Not to be confused with the Strawberry Peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, the San Bernardinos version lacks the hands-on scrambling and seclusion of its rugged western cousin, but instead offers up some spectacular views and the ability to pop inside an historic fire lookout still manned by volunteers. And yes, there’s still a good climb if you’re looking for a workout.
This route begins near a large stone gate marked with a sign for the San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust.
This area is popular with schoolchildren in the region, and there are interpretive displays set up along the lower network of trails. Large carved stones feature words used by the Serrano Tribe that previously lived here.
Keep to the right to begin your gradual ascent.
The trail here is wide and heavily forested. You’ll have lots of shade and enjoy the rich scent of pine in the air as you continue onward.
At 0.4 mile, the trail leaves the forest cover for some low chaparral and manzanita. Look for a spur trail heading to the southeast. This will take you to a clearing at Red Rock Wall Point, which offers up some beautiful views in nearly every direction.
Backtrack to the trail, then keep to the right. The trail hugs the north side of the Rim of the World Highway, and at mile 1 passes beneath one of the most majestic Jeffrey pines I have ever seen in my life:
From here, the established (and easy) trail heads north back to the trailhead. Instead, you will continue hiking to the northeast, aiming for a small parking area that functions as an alternate trailhead for those coming to the region from the Rim of the World Highway.
Behind two large water tanks, a series of very steep, very unmaintained use trails switchback their way up the side of Strawberry Peak.
Stretch out your legs, steel your spine, and head on up — there are a few branches along the way, but you’ll be climbing up just over 600 feet in about 0.6 mile. It’s not technical, but the ground may be slippery and dusty, so be sure to take your time on the way up and especially on the way down.
(Forgive the lack of photos here — when we approached this climb, a huge swarm of schoolchildren were on their way to the summit on a guided field trip — I assume the trail isn’t regularly subject to those sorts of crowds and didn’t want to portray it that way!)
By 1.6 miles, you’ll make it to the top, where a paved road provides access to the radio and satellite equipment.
Follow the road toward the towers, and if the fire lookout is currently being manned by volunteers, you’ll be able to climb up the tower to the Strawberry Peak Lookout. You can read up on the history of fire lookouts, get an explanation as to how they work, and even use the Fire Finder if they’re not too busy.
The Strawberry Peak Lookout was built in 1933 and is usually staffed from Memorial Day through Labor Day … but as fire seasons get longer, you can expect there to be more volunteers hanging around later into the year.
When you’re done, head back down the side of the Peak and at 2.2 miles, keep to the right to head back down to the trailhead.
The lower portion of the trails is in very good shape and should be manageable for most hikers. The ridge route up to Strawberry Peak is extremely steep and shadeless, and is on slippery slope. Caution should be exercised here.
The trailhead is located across the street from the Pinecrest Conference Center, in the San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust gate. Street parking is available but no passes are needed.
With recent wildfire damage and ongoing waves of COVID-19 infections and restrictions, National Forest, National Park, and other public land closures, restrictions, or social distancing guidelines may be in-effect.
If infection rates are on the rise, please do your best to remain local for your hikes. If you do travel, please be mindful of small gateway communities and avoid as much interaction as you can. Also remember to be extra prepared with supplies so you don't have to stop somewhere outside your local community for gas, food, or anything else.
Please be sure to contact the local land management agency BEFORE you head out, as these conditions are likely to change without enough notice for us to fully stay on top of them. Thanks, and stay safe!
Click here to read the current CDC guidelines for traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.