Pack your hiking boots, hit the trail, and trek through Douglas fir forests. Breathe in the scent of tall ponderosa pines and keep an eye out for squirrels, birds, and possibly even deer! You’re in Big Bear now, and that means adventure.
Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, these six Big Bear hiking trails should be at the top of your list.
This unique Big Bear hiking path is the perfect spot to bring the whole family. Woodland Interpretive Trail is an easy mile-and-a-half loop that has only 300 feet of elevation gain. In addition to being a great short workout, the hike is also educational! Grab a pamphlet at the entrance and follow the self-guided tour to learn more about the local flora, fauna, and geology.
To access the trail, drive around to the north side of the lake until you hit Highway 38. The entrance to the trail is about a quarter-mile west of the Stanfield Cutoff, and you’ll need a Southern California Forest Adventure Pass* in order to park in the lot.
A local favorite, Castle Rock Trail is a fairly short, 2.4-mile round-trip journey that boasts breathtaking panoramic views of the valley. Be aware that the first half-mile is steep, but it levels off when you reach the granite rock at the peak. Kids can definitely join in on the fun, and they’ll love the seasonal stream that weaves through most of the hike. Although the 500-foot elevation gain may seem difficult on the way up, it makes your leisurely hike back down that much more enjoyable. Take time to search for insects, inspect the cedar and fir trees, and toss rocks into the nearby waterfall.
Castle Rock Trail is located just off Highway 18, one mile east of Big Bear Dam. Parking can be limited in the vicinity of this popular hike, but it’s one you won’t want to miss. If you can't find parking, it would be well worth it to come back another day, perhaps at an earlier time.
Pick wildflowers while you meander through oak and pine trees along Pine Knot Trail. Bring your camera on this moderately difficult hike—the views of Big Bear Lake are unparalleled! Continue along the switchbacks through the forest as you climb 1,400 feet to Grand View Point, where you can spot San Gorgonio Mountain and Catalina Island in the distance. Allot three to four hours to complete this six-mile round-trip hike.
To get to Pine Knot Trail, take Highway 18 to Big Bear Dam on the west side of the lake. Turn right and continue east along the highway until you reach Mill Creek Road. Take another right and you’ll find a parking lot for the trailhead at the Aspen Glen Picnic Area (note that you will need an Adventure Pass to park in this lot).
With 750 feet of elevation gain, Cougar Crest Trail ranks between moderate and difficult. So, if you’re looking for a heart-pumping workout with an incredible reward at the peak, this hike is for you! Bring plenty of water and snacks, as you’ll be taking on this five-and-a-half mile trail for about half the day. Also, be sure to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at the summit of Bertha Peak. The first mile is an easy climb, but as you progress you’ll start to feel the effects of the elevation gain. The Cougar Crest Trail ends where it meets the famous Pacific Crest Trail—but don’t stop there! Continue down the dirt maintenance road to Bertha Peak and take in amazing views of Bear Valley, Holcomb Valley, and the Mojave Desert on a clear day.
Driving to this trail is a breeze, as it’s close to the Big Bear Discovery Center parking lot (just off Highway 38). If you don’t mind walking the extra half-mile from the Discovery Center lot to the trailhead, you’ll enjoy free parking until 5 p.m. each day!
Open seasonally from April through October, this long yet serene trail in Fawnskin is one you won't want to miss. Wind through patches of sunshine and shade as you climb the first portion of switchbacks. After you conquer the first steep section, the terrain levels off for the remainder of the three-and-a-half-mile trail (seven miles round-trip). With 1,000 feet of elevation gain, Gray’s Peak Trail isn’t for the inexperienced hiker and tends to be difficult for younger adventurers. However, if you’re up for a long journey through the woods, take the time to try out this challenging trail!
The Gray’s Peak path is only open seasonally due to its location in the middle of Fawnskin’s bald eagle wintering habitat area (on the north side of Big Bear Lake). Take Highway 38 to roughly half a mile west of Fawnskin, where you’ll see signs for the Grout Bay Picnic Area. Feel free to park anywhere in the picnic area lot, but note that you’ll need an Adventure Pass.
The Champion Lodgepole Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Big Bear due to the rare lodgepole pines that tower over the trail. It’s a nice, easy stroll, and only around one mile round-trip with a 50-foot elevation gain. You could easily hike in and out of Lodgepole, then head down the Siberia Creek Trail on your way back.
The scenery and seasonal wildflowers along the Siberia Creek Trail make the strenuous 12-mile round-trip hike worth your toil. If you don’t want to trek six miles to Siberia Creek Trail Camp, you can alternatively hike one mile in (two miles in and out) to the Gunsight before turning back. The first mile is absolutely stunning, with colorful foliage in the fall and trickling waterfalls in the summer—not to mention some of the biggest ponderosa pines you’ll ever see! If you dare to venture past the first mile, be prepared to climb down large boulders through the gorge to the end of the trail.
To reach these trails, take Mill Creek Road southwest and follow it to the left where it intersects with Tulip Lane. After another mile, the road will become dirt. Once you reach 2N11, take a left and follow the signs to the parking area. You will need an Adventure Pass to park in this lot.
Whether you’re bringing the family or taking on a new adventure with other seasoned hikers, Big Bear has you covered! Any of these Big Bear hiking trails through gorgeous Southern California forest scenery will fuel your dreams for weeks to come.
*Adventure Passes are available for purchase on myscenicdrives.com, by phone, through the mail, and at numerous locations around Big Bear Lake (including the Big Bear Visitor Center).