Cost-National Forest Adventure Pass $5/day or $30/year per car
This week I stayed close to home and visited the Heaps Peak Arboretum off Highway 18 in the San Bernardino National Forest. Highway 18 is also known as Rim of the World Highway for good reason. On a clear day you can see to the ocean and beyond to Catalina Island; truly it feels as though you are standing at the very rim of the world-or at least the rim of the west coast. As can be seen from my photos I did not go on a clear day but the very last gasp of winter. Deciduous trees were bare and fog rolled up and over, vestiges of the last snow clung, a beauty of a different sort. The Arboretum, indeed, the National Forest, changes with the seasons, something you don't see throughout Southern California. Each season will have something new to offer. Spring will bring blooming dogwoods and daffodils and lilacs everywhere as the oaks slowly fill out. Summer, my personal favorite, will bring the wildflowers and cool breezes that are utterly absent down below. And of course fall brings the color and the fogs and low clouds that roll up and over our mountains.
The Sequoia Trail, found behind the arboretum kiosk, is an easy trail, less than a mile following a dirt path and well marked. This is a great one for younger kids, although the terrain is a little too rough for strollers. Be sure to pick up the self-guided tour brochure for a donation of $0.25. The points of interest on the trail are numbered and stopping to read the snippets of information at each point is great fun. There is a lot to learn about the varieties of trees on the mountain, wildfire history, lichen, pine cones, and birds, too. There are a few benches along the trail in prime spots to admire the view, which can be breathtaking. From the trail the view overlooks the side facing the desert, Hesperia, Victorville, and off towards Barstow.
The $5.00 Adventure Pass, which can be purchased at many locations around SoCal and at the Arboretum's kiosk, if it's open, is good for the entire day and for many locations in and around the mountains. Overlooking the other side of the mountain, "The Rim", and close to The Arboretum are two parks where picnicking is allowed; Switzer Park and Crest Park. Both offer incredible views and space to run around. There are also places to eat close by-picking up a pizza or sandwiches at the deli and enjoying them at one of the parks sounds like a great afternoon to me.
The Children's Forest has some really good field trip and tour opportunities. I didn't visit this trip, as it is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but it is a great resource for school age children. It is further up Highway 18 in Running Springs. We went several times when we first moved up here and learned a great deal about our new surroundings.
Lake Arrowhead Village is very close to the Arboretum and parks, picturesque, with interesting shops and a gorgeous lake. Small ones love to stop and feed the ducks. There are many other small communities and towns along the highway as well, offering antique shopping and places to eat. There are many, many hiking trails varying in difficulty. Trail maps can be picked up in several spots, including the Arboretum Kiosk.
Always, always check the weather before heading up the mountain. It isn't unknown for snow to fall in May and the fog can sometimes be very heavy, making visibility low. The roads are not flat-they are mountain roads, steep and windy and require chains in bad weather. It's no fun to get stuck. Also, when coming up to play in the snow please buy your Adventure Pass and find a park or other safe place to play, don't stop next to the highway to play (please not on someone's private property either). It's dangerous.
I'll post a spring update when the daffodils and dogwoods bloom.