Find this long loop campground at 6,400 feet, where South Fork Creek and the Santa Ana River meet. Though the mighty and notorious Santa Ana River is but a mere trickle here, the towering cedars, pines, and firs provide respite from hot Los Angeles summers, and the sweeping mountain views accessible from almost every campsite make up for a less-than-torrential river to ponder.
Though it’s but an hour and a half from L.A. and a half hour from Big Bear, it’s relatively less crowded than other nearby options like Heart Bar and Pineknot. Even so, you’ll want to arrive early on a peak weekend. Amenities abound and include fire pits at every site, free firewood, well-maintained vault toilets, and potable water. It’s conveniently situated between Angelus Oaks and Big Bear Lake, so a quick jaunt to the store is possible for anyone who might have forgotten a necessity.
There are a number of hiking trails that find their beginnings just steps away from the campground, several of which tread into the newly designated Sand to Snow National Monument. In February of 2016, President Obama signed a proclamation that declared the new monument. True to its name, the monument protects 154,000 acres in the San Gorgonio Wilderness that encompasses both desert and alpine climates as well as riparian forests, creosote scrub bush and woodlands, fresh water marshes, and Mediterranean chaparral. A visit could afford you a peek of the southernmost stand of Quaking Aspens and one of the 12 endangered species that call it home.
Note: South Fork Campground is typically open from mid-May through the end of October and is operated on a first-come, first-served basis. For specific seasonal dates, call San Bernardino National Forest Headquarters at 909.382.2600.