Big Bear & Lake Arrowhead FAQ’s

Here’s a growing list of commonly asked questions in the forest.
For general forest information & links, please visit out Big Bear Area section.

Question: How do trails like "3N34" get their name?
Answer: Forest Service Road Designations

By "Old Fart"

First, you start off with a point. I always have a point, sometimes it’s hard to see. I have several ex-wives that can attest to this!

This point will be the basis for all government surveys in the area it controls, and its latitude and longitude are fixed by astronomical observations. From this initial point, a Principal Meridian is run north and south on a line that would intersect the poles, and a Base Line is run east and west on a parallel of latitude. The Principal Meridian controls survey lines east and west, and the Base Line is the north and south control.

Land is broken into Sections, Townships and Ranges, all based on the Principal Meridian and the Baseline. In our case, the Principal Meridian runs through San Bernardino (north/south), and the Baseline is….Baseline Street!

Because of the curvature of the earth, additional lines called Guide Meridians are run every 24 miles east and west of the principal Meridian. Other lines, called Standard Parallels, are run every 24 miles north and south of the Base Line. The parallels north of the Base Line are designated First Standard Parallel North, Second Standard Parallel North, and so forth, and those south as the First Standard Parallel South, Second Standard Parallel, and so on. Standard Parallels are also called correction lines.

North and south lines are next run on true meridian from Standard Parallels and 6 miles apart, marking the survey area into strips 6 miles wide called ranges which are numbered east and west from the Principal Meridian. Similar lines are run at every 6 mile point north and south of the Base Line, and parallel with the Base Line, dividing the ranges into 6 mile squares called townships. The first township north of the Base Line and east of the Principal Meridian is identified as Township 1 North, Range 1 East, the second township north of the Base Line as Township 2 North, Range 1 East, and so on.

Getting back to the trail numbers, 3N69 “starts” in the third “Township” (or 18 miles, 3×6) North of Baseline. The number (69) is a simple progression. The “N” or “S” indicate what Township the trail starts in, and by that you can tell whether the trail is North or South of the Baseline (in our case, Baseline!) N/S trails are either 4×4 or 50” trails (quads, motorcycles). There are also “E” and “W” trails, (named for the Range in which they start, so East or West of the Principle Meridian) which are generally Hiking trails – but occasionally you’ll see a “E” or “W” motorcycle trail. These are less than 50”, so quads are not legal on them.

“X” and “Y” are “connecting/joining” major trails, other letters are “spurs”.

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Question: What do the trail ratings mean?
Answer: The USFS uses the 3 tier rating system. Green Circle easy, Blue Square more difficult and Black Diamond most difficult.

By "FishPoet"

If even one small section of the trail rates a black diamond rating, then the whole trail gets the rating.

Green Circle; Easiest
Mild rocky road, usually graded once a year.
Gentle grades, no significant water crossings.
Two wheel drive is usually acceptable with good ground clearance.
Four wheel drive makes the trip safer and there will be less tire spinning.

Blue Square; More Difficult
Rutted and rocky roads, careful tire placement is necessary.
Undercarriage may occasionaly scrape. Brush may scrape vehicle.
Some grades may be fairly steep.
Water crossings may be 2′-3′ deep.
Four wheel drive with 2 speed transfer case, high clearance, low air pressure,
and some experience driving off road is best.
Typical setup would be 31’s and 2"-4" of lift.

Black Diamond; Most Difficult
Rock gardens and deeply rutted roads.
Grades can be steep with severe ground undulation.
Sideways tilt can be extreme.
Body damage is a possibility.
A locker or limited slip in a differential makes the drive safer.
Typical setup would be 33’s and 4"-6" of lift.
Body armor is highly recommended.

I think that most folks would agree that none of the trails in Big Bear qualify as extreme.

Question: Do you have a listing of great trails in the area?
Answer: You bet.

By "FishPoet"

See them here: //