Journey through the the surreal landscape of the Hanna Flat trail singed by fire only a few years ago.
9.8 miles round trip
From Riverside, take the 91 freeway east toward San Bernardino. The 91 freeway will become the 215. Merge onto the 10 freeway going east toward Redlands. Continue about 5 miles, and merge onto the 210 west. After another 5 miles, take the exit toward the 330 north (Mountain Resorts). Highway 330 switchbacks up into the San Bernardino Mountains until it merges with Highway 18. Continue eastward on Highway 18 toward Big Bear Lake.
Upon reaching the Big Bear Dam, turn left onto North Shore Drive and continue for about 3 miles. The Gray’s Peak trailhead sign will be on the left diagonally across the street from the Grout Bay Picnic Area. The Hanna Flat trail begins at the Gray’s Peak trailhead. Turn left into the Gray’s Peak parking lot. (Remember an Adventure Pass is needed to park in the San Bernardino Mountains.)
Sometimes called the “Grout Bay trail,” the Hanna Flat trail begins at the Gray’s Peak trailhead where the two trails start as one and then split in about 1 mile. For the first 0.3 of a mile, the trail switchbacks steeply up a shaded hillside overlooking the lake. Look for an old watertank next to the trail on the left after 0.1 of a mile. When the trail begins to plateau and head toward the west, keep an eye out for trail signs; sometimes difficult to see, the trail signs along the Hanna Flat trail are nothing more than brown posts with “trail” written in small letters or a picture of a hiker, biker, or horseback rider. 0.7 of a mile from the trailhead, an old washed out forest road forks toward the right, be mindful of the trail signs and keep toward the left. After another 350 feet, the Hanna Flat trail merges with forest road 2N04X; turn right. Follow the road for another 0.3 of mile until it merges with forest road 2N70; turn right once again. The turnoff for the Gray’s Peak trail will appear on the left in about 500 feet; continue along the 2N70 toward the right for about 150 feet. Another sign will appear on the right that reads “Hanna Flat Campground;” turn right here.
Curving snake-like along a forested slope, the Hanna Flat trail zig-zags north and west paralleling the forest road 2N70. About 0.7 of a mile from the Hanna Flat sign, the trail meets the 2N70 again and merges with it for 380 feet; the details of that 380 feet are as follows: be sure to turn right onto the forest road, continue past a trail post, keep toward the left when the forest road splits (ignore the 2N79Y and continue on the 2N70), and, immediately after the split, keep an eye out for the trail post on the right showing where the trail forks away from the road. Congratulations! this is the first of five road crossings on the Hanna Flat trail!
Heading away from the road, the devastation from the 2007 Butler #2 Fire begins to evidence itself in the charred trees and blacked timbers surrounding the trail. However, new growth and new life fill the landscape as well: listen for the birds making their home in the dead trees, look for green plants springing up especially in the more watered areas, and search along the trail for newly planted pine trees protected by screens set up by the Forest Service (be careful not to leave the trail in these sensitive areas). In about 0.5 of a mile, Hanna Flat trail crosses Grout Creek. The trail gently drifts away from the creek and crosses forest road 2N13 in another 0.2 of a mile. Cross the beautiful quartz gravel of the 2N13 and continue the trail past the brown post on the other side.
Smaller streams branching off from Grout Creek cross the trail at several points in this area. 0.6 of mile from the previous forest road crossing, the trail passes over the 2N80. Continue the trail past the sign post on the other side of the road.
As the trail curves toward the west, look for two watertanks visible on the right. On the left, San Gorgonio Peak, also known as “Old Grayback,” looms in the distance. The next road crossing appears 0.5 of a mile from the last one. Cross over the 2N68 and continue the trail past the post on the other side.
Another trail sign post clarifies the path as the trail winds through rocks and brush. In 0.5 of a mile, the trail crosses the fifth and last of its fire roads: the well marked 2N01X. To find the trail sign marking the continuation on the other side, turn right and walk slightly up the road. Follow the trail past the sign post on the left.
The final leg of this journey heads northward and then turns sharply east. Surrounding the trail, the foliage and trees abruptly become green as Hanna Flat Campground reveals itself on the left. A long slope overlooks the campground as the trail angles downward to its destination. A few planks over a muddy patch in the trail almost seem like a finish line as the final trail sign greets the weary hiker with a large arrow pointing to trail’s end. And sure enough, just around the bend, the trail ends at the Hanna Flat Campground between campsites 49 and 51.
The Gray’s Peak trailhead is closed from November 1st to April 1st because this area is a Bald Eagle nesting ground.
For more information about fire awareness, please visit the Keller Peak Fire Lookout or one of these other great trails: The Children’s Forest Trail of the Phoenix, Heap’s Peak Arboretum, or Switzer Park.