Saturday, September 16, 2017

Arrastre Creek Aspen Grove

    One of the most elegant plants in North America grows only in a few selected location throughout California, most of which are in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Beneficiaries of cold winters and cool summers, most of this species is content to thrive in other montane locales in the Intermountain West and more frigid reaches of Canada and the United States. In Southern California, two stands of these rare tranquil trees grow only within the eastern San Bernardino Mountains.  The larger, far more frequently visited, and now burned grove is known simply as "Aspen Grove" in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.  At its peak it was quite frankly among the most spectacular jewels of the region as the trees graced gurgling Fish Creek.  However, the devastating 2015 Lake Fire has not only kept the trail to them closed at the time of this writing, but the grove itself has burned to the ground.  This is only a bad thing for us mortals, as the Aspen are fire-hardy individuals who thrive in rebirth through ash-laden soil.  It will be many decades though for this grove, and indeed the entire wilderness, to reach its same level of sublimity prior to the raging inferno.

Fortunately for arborists, there is another grove of these trembling trees, completely off-trail, unsigned, and hidden from everyday visitors tucked into the creek bed of an inconspicuous eastern range drainage.  This is the hidden Arrastre Creek Aspen Grove, filled with hundreds of this locally extremely rare beauty in a vale practically uninvited and unseen by even the most experienced of hikers.  This is unfortunate, because it is really quite a simple trip that could be made by most with reasonable hiking ability and excellent route finding.  

In order to keep this grove secret and untouched, there will be no directions posted publicly here to the location of this noble and delicate grove.   If you are interested in visiting the grove, I ask that you comment below with a brief resume of your outdoor experience and why you wish to visit the trees.  Please do not take this as pride, but a measure to keep this trees unspoiled for generations to come.  Also note, there will be no write-up, but only pictures.  A trail guide may be requested by the reader to view.      


Category: Easy
Miles: 2.75
Elevation Gain: 700'
Location: San Bernardino National Forest
Directions: (See Above Request)

Hiked: 9/16/2017.  No Adventure Pass Required.


Road heading down into Arrastre Creek

Trailside Flower in Sept.

Heading down....

PCT section

Conifer forest

Off trailing....

Behind this tree...

Small Trees

First glimpses of Fall coming... 
Beautiful White bark


Dense Stand


  1. Hi Joseph, first, let me say thank you for your post regarding the current conditions of the Aspen Grove. My wife and I were looking for places to see fall foliage in Southern California and heard about the Aspen Grove, but I wasn't sure if it was worth visiting since the fire from 2015.

    I am very curious about this other area that you mentioned in this article. I would love to know more about how to reach there, but I understand that you want to protect this place, especially since I have already hiked many areas in Southern California that have already been defaced by unrespecting people.

    I love nature and photography, and always seeking out areas less traveled. I was very fortunate to receive help from another person who also wanted to protect a certain location in Joshua Tree, so I hope I can receive the same fortune about this place. To this day, I haven't told anyone about that area.

    You can reach me at, and I thank you in advance!

  2. Hi Joseph,

    Thank you for your review and post on the aspen grove. I was very excited to find out that aspens exist in Southern California and was estatic to visit them in their fall glory. I did not realize though that the 2015 fire burned and closed down the popular Fish Creek location.

    Someone told me that there is a second grove near Arrastre Creek and I've been trying to pinpoint the location from old USFS documents and satellite images. I am hoping to go there this weekend and shoot pictures in their fall glory.

    I have a deep respect for the outdoors and nature and have done a ton of hiking. I used to do scouting (up to Eagle) which set the foundation for my hiking experience along with proper ethics.

    I'm also a big tree guy who does a lot of bonsai if you know what that is. I have my own website and blog: Actually in the gallery section of my page you can see pictures from my recent backpacking trips in the Angeles National forest.

    Naturally I look for interesting tree subject to photograph which is why I'd really love to find this grove. If you do not mind, could you share directions on how to find the grove?

    I completely understand your concern in preserving rare and beautiful locations like this. The past summer I worked near Chicago in Lemont, Il. They have a forest preserve there called Glen Waterfall Forest Preserve. In it there is a large man made waterfall that is more easily accessible and a popular location of the site. There is a real smaller waterfall that is a relic of the glacial period of which the location is not publically disclosed. A friend showed me where it was and boy was it beautiful. Equally rare as much of the midwest is highly cultivated and a fraction of it's forested regions remain.

    My name is Julian Tsai and you can reach me at I am open to discussing more to reassure you that I will treat this site with respect and preserve it for future generations.


  3. How in the world do I get directions? Im a solo hiker out of san diego. My Instagram handle is @ccastelli722 where you can find all of my weekend adventures. I have been waiting to visit the fish creek aspen trail since 2015. I would love to see this grove and its beauty!!


    1. Do you have off-trail experience? What is the highest mountain you have climbed in a day? Please answer these, and leave a comment with your email address, and I can send you directions and coordinates. Thanks!

  4. Hi Joseph,

    I am interested in venturing out here to see the autumn colors -- unfortunately as you mentioned the Fish Creek one is still closed off from the fire. I'm a freelance photographer as well as an occasional hiker -- been to Yosemite, Laguna Wilderness, Crystal Cove, and many other trails. I definitely understand your concern in preserving locations such as this and you have my word in protecting it. If you don't mind sharing the directions, my email is


    1. Hi Derek,

      Unfortunately, I do think you will get much. The past reports I have were about two weeks ago and the colors already had peaked. It may not be much. If you are still interested, please specify some particular trips you have done as well. Not only is this for this special place
      s protection, but for safety as well as it is very easy to get lost. I hope you understand :-) Thanks!

  5. Hi Joseph,

    Lovely blog. Thank you for keeping thengrove a secret to those who are willing to put the effort in.
    Before I ask about where the grove isnonly to have hopes dashed-what is the road to it like. I have a little ford sedan that is past it's days of accidental off-roading. My email is

    Keep on exploring,

  6. Hi, Joseph.

    I also found the Arrastre Creek grove. I used an old map and a picture of the grove that had some familiar looking mountains in it. Comparing the old map with Google Maps satellite pics, I was able to see it from above. Later, I bushwhacked into the grove. It’s good to have one to go to while Fish Creek is still closed.


    1. Just saw this comment, sorry...Glad you found it! Please keep it secret. Keep it safe.

  7. Thanks for the article. Yesterday I hiked the Aspen Grove Trail and Fish Creek trail to Lake Peak, all through the burn area. These trails just opened in August. The aspen groves are recovering rapidly with dense strands of trees already 8 feet high. Hope you can give me directions to the Arrastre grove which I would like to visit during the fall colors in early to mid-October. I have hiked along the PCT north of Onyx peak and familiar with the area. I have extensive hiking experience, having covered the PCT from mile 0 to 400 and recent hikes this summer to Palisade glacier and Mt Langley.

    1. I will need you to leave me your email so I can respond confidentially to you.

    2. Joseph,
      Thanks for the response, you can reach me at

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