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Day Hike

See San Gorgonio Wilderness From the Cougar Crest Trail

June 03, 1989|JOHN McKINNEY

Cougar Crest, the forested ridge between Big Bear Lake and Holcomb Valley, is a treat for hikers. From the ridge, as well as from the ridge's two prominent peaks--Bertha and Delamar--you get great views of the lake, towering Mt. San Gorgonio and tranquil Holcomb Valley.

Holcomb Valley wasn't always so tranquil. In 1860, Billy Holcomb was out bear hunting and wandered over the ridge of hills that separates Bear Valley from the smaller, parallel valley to the north. He found gold. Prospectors swarmed into the valley from all over the West.

This day hike climbs the forested slopes above Big Bear Lake to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. From the trail, you can ascend to Bertha Peak or to more distant Delamar Mountain for grand views of the middle of the San Bernardino Mountains.

Directions to trailhead: From California 18 in the town of Big Bear Lake, turn north on Stanfield Cut Off, crossing to the north shore of the lake and a junction with California 38. Turn left, drive a mile to the Big Bear San Bernardino National Forest Ranger Station, then a short distance beyond to the signed Cougar Crest trailhead and parking area off the north side of the highway. If you're approaching from the east on California 38, the trailhead is a bit more than 2 miles beyond the hamlet of Fawnskin.

The hike: From the signed trailhead, join wide Cougar Crest Trail, a retiring dirt road. You climb through a pine-and-juniper woodland and pass a couple of old mining roads. After a mile, the trail narrows and begins ascending forested Cougar Crest via a series of well-constructed switchbacks.

Soon you'll begin enjoying over-the-shoulder views of Big Bear Lake and its dramatic backdrop--the 2-mile-high peaks of the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

A bit more than 2 miles from the trailhead, Cougar Crest Trail reaches a signed junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. To reach Bertha Peak you'll bear right (east) and continue along the ridge crest for half a mile to an intersection with an old dirt road.

The Pacific Crest Trail continues straight at this junction, but you bear right on the dirt road and ascend half a mile through a pinon pine and juniper woodland to the small relay station atop Bertha Peak. Best views are a bit below the peak.

Cougar Crest Trail

California 38

to Bertha Peak

6 miles round trip;

1,100-foot elevation gain

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