Bertha Peak is a true high point overlooking Big Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains. To hike to to top is not an easy endeavor, but amazing panoramic views and a great workout are the rewards for taking it on.
This hike begins as Cougar Crest Trail, and then takes an extension along the Pacific Crest Trail and a gravel service road to the top of Bertha Peak. The full out and back is nearly 8 miles and climbs more than 1,000 feet of elevation. Come prepared with good shoes, plenty of water and snacks, and a can-do attitude.
There are a few benches for rest stops along Cougar Crest, and views from this trail are good the whole way. If the incline of the first 2 miles feels manageable, consider pressing on to Bertha Peak. You will face the steepest climb in the final 0.8 miles of trail, but conquering it will earn you the best vista to be had from this side of Big Bear.
You can see almost all of the lake, the town, and the peaks beyond. See if you can pick out and name all the prominent features. Snow Summit Ski Resort and Sugarloaf Mountain form the near range of hills. San Gorgonio Mountain rises beyond these, claiming the highest point in Southern California. Looking the the west, you can see the San Gabriel Mountains and Mount San Antonio, which are near Los Angeles.
The summit can be windy and cold, especially during the early season, so be prepared with extra layers if you want to linger on top to take it all in. Return to the car the same way you came, and then reward yourself with a relaxing evening in Big Bear.