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November 6, 2023

Hiking Guide: Cougar Trail in Big Bear Lake

A Walk on the Wild Side!

Are you ready to lace up your boots, pack a granola bar (or three), and hit one of Big Bear Lake’s most thrilling trails? Welcome to the Cougar Crest Trail, a path that promises not just a workout for your calves but also a feast for your eyes and a little tingle in your adventure spirit!

Quick Facts

Why Cougar Trail?

Nestled in the heart of the San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear Lake is a year-round haven for outdoor enthusiasts. And the Cougar Trail, a moderately challenging route, is a gem among the area’s extensive network of paths. It’s the perfect blend of scenic vistas, wildlife encounters (keep those eyes peeled for our non-feline friends too), and that invigorating mountain air that makes you feel alive (and a little out of breath).

Getting To Cougar Crest Trail

To start your journey, you’ll want to head to the Cougar Crest Trailhead, just a couple of miles from the Big Bear Village. There’s a parking lot where you can leave your car, but remember, a National Forest Adventure Pass is required. Don’t have one? They’re available at the Big Bear Discovery Center or any local sporting goods store. It’s like your golden ticket to nature’s playground!

Lots of parking available at Cougar Crest Trailhead off North Shore Drive
Restrooms are available

Details of the Trail

The Cougar Trail is about 4.8 miles out and back trail, and it’s a steady climb from the get-go. But don’t worry, it’s nothing a determined hiker and a good pair of hiking shoes can’t handle. The path is well-maintained and marked, so even though you’re going wild, you won’t actually get lost in the wild. Once you reach the top you’ll have a great view of Big Bear Lake. Expect an average completion time of about 2.5 hours at a moderate pace.

What You'll See

As you ascend, you’ll be treated to a smorgasbord of sights. The trail is a tapestry of towering pines, majestic oaks, and curious manzanitas with their red, peeling bark. And the views? Oh, the views! On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Mojave Desert. And let’s not forget the lake itself, shimmering in the distance like a giant, liquid sapphire.

Flora and Fauna

The Cougar Trail is a living exhibit of Big Bear’s ecosystem. You’ll see squirrels darting across the path, hear the calls of jays, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a deer or two. Remember, this is their home, so tread lightly and pack out everything you bring in.

Tips for the Trail

  • Stay Hydrated: The air is dry, and the climb can be taxing. Bring more water than you think you’ll need.
  • Layer Up: The mountain weather is a fickle friend. It can change on a dime, so wear layers.
  • Snack Smart: Energy bars, nuts, and fruit are great trail snacks. Just remember to keep them sealed up tight – you’re not the only one who likes a mid-hike snack.
  • Leave No Trace: This isn’t just a trail; it’s a treasure. Keep it beautiful for your fellow hikers and the wildlife.
  • Pet and Kids Friendly: You may run into bikers but the trail is great for both children and pets.

After the Hike

Once you’ve conquered the Cougar Trail, why not celebrate with a visit to Big Bear Village? There’s nothing like a hearty meal to replenish those burned calories. Or, if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, how about a soothing massage to ease those worked muscles?


The Cougar Trail in Big Bear Lake, CA, is more than just a hike; it’s an experience. It’s a chance to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with nature. So, what are you waiting for? Adventure is calling your name, and it’s got a distinctly wild ring to it!

Happy Trails, fellow hikers! 🌲🥾🏞️

Category: Hiking, Guides, Things To Do

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