Top 10 Hiking Trails in Big Bear (With Epic Views)

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Hiking in Big Bear Lake, Southern California

Big Bear Lake is one of the best places in Southern California for hiking around. We're surrounded by beautiful mountains and forests, with more than 100 miles of adventure pass throughout the area.

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What about finding a great hike?

Why hiking in Big Bear is an adventure?

We all know how important it is to get out of the house and enjoy nature, but sometimes finding the right place to go can be hard. There are so many different trails with varying degrees of difficulty that it's no wonder why most people stick to one or two favorites when there are over 100 miles of trails around this area!

This guide lists 10 different trails with their difficulty level and what kind of scenery they offer. The list also includes information on how long each trail takes and what parking lots are nearby so that you can easily plan your trip to Big Bear Lake, California!

Easy and Sweet Hikes

Alpine Pedal Path Trail

The Alpine Pedal Path - an easy trail for novice hikers.
Image courtesy: USDA Forest Service

Length: 5.2 miles • Elevation gain: 299 feet • Dogs on leash • Kid friendly • Guide

The Alpine Pedal Path is one of the best places to get some fresh air while also doing something fun. It can be used to get to some amazing neighborhoods, including Big Bear. Plus, you'll get stunning views & exercise while doing so!

This easy trail is great for long, leisurely hikes or cycle rides, but its length can be pretty strenuous. Those with some mountain biking experience should only undertake it.

In the areas where the trail is rocky and steep, you'll need to be prepared. It might seem not easy, but it's a part of the experience!

Best time to go:  The best time of year to enjoy this trail is between April and October, although the weather will still be good in November, too, if you're traveling at that time.

Views are particularly spectacular in autumn when all the leaves have changed color.

Parking lot:  There's no parking lot at the trailhead, so you'll need to park your car at the Alpine Pedal Path trailhead located on Highway 243 next to the Big Bear Lake Dam.

Note that this isn't a dedicated parking area, and spaces are limited, so you will need to make alternative arrangements if there aren't any places left.

   What I like about the Alpine Pedal Path trail:

  • Great views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
  • Easy to navigate.
  • Suitable for hikers, cyclists, and walkers.
  • Accessed from various points around the resort.

  What I don't like:

  • Quite rocky in places, which can be quite dangerous if you're not wearing the proper footwear (especially in winter).
  • Can get very busy on summer weekends, so best to visit at a less popular time of year.

Jenks Lake Trail

Jenks Lake view during hiking in Big Bear, California
Reeds and grass along the bank of Jenks Lake

Length: 3.2 miles • Elevation gain: 500 feet • Dogs on leash • Kid friendly • Guide

You'll love the short 3.1-mile long trail to Jenks Lake with loads of up-close views and an easy hike for novice hikers.

The terrain of Jenks Lake Trail is very flat, and there are no steep climbs which make it great for beginners, kids, and those who don't like an intense hike.

The views of the mountain around you are absolutely gorgeous, but this trail does not offer much shade so take sunscreen and water if you're considering hiking it during the summer months.

Best time to go:  This hike is best done in the spring and fall seasons.

Parking lot:  If you are parking at the North Creek Fire Access Road, you'll find the trailhead on your left. You can also access this trail by parking on Highway 74, about 2 miles away from the trailhead.

  What I like about the Jenks Lake Trail:

  • Easy hike with minor elevation changes.
  • Great for beginners and kids.
  • The nicely paved and wide trail makes it easy to walk.

  What I don't like:

  • Lack of shade on most parts of the trail which can be hot in the summer season, especially in direct sunlight all day.
  • No bathroom facilities at each location.
  • No major views- the view is mainly of forests and mountains around you.

Big Bear Discovery Center trail

Big Bear Discovery Center trail
Image courtesy: usfsregion5 (Flickr CC)

Length: 0.5 miles • Elevation gain: 75 feet • No dogs • Kid friendly • Guide

Big Bear Discovery Center trail is an easy outdoor destination perfect for those who have never been camping before, want a short hike, or prefer flat terrain.

The Discovery Center is home to many interactive exhibits about the plants, animals, and geology of the San Bernardino National Forest. The center offers nature walks and talks, educational programs for all ages, summer camps, and a bookstore.

It is located in the heart of Big Bear Valley, on the north side of Highway 18 at the junction of Mill Creek Road. The center is open Thurs-Mon from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free.

If you are looking for an easy hike that the whole family can enjoy, the Big Bear Discovery Center trail is a great option. There is something for everyone here, so don't miss out on a visit to this wonderful nature center.

Best time to go: It can be visited any time of the year, but summer and winter are by far the best.

