Pine Knot Trail is an attractive jaunt in the San Bernardino Mountains immediately south of the resort town of Big Bear Lake. It is easily accessible via neighborhood roads that are maintained throughout the winter and features a fun diversity of both terrain and vegetation.
The trail begins in the Aspen Glen Picnic Area, which itself is home to rolling hills that provide excellent terrain for family sledding outings. Though the picnic area is very popular when sledding conditions exist, few visitors strike out for the mountains on snowshoes, giving bolder adventurers a chance for solitude in a charming mountain range full of ponderosa pines and expansive vistas. The truly fit and ambitious can take Pine Knot Trail all the way to Grand View Point, over 3 miles one-way from Aspen Glen, a significant achievement when breaking trail through fresh powder.
Pine Knot Trail is not particularly well marked for winter and can be difficult to follow after a fresh snowfall. The most reliable tree blazes are orange and yellow, but they are too infrequent to make navigation a no-brainer. The blazes periodically confirm that you are on track rather than consistently guiding you along the path when several reasonable route choices converge. Occasional signs unequivocally confirm that you are on the trail and provide additional information on distances and destinations. Blue tree blazes appear to be common throughout the forest and seem to have a Forest Service purpose other than trail marking - do not be misled by these markers. Consider bringing several sources of navigational information, and remember that batteries for phones and GPS units often suffer severely in the cold.
One of the appeals of snowshoeing, though, is that trails are not as necessary as they are in summer. When ground vegetation is covered in a few feet of snow, route possibilities are endless and the mountains can be explored in any direction, assuming one is able to maintain one's bearings. If you are confident in your navigational abilities, go exploring and find yourself a day's adventure.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.