A champion tree is one that is larger than any other living members of its species. Though the "Champion Lodgepole" has not been confirmed by foresters as an absolute victor, this is the largest lodgepole pine that you are likely to ever see. It is 110 feet tall, 6 feet wide, and it has been growing for 440 years!
It is surprisingly close to Big Bear, in a healthy old-growth forest that has been spared from logging. Multiple trails converge near the tree, but the simplest way to reach it is via Champion Lodgepole Pine Trail--an easy 1-mile round-trip hike through some of the most beautiful forest in Southern California.
Many large conifers thrive here at the extreme elevation of 7,700 feet. They brave severe winters in return for plenty of moisture from snowmelt and summer thunderstorms, growing tall and strong among meadows of colorful wildflowers. This environment seems a world away from the desert of the valley, though the only thing that separates it is height above sea level.
The roads are usually impassible in winter and spring because of snow, so come in early summer when temperatures are pleasant and wildflowers are in brilliant bloom.
Nearby, and accessible by another short hike from the champion tree, is the Bluff Lake Reserve. This is privately owned by the Wildlands Conservancy, but they invite anyone to enjoy the trails in the nicely preserved natural area. Bluff Lake is surrounded by montane meadows and forests, which are home to several endangered plants. Please stay on the trails and remember to Leave No Trace when hiking here so that people may continue to visit this popular paradise in the mountains.