Trail Name: Fish Creek to Bean Spur
Forest Service Designation: 1N05 to 1N37
Total Distance: 9.2 mi
Overview: loop of fire roads in the Heart Bar area with beautiful views and a moderately technical downhill
Activities: Biking, Hiking, Horses. Note: 1N37 is marked “most difficult” for 4×4 vehicles.
Trail Type: Graded road uphill on 1N05, technical 4×4 road downhill on 1N37
Description: Start from the junction of 1N05 and 1N02 and head up 1N05, on the way to Fish Creek. In the second mile you will pass the trailhead for the Aspen Grove trail and then an unmarked dirt road on the right—stay left both times to stay on 1N05. After about 3.5 miles of uphill, the road begins traversing east for a little over 2 miles until at the bottom of a short sandy downhill section, just past the PCT crossing, 1N37 begins on the left. 1N37 begins with a short uphill section that evens out with a beautiful view of the desert. From there, the rest of the ride continues on rocky 4×4 road ranging between moderate and technical downhill riding (for bikers). Less than a mile onto 1N37 the PCT crosses again and 1N37 is marked as the Santa Ana River Trail (2E02)—continue straight onto 2E02. The trail intersects with 1N05 at the bottom; turn right onto 1N05 and you are just about back at the parking lot!
Possible Loops / Variations: Feeling strong? Keep traveling down 1N05 past 1N37 to see some more beautiful scenery before turning back around. This is one of the major trailheads to climb Mt. San Gorgonio.
Trailhead and Parking: Parking for this loop is in the Heart Bar campground area off of highway 38 between Angelus Oaks and Big Bear, marked by a large brown sign on the western side of 38. Once you turn onto the road, you pass Heart Bar campground and several equestrian camps and park where the road diverges into 1N05 and 1N02. This fork is a great place to park and start the trip.
Trail Etiquette: Always be courteous to other trail users. Vehicles must yield to all other users, all users yield to equestrians, and cyclists yield to hikers. Travel only at safe speeds, and stay on designated trails to protect our fragile mountain environment.
For Your Safety: As this loop is on roads, be aware of the many different users (horses, bikes, cars, etc) that may be present and follow trail etiquette to keep yourself and others safe. Always notify someone of your planned route and estimated time of return. Outdoor activities can be dangerous; use caution at all times and be prepared with water, food, and adequate equipment and knowledge. The Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation provides this description as a courtesy, and does not guarantee the accuracy of the information. You accept all responsibility for your outdoor activities.
On a hot Saturday morning in the beginning of June, I drove out from Big Bear on highway 38 to the heart bar campground to mountain bike on the 4×4 roads in the area. The campground area itself was easy to find—a large brown sign saying Heart bar campground/ Wildhorse equestrian/ Heart bar equestrian/ Coon creek-fish creek marks the road. I drove down the road past the campground and a couple equestrian camps until the road diverges into 1N05 and 1N02. I parked where the road diverges and started biking up 1N05. The beginning of this road was quite beautiful. Lined by rubber rabbit brush, sagebrush, manzanita and wildflowers, the smooth dirt road lead me up the side of the mountain at an easy grade with stellar views of the mountains to my right. I will admit that I used the views as a great excuse to stop riding and take pictures, as the road has almost no shade and got really hot very quickly in the southern California sunshine.
The climb continued at a steady pace for several miles, pretty straightforward except for several steeper switchbacks and sandy patches to look out for. On the way up I did pass one car driving down, most likely heading back from a hike on the Aspen Grove trail that begins about 1.5 miles from the bottom of 1N05. There were 5 or 6 cars parked at the trailhead when I passed it, but unfortunately I didn’t stop to check it out because there are no bikes allowed on the trail! Next time.
Eventually, after about 3 miles, the road begins traversing eastward around the backside of the mountain, allowing for a change of scenery as the view opened up onto miles upon miles of forest stretching off into the San Gorgonio wilderness. For the next several miles, I got some much needed breaks from climbing as the road had some downhill sections, and I could just fly down the smooth (sometimes sandy) dirt road. During this traverse I did see some folks horseback riding, but the road was wide enough that we did not have to worry about maneuvering around each other.
About 5.5 miles in, the PCT crossed the road. Just after the PCT crossing, about a quarter mile down, 1N37 splits off to the left. 1N37 is very well marked—it is also labeled ‘most difficult’ for 4×4 vehicles. That rating begins to make sense immediately upon beginning the trail—it is sandy, rocky, and rutted, and remains that way for most of its length. However, for a biker those obstacles are what make it exciting and challenging and I was ready for a change of pace from simply dirt road climbing. The first little bit of the 1N37 is uphill, but it evens out pretty quickly to an absolutely beautiful view out over the desert towards Joshua Tree… really breathtaking.
Once I had my fill of the awesome view, I jumped back on my bike and started my descent. It was fun, fast (sometimes), and made me think quite a bit about which line to choose. I am a pretty cautious rider, especially when riding alone, so I imagine that the lines I chose would be very different than that of someone a bit more aggressive and brave with rocks and boulders. In some places, the trail is all boulders and rocks and very different than any other riding I have done in the Big Bear area—it was more reminiscent of some areas of Utah.
I also ran into a convoy of jeeps filled with adopt-a-trails volunteers who were out doing some maintenance on 1N37… I thought it was great to see people out volunteering on the trails! I also would have loved to see them ride on some of that stuff. How do cars do it?! Anyways, though I did have to walk my bike once or twice, I had a blast with the challenge of new terrain.
Also, slightly less than a mile into the descent the PCT crosses the road again, and the road that continues straight is marked as the Santa Ana River Trail (2E02). Just continue straight, that is where you want to be! And after 9.13 miles of riding, the 1N37 does return to 1N05, where you make a right and it is just a minute or so ride back down to the parking lot.
This ride was a great new find for me—the climb has such breathtaking views and the descent so unique and challenging that it was definitely worth checking out. Just make sure you bring a ton of water and sun protection…and a camera!
– Emily Pappo