Cougar Crest Trail: Best Big Bear Lake View

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Distance 

5.6 Miles

Time

2.5-3 Hrs

Difficulty 

Moderate

Season

All Year

Elevation Gain

895 Ft

Are you looking for the best views of Big Bear Lake? Look no further, and hike up to Cougar Crest.  

Cougar Crest Trail is a 5.6-mile hike located in the San Bernardino mountains that offers the best views of Big Bear Lake and Snow Summit. The moderate-rated trail is known to get plenty of snow during the winter months. Restrooms are provided at the parking lot, an Adventure Parking Permit is required, and dogs are allowed but must be on a leash. 

Map of Cougar Crest Trail

Download Printable PDF Map

Here are some other snow hikes in and near Big Bear!

 

Directions to The Cougar Crest Trailhead 

Click HERE to get directions to the parking lot. Remember to arrive early on weekends as it’s a very popular trail. 

Pro Tip: You can park at the Discovery Center parking lot until 6:00 pm for free and walk to the trailhead to avoid buying an Adventure Pass. 

Cougar Crest Quick Guide 

Adventure Pass: Order your Forest Adventure Pass by clicking the link here. If you don’t have the time to wait for shipping, head over to your local sporting goods stores. Big 5 and REI should have plenty.

The price is $5 for a day pass and $30 for an annual pass. However, if you purchase one annual pass, the second annual pass is only $5. 

Microspikes: If you’re hiking in the snow I HIGHLY recommend using microspikes. It’s a night and day difference. You can view the ones we use here.  

Trekking Poles: If you’re using microspikes you won’t need trekking poles for balance, but they still help a lot with taking weight off your legs on the steep sections. We use these right here. 

Best Time to Visit: Go during the week if you can. If not, make sure to arrive at the trailhead early in the morning. I also recommend going a few days after it snows as the views get even more beautiful. 

 

Hiking Cougar Crest Trail

The trail begins via a very wide and gradual ascend. If you wanted to build a snowman, this beginning section is it.

As you keep hiking up, the trail becomes more narrow and the trees begin to enclose you in. Pretty soon, you’ll feel like you’ve wandered deep into the forest. 

Keep an eye out for the majestic Western Juniper trees. These native giants have red “peeling” barks, and some have been here for over a thousand years. 

They’re truly amazing and beautiful.

western juniper tree

Because most of the hike is on the south side of the mountain, the snow tends to melt much more quickly than the south side, as you can see from the following two shots. 

You know you’re almost to your destination once you loop around the darkside of the mountain.

cougar crest trail

And voila! You’ve reached your destination! Look at that view! 

The biggest peak in the distance is San Gorgonio, AKA Old Gray Back, the highest peak in Socal. You can also see Big Bear Lake and Snow Summit to name a few.

cougar crest trail

Need help identifying the peaks? I got you covered. I use the app, Peak Visor, to help me identify all the peaks on my hikes. 

It’s super cool. You can download it here for iPhones and here for Androids.

cougar crest trail

One thing to keep in mind regarding Cougar Crest is that it’s not a peak. It’s simply a ridge as the name implies. 

cougar crest and bertha peak

However, some people like to elongate the trail by hiking up to Bertha Peak. It’s an additional .6 miles to the top and a total elevation of 8502 feet. 

If you want to do the same, stay on the trail until you see a sign that says Bertha Peak located on the junction of the famous Pacific Crest Trail, and head up. 

bertha peak

Unfortunately, we ran out of daylight so we ended the hike on the more popular Cougar Crest Trail. We had no complaints as the views are breathtaking.

cougar crest trail

We loved this hike, especially because of the snow and the views. I’m positive you will too.

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Hello, There!

I’m Phillip, and just like you, I feel very passionate about California and the outdoors. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, I thought I’d share them with you. Life goes by fast so get out there and enjoy it.  

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