Best Big Bear Hikes: For Beginners & Experienced

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Big Bear, CA is a beautiful mountain town located in the San Bernardino National Forest. It’s home to ancient Western Juniper trees, Big Bear Lake, two winter resorts, and of course, multiple forest hikes. 

Today I’d like to share with you the four best Big Bear hikes, starting with the easiest and ending with the most challenging. They are: 

  • Woodland Trail
  • Castle Rock 
  • Pine Knot
  • Cougar Crest

I hiked all of these trails in the winter when the trails were covered with snow. Therefore, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know about hiking at Big Bear after a good dump. 

 

Big Bear Pro Tips

Pro Tip 1: An Adventure Pass is required for all vehicles when using the Forest for recreational purposes. You can find it here

Pro Tip 2: If it snowed more than 6 inches, wait a few days for some of the snow to melt. Anything above six inches on the trail may be too deep for hiking and is probably better suited for snowshoeing. I sank up to my waist in the snow at Castle Rock. I learned the hard way. 

Pro Tip 3: When you plan a snow hike, please do yourself a favor and invest in microspikes. I can’t recommend enough how much of a difference they make, even for the easy Woodland Trail. We use these right here and have never looked back. 

Pro Tip 4: Want to save money on tubing? Some people buy their own sled at Vons or Big 5 and slide down the hills at the trailheads of Pine Knot, Woodland Trail, and Cougar Crest. 

Other AMAZING hikes in San Bernardino County…

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Woodland Trail (1E23)

Distance: 1.6 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 232 feet

Type: Loop

Difficulty: Easy

Restrooms: Yes at the parking lot

Dogs: Yes, on a leash

To get directions to the trailhead click the link: Woodland Trail directions 

Woodland Trail is the easiest hike at Big Bear, making it ideal for the whole family. The woodsy trail features beautiful views of the lake and Snow Summit Resort. 

Wooden markers are posted along the trail in numbered sequence, which features fun and educational information regarding the hike. 

The information for each marker can be found in this PDF guide. However, we wrote the complete post in an interactive and simplified manner for parents to read to their kids as they’re on the trail. 

You can find and read our guide to your kids by clicking the link right here. 

If you plan on visiting when it snows, please use microspikes. Although it’s an easy hike, it can get very slippery when ice begins to form. 

The trail has a very gradual incline and lacks dangerous ledges, which is why it’s so ideal for kids. Needless to say, don’t forget to add the Woodland Trail to your Big Bear daycation. 

 

Castle Rock Trail (1W03)

castle rock trail

Distance: 2.6 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 600 feet

Type: There & Back

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Restrooms: No

Dogs: Yes, on a leash

To get directions to the trailhead click the link: Castle Rock directions

Unless you arrive super early, you’ll more than likely have to park in the neighborhood, specifically Lowe Dr, and walk to the trailhead. Always double-check that you’re allowed to park in any public area, especially when it snows. 

Since this hike is on the dark side of the mountain, expect a lot more snow, shade, and trees. 

This trail is my favorite from all four Big Bear hikes. It’s very scenic, with lots of trees, and when it snows it looks like a winter wonderland. The view at the top is spectacular. 

The trail bears (pun intended) its name because of the huge rock structure you have to climb to get the best views. It’s about the size of a 3 story building, with a flat “plateau” at the top, but it’s not a direct vertical climb. 

You can make your way to the top by boulder scrambling up the much smaller boulders that make up the entire structure. 

Once you’re at the top, you can see all of Bear Lake while Cougar Crest and Bertha Peak looming in the background. If possible, try to be at the top during Sunrise or Sunset. You won’t regret it. 

 

Pine Knot Trail (1E01) to Grand View 

pine knot

Distance: 9.6 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1158 feet

Type: There & Back

Difficulty: Moderate

Restrooms: Yes, at the trailhead

Dogs: Yes, on a leash

To get directions to the Pine Knot Trailhead click the link: Pine Knot Directions. Make sure to arrive early. 

Pro Tip: You’re allowed to park on the street so long as you’re within the confined area usually marked by orange traffic cones. If you park beyond the cones, you can be fined up to $150 for “parking during snow conditions.” 

Alright, time to step it up a notch. Pine Knot Trail takes you to a nice little mountain saddle (Grand View) adjacent to Grand Peak where you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of the tallest peak in Socal, San Gorgonio, and the valley where highway 38 runs through. 

This hike intertwines with dirt roads for off-road vehicles. You may be miles into the hike when suddenly you see a jeep roaming through the trees. It’s very unexpected and super cool.  

Pro Tip 2: Do you have family that wants to experience Grand View, but can’t hike the whole trail? You can offroad your way to the top and walk only the last section, which is about ¼ of a mile one way. 

A 4×4 vehicle is highly advised. Click the link here to get directions to the top. Unfortunately, the dirt roads are closed during the winter months. 

Pine Knot is Big Bear’s top-rated hike for a reason. The trail is very scenic, with lots of pine trees, and views of the lake here and there. 

pine knot trail

During the fall season, virtually everything on the trail is orange and yellow. It’s a hike you’ll never forget. 

 

Cougar Crest Trail

cougar crest trail

Distance: 5.6 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 895 feet

Type: There & Back

Difficulty: Moderate

Restrooms: Yes, at the trailhead

Dogs: Yes, on a leash

Click the link to get directions to the Cougar Crest Trailhead.

This scenic hike is the most challenging of all the hikes on our list. It’s not extremely difficult, but definitely too difficult for children. 

The trail winds its way up the mountain until it reaches Cougar Crest, where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the lake, resorts, and San Gorgonio in the far background. 

Further up the ridge is Bertha Peak, which you can access if you keep trekking up another 0.6 miles. You’ll see the sign for Bertha Peak at a junction once Cougar Crest comes to an end. 

During the spring and summer months, the area looks like a sea of green pine trees, and during the winter, beautiful Western Juniper trees look like something out of a movie. 

In my opinion, Cougar Crest Trail features the best view of Big Bear Lake. Definitely check out this hike, you’re going to love it. 

You can read the full post by clicking the link here. 

 

Best Place to Eat After Your Hike

If you finish your hike in the morning, head over to the Grizzly Manor Cafe. They have the best brunch in town, which is why they’re always jam-packed. 

You can check out their menu here, but hurry on over because they close at 2 pm every day of the week! 

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We’re Monica and Phillip. Just like you, we share a passion for the outdoors and our beautiful state of California. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, we thought we’d share them with you! We hope this blog shows you tons of new CA adventures!

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