 25 miles and it’s mostly downhill. On the last trip, I gassed up in Big Bear proper and got to the end with still near a full tank. But I like to be prepared so I don’t ever start without a full tank if I can help it. You’ll start in the town of Baldwin Lake and wind your way through the forest and winding terrain eventually down in the Yucca Valley at Pioneer Town. Here I like to stop for a reward, a bite to eat at Pappy and Harriet’s. This place is worthy of its own post so I will say, google it, and come hungry because the BBQ is amazing!
THE RALLY POINT
We met up at the trailhead in Baldwin Lake in Big Bear (GPS Details Below). I had 15 rigs joining me today of all types. We had some Tacomas, a Subaru, some Wranglers, a Grand Cherokee, this rad little Renegade, a Land Cruiser, and we topped it all off with a Colorado ZR2. Quite a diverse group and all in various stages of the build. It was awesome to see them all winding through the trail. Back to the Rally Point. We all met up, aired down, and did our usual vehicle checks and introductions. Once everyone is ready I have a quick drivers’ meeting, explain the terrain, the expected timeline, safety, and trail courtesy, and comms. Comms are key to making sure everyone has a good time, we don’t lose anyone, and we all know what’s happening up ahead on the trail.
Checks are done and we’re off to our first stop! Which was only about 2 miles down the road. The Eye of God, a really cool outcrop of quartz (so I am told) that sits all alone on a hill. No other visible quartz or similar formations nearby, just this incredibly bright white quartz jutting out from the earth. It’s a short walk and worth seeing.
HEADING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN
One of the first little challenges we hit was this hill climb. Of course, pictures never do it justice. I promise you it was steeper than it looks and fun! There are about 3-4 more of these on this short trail and they vary from rutted to rocky. It’s really a fun little trail with a good mix of terrain.
SLIPPERY WHEN DRY
From here the trail goes through this long winding section of trees that snakes through small rolling hills and eventually opens up to a valley. This part gives you great views to the east as you drive the side of the mountain.
Our next obstacle was one more little climb. I know — why so many climbs when we’re heading downhill, right? Think of it as a mountain with tons of little mountains on it. It’s strange but it’s fun.
ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE
With all the small climbs behind us, it’s time to start heading down. This one drops us into an awesome valley with a buttery smooth trail on soft sand. The valley is home to a grove of Joshua trees and they form this cool tunnel at the exit of the valley. I didn’t get a good picture this time but I will post one from my first visit to give you an idea.
The crew had fun snaking down the hill to this valley where we would end up hanging out for lunch, giving the legs a stretch and letting everyone get better acquainted. Of course, soon after, the hoods came up and it was all about who had done what to what and where they routed this and that. Always a fun part of any group run!
A ROCKY LEDGE DOWN
This trail is speckled with old mines all along the way. Keep a good eye out and you can spend hours exploring them. Also a good tip, after the valley of Joshua trees there are some very cool campsites and an offroad obstacle area carved into some really cool RED dirt, and I mean Arizona beaming RED. So much cool terrain on such a short trail. From there we snaked our way down a rocky ledge trail and had some fun maneuvering around boulders. I jumped out to guide the lower clearance vehicles, and everyone got through just fine. There was a great little overlook where we stopped to let everyone get through. This would be one of our last stops before hitting the desert floor.
To wrap up, this is a great trail that I think everyone looking to get some great scenery and start dabbling beyond fire roads can do. The road is very friendly to beginners and if you’re staying in Big Bear, it’s an easy run right back up to camp or cabin.
Once down you’ll go through what is an awesome “neighborhood” of off-grid living. The road is wide with smooth, soft dirt. Just drive slowly and carefully as you are now in someone’s backyard and there will be two-way traffic. Let’s be good visitors and keep the dust and noise down so we can keep these trails open. Once out you’ll hit the pavement and be about 2-3 miles from Pappy and Harriet’s where you will get some of the best BBQ west of Texas. Do stop in. It’s worth the wait in the busy season and during holidays the wait can be upwards of an hour. Pro-tip, sign in when you arrive, then air up and get settled and freshened up. They should have a table ready for you by the time you’re done.
I hope you enjoyed the read and I hope to see you out on the trails, traveling these hidden gems! Have a question? Drop into the comments and let me know.
I also put some gear that I use on trips down there that is tried and true. All of it trail tested and in the trail turtle when we go out and adventure!