Cougar Crest Trail

San Bernardino National Forest

San Gabriel + San Bernardino Mountains, California

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Cougar Crest Trail


  • Vault toilet facility and picnic area at the trailhead for the Cougar Crest Trail.- Cougar Crest Trail
  • Cougar Crest Trailhead.- Cougar Crest Trail
  • Broad trail at the beginning of the Cougar Crest Trail.- Cougar Crest Trail
  • Old prospect foundation and remains just east of the Cougar Crest Trail.- Cougar Crest Trail
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing feedback) along the Cougar Crest Trail.- Cougar Crest Trail
  • Cougar Crest Trail.- Cougar Crest Trail
  • Western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) along the Cougar Crest Trail.- Cougar Crest Trail
  • Scarlet bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius) and bigberry manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca) along the Cougar Crest Trail.- Cougar Crest Trail
  • First view of Big Bear Lake and San Bernardino Peak (10,649 ft) on the Cougar Crest Trail.- Cougar Crest Trail
  • First bench at approximately 1.2 miles into hike.- Cougar Crest Trail
  • Second bench along the Cougar Crest Trail at roughly 1.7 miles.- Cougar Crest Trail
Overview + Weather
Views of Big Bear Lake and surrounding San Bernardino Mountains.
Very heavily used during summer weekends. Sun exposure during summer.
San Gabriel + San Bernardino Mountains, CA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
720.00 ft (219.46 m)
Parking Pass: 
California Adventure Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,880.00 ft (2,097.02 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

Most people go to Big Bear in summer for the lake. Sunbathing, swimming and paddling are all great activities and are not to be missed, but while spending time in the San Bernardino mountains, be sure to get a taste of true mountain views. The Cougar Crest Trail rises above Big Bear, delivering hilltop views of the lake and surrounding peaks. This is one of the most popular trails in the area, and for good reason.

The trail makes a gradual climb through Big Bear's famous pine forest, and it deals eyefuls almost the entire way as gaps in the trees open to views of Big Bear Lake, the town and ski resorts, and San Gorgonio Mountain far beyond. Wildflowers burst during early summer, and deer browse along the trail all year long.

Because it is such a rewarding hike, the trail can get very crowded and the parking lot full, especially on weekends. Arrive early in the day to beat the crowds and the heat and to have a better chance of seeing wildlife. The path is quite rocky, and ice may linger on some parts during spring, so wear sturdy shoes and watch your footing. Shade is lacking on some segments, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

This trail connects with the Pacific Crest Trail in about 2 miles from the trailhead. From here you have the option of extending your hike to the top of Bertha Peak for a bigger challenge and even more rewarding views. Note that bicycles are not allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail, so mountain bikers must turn around at this junction.

Cougar Crest begins from a parking lot on North Shore Drive, less than a mile west of Big Bear Discovery Center and just north of Serrano Campground. To save space in the trailhead parking lot, walking or biking to the trailhead is recommended if you are camped nearby or can park elsewhere. Additional parking is available at the Big Bear Discovery Center, where a 0.6-mile paved extension path connects with Cougar Crest Trail.

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(25 within a 30 mile radius)

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(43 within a 30 mile radius)

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