Holcomb Valley is just a few miles north of Big Bear Lake, but this broad expanse of meadows and ponderosa pines feels far removed from all the lakeside hubbub. It’s the perfect peaceful camping spot: You can play at the lake all you like and return for a night under the stars.
Holcomb Valley Campground in the San Bernardino National Forest has 19 pine-shaded sites, all of them first-come, first-served. Each site is complete with a picnic table, ample room for several tents, and a large fire pit with removable grill top, perfect for sitting around the fire, roasting hot dogs and s’mores, and enjoying a brilliantly star-filled sky.
The campground has vault toilets and no running water, so be sure to bring in your own water. If you’re looking to enjoy a more secluded experience, pitch your tent on the side opposite the entrance, where the open valley behind you is an added treat.
In the morning, explore the half-mile trail that leads from the northeast corner of the campground into the adjacent meadow. Enjoy the playful calls of the California towhee, smell the blue sage, and find shade underneath the juniper trees as you walk farther into the meadow. The hike is over all too quickly, but you can continue cross-country into the surrounding hills, and get a stunning view of Bertha Peak and Delamar Mountain. As you look over the valley below, imagine the bustling scene 150 years ago when all the hubbub was here, and not at the lake—peaceful Holcomb Valley was once the hottest gold-mining region in Southern California.
EXTRA TREAT: After your weekend in the backcountry, if you’d like a masterfully crafted breakfast with friendly service, head over to Broadway Café in Big Bear City, right on Big Bear Boulevard. The breakfast burger and Sunday’s all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast are two favorites. If your dog is with you, don’t hesitate to ask for water and a biscuit.
To reach Holcomb Valley Campground from Big Bear City, take Big Bear Blvd. (CA-18) and turn north onto Stanfield Cutoff. After 0.4 mile, turn left onto CA-38 for 2.1 miles and then turn right onto Polique Canyon Rd. Follow that road for 1.6 miles and then turn right onto 2N09/Polique Canyon Rd. After 2.4 miles, turn right onto 3N16/Holcomb Valley Rd. and continue 0.9 mile to the campground. The access road is drivable for 2WD vehicles and campers; just proceed slowly. The campground host will collect your fees: $21/night, $23 on holidays. Dog-friendly!