Climbing & Hiking Trails - 11 min read

10 Best Hiking Trails At Big Bear (Perfect For Year-Round Hiking!)

Alex Frick

Alex Frick, Updated October 30, 2022

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Big Bear Lake is a California destination enjoyable in all seasons. Located in the northern range of the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake is an invisible dividing line that separates the temperate coastal beauty of Southern California from the diverse and scorching valleys of the Mojave Desert.

Big Bear Lake is a reservoir that is 7 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. At an astonishing depth of 72 feet, the waters of the lake come entirely from the snowmelt of the San Bernardino Mountains.

During the winter, the city transforms into a world-class ski resort, only a short drive from tropical and sunny Southern California. With its sharp peaks and level valleys, the hills surrounding Big Bear are the ideal choice for hitting the slopes.

During the summer, Big Bear is an adventurer seeker’s playground that is a perfect setting to beat the heat. The lake delivers refreshing afternoons by the water and cool evenings perfect for a roaring campfire.

With that being said, the best adventures are not in the city, but within the lush hills surrounding it. Hiking around Big Bear gives you beautiful opportunities to experience this uniquely diverse and stunningly scenic environment to curious wanderers.

A Guide To The Best Hikes At Bear Lake.

1. Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak

Credit: ramidogg / Flickr

Directions: From downtown Big Bear, drive north on Greenway Drive for 0.6 miles and take a left onto W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E. Continue on W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E for 3.9 miles and make a right into the parking lot for the Bertha Peak Trail.

The hike to Bertha Peak along the Cougar Crest is a great trail for casual hikers who want to test their limits. This moderate hike cruises through a wide and well-maintained dirt path before turning upward into the San Bernardino Mountains.

Once in the forest, you will begin climbing at a steady pace over an increasingly rocky walkway into a beautiful and shady wooded forest. You will continue for about 3 miles until you begin to see glimpses through the trees of this dense forest.

At the 3-mile mark, the trail will intersect with the Pacific Crest Trail, follow the hiker-made sign for Bertha Peak Road. Climb the steep dirt road for another 0.8 miles and you will reach the stunning panoramic views from atop Bertha Peak.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,354 Feet

2. Knot Trail to Grand View Point

Credit: larry_edmonds / Flickr

Directions: From downtown Big Bear, drive west on E Big Bear Boulevard for 5.2 miles and turn right onto Big Bear Boulevard. Drive 0.5 miles and take a left onto Mill Creek Road. Continue for another 0.3 miles and the trailhead parking area for Pine Knot Trail will be on your left.

The hike along Pineknot Trail to Grand View Point is an excellent adventure for hikers of all skill levels. The trail is a steady climb until reaching Grand View Point, a stunning panoramic view of both Big Bear Lake and the surrounding San Bernardino Mountain peaks.

The pleasant thing about this hike is the excellent trail conditions and its limited number of steep sections. As you wander up through a serene and comfortably shaded pine forest, you will revel in a quiet climb that leads you through miles of uninterrupted beauty.

Pineknot trail is absolutely an adventure that is about the destination, however, the views from Gran View Point are nothing less than spectacular. With the gentle return descent, you will be back at the trail in no time.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6.9 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,158 Feet

Related Read: 19 Best Hiking Trails in San Bernardino

3. Bear Lake Woodland Interpretive Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

Directions: From downtown Big Bear, drive north on Greenway Drive for 0.6 miles and take a left onto W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E. Continue on W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E for 2.6 miles and make a right onto Woodland Avenue followed by an immediate left into the parking area for this hike.

Hiking the Woodland Trail at Big Bear Lake is a wonderful experience for all ages. The easy 1.6-mile hike is perfect for older children who love to get outside and explore. However, it is not a hike designed for young children, it is a trail designed for the curious.

The interpretive trail is lined with 16 numbered signposts and provides valuable information about what you are experiencing along your journey. The signposts give clear and easily understood information about the importance of both healthy and downed trees to the ecosystem.

In addition, the trail assists in educating travelers on the type of wildlife and insects they may find and delivers a hands-on experience while teaching the importance of all aspects of nature in this protected ecosystem.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.6 Miles
E
levation Gain: 232 Feet

4. Skyline Trail to Snow Summit

Credit: cyclotourist / Flickr

Directions: From downtown Big Bear, drive south on E Big Bear Boulevard for 1.3 miles and take a left onto Division Drive. After 0.6 miles, turn left onto Superpine Road followed by an immediate right onto McAlister Road. After 0.2 miles, turn left to stay on McAlister Road and continue for another 0.7 miles and make a left onto Douglas Street. Make an immediate left onto Sonoma Drive and drive for 0.3 miles before turning onto Moonridge Road. Stay on Moonridge Road for 0.2 miles and finally make a left onto Club View Drive. After 1.3 miles, your trailhead will be on the right.

The Skyline Trail to Snow Summit is a standout hike that is understandably one of the most popular hikes not only in Big Bear Lake but all of Southern California.

This scenic hike beautifully traverses the peaks of the mountain range from the beautiful ridges of the San Bernardino Forest.

The hike begins from a slightly lower elevation, but after a series of switchbacks along the skyline trail, you will find yourself peeking above the tree line looking down on a wonderful vantage point of Big Bear Lake.

From here, you will simply follow the top of the ridge with limitless panoramic views before reaching the end of the trail, the Snow Summit Ski Area.

The return trip is just as stunning, but you do have the option to stop at Snow Summit if you pre-arrange a shuttle back to the trailhead.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,108 Feet

Related Read: 15 Best Waterfalls Near Los Angeles

5. Castle Rock Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

Directions: From downtown Big Bear, head west onto E Big Bear Boulevard and drive for 5.2 miles. Make a right onto Big Bear Drive and continue for another 2.8 miles and the trailhead for Castle Rock Trail will be on your left.

