Just two hours from the bustling city of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake is nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest and offers an array of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. Guests can enjoy an abundance of water activities in the lake during the summer and snowboarding and skiing in the winter.
It’s also a hiker’s paradise, with over 60 miles of trails that can be experienced on foot or bike – there are even equestrian and wheelchair friendly trails. Whether you choose a leisurely, paved trail or a challenging trail 8,500 feet above sea level, you’re guaranteed to see wildlife and breathtaking scenery.
Big Bear offers a .2 mile, fully paved ADA trail that guests can access from the City Hall Parking lot. The Happy Hills Trail showcases historical buildings, protected wildlife, and offers spots for picnicking.
The Alpine Pedal Path is an easy, 2.5-mile hike or bike trail that is also accessible to wheelchairs. Hikers will enjoy the stunning views of the ski resorts, the south shore, and pine and juniper forests. There are also spots for picnicking, and hikers often see wildflowers when in season (typically June and July).
If you are looking for a fun trail for kids, check out the Woodland Interpretive Trail. This 1.5 loop offers 16 posted stops (pick up a brochure at the trailhead to learn about the geology, botany, and wildlife of this area). Kids love touring this woodland area and climbing on the boulders. You can also catch some beautiful views of the lake.
Beginning mountain bikers will want to check out the Towne Trail loop (2.5 miles) that weaves through the woodlands and offers views of the lake.
The Cougar Crest Trail begins at the Big Bear Discovery Center and meets up with the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a gradual hike uphill with benches and picnic tables along the way (and dogs are permitted). If you do the steep climb up to Bertha Peak, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning 360-degree view of the region.
We think you’ll definitely want to hike the Champion Lodgepole Trail, where you’ll get to see one of the largest lodgepole pines in the world. This 30-45-minute hike will take you through a lush forest where you’ll see this 450-year old towering giant that has survived countless events from Mother Nature. Don’t forget your camera! (Insider tip: vehicles with high ground clearance are recommended, and dogs on leash are permitted.)
If you’re in reasonable shape, we highly recommend the Castle Rock Trail (rated as moderate). It’s a 2 ½ mile hike with a 7,500-elevation gain, but there are plenty of places to rest along the way. The first section will have you scrambling through a maze of boulders. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the fragrant pines and cedars, a seasonal waterfall, the “castle rock”, and extraordinary views of Big Bear Lake and the San Bernardino Mountains. Bring your camera – there are plenty of incredible photo opportunities. You may even spy some rock climbers in the area. (Insider tip: Parking is limited, but you can also park at Boulder Park. Hiking boots are strongly suggested.)
You can pick up the Pine Knot trail at the Aspen Glen Picnic Area. It’s a 6 ½ -mile loop, gradual incline hike (rated as moderately difficult) that rewards hikers with spectacular views of Big Bear Lake, San Gorgonio, and Catalina Island. In addition, hikers will enjoy seasonal wildflowers, towering oaks, and pines. Mountain bikes, horses, and dogs on leash are also permitted.
If you do decide to bring or rent a mountain bike, then the Grandview Loop Bike Trail (9 miles) is an absolute must! The ride begins with a ride up the Snow Summit Scenic Sky Chair to the top of the mountain. Once there, you can bike 7 ½ miles with an option to continue an additional 2 ½ miles – which will reward you with extraordinary views of the San Gorgonio.
There are other options, too. The Grout bay Loop Bike Trail is a fun climbing and descending trail for intermediate level hikers and mountain bikers. The John Bull Loop Bike Trail (advanced/expert) requires both navigation skills and stamina for hikers and bikers wanting to experience a bit of an adrenaline rush.
Finally, the Skyline Trail (15 miles) spans the south shore of the lake and offers phenomenal views of the lake and the San Gorgonio mountains.
If hiking on your own just isn’t your thing, Big Bear offers complimentary guided hikes and eco-tours hikes. Inquire about these upon your arrival.
There's plenty of fun to be had at Big Bear Lake, be sure to check out our full itinerary of Big Bear activities for before and after your hiking adventure.
Big Bear Insider Tips:
Before you start, it’s best to have an Adventure Pass – all U. S. Forest Service Trailheads require it. You can get this online or pick one up at a nearby 7 – Eleven convenience store, the Big Bear Discovery Center, or the Big Bear Visitors Center ($5 a day or $30 annually. If you have the America the Beautiful US National Park Pass, you can use that instead.)
Always carry adequate hydration (there is no potable water on the trails), high-energy snacks, and wear sunscreen (the UV rays are stronger at this elevation). Wear proper footwear and carry a park map in case you get lost.
Also, make sure to start the day with a charged cell phone and let someone know where you are going and when you’re expected back. Bring a small first aid kit, just in case (with a whistle and flashlight). And remember, leave no trace. Always carry your trash out with you.
Planning ahead will help you make the most of your time in Big Bear. Order a visitor’s guide to prepare for your trip.