below) The mountains are approached from the west via CA 138 from Cajon Pass on interstate 15; the road curves across a range of undulating grassy hills, straightens out along Summit Valley towards Silverwood Lake
(a State Recreation Area, good for boating, fishing and bird watching), then becomes winding again, and steeper, climbing through pine forest to Crestline
, a dispersed town of many houses and log cabins, set beneath tall trees. The road meets Hwy 18 on the south side of the mountain crest - a wider, busier road traversing steep, treeless slopes, and giving some of the best views in the area, down towards the hazy San Bernardino Valley. The highway has many good viewpoints for several miles eastwards, before re-entering wooded land and passing through quite a developed region, especially around Lake Arrowhead. The surroundings are more natural further east, as the road winds between hills and valleys to Big Bear Lake, the largest town in the mountains, occupying the south shore of a 7 mile long reservoir. Past town, CA 18 makes a quick descent northwards, dropping 3,500 feet over ten miles into the flat lands of the Mojave Desert, near Lucerne Valley. The other (west) end of CA 18 has an equally steep climb from San Bernardino, with several fine overlooks including Inspiration Point and Panorama Point. A few miles east, CA 330 provides another route into the mountains, joining Hwy 18 at the village of Running Springs
. The only other paved road in the area is the less traveled Hwy 38, from Redlands to Big Bear City (52 miles); this curves around the edge of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, passing many USFS campsites and trailheads, and encountering much less development than the other roads.
Big Bear Lake
is the destination for many visitors to the San Bernardino Mountains; it is a narrow reservoir set in rolling, forested land within sight of higher summits to the southeast, and ringed by main roads along both sides, giving easy access to the shoreline. The north edge is less built up, and the highway passes plenty of parking places next to sandy beaches and wooded promontories - mostly free to enter though the USFS charge a fee for some locations with more facilities. The town's two ski centers (Snow Summit and Bear Mountain) are higher up in the hills on the south side of the lake, and are usually open from December to April. Lake Arrowhead
is part of a more developed, resort-like area, surrounded by residential streets, its branched shoreline lined with hundreds of private piers; there is only limited access to the general public.
HotelsBig Bear Lake
has a few chain hotels; other nearby cities with accommodation include Cajon Pass
, Lake Arrowhead
and San Bernardino