About the Area

The San Bernardino National Forest is a federally-managed forest covering more than 800,000 acres (3,200 km²). There are two main divisions which are the San Bernardino Mountains on the easternmost of the Transverse Range, and the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains on the northernmost of the Peninsular Range. Elevations range from 2,000 to 11,499 feet (600 to 3505 m). The forest includes several wilderness areas, the larger being the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto. This National Forest is managed by the USDA Forest Service. Forest headquarters are located in the city of San Bernardino.


According to US Geological Survey maps of the Forest, it consists of two large areas or tracts: a northern and southern portion.

The west border of the Forest adjoins Angeles National Forest and runs north-south about ten miles west of Interstate 15. At its widest parts, the northern portion of the Forest runs about 57 miles (90 km) in an east-west dimension. It runs about 24 miles (40 km) in a north-south dimension. This portion of the forest encompasses the San Bernardino Mountains. The area has a west extent west of Mount San Antonio , and Wrightwood in San Bernardino County. Parts of the east extent of this portion extend about ten miles east of Big Bear City and include the San Gorgonio Wilderness. The most southern portion is bisected by the Riverside County line and abuts the Morongo Indian Reservation north of Cabazon.

At its widest point, the southern portion is about 27 miles (40 km) in a north-south dimension and about 30 miles (50 km) in an east-west dimension. Toro Peak, and the Santa Rosa Indian Reservation are near the south extent. At the north is Snow Creek Village and the Morongo Indian Reservation. Out of the southern portion is carved Mount San Jacinto State Wilderness. The community of Idyllwild is surrounded by National Forest lands.


There are many different species of trees, many coniferous, that grow in the mountains. Pines such as Ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, Sugar pine, Coulter pine, Lodgepole pine, Single-leaf pinyon, and Knobcone pine all thrive here. Other coniferous trees such as White Fir, Bigcone Douglas-fir, Incense Cedar, and Western Juniper also thrive here. Canyon Live Oak, California Black Oak, and Pacific Dogwood are other trees that also grow here. The forest contains an estimated 87,400 acres (354 km2) of old growth. The most common old-growth forest types are mixed conifer Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii), Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), and White Fir (Abies concolor) forests, Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi) forests, and Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) forests.


The San Bernardino National Forest resides within San Bernardino and Riverside Counties located east of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.  The area is commonly referred to as the "Inland Empire".

The City of Big Bear Lake is the only incorporated city within the forest boundary located on the Mountaintop Ranger District in the San Bernardino mountain range.  All other communities within the forest boundaries are unincorporated areas of both counties.  Each community has a place name and many are clustered together and over the years housing growth in the communities makes it visually hard to know when you are leaving one community and entering another.

The San Bernardino National Forest is surrounded by several large cities and unincorporated communities, again development over the years makes it difficult to visually separate the entities.


Two major interstates bisect the San Bernardino National Forest, Interstate 15 (Mexican border near San Diego to the Canadian border in Montana) actually resides on national forest land in Cajon Pass, while Interstate 10 (Santa Monica, California to Jacksonville, Florida ) bisects the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains outside the forest boundary.

Railroads played a major role in California's history and to this day play a significant role in moving America's commerce in Southern California.  The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad both utilized four mainline tracks through Cajon Pass portions of the lines reside on national forest lands.   Cajon Pass is the busiest railroad pass in the world and is a favorite for railfans to watch trains.

The Southern Pacific built one of the early transcontinental rail lines across the southern portion of the United States reaching southern California through the San Gorgonio Pass.   This rail line bisects the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains and resides outside the forest boundary.   Union Pacific Railroad purchased the Southern Pacific Railroad and this line plays a critical role in moving commerce from the Far East to the rest of the country.

The Inland Empire at one time hosted three large military air bases, George Air Force Base in Victorville, Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino and March Field in Moreno Valley.  The Big Bear Airport is located within the forest boundaries in the unincorporated section of Big Bear.  The San Bernardino National Forest airtanker base resides on the former Norton base and this airtanker base plays a critical role in supporting wildland firefighting for the southern half of California.