Hike the Castle Rock Trail (Big Bear) + Bluff Lake
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||1.6 miles (2.6 km)|
|Other Options||3.8 to Bluff Lake|
|Hike Time||1 Hour (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||570 feet (174m)|
|Highest Elevation||7,400 feet (2256m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||San Bernardino National Forest|
Hiking up the Castle Rock Trail to the viewpoint is tough, but thankfully short. Once you get to Castle Rock, you’ll have sweeping views of Big Bear Lake and the mountains surrounding it. Since the whole hike is under two miles, I’ve included an easy extension to a hidden mountain lake, Bluff Lake, which also features ruins from an 1890s mountain resort. There’s a lot to see packed into this short hike, and it’s worth the effort.
Where is the Castle Rock Trail?
The Castle Rock Trail is located on the south side of Big Bear Lake. Unfortunately parking is tough. There’s a small parking lot just east of the trailhead, and a few other turnouts with spaces for a couple of vehicles just west of the trailhead. Use this address:
Castle Rock Trail 1W03, Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Gear For the Hike
This isn’t a long or extreme hike, so you don’t really need any special gear. Light hiking or fitness clothes are your best bet. Bring at least a water bottle, the climb can be tough and it can get hot in the summer (I bring 1L for this whole hike including the Bluff Lake option). In the winter, the trail is covered in ice and snow, and is not really doable given its steepness.
Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
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.
Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated September 2021.
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 keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Castle Rock Trail Maps
Since this is a popular and short hike, there are many unofficial trail cutoffs and use trails. As I just mentioned, you need to follow the big stone markers to stay on the official trail. Some maps show trails cutting off the main trail to the rock. Just follow the markers and you’ll be good.
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
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). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.
Elevation Profile To Castle Rock
Elevation Profile To Bluff Lake
XX Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
From here head back to the last junction.
This guide last updated on June 18, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
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