Cougar Crest Trail is considered a favorite around Big Bear. Located in the San Bernardino National Forest, it’s a short, popular day hike that offers a great view of Big Bear Lake at the top. It’s rated as moderate to intense for its near constant climb to the top. If you’re in good shape, the hike is definitely moderate. This is a well-maintained, heavily-used trail that is dog friendly.
Take your time to spot the lizards darting across the trail. Wildflowers such as scarlet buglers and bigberry manzanitas abound in the summer. Snow in the winter makes it a great place for sledding. Deer graze along the trail year-round. The pine trees here are enormous and majestic.
At just over a mile along the trail, there is a bench that offers a solid view of Big Bear Lake.
Hikers recommend continuing along the Pacific Crest Trail past the end of the Cougar Crest to Bertha Peak for a view of Big Bear Lake.
It’s recommended you bring a jacket with you because it can get chilly at the top of the hike. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen because the trail is very exposed. Be aware of mountain bikers and horse riders on this trail. They’re permitted along Cougar Crest Trail but not on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Cougar Crest Trail in Big Bear is four miles roundtrip. If you don’t want to pay the $5 Adventure Pass fee, you can park about a half a mile away at the Discovery Center and hike to the trailhead.
There is a vault toilet at the trailhead.
From San Bernardino, head east on Highway 210. After five miles, take exit 81 toward Highway 330 toward Mountain Resorts/Big Bear Lake. After 15.1 miles, turn left onto Highway 18/Hilltop Road. After 12.3 miles, turn left onto Highway 38. After 5.9 miles, the trailhead parking lot will be on your left.
Other experiences in Big Bear: