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Hiking In The San Bernardino Mountains During The Month of February

Updated on September 16, 2016

Hiking in the San Bernardino Mountains in February is different than during spring when the flowers are in bloom. During the winter months, the landscape is starker, and thus a bit more Mars-like. The lack of color in the landscape creates a bold contrast with the blue sky, and the green found in the sparse chaparral. Also, people who detest the heat would love hiking in February, even during this past one when it was a bit warmer than usual. Some years there is even snow surrounding the large boulders, and that can be quite challenging and fun to navigate. There are many forested areas near Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear to go hiking in, but the back side of the San Bernardino Mountains is a chaparral land with large rocks. Actually, I love hiking out by the Pinnacles because the boulders are magnificent, and the scrub brush surrounding these has a subtle color of green. If you love large boulders, then hiking on the back side of the San Bernardino Mountains might be for you.

Hiking at the Pinnacles up in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Hiking at the Pinnacles up in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Planning a trip to the San Bernardino Mountains in February is pretty easy for people used to mountain driving conditions. However, keep in mind that snow may be falling in February, and there will be chain enforcement.

A
San Bernardino Mountains:
San Bernardino Mountains, California 92305, USA

get directions

Use the map to plan a hiking trip up in the San Bernardino Mountains.

I hiked up the back side of the Pinnacles, which is literally covered in boulders. There was no precise trail here, so it was a bit challenging in places. I could have gone to the top, but I decided to turn back because I had been out hiking for a couple of hours. People who are into bouldering love the large rocks out at the Pinnacles, but scaling boulders is not really my thing. I need to keep my feet firmly on the ground to enjoy a hike that is somewhat slow and steady. I can walk fast when I have to, but enjoy taking my time when out on a luxuriant nature hike. Yes, I want to take in the view.

A little pine tree.
A little pine tree.

There are no wild flowers blooming on the backside of the mountain during the winter months, but I enjoy looking at the pop of green color that can be found here and there. This little pine tree is an example of how hikers will run across the occasional pine in this chaparral land.

A little pine tree.
A little pine tree.
A little pine tree spotted on a hike.
A little pine tree spotted on a hike.
The view near Highway 173.
The view near Highway 173.
A beaver tail cactus in the San Bernardino Mountains.
A beaver tail cactus in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Blue sky with wispy clouds.
Blue sky with wispy clouds.
Another view of the beaver tail cactus.
Another view of the beaver tail cactus.
Another capture of the prickly pear cactus.
Another capture of the prickly pear cactus.
The view of Mount Luna in the distance. It is the slightly dome shaped mountain.
The view of Mount Luna in the distance. It is the slightly dome shaped mountain.
The chaparral bush has small leaves on it.
The chaparral bush has small leaves on it.
The wild grass looks golden in the sunlight.
The wild grass looks golden in the sunlight.
The peaks of the Pinnacles are framed with the branches of a pinyon pine tree in the foreground.
The peaks of the Pinnacles are framed with the branches of a pinyon pine tree in the foreground.

The Pinnacles are hills that are dotted with large boulders, which are similar to ones in Joshua Tree. Actually, many areas in California have large granite boulders, but this is the best way I can explain the boulders in this part of the San Bernardino Mountains. The only difference is there are no Joshua trees at this altitude, and chaparral and pinyon pines are found in this part of the mountains.

A trail has been worn through the brown wild grass. The grass on the trail is shorter and verdant green. A tree branch can be spotted, which looks like a hand coming out of the sky.
A trail has been worn through the brown wild grass. The grass on the trail is shorter and verdant green. A tree branch can be spotted, which looks like a hand coming out of the sky.
A small clearing filled with flaxen colored grass and chaparral.
A small clearing filled with flaxen colored grass and chaparral.
The old dirt portion of Highway 173 is visible in the distance.
The old dirt portion of Highway 173 is visible in the distance.
Another view of the dome shaped mountains in the distance.
Another view of the dome shaped mountains in the distance.
The pinyon pine branch looks like it is reaching towards the chaparral bush.
The pinyon pine branch looks like it is reaching towards the chaparral bush.
A closeup of the Mount Luna.
A closeup of the Mount Luna.
Another view of Mount Luna, with a chaparral bush in the foreground.
Another view of Mount Luna, with a chaparral bush in the foreground.
Some of the twigs on the pinyon pine tree branch do not have needles.
Some of the twigs on the pinyon pine tree branch do not have needles.
Pinyon pine cone sitting on a rock.
Pinyon pine cone sitting on a rock.
The pinyon pine cone with wild grass and twig in the capture.
The pinyon pine cone with wild grass and twig in the capture.

I remember trying a raw pinyon pine nuts on a hike many years ago as a child. The nuts were quite tasty, perhaps one day I will run across another tree with cones that has nuts.

Looking out across the mountains.
Looking out across the mountains.
There are more boulders on the hillsides on the climb towards the top.
There are more boulders on the hillsides on the climb towards the top.

Boulder outcroppings found in nature often influence how boulders are used in landscaping. The photos below will illustrate how large rock arrangements in nature often inspire landscapers going for the more natural look.