Parking lot:  You can park in the Big Bear Discovery Center parking lot.

  What I like about the Big Bear Discovery Center trail:

  • Big Bear Discovery Center has many things to do and see for everyone in the family.
  • You can park right next to the trailhead, which makes it convenient.
  • The discovery center is a great place to visit if you want to learn about the San Bernardino National Forest.
  • It is the perfect hike for campers who have never been camping before or want to try it out because it's short and relatively easy.

   What I don't like:

  • The trail is a bit too easy for those looking for a more challenging hike.
  • Some of the exhibits at the discovery center can be a little outdated.
  • It can get pretty crowded on the weekends, so try to visit during the week if possible.

Moderate hikes with magnificent views

Cougar Crest Trail

Cougar Crest peak view
Southern view from Cougar Crest Trail near Big Bear Lake

Length: 5.3 miles • Elevation gain: 900 feet • No dogs • Guide

Cougar Crest Trail is a picturesque hike in Southern California that crosses several beautiful meadows along its 5.3 miles of development. It features many wildflowers and small forests, all to be seen at an elevation of 900 feet.

The trail gets its name from the presence of cougars in the area. It is common to see deer on this trail, along with the wild turkey.

The view at the top of this hiking trail is remarkable, with beautiful vistas of the San Bernardino Mountains. The mountain tops are full of firs and lodgepole pine, while wildflowers-filled meadows adorn the rest of the landscape.

The views on this hiking trail are incredible, and the wildflowers that fill these meadows make it literally worth the trip.

Best time to go:  The best time to go on Cougar Crest is from April until November, due to wildflowers and changing colors in the trees.

Parking lot:  There is a large lot at the trailhead. If you arrive early enough, there is no parking fee, but be careful of the posted enforcement hours.

  What I like about Cougar Crest Trail:

  • A little bit of everything: mountain, valley, flowers, trees, lake.
  • Going up Cougar Crest Trail is like going back in time. The oaks, manzanitas, and astonishing mix of oak/conifer growth make you feel as if you are hiking through a forest from the past.
  • Plenty of wildlife: deer, turkey, rabbits, and lizards!

   What I don't like:

  • Part of the hike includes some strenuous changes in elevation and environments that can be challenging.

Pine Knot Trail to Grand View Point

Pine Knot Trail to Grand View Point
Image courtesy: USDA Forest Service

Length: 7 miles • Elevation gain: 1150 feet • Dogs on leash • Guide

This hike will offer some of the most majestic views of the San Bernardino National Forest. Whether you are up for the challenge or not, this is a hike that is worth taking.

The trail takes you through two different forested areas, the first is a coniferous forest of pine trees, and the second is an oak woodland that is unique to Southern California. The transition between the two ecosystems is an excellent example of how these habitats interrelate.

Pine Knot Trail to Grand View Point is a popular camping area, and people often come to this scenic location for picnics and other outdoor activities.

If you plan on visiting this area, be sure to bring your camera as the views are truly astonishing. The Pine Knot Trail to Grand View Point will make you feel like you've stepped out of the big city and into a forest paradise.

Best time to go:  April – October. During the summer months, temperatures are typically more agreeable; however, snowfall often impairs access to this trail during the winter.

Parking area:  A large parking lot just past the Pine Knot trailhead can accommodate anywhere between 20-25 vehicles, so try to get there early to ensure that you get a spot.

  What I like about Pine Knot Trail to Grand View Point:

  • Unique forest ecosystems.
  • Scenic views of Southern California landscape.
  • Close proximity to the town of Big Bear Lake.

  What I don't like:

  • Can be difficult or hazardous in certain weather conditions (i.e., snowy).

Bertha Peak Trail

Top view of Bertha Peak
Photo courtesy: sf-dvs (Flickr CC)

Length: 7.5 miles • Elevation gain: 1350 feet • Dogs friendly • Guide

Bertha Peak Trail is a moderate hike in the Big Bear Lake region of Southern California. It's best visited in fall or spring when seasonal wildflowers are in bloom, but it can be enjoyed year-round.

The trail itself offers panoramic views of the Salton Sea and Big Bear Lake, creating an entertaining walk along a volcanic ridge.

It's an excellent opportunity for animal lovers, as it provides a natural habitat for mountain lions, mules, deer, bobcats, coyotes, and many other wildlife species. A day of observing nature in its purest form awaits you on this hike!

Best time to go:  As mentioned before, the best time to go hiking in Big Bear is in either fall or spring, when seasonal wildflowers are in bloom.

During these seasons, campsites and resorts throughout the area become a little more affordable, making this a great vacation option for your family.

