Lake Arrowhead Hikes Heart Rock Trail

7 Mistakes to Avoid at the Heart Rock Trail

The Heart Rock Trail is one of our favorite Lake Arrowhead Hikes. It’s also known by many names – Heart Creek Trail, Heart Rock Waterfall, Heart Rock Falls, and Heart Shaped Rock Crestline.

This 1.3 mile out and back hike in the San Bernardino National Forest is easy and beautiful with an amazing heart shaped rock formation at the end. And, if you’re going in spring or after a rain, you might see the Heart Rock Waterfall.

Since we’ve done this hike many times, we’ve noticed that people run into the same problems repeatedly. These tips are here to help you know what to expect and to have a great time.

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Heart Rock Creek Trail

Mistakes to Avoid at the Heart Rock Trail

Right off the bat, people have a tough time getting to the trail. Google maps send you to the wrong spot so set your directions for Camp Seely. The parking area is on the side of the road before the Camp Seely gate. Once you get going, you’re next challenge is finding the trail which brings us to the first “mistake.”

1. Missing the Poorly Marked Turnoff to Heart Rock Trail

Trail Entrance

The biggest mistake that happens on the heart rock hike is people missing the heart rock trail It happens because the trail is basically unmarked. When you see these big logs, veer off to the right instead of going straight on the paved road.

We walked back on the paved road this last time and I would guess that 75% of the people that go on this hike miss the actual Heart Rock Trail. Some people on the road miss the Heart Rock formation at the end.

Whether you take the road or the trail, you can still get to the same place. But the trail is so much prettier with views of Seely Creek and the canyon’s beautiful rock walls. Get the most bang for your buck by walking on the the Heart Rock trail.

2. Not Bringing the Right Gear

First of all, the terrain on almost all California hikes includes slippery gravel. Whenever there is an incline, it becomes easy to fall if you are not wearing hiking shoes or trail runners. Don’t wear flip flops, sandals, flats or sneakers with no grip.

You also need a good grip on your shoes if you are planning to climb over to Heart Rock Falls. In fact, you should bring a day pack so your hands are free to help you navigate the climb. You will need to use your hands at some points.

Last but not least, you might want to bring hand sanitizer to clean your hands after touching everything and water to drink.

  • TRAIL RUNNERS – Getting a good pair of trail runners is so worth it for hiking in California. They last for a long time, you won’t wear out your regular sneakers and most importantly, you won’t slip.
  • DAY PACK – A day pack for hiking keeps your hands free and carries everything you need like keys, sunscreen, water, an extra clothing layer, and more. Photographers love a day pack for bringing camera gear that can also accommodate a tripod.
  • COLLAPSIBLE WATER BOTTLE – a collapsible water bottle is handy because it is small when it’s empty.

3. Heart Rock Trail is a Pet Friendly Hike But Think Twice About Bringing Pets

This is definitely a pet friendly hike and we brought our dog. We also saw everyone else with a dog and some of them were struggling. The reason you might not want to bring your dog is that if you are climbing to the Heart Rock Falls, you might have to carry your dog or tie them up while you do it.

We saw one dog tied up that was barking like crazy. We carried our small dog up into cave, which you can see in the photos. I was honestly scared of dropping him or one of us falling because it’s an awkward climb to get in and out of the cave.

Heart Rock Hike Fall Foliage

4. Doing the Heart Rock Hike at the Wrong Time of Day

The best time of day to do the Heart Rock hike is in the morning. You can pretty much have the trail to yourself. A majority of people go midday and it gets busy, especially on weekends.

Don’t make the mistake that we first did thinking we could go right before sunset. The light drops so quickly after sunset that you’ll be in the dark and there are no special sunset views to be had.

5. Going the Wrong Time of Year to See the Heart Rock Waterfall

The waterfall is active with spring runoff or a big rain. Most of the year the waterfall is dry. This is a great hike year round as long as you are not expecting to see a waterfall at the wrong time of year.

Southern California Lake Gregory Fall

6. The Heart Rock Trail is in Crestline, not Lake Arrowhead

Crestline is the first area you will come to when you are heading up to Lake Arrowhead. It’s right near Lake Gregory. The Heart Rock trailhead is approximately 10 miles from Lake Arrowhead depending on where you are staying. It’s worth the drive over and I consider it one of my favorite Lake Arrowhead hikes.

There are some cute stores that you can check out when you’re in Crestline like Hearth & Sage. For a post hike meal, stop at Hortencia’s, one of the most popular Lake Arrowhead restaurants because of the view.

7. Please Do Not Leave Trash

The last time we were there, people left trail mix wrappers. There was also graffiti inside the cave. Aztec Falls was one of the best Lake Arrowhead Hikes with cliff jumping into a clear pool of water. Unfortunately it’s closed now because people treated it so poorly. We can’t let Heart Rock Falls suffer the same fate.

Practice Leave No Trace principles. Whatever you take in, you take out. Leave the area better than you found it, meaning pick up trash from that is left by thoughtless people. Take care of these special outdoor places so they stay beautiful for everyone.


Let us know how you enjoy the Heart Rock hike and tell us if you have any other tips that we missed. There are so many great hikes in Lake Arrowhead and the San Bernardino Mountains. This is one of our faves – we hope you love it too!

At the top of this post you’ll find links to other travel guides for Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear.

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