10 Best Big Bear Hiking Trails

There are several trails to explore during your stay at Big Bear Lakefront cabins. On these trails, you will get to experience the most gorgeous and serene waterfront, forest views, pine trees, and wildlife.

Nestled between the mountains at the heart of the San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear provides a number of adventurous experiences to its visitors. Hiking at Big Bear Lake is one of the most exciting and fun-filled outdoor activities. You will get to breathe in the scent of ponderosa pines and other wildflowers all along your way.

Whether you are visiting the Big Bear for the first or a seasoned traveler, these 10 Big Bear hiking trails are not to miss!

big bear hiking trail

Top 10 Big Bear Hiking Trails 2020

1.  Castle Rock Trail – Easy

castle rock hill hiking trail

Source: http://www.bigbearlake.net/summer/galleries/castle-rock-trail

Distance and Elevation

The Castle Rock Trail is amongst the local favorites and fairly shorter hikes. A 2.4 miles round trip at an elevation of 700 feet offers breathtaking panoramic views of the valley. The first half mile is quite steep but it levels off once you reach the granite rock at the peak. Due to the elevation, the walk-up may be cumbersome but it becomes easier and quite enjoyable on the way down.

The Hike

In spring and summer, water rushing through the gully is a beautiful and common site. To add to the scenic beauty there is a waterfall along the way.

The Castle Rock Trail has something to offer in every season. In spring, seasonal creaks add to the scenic beauty while in the fall, the exotic autumn leaves make it the most beautiful trail in Castle Rock. While hiking, make sure to observe cedar and fir trees, inspect insects and enjoy the waterfall.

Once you reach the saddle at the top of this trail, you will find the Castle Rock towards the east. If you want to explore further, there is an indentation to the northwest of the formation that will lead you to the summit for a magnificent view of the lake.

Getting There

This Trail begins 1-mile east of the Big Bear Dam on Highway 18. There is a brown sign on the south side of the Highway that marks the head of the trail. Parking may be an issue due to the popularity of the trail. Beat the rush by coming early morning.

Difficulty level: easy

Rating: 4/5 

2.   Woodland Interpretive Trail – Easy

woodland interpretive trail

Source: http://www.bigbearlakeadventures.com/hiking/woodland-interpretive-trail/

Distance and Elevation

A roundtrip on the Woodland Interpretive Trail is, only 1.5 miles long with an elevation of 300 feet only.

The Hike

The Woodland Interpretive Trail is a family-friendly trail and to ease the journey, there are 16 posted stops along the way where you can enjoy yourself with your family.

Not only is this a great learning experience, but it is also a short workout. Grab a brochure at the head of the trail and explore the unique geology, botany, and wildlife of this hiking trail.

Getting There  

Woodland Interpretive Trail is along the north side of the Big Bear Lake on Highway 38. The trailhead is about a quarter-mile west of the Stanfield Cutoff. To access the parking lot you need a Southern California Forest Adventure pass

Difficulty level: easy

Rating: 4.5/5

3.   Alpine Pedal Path Trail – Easy

Alpine Pedal Path Trail

Source: http://www.bigbearlakeadventures.com/hiking/big-bears-alpine-pedal-path/

Distance and Elevation

The Alpine Pedal Path Trail is 3.2 miles long with an elevation of 6792 feet.

The Hike

The Alpine Pedal Path Trail is one of the easiest trails in Big Bear Hiking Trails. This trail is filled with the beautiful alpine meadows, juniper and pine forests, and some sprinkled wildflowers. It also offers tremendous views of the ski resorts along the way. If you want to have a leisurely walk along the Big Bear Lake, then this should be your trail-to-go.

Walk, jog or run along the way, or take a break on the benches along the way while enjoying mesmerizing views of the forest. This hiking trail is equally accessible to hikers, bikers, strollers, and wheelchairs. You can even take your dog on a stroll on this trail.

Getting There  

Alpine Pedal Path Trail is along the north shore of the Big Bear Lake and connects the Stanfield cutoff to the Serrano campground.

Difficulty level: easy

Rating: 4.5/5

4.   Pine Knot Trail – Intermediate

pine knot trail

Source: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sbnf/recarea/%3Frecid%3D26359

Distance and Elevation

The Pine Knot Trail is a 6.1 miles roundtrip with an elevation of 7569 ft.

The Hike

The Pine Knot Trail is amongst the favorite spots for hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders alike. The whole trail is rewarded with breathtaking views of the lake and thick forest.

The trail begins at the base of the Aspen Glen Picnic area towards the south of Mill Creek Road. It is loaded with Jeffery Pine, white fir, oaks, and Manzanita. The trail crosses the road at the 2N08, skirts alongside the Deer Group Camp, and take you to the 2N10 where a sign will point you the Grandview Point.

If you keep following the trail for another quarter mile, it will take you up to the mesmerizing views of the Mt. San Gorgonio.

