Cougar Crest Trail is one of our favorite hikes in Big Bear! It is easy to find, boasts spectacular views of big bear lake and the surrounding mountains, and the best part is that it is dog friendly!The parking lot and trailhead are located on the north side of Big Bear Lake on Highway 38, directly across from the Serrano Campground entrance. Parking requires a $5 pass that can be purchased on site.
This out and back trail is just under 7 miles and a little less than 1000 feet of elevation gain. It would normally be classified as moderate, but we traversed through about 2 feet of snow in early January 2017 without snowshoes which added significant difficulty. It was definitely a great workout that tested both our legs and our lungs! This trail is normally pretty popular, but we were lucky and encountered only four other people the entire 4+ hours it took us to complete this hike. Since we were pretty much alone on the trail, we were able to let Ruckus explore off-leash. He absolutely loved the freedom to romp around on his own and always came bounding back to us with sheer joy whenever we called him.
The scenery along this trail in the winter is amazing. It is easy to get distracted by the adjacent snow covered mountain as well as the view of Big Bear Lake. We found ourselves stopping quite a few times to take pictures and take in the view. To be honest, we took every opportunity possible to stop and rest because climbing through that amount of snow is exhausting! There are plenty of benches scattered along the trail as well that offer a chance to stop, take a deep breath and enjoy the surrounding beauty.
Even covered in snow, the trail itself is relatively easy to follow. The hike down is much less physically demanding and we even found a few steeper areas to slide down which had us laughing hysterically! We had a blast on the Cougar Crest Trail and can’t wait to hike it again!