RIDING ATVs AT BIG BEAR’S CACTUS FLATS
Cactus Flats staging area was originally a mixing table (the rock and sand were used for highway projects) that created a large open area that attracted OHV’s (Off Highway vehicles). In 1989 the U.S. Forest Service designated the area for OHV recreation to keep the recreational traffic out of the neighborhoods and onto a designated road/trail system.
Cactus flats is located off Highway 18, north of Baldwin lake, on the way down the mountain toward Lucerne Valley; turn onto 3N03 and take a right onto 3N07Y to the staging area. “Green sticker vehicles are welcome there year round,” says Greg Hoffman, a 20 year OHV Manager for the U.S. Forest Service, “ and the road sticker vehicles are allowed to operate from November 1 through February 28.” Green and Red stickers are issued by DMV to motorized off-road vehicles. Green-stickered vehicles are allowed to operate on public land all year. While red-stikered vehicles – those that were manufactured after January 1, 1997 and do NOT meet the California Air Resources Board emission standards – may only operate on public lands during designated times of the year. Visit http://www.calohv.ca.gov/ to determine the specific dated for and riding area question.
In the staging area, people can offload their ATV, picnic and view others riding. “There they can rife a 25-mile loop that is made up of both trails and roads,” says Hoffman. Three trail heads lead out from Cactus Flats’ staging area, Joshua Loop, Pinion Trail and the most difficult, Vista Trail, which are all 50-inch wide trails.
In addition, a variety of other recreational areas lead to Cactus Flats, catering to the tastes of ride lengths and degree of difficulty. Out about six miles or so (off 2N51Y) is Round Valley Group Camp, it had water, Picnic tables, fire rings, a restroom, parking and camping (a reservation is required to camp). The Rose Mines (3N03 to 2N02) have gold mining sites and wonderful history. Upper Rattle Snake Canyon (2N02 and 2N70y) has the most difficult roads for those riders that enjoy more of a challenge. “ If travelers are street legal they can ride out an additional 15 miles to Pioneer Town past Upper Rattle Snake Canyon,” explains Hoffman, 2N02 goes through burnt Canyon and winds up on BLM land which leads to Pioneer Town.
Dispersed camping is available year round. “They can have campfires out there during non-fire season but check with the Discovery Center,” says Hoffman. A campfire permit is required and can be acquired at the Discovery center for free. If it is the fire season Coleman stoves and lanterns can be used as long as they produce no ash; a permit is still required for their operation.
Keep in mind that there a few rules you will want to follow. Helmets are a must. Riding double is not permitted. And it is important that all ATV have U.S. Forest service approved spark arresters. Any street legal vehicles, such as trucks and/or trailers, are required to have an adventure pass (Green sticker vehicles are not required). To keep it clean, there is a “pack it in and pack it out” policy that applies to all. There are no trash receptacles because people were “dumping” and the animals were getting into the trash.
Dirt bikes and quads have once again become more of a family sport. Although thought to be more youth oriented, there is an increase of parents and whole families participating. According to Hoffman, the Big Bear Valley alone makes up approximately 40 percent of the people that gather at Cactus Flats to enjoy the outdoor recreation it has to offer.