By TIM WILCOX
Special to the Alpine Mountaineer
Where: East of Running Springs
Length: 2.5-mile double loop
Elevation gain: none
Let’s range a little farther than usual this week to visit Green Valley Lake. Situated at 7,200 feet, it’s the highest community in the San Bernardino Mountains. Its tagline, displayed on the Highway 18 turnoff sign, is “Above the Clouds.” Especially on cooler days when fog creeps up onto the Rim like a rising tide, that seems altogether apropos.
Getting there is easy as long as the roads are free of snow and ice, which is clearly the case during these lovely fall days. From the main intersection in Running Springs, motor east and downhill through Arrowbear Lake about 2.5 miles. Turn left onto Green Valley Lake Road and drive for another four miles. There’s the lake. The dam, at its western end, was built nearly 100 years ago.
Compared to Lake Arrowhead (782 acres) and even Lake Gregory (84 acres), this is a tiny body of water covering only nine acres. Still, it’s definitely a lake and not a pond. This too: It seems like the perfect size for this charming alpine hamlet.
On the Road and the Trail
Park in the large lot across from the Log Cabin Café and general store. Then walk east along the lot, past Lakeside Park with its playful “big bear” slide, onto Green Valley Lake Road. On the left you’ll see a thickly vegetated pond. Not far beyond it is Lakeside Drive. Turn left there.
FYI, we’re taking this route to extend the length of the hike rather than walk directly around the lake itself. That will make more sense momentarily.
Anyway, continue on Lakeside Drive for a quarter mile or so past Yukon Drive on the right and a tiny red cabin with an imposing stone chimney/fireplace on the left. Apart from passing cars, you’ll be struck by how quiet it is here.
Walk by the north side of the park and the beach—empty this time of year but usually full during summer weekends. Make another turn to the left where Lakeside gives way to Wild Rose Drive. The dirt road there leads to a parking area along the lake. Immediately beyond it is a more narrow road, then an actual trail at water’s edge with benches set along the way. Here, when wind is absent, the glassy expanse of water is inspiring and calming.
Just past the one-mile mark, you come to the poured-concrete dam, which is a series of three semi-circles. A fence-lined walkway along the entire structure ensures safe transit.
After you’ve crossed the dam, go left for a short distance on Canyon Drive until you come to the lake’s prominent welcome sign. Walk underneath it and proceed on the trail, which meanders through the trees along the shoreline. Passing rowboats and pedal craft on the left, you’ll approach the beach area. Moments later you’re back in the big lot and at your vehicle. You’ve been hiking for 1.5 miles.
Is this the end of your adventure? Not necessarily. Consider walking through Lakeside Park, past the picnic tables and over a short bridge. Now you’re back on Lakeside Drive. Go left and retrace your steps to the dirt road, into the parking area and onto the trail. Extend the pedestrian encore across the dam, under the welcome sign and along the lake’s southern perimeter. When you finally return to your vehicle, you’ll have hiked 2.5 miles, completing a scenic double loop.
NOTES: The highest-elevation community in our mountains is an appealing, low-key hamlet clustered around a nine-acre lake. No powerboats disturb this serene setting. Hiking the double loop takes about one hour.