Surrounded by over a million acres of National Forest, Big Bear offers the best hiking in Southern California. From logging roads to trails to cross country jaunts, there is a path for everyone who enjoys seeing nature on their own two feet. Big Bear features many different microclimates. While the general climate is alpine, large areas in the East Valley and in Cactus Flats have high desert climate. And scattered throughout the valley are pockets of marshes, springs, meadows and wetlands. Few places on Earth offer as much habitat diversity as are available in Big Bear.

The most famous hiking trail in the Valley is probably the Pacific Crest Trail. This trail runs from Mexico to Canada and the section that runs through Big Bear is easily accessible from a number of points and can then be hiked as a day hike. The Big Bear Hostel website has excellent information about the PCT.

Best Trails for Hiking

The Woodland Trail (Forest Service trail 1E23) Beginner – 1.5 mile loop
The Woodland Trail is an easy 1.5 mile well-maintained nature trail located a mile east of the Big Bear Discovery Center on Highway 38 on the North Shore. Pick up a pamphlet at the entrance and take the self-guided tour where you will learn about botany, geology and the wildlife of this dry woodland area. The trail is in an area that is a transition between mixed conifers and pinyon/juniper woodland habitats with great views of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains.

Castle Rock Trail (Forest Service trail 1W03) Moderate to Difficult – 2.4 miles Round Trip
This trail begins 1.1 miles east of the dam on Highway 18. Although not a long hike, the elevation gain is 500 feet, making it a steep climb by any standard. At the top of the ridge is an impressive granite rock out-cropping and the source of many tales and local folklore. If you trust your rock climbing skills and can claw your way on top of the rocks, the view of the lake is wonderful. The best part of this hike is that it’s downhill all the way home. There is very limited parking on the south side of the highway 50 yards east of the trailhead.

Cougar Crest Trail (Forest Service trail 1E22) Moderate to Difficult – 4 to 5.5 miles Round Trip
A well-maintained path through a wide variety of natural environments distinguishes the Cougar Crest Trail. It starts .6 miles west of the Discovery Center on Highway 38. In the first mile there’s only a gentle uphill increase, but in the second mile you’ll realize that you’re gaining serious altitude. The Cougar Crest Trail ends at the junction of the Pacific Crest Trail, and a lot of hikers like to continue to the east (right) on a dirt maintenance road for .6 miles until they reach the summit of Bertha Peak, 8,502 feet. The peak is easily recognized by the large collection of transmitting equipment at the top. From the summit there’s a virtual 360 degree view of the Big Bear Valley, Holcomb Valley, and even the Mojave Desert.

Gray’s Peak Trail (Forest Service trail 1W06) Moderate to Difficult – 7 miles Round Trip
The trailhead for Gray’s Peak is located on the west side of Highway 38 about .6 miles west of Fawnskin across from the Grout Bay Picnic Area. The trail climbs westerly for .5 miles until it merges with forest road 2N04X. Turning north (right), 2N04X joins Forest Road 2N70 after .25 miles. Go straight; do not turn left. Then continue to the beginning of the Gray’s Peak Trail, 200 yards on your left. From there it is 2.75 miles to the top of Gray’s Peak. This trail is closed in the winter, as it is a bald eagle nesting habitat.

Sugarloaf National Recreation Trail (Forest Service trail 2E18) Difficult – 10 miles Round Trip
From the south end of Stanfield Cutoff on Big Bear Boulevard (Highway 18), continue for 6 miles heading east toward Redlands. (The highway changes names and is now called Highway 38.) Turn right on 2N93 at the intersection of Highway 38 and Hatchery Road. Follow this dirt road until you reach the Sugarloaf Trail sign and park in the turnout. The first two miles is a dirt road, which at times follows Green Creek. Although the view from the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain is mostly obscured by trees, you have climbed to an altitude of 9,952 feet, the highest point in the Big Bear Valley.

Pineknot Trail (Forest Service trail 1E01) Moderate to Difficult – 6 miles Round Trip.
The trail begins at the Aspen Glen Picnic Area and runs in a generally southerly direction until it reaches the aptly named Grand View Point, altitude 7,784. For the first 1.5 miles the hiker shares the trail with equestrian and mountain bike traffic as the trail winds its way up through stands of white fir and Jeffrey pine. Serious hikers make the six mile round trip in three hours or less. A family who wants to picnic at Grand View Point should plan on spending half the day leisurely enjoying the forest, the mountains and a great view of Big Bear Lake.

Resources for Hiking in Big Bear
Trail Maps

The Big Bear Discovery Center
Trail Maps, Wilderness Permits, Hiking Information, Adventure Outpost, Hiking Tours

Big Bear Adventure Hostel
Group Hikes, Trail Information, Maps

Big Bear Snow Summit Sky Chair Rides
Take the easy way to top and hike down

Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation
Forest Advocate, Group Activities

Seven Summits of Big Bear
This hike series is all about hiking for a purpose – to summit the seven highest peaks in and around the Big Bear Valley.

Sierra Club Big Bear Group
Events to Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet, Educational Meetings

Hiking Shops in Big Bear

North Shore Trading Company
Hiking shoes, trekking poles, and other outdoor gear.

Outdoor gear, trail maps, and advice.