Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade V
Elevation Gain
500.00 ft (152.40 m)
2.00 mi (3.22 km)
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Castle Rock is a large granite outcropping above Big Bear Lake that offers nearly 30 trad, sport, and top-rope routes on high quality granite ranging from 5.5 to 5.11. The approach is a popular 1-mile hike from Big Bear Boulevard/CA-18 that is often crowded with day hikers but not climbers. Starting at nearly 7,000 feet of elevation, the steep trail can be a huff-and-puff affair when carrying a full load of climbing gear, but the expansive views and superb rock faces are a just reward.

A few of the classic routes at Castle Rock include Knightline (5.10a/b trad), Ball and Chain (5.9+ sport), and The Great Steps of Cheops (5.6 TR), though there are several other excellent lines. Bolts in the Big Bear area tend to hold up well due to the dry climate, and trad placements enjoy excellent granite reminiscent of that in Joshua Tree National Park but not as sharp on the fingertips. Big Bear can be climbed year-round, though winter climbing is highly dependent on snowfall and summer climbing on heat.

Castle Rock is on the wetter south side of Big Bear Lake, set in a large conifer forest of ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, sugar pine, and incense cedar, among other varieties of trees. Chipmunks, ground squirrels, and small lizards are abundant, along with numerous bird species including Steller's jays, pygmy nuthatches, and Cassin's finches. Even bald eagles are known to nest in the Big Bear area.

Climbers looking for quality climbs in a beautiful setting not far from town will find a lot to like at Castle Rock.

Note: For those looking to avoid the crowds of the lower trailhead, Castle Rock can also be accessed by the Upper Trailhead off of forest road NF-2N86 to the south. Although the drive to the trailhead is longer, the hike-in access is the same distance, has 270 less feet of elevation gain/loss, and the added serenity makes it a worthy consideration.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Big views. High-quality granite. Variety of routes.


Summer heat. Potential for crowds.

Pets allowed


Trailhead Elevation

6,900.00 ft (2,103.12 m)


Rock climbing
Bird watching
Big vistas


Nearby Lodging + Camping


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