The creek crossing at Bear Creek can be avoided by walking across the bridge and around the hillside and back down to the trail but it is not easy.
The High Bridge Trail
slowly switchbacks up the ridge to the ponds at the top. Rather than being an old ranch or fire road, this trail was actually designed and built as a trail, so it is not very steep and is nice and narrow as a trail should be. In fact, it is such a shallow gradient, that I hadn't noticed how high we were until the return trip, looking down on the parking area.
Once you hit the first couple of ponds, you'll have choices as to where to go. For the suggested ride keep going until the 3 Ponds Trail
tees into Brophy Canyon Trail
. (There is also a jeep track that heads straight uphill) Turn right and follow the fire road to a small creek crossing after a long downhill. Right after you cross the creek look for a trail on your left, if you get to the Road Kill Cafe (a dilapidated shack after the 2nd ditch) you have gone too far.
This is Ridge Spur
; one of several ways to gain the upper ridge and it includes two very steep sections that can be ridden if you have good technique. The trail soon pulls up on a gentle ridge and passes a good sized pond below on the left. Continue uphill until the trail takes a hard left hand turn and rolls past a small pond on the right.
A final push brings you out onto Cache Creek Ridge Trail
. (If you need to bailout; Turn right and head for another trail-head on Highway 20) I like to go left and follow the Ridge. There are several trails that branch off. Stay on the ridge and keep your eyes open for an abandon Caterpillar Tractor. At the tractor, take a hard left. This is the top of Brophy Canyon Trail
You'll be back at the 3 Ponds Trail
in a flash. From here it is an easy run back the way you came. For a further adventure try the Brophy Canyon Descent to Bear Creek Trail