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A Traveler's Guide to Hiking in Big Bear

Big Bear

Most people who visit Big Bear, California, do so to enjoy the outdoors. The town sits on the east shore of Big Bear Lake, is set against the San Bernardino Mountains, and is surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest. The area is known for its ski resorts and hiking trails. Big Bear’s diversity in terms of the landscape means that there is plenty to explore, and one of the best ways of doing so is to hike around the area. Here is a traveler’s guide to hiking in Big Bear.

Happy Hills Trail

According to, one of the easiest and most popular trails within the city is Happy Hills Trail. The trail was added to the city’s trail system in 2017, and it is a fantastic way to enjoy wildlife while also seeing some of the city’s historical landmarks. It is a short trail that begins at the City Hall parking lot. The trail is fully paved, and there are picnic benches along the way.

Pine Knot Trail

Pine Knot Trail is a six-mile loop trail that is classed as moderate due to its length and because there are some challenges along the way, such as steep elevations. You will find the trailhead at Aspen Glen Picnic Area, and the first section of the walk takes you through a forested area with manzanita, oaks, and Jeffrey pines. After passing by the Deer Group Camp, you head towards Grandview Point, where there are spectacular views of Mount San Gorgonio and the surrounding forests. It is likely that this hike will take you at least three hours to complete.

The Cougar Crest Trail

If you enjoy nature and wildlife, then The Cougar Crest Trail is one of the best hikes. The four-mile hike takes you through various natural environments, so the plant and tree species you will see are diverse and may include everything from spiky cacti to red-barked manzanita. You will also see plenty of wildlife, including snakes, bobcats, and lizards. The first section of the hike is uphill, but the benefit of this is stunning lake views from the top. At the end of the walk, there is the option to continue for a further 1.5-miles to Bertha Peak, where you can enjoy views of the high desert and Big Bear Valley.

Castle Rock Trail

Big Bear Cabins lists Castle Rock Trail as one of the best hikes in Big Bear. The 2.7-mile loop trail is uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back. Fortunately, the inclination is not too steep, so it is accessible for most ability levels. From the highest elevation along the walk, there are pretty lake views.

Pacific Crest Trail

Experienced hikers claim that the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is one of the best hiking experiences on Earth. The trail stretches along the Pacific Coast of the United States, heading inland in some areas, and it runs all the way from Mexico to Canada. Of course, you will only complete a short section of the trail during your time in California. The end of Cougar Crest Trail intersects the PCT, and continuing onto the PCT will give you the benefit of seeing some of the best views of the San Bernardino Mountains and Big Bear Lake.

Grays Peak Trail

Grays Peak Trail is a 6.9-mile loop trail, and the trailhead is in Fawnskin on the northern side of Big Bear Lake. It is a lightly trafficked walk that has some interesting natural features along the way, including Hanna Rocks, which is a beautiful rock outcropping that is popular amongst rock climbers. From the rocks, there are gorgeous views across the lake.

Jenks Lake Trail

An easy hike to complete during your visit to Big Bear is the Jenks Lake Trail, says All Trails. It is a three-mile out-and-back trail that runs alongside Jenks Lake. The walk is predominantly through a wooded area, and the pathways are uneven in some places. In wet weather, you may find that there are muddy and slippery sections, so wearing appropriate footwear is crucial. Dogs are allowed on this walk if they are kept on a leash.

Moon Ridge Trail to Bow Canyon Trail Loop

The Moon Ridge Trail to Bow Canyon Trail Loop is just over two miles long. It predominantly covers open, grassy spaces with pretty wildflowers. It is considered a short but moderate trail because there is some elevation, but the inclinations are not too steep. The walk begins just off Ridgecrest Drive. After walking the Moon Ridge Trail section, you will turn right to complete the loop along the Bow Canyon Trail. Alternatively, you can turn left at the junction and complete the loop via Sand Canyon. On the descent of the walk, there are picturesque lake views.

Alpine Pedal Path

Although the Alpine Pedal Path was created for mountain biking, it is also a popular route for hikers. It is a 2.5-mile, out-and-back paved trail that runs alongside the north shore of the lake. You will walk through forested areas and past the Serrano campground. Some of the wildlife you are likely to see include squirrels, chipmunks, and lizards. There are also fantastic views of the ski resorts to enjoy. You will begin the walk at Stanfield Cutoff, and the path ends at the Solar Observatory.

San Bernardino Town Trail

If you want to walk the San Bernardino Town Trail, it is essential that you stay on the marked path, as the hike is surrounded by private property. The best place to park before starting the hike is on Knickerbocker Street, then head to the trailhead just off Thrush Drive. It is a 2.8-mile out-and-back trail that is also used for running and nature trips. There are some campgrounds alongside the walk. Due to the type of terrain, the best time to enjoy this hike is between March and November.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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