Hiking at Big Bear Lake

A large part of what makes traveling so exciting is getting out and seeing what the world has to offer. Each destination offers something new, whether for sandy beaches, tranquil forests, rugged mountains, or even urban delights, like famous amusement parks and inspiring museums. No matter where you go, you’re sure to discover something unique, something unexpected. The small town of Big Bear, California, is one such place where you can find an incredible blend of scenic terrain and joyful atmosphere.

Nestled between the mountains at the center of the San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear Lake provides a multitude of experiences that acutely highlight its natural beauty. During winter, skiing and snowboarding are the activities of choice, with a near endless number of ski runs across multiple mountain resorts. In summer, Big Bear Lake comes alive with activity; fishermen cast their lines, boaters and swimmers explore the waters, and Big Bear Lake feels like a true summer paradise.

Visitors who still wish to tackle the mountainous terrain during the summer won’t be able to ski anymore, but a new activity lends itself to summertime: hiking! Lace up your most comfortable pair of hiking boots, grab a map of the area, purchase an Adventure Pass from the Big Bear Discovery Center (these let you park in the lots near the trailheads), and head out on one of Big Bear’s numerous hiking trails. If you aren’t sure where to get started—or you need some guidance on the difficulty level of the various trails—read on below for a list of the top hiking trails in Big Bear Lake!

Castle Rock Trail

One of the more iconic rock formations in Big Bear Lake, Castle Rock, sits at the end of this moderately difficult trail. With a length of about two miles round trip from the parking area and 700 feet of elevation change, Castle Rock Trail offers some of the more expansive views of the area, especially if you climb up Castle Rock at the end of the trail. From early spring until mid-summer, water rushing through the gully is a common sight, and there’s often a waterfall along the trail as well. Once you reach the saddle at the top of this trail, you’ll notice Castle Rock to the east. If you feel extra adventurous, there’s an indentation to the northwest of the formation that will let you climb to the summit for an exquisite view over the lake.

To reach the trailhead for Castle Rock Trail, head west on State Highway 18 from Big Bear Village, or east from Big Bear Dam, looking for the turnout to the parking area on the south side of the highway.

Pine Knot Trail

Another moderate trail, Pine Knot Trail is a six-mile hike—round trip—that starts at the Aspen Glen Picnic Area, south of Mill Creek Rd. Pine Knot Trail is popular among hikers, bikers, and horseback riders alike, so be sure to watch out for fellow explorers and show courtesy. Along the way, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful views of the lake. The trail ends at Grandview Point, with a gorgeous vista across the Santa Ana River Valley. While this trail isn’t quite as difficult as Castle Rock Trail, it’s much longer; so, be prepared by bringing plenty of water.

Cougar Crest Trail

Cougar Crest Trail is located a little over half a mile west of the Big Bear Discovery Center, on Highway 38. This trail starts out with a gentle slope for about one mile before getting steeper. Considered a moderate-to-difficult trail, those who aren’t in good health may want to steer clear of this hike. Those who can conquer the rigors of the trail—2.2 miles one way—will find themselves at a juncture to the famous Pacific Crest Trail. Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,659-mile-long hiking trail that connects Canada and Mexico.

The Alpine Pedal Path

If you’ve been waiting for an easy hike for all ages, the Alpine Pedal Path is for you! This 3.2-mile asphalt path connects the Stanfield Cutoff to the Serrano Campground, and is used by everyone, from bikers and skaters to hikers and families with strollers. Walk, jog, or run along the north side of Big Bear Lake on this comfortable path, or take a break by sitting at one of the benches along the way. You can even bring your dog; just be sure to keep pets on a leash and clean up after them.

Explore Big Bear’s Natural Terrain

There are many more exciting and challenging hiking trails in Big Bear to be explored, including the Skyline Trail, a relatively new trail along the back of Snow Summit that’s designed to become the backbone of an entirely new trail system. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just starting out, Big Bear offers many trails that will cater to your level. Once you’ve caught the hiking bug, you may even decide to tackle the ultimate challenge: hiking the Pacific Crest Trail!

Jacob Levine is an online blogger working for Big Bear Cabins, the leading provider of vacation rentals in the Big Bear area. For more information, visit our site today!

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