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Towing in the mountains: the routes near big bear lake

DrunkEddy
Explorer
Explorer
Hey everyone, first post here

Heading up to Skypark by Lake Arrowhead from San Diego. I read the other posts and see that the 38 is the easiest route up to big bear

My question is whether it's worth it to go that far around on the way to Skyforest. It'd take me through Big Bear first, while the 18 would be a lot more direct.

I'm pulling a 39ft keystone sprinter with a 2008 f350. Thanks for any advice
10 REPLIES 10

DrunkEddy
Explorer
Explorer
Hey all,
Thanks again for the insights. Here’s the readout from my trip, for anyone following this convo for info

Between the campground and this forum I had all 3 routes recommended to me for different reasons (the 18, 38 and 330). What I took from that was that there wasn’t one that I absolutely needed to avoid, so I just went the most direct to destination, which was the 18

Route starts fairly steep and stays that way for the first 10 miles, but it’s all 4 lane for the climb and there are a couple opportunities to turn back if needed. Plenty of turnouts too. I’m towing pretty heavy for my truck, so driving my RPMs and keeping it in the power band had me going 25-30 with my hazards on for most of the way up. Again tho, there’s 4 lanes so people could pass me and I felt comfortable the whole time knowing my truck could do it all day. As jdc1 mentioned there are some hairpin turns, but even at my length I could make them using only my lane

After the climb it goes to winding single lane. Used the turnouts every 10 min or so to let traffic pass.
Wasn’t bad at all.

Btw, aerbus32 is spot on about the campground up there. Beautiful but super tight. Coming back down was slow going but no problems. Watch out for low hanging pines tho, got a fresh scratch on my front cap.

Well If my rig can get up there, most others probably can. Can’t speak to the other routes but the 18 from San Bernardino was definitely viable. (Aerbus32 I will definitely get the Mountain Directory now that I have this trip as a good frame of reference)

aerbus32
Explorer
Explorer
330 was actually my preferred route to Big Bear. Famous picture from years back of a Bayliner Trophy and it’s tow vehicle, one of which was hanging off the cliff. (Same pullout I always used!)
We’re currently up in the Gold Country, using mostly 49. It’s infamous for steep long grades & tight turns. Just drove from Manteca to Black Oak RV outside of Sonora, then to Jackson Rancheria. I found it nowhere near as challenging as those associated with Big Bear or Crestline.
I’d suggest you download the app ‘Mountain Directory’. Details troublesome grades, etc. It recommends 38 to access BB or Arrowhead. I also use the ‘Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas’. It id’s routes recommended for 18 wheelers. It identifies no route to get up there.
You might consider what I did. Drove my tow vehicle up just to see.

DrunkEddy
Explorer
Explorer
By the way how are the grades on the 18? I’m towing near capacity, so the truck is pretty slow climbing

paulj
Explorer II
Explorer II
Looking at Google Sat view, both 18 and 330 are mostly 4 lane on this climbs, while 18 Rim of the World between 138 junction and Running Springs is 2 lane - but without major grades or tight turns.

DrunkEddy
Explorer
Explorer
Very much appreciate the info everyone. Called the campground and they said take the 330. Dont think I'll be doing that, based off the other threads here. Leaning towards the 18. I'll let yall know how it goes

profdant139
Explorer II
Explorer II
Eddy -- instead of relying on my recommendation (above), I'd rely on folks who have more frequently made this trip. 😉
2012 Fun Finder X-139 "Boondock Style" (axle-flipped and extra insulation)
2013 Toyota Tacoma Off-Road (semi-beefy tires and components)
Our trips -- pix and text
About our trailer
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single list."

Lwiddis
Explorer II
Explorer II
I've done both. Take the 18 if towing IMO.
Winnebago 2101DS TT & 2022 Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71, WindyNation 300 watt solar-Lossigy 200 AH Lithium battery. Prefer boondocking, USFS, COE, BLM, NPS, TVA, state camps. Bicyclist. 14 yr. Army -11B40 then 11A - (MOS 1542 & 1560) IOBC & IOAC grad

aerbus32
Explorer
Explorer
I towed boats from Temecula to Big Bear for years. Always used the 38. Recently drove up to the park you are talking about with just our F350. Used 18. Decided the campground wasn’t worth it. Very tight for our 35’ fifth wheel. Most of 18 is 4 lane. Most of 38 isn’t. I’d go 18.
Either way, the access road to the campground is tricky. As I remember, turning off the 18, you need to make an immediate right. We missed it. Had to go a ways into town just to turn our truck around.

profdant139
Explorer II
Explorer II
I find that 38 is faster when I am towing -- less traffic, fewer twists and turns. Great views, too.

If I were in my truck but not towing, the other way in might be faster. But that is just a guess -- it has been many years since I went up there without a trailer.
2012 Fun Finder X-139 "Boondock Style" (axle-flipped and extra insulation)
2013 Toyota Tacoma Off-Road (semi-beefy tires and components)
Our trips -- pix and text
About our trailer
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single list."

jdc1
Explorer II
Explorer II
Go up the 38. 39ft is pretty long and 18 has hairpin turns. You'll be taking up a couple a lanes on a few turns. Besides that, you can stop for breakfast in BB....and enjoy the lake view. A lot of 38 is 55mph. That's not so with route 18.