Pine Knot Trail is not as steep as Castle Rock Trail but it is quite long. Most of the hikers complete the trail in about 3 hours so pack accordingly.

Getting There  

Take Highway 18 to Big Bear Dam on the west side of the lake. Turn right and continue east until you reach Mill Creek Road, turn right again and you’ll find the trailhead parking lot at the Aspen Glen Picnic Area. For parking, you need an adventure pass.

Difficulty level: intermediate 

Rating: 4.5/5

5.   Cougar Crest Trail – Intermediate

cougar crest trail

Source: http://www.bigbearlakeadventures.com/hiking/cougar-crest-trail/

Distance and Elevation

The Cougar Crest Trail is about 5 miles long, with an elevation change of 750 feet. The first mile of this trail is a quite gentle uphill climb, after that you really start gaining the altitude.

The Hike

Due to the distance and elevation, the Cougar Crest Trail offers a heart-pumping workout. This trail offers a wide variety of natural environments, from towering pine trees to red-barked manzanita to spiny cactus to twisting Junipers, you will witness everything along the way. Beautiful lake views start towards the end of the hike. In spring, this trail offers an array of wildflowers. While hiking, keep a lookout for lizards, bobcats, squirrels, and some rattlesnakes.

The trail ends at the famous Pacific Crest Trail. If you want to explore further, you can continue to the Bertha Peak which takes you anther .75 miles high. There you will enjoy the spectacular views of the Big Bear Valley, Holcomb Valley, and the High Desert.

Getting There  

This trail starts on Highway 38, 0.6 miles west of the Discovery Center. The parking fee is $5.00 but if you don’t mind walking an extra half mile from the Discovery Center to the Trailhead, you’ll enjoy free parking till 5 pm.

Difficulty level: intermediate 

Rating: 4/5

6.The Skyline Trail – Intermediate

skyline trail

Source: http://www.greatearthexpeditions.com/adventure-tours/cape-breton-tour.html

Distance and Elevation

The Skyline Trail is a 15-mile long hike with an elevation change of 455 meters.

The Hike

The Skyline Trail is considered to be one of the most beautiful, multi-day trails that traverses the mountains above Big Bear Lake and the Snow Summit Ski Resort. It begins at the end of Dogwood Drive, where the trail immediately begins climbing upwards. Along the trail, you will catch views of Mt. San Gorgonio and glimpses of the lake towards the north. The trail ends as it reaches Metcalf Creek, from which point you can follow service roads back to Big Bear Lake.

Getting There  

It runs along a ridge parallel to the Forest Service Road 2N10.

Difficulty level: intermediate

Rating: 4/5

7.   Champion Lodgepole Trails – Easy

champion lodgepole trail

Source: https://www.bigbearvacations.com/champion-lodgepole-pine-trail/

Distance and Elevation

The Champion Lodgepole Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails of the Big Bear Valley. The hike is more like a nice stroll with only around a 1-mile round trip and an elevation gain of 50 feet.

The Hike

The trail is filled with the views of lush forest, largest Lodgepole pine trees of the world and Bluff Meadows. You will get to witness wildflowers popping along the trail in spring and summer seasons. There is also a seasonal stream along the way. The forest floor is covered with the green ferns as you approach Bluff Meadows and the open spaces are filled with corn lilies and damselflies.

To make the hike a bit longer you can head down to Siberia Creek on your way back. This will add an extra 12 miles to your hike, all while enjoying the scenery and seasonal wildflowers along the Siberia Creek Trail. If these seem too long, you can also go an extra 2 miles from Lodgepole to the Gunsight. The first mile is beautiful, with waterfalls in the summer and some of the largest Pine Trees you will ever see. After the first mile, the terrain gets rocky so be prepared to climb down large boulders to reach the end of the trail.

Getting There  

Take Mill Creek Road southwest and follow it to the left where it intersects with Tulip Lane. Travel another mile and once you reach 2N11, take a left and follow the signs to the parking area. To park, you need an adventure pass ticket.

Difficulty level: easy

Rating: 3/5

8.   Gray’s Peak Trail – Difficult

gray peak trail

Source: https://www.rei.com/events/81846/grays-peak-14er-hike/216492

Distance and Elevation

Gray’s Peak Trail is a 6.9 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1000 feet.

The Hike

This trail is seasonally open from April through October and is the go-to hike for adventurous people or those who like to take up a challenge.

After covering the first milestone of the steep section of the trail, the terrain levels-off for the remainder of the three and a half-mile trail. The higher you go, the more glorious the view gets due to the elevation, but it isn’t for the faint-hearted!

Getting There  

This trail is located nearly half a mile west of Fawnskin on Highway 38 near the signs of the Grout Bay Picnic Area. You can park anywhere in the picnic area lot but remember that you will need an Adventure Pass for the hiking.

