The strategic direction and program emphasis objectives that are expected to result in the sustainability (social, economic and ecological) of the national forest and, over the long-term, the maintenance of a healthy forest are described in the 159 page Land Management Plan, Part 2 San Bernardino National Forest Strategy.

We’re starting to get more specific about trails in the San Bernardino National Forest. Below you will find selected passages from this 2005 strategy that relate to trails around Big Bear Valley.

Trails Program

The program includes designating trails suitable for mechanized (mountain bike) use. National Forest staff expect to complete a site-specific road analysis of unclassified roads, and to make recommendations for decommissioning where conflicts with sensitive species are occurring, or for including routes into the National Forest System roads and trails.

National Forest staff expect to decommission or classify approximately 150 miles of unclassified roads or trails (see Trans 1 –  Transportation Management). The program will focus on creating more easy-to-moderate day-use trails and trail loops and linkages.

Additional focus includes resolving road and trail conflict occurring between user groups, communities and resources and with Level 3 roads (2wd passenger vehicle), and removing inappropriate uses.

Supportive Information: many areas require users to share roads with cars, causing conflicts. Part of the forest plan talks about resolving these conflicts, which means possible additional non-motorized trail opportunities to avoid cars.

Trans 1 – Transportation Management

This is found in Appendix B of the Strategy Document.

  • Plan, design, construct, and maintain the National Forest System roads and trails to meet plan objectives, to promote sustainable resource conditions, and to safely accommodate anticipated levels and types of use. Reduce the number of unnecessary unclassified roads and restore landscapes.
  • Enhance user safety and provide adequate parking at popular destinations on high traffic passenger car roads, while also minimizing adverse resource effects.
  • Add unclassified roads to the National Forest System roads or trails when site-specific road analysis determines there is a public need.
  • Decommission roads and trails that have been determined to be unnecessary and establish level of restoration during project planning.
  • Develop an interconnected, shared-use trail network and support facilities that complement local, regional and national trails and open space, and that also enhance day-use opportunities and access for the general public:
  • Construct and maintain the trail network to levels commensurate with area objectives, sustainable resource conditions, and the type and level of use.
  • Maintain and/or develop access points and connecting trails linked to surrounding communities.

Supportive Information: the above bullet points are directly in support of what we’re looking at doing here in Big Bear; a long term plan for a trail network that allows non-motorized recreational users to visit the many diverse natural areas surrounding Big Bear. The network will utilize existing system trails, essential non-system trails, and necessary new connecting trails to provide access to the forest from both established trail heads as well as residential areas of the Wildland Urban Interface that is the Big Bear Valley.


The Strategy Plan touches briefly on the budget for the San Bernardino National Forest. The most recent figure cited is for 2002, with a budget of slighly over  $27 million (this amount does not include wildland fire suppression and national fire & disaster support, but does include hazardous fuels reduction and fire pre-suppression & preparedness to implement the National Fire Plan.

As research continues, we intend to learn more about the current budget and expenditures of the San Bernardino National Forest as they relate to trail management.

Land Use Zones

Seven land use zones have been identified for the San Bernardino National Forest. These land use zones are used to help demonstrate clearly the Land Management Plan’s intent and to indicate the anticipated level of public land use in any area of the national forest.  These zones, from high usage to low usage, are:

  1. Developed Area Interface (DAI)
  2. Back Country (BC)
  3. Back Country Motorized Use Restricted (BCMUR)
  4. Back Country Non-Motorized (BCNM)
  5. Critical Biological  (CB)
  6. Recommended Wilderness (RW)
  7. Existing Wilderness (EW)


By understanding the zones and intended uses, we can see where a trail network should or shouldn’t exist. For example, the description for Back Country Non-Motorized zone states “A network of low standard Back Country trails provide public access for a wide variety of non-motorized dispersed recreation opportunities including remote area camping, hiking, mountain biking, hunting and fishing.”


Understanding the Critical Biological Land Use Zone helps us to understand what species are being protected and how this may affect the usage of this area.

SBNF-9-PlacesPlace-Based Program Emphasis

In addition to the above Land Use Zones, the national forest has been divided into a series of geographical units called ‘Places.’ Each Place has a theme, setting, desired condition and program emphasis section. These are the Places identified for the San Bernardino National Forest that are nearest Big Bear:

• Big Bear (39,078 acres)
• Big Bear Back Country (63,889 acres)
• San Gorgonio (99,925 acres)

Here are some trail related excerpts from each of the above places:


Big Bear

Unauthorized routes originating from private lands adjacent to the national forest boundary and the increased use of mountain bikes off of roads and trails are of concern here. National Forest System lands contribute a significant portion of the total recreation value generated by visitors to the Big Bear area. Serrano Campground (North Shore of Big Bear Lake) is the most requested campground in the National Recreation Reservation System.

Many high use recreation areas overlap with threatened, endangered, and sensitive species habitat. These habitats and populations of listed species are affected by the high level of recreation activities, unauthorized road and trail establishment, trash dumping, wood theft and invasive species.

A good trail network will spread out the use around the forest, so that we avoid the above high use recreation areas affecting sensitive habitats.

Watershed condition and listed species habitats will be improved by relocating classified roads out of sensitive habitat where possible, decommissioning/adding to system/conversion to trails existing unclassified roads, which affect species habitat, and preventing unauthorized off-road
vehicle use.


Big Bear Back Country

This area has the highest number of unclassified roads and trails in all of the four southern California national forests, with approximately three miles of road per square mile. The volume of new unauthorized road and trail creation is high, as is the breaching of decommissioned and restored roadbeds. Resource degradation caused by unauthorized use is high here.

Unauthorized uses, such as user created trails and off-trail mountain bike use, are affecting natural and cultural resources. Emphasis on the transportation system will continue due to the high number of roads and trails here. Relocation of classified roads out of sensitive habitat, analysis and decommissioning/adding to system/conversion to trails of existing unclassified roads and trails, and preventing the establishment of new roads are all priorities.

The above area is a good example of what happens when legal, system trails are not provided that meet the use of the public; large amounts of unauthorized use occurs.


San Gorgonio

More than half of this place consists of the San Gorgonio Wilderness; the remaining area centers around the Santa Ana River Valley.

This Place provides opportunities for a mixture of motorized and non-motorized recreation, as well as more primitive opportunities in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. This Place has some of the most popular equestrian trails in southern California.  The regionally designated Santa Ana River Trail, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, and Clark’s Grade Historic Trail
are located here.

There will be a continued emphasis on preventing establishment of off-route vehicle travel and unauthorized offtrail use by mountain bikes.

While this place has “some of the most popular equestrian trails in southern California”, many of these trails, located in the Heart Bar area, are user created and are non-system routes.

Next up is to look at the Land Management Plan Monitoring Reports for the San Bernardino National Forest.

PLEASE NOTE: Much of the above has been directly copied from referenced sources publicly available on the internet. Subjective opinion and interpretation can be found in color-hilited text boxes.