Explore Gold Fever Trail
Take a journey into the 1860s when eager prospectors from across the country - and some internationals - flocked to Big Bear Valley in search of the 'mother lode'. Welcome to Gold Rush country!
The historic Gold Fever Trail is a self-guided driving tour through Holcomb Valley, the center of Big Bear's gold rush. Discover the ruins and remains of Belleville, the once lively miners' town. With a little imagination you can picture the old-time miners with their gold pans in the creeks, their stamp mills in the field, their rowdy saloons and their wild nights. It was truly the Wild West.
Here we go! And keep your eyes peeled, the mother lode of gold may just be under your nose!
Gold Fever Trail begins at Polique Canyon Road off of North Shore Drive. The journey makes its way along fire roads so be sure your vehicle has high clearance and 4-wheel or all-wheel drive. It is highly recommended that you use a GPS device to follow the route. While the handy pamphlet (available for free in the Big Bear Lake Visitor Center) does include a map, it is best to supplement with a detailed GPS. The pamphlet does describe each site's significance and what transpired in the area.
Posts 1, 2, & 3
The first two posted sites are along Polique Canyon Rd. The pamphlet will give you a general idea of their location. Be on the lookout for marker signs with a crossed shovel and pick-axe. The second site (Last Chance Placer) is missing the sign so look for a "2" to your right along 2N09 before turning onto 3N16.
The third site calls on your imagination to bring the history to life. At Two Gun Bill's Saloon, pause to hear the drunken shouts and laughter, smell the spilt beer and musty tavern air, and see the rowdy crowds toasting their fortunes - or wallowing in their failed prospects.
Post #1 - Holcomb Valley View Trail
Posts 4, 5, & 6
At Grasshopper Quartz Mill, sand mounds represent the processed ore from the stamp mill that once sat here, crushing up gold ore from the John Bull mines. A rusted-out water pump is all that remains, but you can imagine miners working under the sun, moving the earth, and sweating for hours all in the hopes of striking it rich.
Holcomb Valley's original settlement 'Belleville' was a Wild West town through and through and with its development came the outlaws, the claim jumpers, and the gamblers. Justice rang true to the Wild West spirit as illustrated at Hangman's Tree. You can imagine the ominous message a hanging convict would send to anyone looking to make trouble in town.
At Post 6, see where it all began for Bill Holcomb. The area is where he first discovered gold in the valley, envision a seasonal stream glittering with flecks of pure gold!
Belleville Cabin - In 1861, the town missed becoming the San Bernardino County Seat by two votes. The County Seat is currently in the city of San Bernardino.
While the Big Bear Gold Rush was rather short-lived and few miners ever really struck it rich, its significance can be seen in the thriving tourism destination that Big Bear is today.
A 1874 stamp mill at Gold Mountain after it burned in 1878.
Posts 7, 8, & 9
The Belleville Cabin is one of Big Bear's most notable landmarks. The original purpose of this structure is up to your imagination, but the style was quite common in the area and could be built quickly. A little walk past the cabin and you'll see a more primitive method of grinding ore that operated under mule power. Then pay a visit and your respects to Ross, whose gravesite sits right at his place of death.
Posts 10, 11, &12
Now in ruins, the Pygmy Cabin was somewhat mysterious in that it was only 6 feet in height. It unfortunately burned in 1983 just three years after it was restored for conservation.
Mining methods transitioned after most of the 'placer mining' stakes were claimed in the valley. Quartz stone was an exciting find because it indicated the presence of gold. Metzger Mine and the Lucky Baldwin Mine were both operations along spotted quartz veins, the latter mine being in operation until 1923.