SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Due to unsustainable overcrowding, officials with San Bernardino National Forest this Friday (May 22) will implement a closure of Deep Creek for an approximately 2.5-mile stretch in the Lake Arrowhead area.
The popularity of the creek’s swimming holes, most notably at Aztec Falls, over the past several years has created a growing traffic and parking problem on the narrow Forest Service roads leading to the creek.
“The crowds at Aztec Falls and nearby swimming holes have reached a tipping point,” said Mountaintop District Ranger Marc Stamer. “We need to take a pause for the safety of everyone and protection of the river so we can come up with a plan for visitors to sustainably recreate.”
Case in point, two weeks ago on Saturday, May 9, visitation grew to the point where parking spilled a half mile outside the National Forest border, creating a two mile road hike to the Splinters Cabin Trailhead, which accesses the creek. The hike to the nearest point on the creek is normally a tenth of a mile from the Splinters Cabin parking lot (Aztec Falls from the parking lot is approximately one half mile).
That same day, San Bernardino County Fire and Sheriff’s Department units responding to a 911 call for an injury in the creek could not access the area. Parking along the single lane Forest Service roads created gridlock where vehicles had no room to pull over to let oncoming ones pass. To reach the injured visitor, the operation turned into an air rescue.
The next week, on Saturday, May 16, similar levels of visitation were reached, creating more gridlock on the Forest Service roads. San Bernardino County Fire could not get a type 3 engine into the area for general patrol and a California Highway Patrol unit became stuck in traffic for a few hours. San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department units were prompted closed the road for a few hours to relieve the congestion.
During the closure, Forest staff will work toward creating a recreation management plan for the area to address congestion and parking, as well as other challenges in managing this section of Deep Creek, including illegal campfires, graffiti and trash.
- The Forest Order closing the area is set for one year and may be lifted early or expanded.
- The closure covers the creek going north from Splinters Cabin Trailhead to Devils Hole.
- The picnic area and Splinters Cabin Road (Forest Road No. 3N34D) will also be closed to vehicles and foot traffic.
- Thru-hiking the area on the Pacific Crest Trail will be allowed, however, starting the trail from Splinters Cabin will not be allowed at this time.
A violation of this prohibition is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.
(source: San Bernardino National Forest news release)