Parking lot:  Bertha Peak Trail is accessible at the west end of Big Bear Lake and can be reached easily by car. From here, you can hike to the summit via numerous routes. You can also walk it counter-clockwise, which is what I recommend for first-timers.

  What I like about Bertha Peak Trail:

  • This hike offers visitors beautiful views of the lake and valley below.
  • Bertha Peak Trail is one of many options in Big Bear for hikers wanting to gain access to other trails, such as Lakeview Trail, which leads you to three different lakes.
  • It's easily accessible by car, making it an excellent option for first-timers looking to test out their hiking skills.

  What I don't like:

  • Due to its popularity, the parking lot gets packed on summer days, so you may have to wait in line before entering it. So consider visiting early in the morning or later at night when most everyone has gone home for the day.
  • Mountain lions are known to frequent this area. Though it's not likely you will have an encounter with one, just remember that you are entering their territory, so stay alert and do what you can to scare them away if necessary.

Castle Rock Trail

Heading Points to Castle Rock Trail
Photo courtesy: daveynin (Flickr CC)

Length: 2.5 miles • Elevation gain: 820 feet • Dogs friendly • Guide

Castle Rock Trail is a moderate hike that offers beautiful views of the valley below. The trail begins at a gradual incline but eventually levels out before reaching the summit.

The rocky peak provides hikers with stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. In the fall, the changing leaves create a colorful landscape that is not to be missed.

The trail is well-maintained and relatively easy to hike, making it an excellent option for beginners or those looking for a relaxing stroll. Dogs are also allowed on the trail, so feel free to bring your furry friend along for the adventure.

This is a perfect way to spend an afternoon in Big Bear and is a must-do for those looking to experience all that this beautiful area has to offer. So, pack a few snacks and water and get ready to explore one of the region's most stunning trails. You won't regret it!

Best time to go:  Castle Rock Trail is open to hikers year-round.

Parking lot:  You can park your car at the end of Mill Creek Road. Look for a small lot on the right side of the road. There is also a horse trailer parking lot on the left side of the road.

  What I like about Castle Rock Trail:

  • Year-round access
  • Good amount of shade available on the trail
  • Beautiful views at the summit

  What I don't like:

  • Water is not readily available along the trail, so make sure to pack enough water for you and your pet.
  • Hikers should be aware that there are no real restrooms available along this route. So plan accordingly.

Butler Peak Trail

Butler Peak Trail view
Butler peak lookout- Big Bear Lake, Sothern California

Length: 10 miles • Elevation gain: 1530 feet • Dogs on leash • Guide

Electing to take on the challenge of hiking Butler Peak Trail is a good idea for those who want to escape from their busy lives and enjoy nature.

There are many options for varying lengths of hikes, but the main trail is roughly four miles round trip. The majority of this hike takes you through a lovely forest with lots of shade, making it perfect for a summer day.

Towards the end of the hike, you will reach an exposed area with beautiful views of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains.

For those looking for a more challenging hike, the trail continues on with even better views. If someone doesn't want to do all the way up to Butler Peak, the views from where the trail first splits are excellent.

Best time to go:  Because of its relative ease, this hike can be done year-round. However, if you plan to do the last mile or two of the trail, please note that there is no shade up there and it is boiling hot during the summer like hiking around Tucson.

Parking area:  There is a small lot at the trailhead, which fills up quickly on weekends. If the lot is full, there is additional parking on Pine Knot Avenue.

  What I like about the Butler Peak Trail:

  • Forest views throughout the hike.
  • Forest animals to see while hiking, including squirrels and rabbits.
  • Easy, moderate, or challenging options depending on how far you wish to go.
  • Beautiful lake views at the end of the trail.

  What I don't like:

  • Can be quite hot during the summer months if doing the extra mile or two.
  • Gets very busy on weekends.
  • Limited parking available.

Moon Ridge Trail to Bow Canyon Trail

Amazing summer day view of Big Bear Lake

Length: 2.2 miles • Elevation gain: 520 feet • Dogs friendly • Kid friendly • Guide

Big Bear Lake has many trails for hikers to explore and experience the lush mountain scenery. The trail from Moon Ridge trailhead to Bow canyon trailhead is a moderate hike that will take about an hour, depending on your speed.

The trailhead is marked with a sign and is easy to find. The hike starts through a forest of pine and oak trees. After a short while, the trail begins to ascend along Moon Ridge.

There are several switchbacks, so take your time and enjoy the views. You will come to a saddle with great views of the surrounding mountains and Big Bear Lake as you continue hiking.

From the saddle, the trail descends into Bow canyon. The canyon is narrow and steep, so be careful as you hike down. You will have to scramble over a few boulders, but it's not too difficult.

