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U.S. Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area


pebble plain shooting star. Pebble plain shooting star (pebble plain short morph) (Dodecatheon hendersonii). Photo by Bill LaHaye.

Bear Valley sandwort with beefly. Bear Valley sandwort (Arenaria ursina) with beefly. Photo by Scott Eliason.

North Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve

Forest: San Bernardino National Forest

District: Mountaintop Ranger District

Description: The San Bernardino National Forest contains many beautiful, interesting and unique wildflower viewing experiences. The San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains of southern California support a disproportionately high botanical diversity, many rare and endemic plant species, and landscapes that explode with color during the late spring and early summer months.

The North Baldwin Ecological Reserve, owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Game, and the surrounding National Forest System lands lie near the northwest shore of Baldwin Lake at about 7000 feet elevation. The area is near the eastern end of Big Bear Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains, and provides long views westward toward Big Bear Lake and the associated ski areas.

Viewing Information: An interpretive trail managed jointly between the San Bernardino National Forest and California Department of Fish and Game provides a focus on rare plants and wildflower displays. Wet meadows with waves of iris and rare checkerblooms and margins of rare purple and yellow monkeyflowers separate rounded knolls of clay soils and quartzite cobbles known as pebble plains. In the spring the pebble plains are awash with rock cress and violets, with flashes of shooting stars and milk-vetch here and there. Most pebble plain species are tiny, and some are best appreciated close-up while lying flat on your belly. The diversity of pebble plains is comparable to coral reefs, with as many as 20 species in a square meter. The best time to visit and enjoy is during April and early May.

Wildlife to View: Deer, coyote, chipmunks, mountain and western bluebirds, pinyon jays, mountain quail, lizards, snakes, and neotropical migratory birds.

Directions: Arrive in Big Bear Valley via one of the following three mountain highway routes: From Redlands and points west (including Ontario and Los Angeles) take Highways 330 and 18. From east of Redlands (including Palm Springs), take Highway 38. From Lucerne Valley, the Mojave Desert, and points north (including Barstow and Las Vegas), take Highway 18. Once in Big Bear Valley, follow Highway 18 along the north shore of Baldwin Lake (periodically dry) to the east end of the valley and watch for the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve sign on the roadside.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest, Mountaintop Ranger District.

Closest Town: Bear Valley, California.