There are several Big Bear Lakes in California, and even more spread across the Western U.S. When there's a Big Bear Lake, there's usually a Little Bear Lake nearby, and the Bear Lakes Basin in the Trinity Alps Wilderness is no exception. Wee Bear Lake lives up to its appellation and adds unique scenery and opportunities to the Trinity Alps version of the Three Bears.
The Bear Lakes Basin lies within an island of granite set about 20 miles northeast from the core of the Trinity Alps. Bear Creek drains the basin and meets the Trinity River right next to the trailhead. Start your trek toward the Bear Lakes and you will come across a bridge after a little more than a mile. Unless you want to bushwack down to Bear Creek, this is the last reliable water source for several miles. The next mile after the bridge rides a narrow ridge and and has more sun than the first leg of the hike.
The second half of the trail will put a spring in your step as the granite walls surrounding you begin to show themselves above and around stands of incense cedar and fir. The trail will often level out through carpets of fern to give your legs a brief rest. One of the last level stretches will feature two noticeably large ponderosa pine trees. Pass the two trees and the trail steepens with the assistance of well placed rock steps. Fern and other soft brush close in on the trail at this point, so pants may be helpful.
The trail empties out onto the outlet of Big Bear Lake. The creek here flows over slabs of granite and makes for a wonderful playground with great views of Mount Shasta. Keep going another quarter of a mile to reach Big Bear Lake. Sticking on the trail, this adventure is about 9.5 miles long round trip. If you seek more adventure and enjoy cross-country route finding, the traverse to Wee Bear Lake and Little Bear Lake will add about a mile each way. The cairns marking the way begin on the south side of Bear Creek near where the established trail first encounters the granite playground. As you wrap around the mountainside you will eventually see a V in the granite showing the outlet of Wee Bear Lake.