An outcropping of boulders surrounded by chaparral bushes. Nature inspires many boulder designs found in landscaping. Just take a look and see.
An outcropping of boulders surrounded by chaparral bushes. Nature inspires many boulder designs found in landscaping. Just take a look and see.
Zooming in on the boulder formation.
Zooming in on the boulder formation.

The large boulders here at the Pinnacles are very similar to the boulder formations found at Joshua Tree National Park. I am just more used to these ones because I grew up hiking at the Pinnacles.

Sun shining above the peaks.
Sun shining above the peaks.
The rays of sunlight add dimension to the chaparral and boulder covered hills.
The rays of sunlight add dimension to the chaparral and boulder covered hills.
A myriad of boulders are visible on the sun drenched peaks of the Pinnacles.
A myriad of boulders are visible on the sun drenched peaks of the Pinnacles.
Yucca plants and chaparral bushes grow among the large boulders.
Yucca plants and chaparral bushes grow among the large boulders.
The barren and dead brush is very indicative of February.
The barren and dead brush is very indicative of February.
Here I have zoomed out to showcase the granite rocks on this hillside.
Here I have zoomed out to showcase the granite rocks on this hillside.
The small beaver tail cactus is surrounded by granite rocks.
The small beaver tail cactus is surrounded by granite rocks.

The beaver tail cactus grows extensively in the Mojave Desert, but it also grows at higher altitudes up in the San Bernardino Mountains. The arid climate of the Pinnacles, except for a few snow and rainstorms, is perfect for cacti to thrive. Beaver tail cacti produce edible fruit which Native Americans in this region used to consume.

The beaver tail cactus do not bloom until the spring.
The beaver tail cactus do not bloom until the spring.
Blades of grass are growing in between the leaves of the beaver tail cactus.
Blades of grass are growing in between the leaves of the beaver tail cactus.
The boulders become denser on the hike towards the top of this peak.
The boulders become denser on the hike towards the top of this peak.

The video below is a slide show of photos that I took during my February hike to the Pinnacles.

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    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      2 years ago from Southern California, USA

      No, you are fine. I just wanted to clarify because the way I phrased that was confusing. I once rented an apartment out in the desert that had been previously occupied by two scientists who were studying the desert tortoise, which was how I first learned they were in this area. I have seen a few, but I have never been lucky enough to photograph one.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      2 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Ah! That makes more sense! Misinterpretation #2 for me. I've never seen any tortoise in the west, only some gopher tortoise in Florida. Knowing that they are in the San Bernadino mountains now makes that a destination site for me. I would love to capture a few photographs of them as well. Hopefully without seeing any scorpions up close!

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      2 years ago from Southern California, USA

      When I meant capture a tortoise, I meant capturing it in a photograph. I have never been one to take animals or objects out of nature.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      2 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      I can be so naive SP, believe it or not, I wasn't even thinking of the "horrible thing". If it makes you feel any better, although I know of that event, when I think of San Bernadino, I think of those beautiful mountains. Glad you didn't capture one of those tortoise, they're rare and gorgeous!

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      2 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Hi Ben,

      Yes, San Bernardino is now infamous for the horrible thing that happened there. However, the San Bernardino Mountains are not part of that city, just in close proximity. The entire name of the county is San Bernardino County, with the city of San Bernardino being the administrative hub of it. San Bernardino County is the largest county in the lower 48 states. I have seen desert tortoises a few times, but never captured one.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      2 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Really lovely SweetiePie, thanks for taking us there. The closest I've come to the chaparral environment is the edge of Las Vegas, unfortunaetly I ran out of resources and couldn't go for a long hike out in it, in August it was hot! San Bernadino is like a house hold world in American language, looks like a place everyone should visit at one time or another.

      See any desert tortoises?

      Ciao mamacita

      Ben

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      2 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Thank you, Boomer Music Man.

    • Boomer Music Man profile image

      Boomer Music Man 

      2 years ago

      I love your article. Your pictures are just so nice. You must have had a wonderful experience.

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      2 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Apparently, there are still places in the San Bernardino Mountains people claim are okay to drink water out of natural springs. I am not sure I would do that myself, but they seem okay doing it.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Back in the early 1980s, when I lived in San Bernardino, a friend and I made the mistake of hiking in the mountains in July. I was a spoiled Northern Californian who was used to finding streams everywhere (Lake Tahoe Backcountry), and apparently she was unused to hiking, so neither one of us brought water. The heat wasn't too bad, because of the altitude, but we got THIRSTY!!! We were lucky to find a spring midway up the mountain; we drank from it on our way up, and on our way back. LOL!

      Today, because water is no longer safe to drink, it is standard practice to bring your own, regardless of where you go.

    • SweetiePie profile imageAUTHOR

      SweetiePie 

      2 years ago from Southern California, USA

      February is a good month to hike for people who do not like the heat. The sky was bright and clear this day, but there are days when it is even more cerulean blue.

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 

      2 years ago from US

      I bet it is comfortable weather in Feb. The sky is so bright too.

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