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Conquering the Trails Near Big Bear Lake, CA

Tips for Hiking Alpine Pedal Path and Pine Knot Trail

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Big Bear, CA is stunningly scenic – we can all agree on that. It’s no wonder then that hikers, bikers and horseback riders have made it a point to explore the trails that loop around the area. The views are fantastic, the workouts can be strenuous, and it is an experience you are unlikely to forget. We tested two of the trails while we were there: the relatively easy Alpine Pedal Path and the more challenging Pine Knot Trail.

 

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Alpine Pedal Path

The Alpine Pedal Path is a largely paved path that runs along the northern side of Big Bear Lake. You can cover over 3.2 miles if you start at the cut-off and then come all the way to Solar Observatory. Adored by bikers, walkers, joggers and birders, the path is fairly well populated even in early mornings. We encountered friendly locals and tourists as we made our way along the lake, although we didn’t do the entire thing. We actually started from the parking near Serrano Campground and then followed the path to the boat launch (where we may have gotten distracted by the ducks… as you do).

 

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There are slight inclines and declines along the way, but the path is a fairly easy stretch. We did take the walk on a very warm day in July, and once we left the forested section, there wasn’t much in the way of shade. I would recommend taking water even during cooler weather.

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Pine Knot Trail

The Pine Knot Trail is categorized as “moderate.” At this, I not only laugh, but live in fear of the day we try something difficult. If you have been reading the blog for a while, you know that I’m working up to being a hiker. It does not come naturally to me. No, that would be more “reading a book while in a hammock” kind of thing. Still, it was Andy’s birthday, and he loves hiking, so I actually suggested this jaunt.

 

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The Pine Knot Trail covers 6.1 miles out and back – or should I say up and down. That’s a slight exaggeration as most of the inclines are not dramatic, but you do notice the climb. At its highest point, you will find yourself at 7,784 feet and enjoying the vista at Grand View Point. Unless you are me, and then you fall about .5 miles short of that. While we both started strong, I started to fade in the heat and elevation around 2.3 miles into it. I had to stop at 2.6 miles because I started to feel ill. Andy is convinced it is the elevation because we’ve certainly done longer hikes than that. I rested a bit and then we made our way back down (yes, that means another 2.6 miles was ahead of me as we started up again). So, the views in the photos you see here of Big Bear Lake from the trail are from the petit view rather than the grand. Next time!

 

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The trail is open from March through November, and you should not be surprised if you see people on mountain bikes and horseback (though how they handle some of those switchbacks, I’ll never know). Every bit of it is gorgeous, even when you feel like fainting. Dogs are allowed on a leash. Parking is in the Aspen Glen Picnic Area.

 

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Was the hiking a success overall? Sure. Even with the stumble on Pine Knot, I think I’m getting stronger, and the views were incredible on both paths. I know Andy wants to go back and try out some of the other trails like the moderate Castle Rock Trail (2.7 miles) and the more difficult Cougar Crest Trail. Me? Well, I’m working up to the idea.

 

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A rare photo of Patricia hiking. Photo by Andrew Gerngross.

 

A note about the trails and parks–

You must buy an Adventure Pass in order to park inside any of the parks. It’s good for 24 hours, and it allows you to park near the trailheads, picnic areas, etc. You can buy them at the Big Bear Discovery Center or from any number of retail locations. We got ours at 7-Eleven.

20 Comments on Conquering the Trails Near Big Bear Lake, CA

  1. Sounds like two great trails. I think it’s cool that the Alpine Pedal Path is largely paved as this must make it accessible for a wider range of people. I love the bit where you said if this is moderate I live in fear of experiencing a difficult route!! I’ve said that so many times about so many trails. I think we may come from the same school of hiking 🙂

    • PatriciaSteffy // September 21, 2016 at 11:47 pm // Reply

      LOL!! I bet we do. So often I just stand in the middle of one of these things and just shake my head. But I’m still trying!

  2. California is full of wonders and great hiking. I live on the other side of the US so do not get to go there often. I would love to spend some time hiking these paths here unlike you I am ready for that adventure. It does not seem you did so bad so you should give the other paths a try.

    • PatriciaSteffy // September 22, 2016 at 1:31 am // Reply

      Andy really loves hiking, so I’m betting we’ll have another go. I just need to keep getting stronger (though I’m not quite sure what to do about the elevation problems LOL!).

  3. We stopped by Big Bear earlier this summer when we were on our way to Lake Arrowhead. We didn’t get a chance to do any hiking and wish we could have. We would probably have to do the least strenuous trail tho! 🙂

    • PatriciaSteffy // September 22, 2016 at 1:32 am // Reply

      The least strenuous trail we did still had some really pretty scenery. Next time you go, definitely give it a shot! 🙂

  4. I have been to Big Bear several times and i always a great spot for nature photographs. We are have longed to try to hike at least part of the PCT but simply have not gotten back to the states to do it. When we left the states we could barely walk around the block and now we do miles and miles or kilometers over here. Keep working building up.

    • PatriciaSteffy // September 24, 2016 at 12:35 am // Reply

      It’s slow going, but I’m still trying. Andy loves hiking so much, so it’s great motivation to get better. And with places like Big Bear to see, it’s even more reason to give it a go. 🙂

  5. That’s really cool that they have the 24 hour adventure pass available. These hiking trails looks awesome!

    • PatriciaSteffy // September 24, 2016 at 12:35 am // Reply

      I love how many different kinds there are and that people of all skill levels and abilities can get a chance to see really beautiful parts of Big Bear.

  6. Does look like a stunning part of CA – I would love to take on Pine Knot Trail on horseback!!

  7. I love going for hikes when I travel. It gives me a chance to really explore nature and experience something different. Big Bear looks like the perfect place for a relaxing day out!

    • PatriciaSteffy // September 24, 2016 at 12:42 am // Reply

      It’s a lot of fun, especially when you go during mid-week. It gets very crowded on weekends, and I’m guessing the trails do too.

  8. Big Bear Trails sound like my kind of fun! I would love to go horseback riding. I’m sorry that you felt sick, but at least you got 2.6 miles in! Winning! I also learned that when I don’t pace myself in high places I’ll get sick too. Your photography is amazing and showcases the beauty of the park!

    • PatriciaSteffy // September 24, 2016 at 12:41 am // Reply

      Thank you! I really hope that I can kick the elevation problems. It was so pretty up there despite how awful I felt! 🙂 But I’m going to take getting that far as a win!

  9. Amazing views. I love any place with a good forest to roam through. Trees and what they have to say are so important.

  10. I love Big Bear but I’ve never been when it’s not snowy! Thanks for this guide – I live in LA so it’s a nearby drive for me and I’d love to try out those trails.

    • PatriciaSteffy // September 24, 2016 at 12:39 am // Reply

      You know what is funny? I live here in LA, too, and I’ve never been up there when it is snowy. We need to switch! 🙂

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