Even though this area experiences heavy traffic during peak summertime weekends, it’s more often than not a preferred choice for recreationalists over the extremely well traveled Big Bear Lake.
Situated within the San Bernardino National Forest, Barton Flats Recreation Area is a gateway into the wild and beautiful San Gorgonio Wilderness area and the newly designated Sands to Snow National Monument. It’s just a short 1.5-hour drive from Los Angeles and a mere 40 miles from Redlands. Most stop in Redlands for provisions, fishing licenses and supplies, though Big Bear is much closer.
The Barton Flats Visitor Center is a worthy stop—knowledgeable rangers abound and are friendly when answering questions about the area. Members of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association are constantly developing and presenting programs for children and adults alike, the most popular being the astronomy class. Be sure to inquire about nature walks if you care to learn more about the surrounding flora and fauna.
For those hoping to spend some time exploring, Jenks Lake is one of the most popular destinations within the recreational area. It’s stocked with trout during the spring and summertime, and it has plenty of amenities to make a lakeside day comfortable and enjoyable.
Barton Flats Recreation Area, and Jenks Lake specifically, is an excellent place to go see fall color. Black oak, creek dogwood, chokecherry, Rocky Mountain maple, bigleaf maple, white alder, black cottonwood and Frémont cottonwood trees are all dramatic additions to a fall color palette, and the short 1-mile hike from Barton Flats Campground around part of Jenks Lake provides the perfect sampling.
Planning to stay overnight? Barton Flats, Lobo - Oso, San Gorgonio, and Heart Bar Campgrounds are all great options and come packed full of amenities like fire pits and grills, hot showers, and flush toilets. Wildhorse Family Equestrian Campground is choice for anyone bringing horses along. Most of these campgrounds are only open from mid-May through the end of September, so be sure to call 877.444.6777 for seasonal specific open/close dates. Also note that because of recent drought, there are intense fire restrictions in place during periods of hot weather.