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Cougar Crest Trail To Bertha Peak Hike Guide
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Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak Hike Guide

  • 8 miles - Moderate Effort
  • Or: 4.5 miles roundtrip to viewpoint benches
  • 3-4 Hours (Total)
  • 1,450 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 8,201 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

what does this mean?

The Cougar Crest Trail, one of the most popular in Big Bear, CA, offers excellent views and beautiful wilderness for a moderate, but not crazy, effort. On the hike, you'll experience a lush Alpine forest, views of Big Bear Lake, stone sculptures, a stretch on the iconic Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and then the panoramic Bertha Peak, one of the high points around the lake.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn by Turn Directions
  • Cougar Crest Trail Maps & Trail Conditions
  • Tips and Recommendations for the Hike

When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

Where Is the Cougar Crest Trail in Big Bear?

The Cougar Crest Trail is located on the north shore of Big Bear Lake. Use this trailhead address:
Cougar Crest Trailhead, Big Bear, CA 92314

Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 3
There's a big parking lot, but this is a popular hike, and the lot fills up quickly. There is a primitive toilet here.

You need a National Parks Pass or Adventure Pass to park in this lot.

If the parking lot is full, you can try parking at the nearby Big Bear Discovery Center and walk down the paved path to join the hike slightly after the start.

Gear For the Hike

Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 2
This is about as rocky as the trail gets, and it's only for a few short sections. If trekking poles help you, bring them.

The Cougar Crest Trail up to Bertha Peak is a very straightforward hike, with a good trail. Some folks think it's rocky, and compared to paved paths around the lake, it is, but compared to normal mountain trails, this trail is normal. If you have trekking poles, they'll come in handy, but I wouldn't buy new ones, especially for this hike. The summit at Bertha Peak can be windy and cool; bring an extra layer or shell. In the winter, there can be snow and ice, and micros-spikes help on slippery slopes. 2L of water will keep you hydrated for the length of this hike.

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Cougar Crest Trail Maps

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Guides to Help You Navigate

Elevation Profile

Cougar Crest Elevation
Its a pretty steady but gradual climb until the very end.

3d Map

Cougar Crest 3d Map
The Cougar Crest Trail winds its way uphill until it reaches the ridge where the PCT is. From there you follow the ridge and then do a last little uphill to the summit.

Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

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From the parking lot, the trailhead is paved and has a big trail board. Head up the paved path.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 1
There's a basic map of area hikes on the board.
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Shortly after the start, the trail splits. Head to the left on the dirt trail. If you parked at the Discovery Center, the paved path will spit you out here.
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The trail gently heads uphill through the junipers, cedars, and pines. Stay on the main (wide) trail and avoid any of the small trails off to the side.
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Soon you'll see Bertha Peak in the distance. That's where we're hiking to.
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At just under a mile, you'll reach this stone garden.
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There's a bench here where you can soak it all in. I've seen videos of people knocking these stones down. Please don't.
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After the stone garden continue up the main trail.
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Avoid any smaller side trails and continue up the wide Cougar Crest Trail.
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At about this point, the trail changes from a wide dirt trail to more of a traditional single track through the woods.
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The trail starts to get a little steeper and rocky at points.
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At a little over a mile you'll start getting glimpses of Big Bear Lake through the trees.
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There's also a single bench at the first viewpoint.
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There's a steeper section as you head up the trail.
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And then the trail mellows out, and the climb gets easier.
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At around 2 miles in, there are several benches and some great viewpoints.
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The trail winds around the bend and starts to head east.
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And soon you'll reach two benches before the PCT intersection. If you look carefully, you'll also see some flat areas where PCT thru-hikers camp. You can imagine how nice it would be to camp here.

If you just want to hike Cougar Crest Trail, and not Bertha Peak, enjoy the benches, and then turn around.  Otherwise keep going to continue to Bertha Peak.

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At the PCT intersection, make the hard right to continue on the PCT.
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There's a cool PCT sign at the junction. Hopefully it hasn't been stolen when you do the hike.
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Head along the PCT, which is relatively level as it follows the ridge.
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This section of the PCT offers great views of Big Bear Lake and the mountains of San Gorgonio Wilderness behind it.
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You'll see Bertha Peak in the distance. You're almost there.
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When you reach the junction, make the hard right onto the dirt road that climbs Bertha Peak (leaving the PCT behind).
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The dirt road is steep at the start.
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And then has some flatter sections as it makes its way to the peak.
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Soon you'll see some radio equipment and a building. Make the left to hit the summit of Bertha Peak.
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Here you are, Bertha Peak, at 8201 feet.
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The views of Big Bear Lake are some of the best.
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Walk around the fence to take in views in every direction.
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To the west you'll be able to see Mt Baldy and Angeles National Forest.
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And to the south you'll see Sugarloaf Mountain, Mt San Gorgonio and the high peaks of Southern California.
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Once you're at Bertha Peak, just turn around and go back down the way you came. That's the hike!

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).

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