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Camping at San Bernardino National Forest

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The San Bernardino National Forest is a vast and picturesque region within Southern California, offering numerous opportunities for camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation. To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, it is crucial to have the right information about seasonal access, camping options, permits, fire regulations, local wildlife, and weather conditions.

Camping Options

The San Bernardino National Forest provides various camping options, including:

  • Developed Campgrounds: These are equipped with amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, and restrooms. Reservations are recommended, especially during peak season, and can be made through the National Recreation Reservation System.
  • Yellow Post Campsites: These are dispersed campsites with minimal amenities. They are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and often require a high-clearance vehicle to access.
  • Group Campgrounds: Designed for larger parties, these sites can be reserved and provide facilities to accommodate groups.
  • Backcountry Camping: For those who prefer a more primitive experience, backcountry camping is permitted within certain areas of the forest. A California Campfire Permit is typically required for the use of camp stoves and lanterns.

Permits and Fees

  • Adventure Pass: An Adventure Pass is often required for day use within certain areas of the forest.
  • Campfire Permits: A California Campfire Permit is required for open fires, such as campfires and charcoal grills, as well as for portable stoves and lanterns.
  • Wilderness Permits: If you plan to venture into designated Wilderness areas, a Wilderness Permit may be necessary, especially for overnight trips.

Fire Regulations

  • Current Restrictions: Always check current fire restrictions before your trip, as they change frequently due to weather conditions and forest fire risk levels.
  • Fire Safety: Only create fires in designated areas using established fire rings, and make sure all fires are completely extinguished before leaving.

Local Wildlife

  • Bears: Proper food storage is essential to discourage bears and other wildlife from entering campsites.
  • Snakes and Insects: Be aware of potentially dangerous snakes and insects; take appropriate measures to avoid encounters and know what to do in case of a bite.

Weather Conditions

  • Seasons: Weather can be unpredictable, and conditions vary depending on the season and altitude. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather, especially in higher elevations.
  • Winter: Some roads and campgrounds may be closed during winter months due to snow and ice.

Leave No Trace

  • Preservation: It's vital to practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the natural beauty of the forest for future visitors.
  • Trash: Pack out all trash and leftovers, as these can attract wildlife and harm the ecosystem.

Additional Tips

  • Local Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and guidelines provided by the U.S. Forest Service to ensure compliance and safety.
  • Map and Compass: Always carry a map and compass or a GPS device when exploring the forest.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Be prepared for emergencies by carrying a first-aid kit, signaling device, and other survival essentials.
  • Water Sources: Know where to find water sources, and always treat or filter water from streams and lakes before drinking to avoid waterborne illnesses.


For a fulfilling San Bernardino National Forest camping experience, it's important to respect the environment, abide by the rules, and be well-prepared for the variety of conditions you may encounter. Check with the U.S. Forest Service for the most current information prior to your visit to ensure a safe and enjoyable outdoor adventure.

Map of Campgrounds in San Bernardino National Forest
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