HUGE→ REI Cyber-Week Sale

Cougar Crest Trail To Bertha Peak Hike Guide

Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak Hike Guide

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn by Turn Directions
  • Cougar Crest Trail Maps & Trail Conditions
  • Tips and Recommendations for the Hike
Total Distance8 miles (12.9 km)
Other Options 4.5 miles roundtrip to viewpoint benches
Hike Time3-4 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,450 feet (442m)
Highest Elevation8,201 feet (2500m)
Fees & PermitsParking Permit
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)San Bernardino National Forest
Park Phone909-382-2682

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.

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.

FYI ➤ Huge REI Cyber-Week Sale On Now including massive discounts like $100 off InReach Mini, $100 off Instinct Solar Watch, $100s off Garmin Fenix models, and up to 50% on great hiking gear.

Wildcat Small

My Goto Hiking Footwear: La Sportiva Wildcat
If you hike a lot or just want the best (but not the most durable) hiking footwear, the Wildcat trail runner is your best move.  It’s fast and light on trails, the sole gives me good grip off-trail or scrambling, and they dry quickly.
Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Osprey=talon

Best All-Around Day Pack: Osprey Talon
I try so many backpacks and I can usually find something I love about all of them. But no matter how many I try, I always find that I come back to the Osprey Talon 33  (or for women, the Osprey Sirrus 36). It’s just the right balance between everything. You save weight because there is no frame, but the vented and padded back holds its shape, giving it a pseudo-frame. It’s big enough for long day hikes or overnighters, but when I don’t fill it on a shorter hike, it’s still nice and light. It’s got a sleeve for a hydration bladder and side pockets for Smartwater bottles.  I’ve been using (and beating) the same one since 2017 and it’s still going strong.
Latest Women’s Prices: REI | Amazon
Latest Men’s Prices: REI | Amazon

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated December 2020.

My December 2020 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Cougar Crest Trail Maps

Click Here To View Map

Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable  Garmin Instinct). You can also use most smartphones. Check out my navigation recommendations and resources on my top gear picks page for options at all budget levels.

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

It’s easy to say thank you! Support these free hiking guides by buying anything at Amazon or REI using the links below. There is no cost to you.

Buy Anything on Amazon   Buy Anything on REI.com   

Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 4
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.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 5
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.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 6
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.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 7
Soon you’ll see Bertha Peak in the distance. That’s where we’re hiking to.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 8
At just under a mile, you’ll reach this stone garden.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 9
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.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 10
After the stone garden continue up the main trail.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 11
Avoid any smaller side trails and continue up the wide Cougar Crest Trail.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 12
At about this point, the trail changes from a wide dirt trail to more of a traditional single track through the woods.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 13
The trail starts to get a little steeper and rocky at points.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 14
At a little over a mile you’ll start getting glimpses of Big Bear Lake through the trees.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 15
There’s also a single bench at the first viewpoint.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 16
There’s a steeper section as you head up the trail.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 17
And then the trail mellows out, and the climb gets easier.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 18
At around 2 miles in, there are several benches and some great viewpoints.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 19
The trail winds around the bend and starts to head east.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 20
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.

Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 21
At the PCT intersection, make the hard right to continue on the PCT.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 22
There’s a cool PCT sign at the junction. Hopefully it hasn’t been stolen when you do the hike.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 23
Head along the PCT, which is relatively level as it follows the ridge.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 24
This section of the PCT offers great views of Big Bear Lake and the mountains of San Gorgonio Wilderness behind it.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 25
You’ll see Bertha Peak in the distance. You’re almost there.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 26
When you reach the junction, make the hard right onto the dirt road that climbs Bertha Peak (leaving the PCT behind).
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 27
The dirt road is steep at the start.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 28
And then has some flatter sections as it makes its way to the peak.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 29
Soon you’ll see some radio equipment and a building. Make the left to hit the summit of Bertha Peak.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 30
Here you are, Bertha Peak, at 8201 feet.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 31
The views of Big Bear Lake are some of the best.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 33
Walk around the fence to take in views in every direction.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 32
To the west you’ll be able to see Mt Baldy and Angeles National Forest.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 34
And to the south you’ll see Sugarloaf Mountain, Mt San Gorgonio and the high peaks of Southern California.
Cougar Crest Trail Hike Directions 35
Once you’re at Bertha Peak, just turn around and go back down the way you came. That’s the hike!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

Related Guides

Popular Articles