The Castle Rock Trail is a short but memorable hike through beautifully exposed sections in the San Bernardino National Forest. The path to Castle Rock is a steep climb that navigates over sharp and rocky terrain before ending the hike with a strenuous rock scramble.

The trail is poorly marked but keep an eye out for wire bins that are filled with large rocks – these will be your trail markers pointing you in the right direction.

Once you finish scrambling, the trail will lead you to an incredibly scenic vantage point that overlooks both the city of Big Bear and Big Bear Lake.

If you have the ambition to explore further, you may continue on the trail for an additional 2.2 miles that lead you to the stunning and hidden Bluff Lake.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 820 Feet

6. Grays Peak Trail (Closed in the Winter for Bald Eagle Nesting)

Credit: San Bernardino Nat’l Forest / Fllckr

Directions: From downtown Big Bear, drive north on Greenway Drive for 0.6 miles and take a left onto W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E. Continue on W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E for 7.0 miles and make a right into the parking area for the Grays Peak Trailhead.

Grays Peak Trail is one of the more popular trails in Big Bear Lake and it is not hard to understand why. The moderate hike climbs through an old-growth forest before ultimately reaching the summit, a beautifully unique forested knob.

The views from the peak give excellent views of Big Bear Lake from an overlooking vantage point. In addition to the natural beauty, the Grays Peak Trail is a nesting habitat for bald eagles.

During the summer, it is common to see families of these majestic birds circling from above. During the winter, the trail is closed down, allowing bald eagles to mature freely in their natural habitat.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,174 Feet

Related Read: Best Airport for Yosemite

7. Hanna Flat Campground Trail

Credit: Kristen Pumphrey / Flickr

Directions: From downtown Big Bear, drive north on Greenway Drive for 0.6 miles and take a left onto W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E. Continue on W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E for 7.0 miles and make a right into the parking area for the Grays Peak Trailhead.

A local favorite, the Hanna Flat Campground Trail is a fantastic hiking path that traverses rocky terrain along the lower slopes of Grays Peak. The hike has limited elevation gain, but the trail surface is quite rough, so be sure to wear the appropriate footwear.

After completing the gentle climb, you will be led to wonderfully picturesque views of Big Bear Lake. Following the overlook, you may choose to take the slight descent towards the Hanna Flat Campground. This secluded campground is an excellent place to take a first-time backpacker to enjoy to beautifully quiet night beneath the night skies.

Difficulty: Strenuous
Distance: 9.1 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,105 Feet

8.  Sugarloaf Mountain Trail

Credit: William (Bill) Cullen / Flickr

Directions: From downtown Big Bear, drive east on East Big Bear Boulevard toward Mt. Doble Drive for 1.3 miles and make a right onto CA-38 W/Greenspot Boulevard. Continue on CA-38 W/Greenspot Boulevard for 2.4 miles and turn right onto 2N23/2N93 and the trailhead parking area will be on your right.

The trail to Sugarloaf Mountain is a high-altitude adventure that is unique to the other hikes in and around Big Bear Lake. The rocky trail leads you high above the timberline, giving beautiful panoramic views of the rolling peaks of the San Bernardino National Forest.

The trail is lined with loose rocks the entire journey and wanders through a gorgeously lush old-growth forest. The summit itself does not have any distinguished overlooks; the path often opens up to far-reaching views of the surrounding peaks.

T&T Tip: With the thin air, be sure to bring plenty of water and food to overcome the potential effects of altitude sickness.

Difficulty: Strenuous
Distance: 11.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3,228 Feet

Related Read: 29 Top Treehouse Rentals in California

9. Butler Peak Fire Lookout Trail

Credit: John Agee / Flickr

Directions: From downtown Big Bear, drive north on Greenway Drive for 0.6 miles and take a left onto W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E. Continue on W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E for 6.4 miles and take a slight right onto Rim of the World Drive. Continue on Rim of the World Drive for 1.3 miles and make a slight left onto Forest Route 2N13/Forest Route 2N68 and the Butler Peak Trail will be on your left.

The high desert hike to Butler Peak is uniquely different than other hikes because of the trail’s distinctive payoff, a fire lookout tower.

The third tallest peak in the San Bernardino Mountains, Butler Peak gives amazing 360-degree views of Big Bear Valley, Apple Valley, Lake Arrowhead, and San Gorgonio Peak.

When you approach the fire tower, you will recognize that this is an active fire lookout. While enjoying the memorable views, be sure to ask the knowledgeable staff at the lookout about the area – they have many stories to tell.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 10.0 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,532 Feet

10. Siberia Creek Trail

Credit: Big Bear Discovery Center / Facebook

Directions: From downtown Big Bear, drive north on Greenway Drive for 0.6 miles and take a left onto W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E. Continue on W North Shore Drive/CA-38 E for 9.8 miles and make a right onto CA-18. Stay on CA-18 for 6.3 miles and turn left onto 2N97/Siberia Creek Trail and the parking area will be on your right.

Experienced hikers may be able to complete this difficult hike in just one day, the trip to Siberia Creek is best suited for an overnight backpacking adventure.

If you are brave enough to tackle this behemoth of a hiking trail, you will be rewarded with limitless scenic views and miles of untouched wilderness.

The trail itself is not maintained by any park service, so some parts of the trail may be overgrown, but a worthwhile and memorable experience.

T&T Tip: Be sure to bring plenty of water, as the only water source along the trail is Siberia Creek, just a short 18 miles from the trailhead.

Difficulty: Moderate-Strenuous
Distance: 18.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 5,308 Feet

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