The hike back up to Moon Ridge is a little challenging, but the views are well worth it. Once you reach the top, you can either continue on the trail or take the shortcut back to the trailhead.

Best time to go:  The best time of year to hike this trail would be in the fall. The surrounding mountains are filled with changing leaves, and the weather should be pleasant without too much heat or cold.

Parking area:  Unfortunately, there are no Parking signs all around by the trailhead. So, you'll have to park on the roadside.

  What I like about the Moon Ridge to Bow Canyon Trail:

  • The trail has fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and Big Bear Lake.
  • The trail is not too difficult and easily manageable for beginners and the whole family.
  • The canyon is narrow and steep, so it's a unique experience.

  What I don't like:

  • There is no parking available at the trailhead.

Challenging Yet Rewarding Hikes

Sugarloaf Mountain Trail

Sugarloaf Mountain Trail recreation area
Image courtesy: USDA Forest Service

Length: 11.6 miles • Elevation gain: 3230 feet • Dogs on leash • Guide

A challenging and rewarding hike in Big Bear Lake is Sugarloaf Mountain Trail. 

This trail, found between the North Shore and Greenway trails, has quite a few switchbacks and steep inclines toward the end of the trail.

Therefore it is considered difficult; however, the view from the summit makes it well worth it for those who can make it. The summit provides a fantastic view of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains.

In the summer, wildflowers can be seen blooming along the trail. In fall, the changing leaves make for a beautiful hike. And in winter, the snow-covered landscape is simply stunning.

Best time to go:  Summer or fall. Hiking in the snow is dangerous because it hides rocks, roots and can be hard to follow. Additionally, there are no facilities at the summit so bring plenty of water and food.

Parking lot:  You can park at the end of North Shore Drive, where it intersects with Big Bear Blvd.

  What I like about the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail:

  • Provides a great workout.
  • Scenic view from the summit.
  • Easy to find, well-marked trail.
  • Can hike it year-round (weather permitting).

  What I don't like:

  • Steep and challenging towards the end.
  • No facilities at the summit.
  • Can be crowded during summer weekends.

What to Pack for Hiking in Big Bear?

When you are hiking in Big Bear, proper preparation is essential. You will need to bring food, water, a first-aid kit, and other supplies. Here are some tips for packing for your hike:

1. Wear the right shoes. You will need sturdy shoes with great grip to keep your footing on trails. They should be comfortable enough that you can hike for several miles without irritation or injury. 

Our personal recommendation will be Timberland Men's Waterproof Ankle Boot and Columbia Women's Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boot.

2. Dress for the weather. Bring waterproof outerwear and other clothes that will protect you from rain or cold temperatures, depending on where you are hiking in Big Bear. Also, pack extra clothes to change into when you stop for a break. 

  It is crucial that your clothes are breathable and let air circulate around you. Wearing the wrong clothing can lead to discomfort or even injury due to chafing or rubbing against your skin as you hike over rough terrain.

3. Trekking poles are also a great investment when you are hiking in Big Bear. Taking some of your weight off your feet and distributing it to the poles helps minimize fatigue and pain on the trails.

 Trekking poles come in either adjustable or fixed versions, depending on which you find easier and more comfortable to use. We recommend TheFitLife Nordic trekking poles as the quality is pretty solid.

4. Sunscreen and bug spray are always essentials. Spending time in the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer, so protect yourself properly by applying when you are hiking in Big Bear. 

The great thing about using Sun Bum sunscreen is that it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for humans and coral reefs, thereby providing protection for all. Insect bites can also become infected or cause disease if scratched, so bring bug spray to prevent bites.

5. Pack a first-aid kit. Accidents can happen, so it is always good to have a first-aid kit with your supplies. If something does go wrong, you will be able to administer immediate care until authorities arrive. Be prepared for basic survival situations as well by bringing supplies for warmth, shelter, and even signaling.

6. Durable day pack. You will want a sturdy backpack to hold all of your supplies without ripping or becoming damaged. A day pack with multiple compartments and storage is optimal this is why we recommend G4Free 50L Hiking Backpack.

7. Snacks and water. It is important to stay hydrated when hiking, so bring plenty of water with you on your trek. 

You will also want snacks that provide sustained energy, such as trail mix, granola bars, or fruit. Do not bring foods that are high in sugar or salt, as they can actually dehydrate you.


Whether it's your first time or your 15th time, start planning your next adventure with these 10 epic hiking trails near Big Bear Lake, where you can enjoy breathtaking views. Whether you want a short hike or an adventure-packed day trip, these are sure to satisfy your wildest dreams!

Don't forget to share your emotion about hiking! You will need it for the whole experience. Happy hiking!

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