Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak Hike Guide
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance||8 miles (12.9 km)|
|Other Options||4.5 miles roundtrip to viewpoint benches|
|Hike Time||3-4 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,450 feet (442m)|
|Highest Elevation||8,201 feet (2500m)|
|Fees & Permits||Parking Permit|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||San Bernardino National Forest|
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
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
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.
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 Shoe – REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
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.
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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.
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
Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map
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.
Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
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.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.