Difficulty level: difficult

Rating: 4.5/5

9. Grandview Loop Bike Trail – Intermediate

grandview loop trail

Source: https://bigbearcabins.com/big-bear-activities/snow-summit-grandview-loop-bike-trail/

Distance and Elevation

This is a popular, low consequence and low-risk mountain biking trail is one of the longest trails present in the area- 7.5 miles to be precise, with an ascent of 27 meters.

The Hike

The trail starts by taking the Snow Summit Science Sky Chair up to the top of the mountain. It then proceeds by the way of the Skyline Trail to the Grandview Point Junction. You will a see lot of MTB trail users and they usually take you by surprise so beware of them. There is a fork in the trail, where you have the option to ride 2.5 miles to Grandview Point and enjoy the stunning views of the San Gorgonio or to continue home.

Getting There  

Turn right onto the 2N08 to keep following the Grandview Loop Trail. When the trail intersects with 2N11, continue to the right to stay on 2N08. Stay on 2N08 and follow the signs for the Towne Trail to Snow Summit, then turn left onto2N08. This trail will begin between two large boulders, consisting of a two-mile single track that will take you back to the Snow Summit, where you began.

Difficulty level: intermediate

Rating: 4/5

10.   John Bull Loop Bike Trail – Expert Level

john bull loop trail

Source: https://www.geoladders.com/show_gallery.php?route=39427&picture=81449&src=1

Distance and Elevation

The John Bull Loop Bike Trail is 14.9 miles long with an ascent of 417 meters, making it one of the most challenging trails in Big Bear.

The Hike

This hike offers many great views and tough challenges. You’ll be biking through the historic Holcomb valley, with many resting points along the way.

Getting There  

The trail starts at Van Dusen Canyon Road 3N09 and then ride up about 3.5 miles. There you will reach the Holcomb valley then to 3N16 turn left, after that to 3N07 turn right. From there, to 3N43 turn left and then to John Bull Trail (3N10). The trail is about 14.9 miles long.

Quick Hiking Tips for Big Bear Lake

  • Make sure your cellphone is fully charged before your hiking or biking trip
  • Wear proper footwear
  • Take plenty of water. There is no water available on the trails
  • Wear a hat and plenty of sunscreens as UV rays are really strong at this elevation
  • No littering. Keep the forests clean
  • Bring a first aid kit with bandages, duct tape, Benadryl and first aid ointment
  • Pack some flashlights, whistles and high energy snacks
  • Let someone know where you’re going and the expected arrival time. Try to finish the hike before sunset
  • Check to see beforehand if you need an Adventure Pass for the hiking
  • Familiarize yourself with animal encounter safety tips
  • Install BackCountry Navigator TOPO GPS or Gaia GPS on your android or iPhone if you want to explore new areas with unfamiliar terrains

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) About Big Bear Hiking Trails

hiking trail

When is the Peak/Off-Peak Season?

Big Bear has two peak seasons: The first is in the winters, from the 3rd week of December to the 3rd week of February. The second peak season is in the summer, from July 1 to Labor Day weekend.

What is the Climate/Temperature?

Summer temperatures average 77 degrees daytime and 45 degrees at night. Winter brings about 120 inches of annual snowfall with temps in the mid-40s during the day and mid-20s at night.

Is there WIFI?

Wi-Fi is available at the parking center for free 24 hours day

Are Attractions Open Year-Round?

The San Bernardino National Forest is open 365 days to hike on trails in the warmer weather or snowshoe in the winter. The lake is open for fishing to the public all year round

Do I Need to Purchase a Lift Ticket to Go Hiking?

Lift tickets are not required for hiking at Snow Summit, however, lift tickets are required for any guest riding the Scenic Sky Chair up or down the mountain

hiking trail

Can I Bring my Dog on the Hiking Trails?

Yes, but they must be on a leash at all times

Are There Water Stations Located on the Trails?

No, make sure you bring plenty of water when you come

Are There Restrooms Located on the Trails?

There are no restrooms on the trails, they are located at the base area

What’s the Best Time of the Day to go Hiking?

We recommend starting before 10 AM to avoid higher temps and UV levels

Are There Any Activities at the Top of the Mountain?

Yes. The activities include the Snow Summit Bike Park, Mountain Top Loop hiking trail, dining at Skyline Taphouse, and access to 60+ miles of cross country bike trails

Where Can I Get the Adventure Pass From?

You can find the Adventure Pass at the Big Bear Visitor Center.

Final Words

Hiking is a great form of leisure for all kinds of people. That’s why we’ve included trails of all difficulty levels in our list so that you can pick the best one for yourself while enjoying a stunning view. If there are any hiking trails you think should be a part of our list, please mention them in the comments section!

 

Michael Holding
 

Michael is an outdoor adventurer and a kayaking enthusiast who loves to share his experiences with others. He is the Chief Editor at XgearHub.

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