How to Winter hike Castle Rock Trail Big Bear

Castle Rock Trail Big Bear Lake is the hike to trek year-round in the San Bernardino Mountains. At least that is what the three million tourists who visit Big Bear Lake think. But as a local here in Big Bear Lake who lives here year-round, you will rarely find me on the steep trail on the south side of Big Bear Lake. Unless it’s the dead of winter. If it’s anytime in January, you could find me at the trailhead to Castle Rock Trail Big Bear at seven a.m. strapping on my snowshoes on an eighteen-degree chilly morning.

Castle Rock Trail Big Bear Lake may be known to visitors as the best view of Big Bear Lake to be had at over six thousand feet. As someone who lives in Big Bear Year round is it worth it to put up with the terrible parking situation? Is it worth scenic views when you spend your morning trekking past multiple blue bags of dog poo dotting this popular trail or the graffiti that covers Castle Rock’s massive boulders?

As Big Bear Lake‘s best professional hiking guide, my answer is yes. That is if you plan on hiking or snowshoeing Big Bear Lake in the winter months. In the chilly mornings of a southern California winter at over six thousand feet, then Castle Rock may be the hike for you.

If you hike Castle Rock Trail any weekend in the summer months expect to be on the trail shoulder to shoulder with other trekkers. The population of Big Bear Lake goes from 20,000 year-round to 70,000 on a busy holiday weekend and so many of those hikers head to Castel Rock Trail Big Bear on any given weekend. As a hiking guide in Big Bear Lake, I tend to ignore the uber-popular trails, especially on the weekends. But give me a midweek January morning and you could find me snowshoeing past the Castle Rock Moat.

Castle Rock Trail has to be the number one most popular trail in Big Bear Lake. The massive rock formations draw the eye of Instagram influencers, climbers and even families. But ninety percent of the people who trek up the five hundred-foot steep gain to the massive boulders don’t even know that Castle Rock was actually named for the moat-shaped rock in the background down by the creek.

Snowshoe adventures at Castle Rock

If you are not familiar with this trail past the Castle Rock moat the trail is very hard to follow in the snow until you reach Mill Creek Road or 2N10. In the summertime, sure the city of Big Bear Lake installed giant rock cairns a few years back to help day hikers not get lost. On any given winter day these cairns will be under four feet of snow and almost impossible to find. You can hike past the actual moat at Castle Rock to Bluff Lake Reserve but in the winter months, it’s recommended you do the hike with an experienced guide like this one!

Castle Rock Trail Big Bear is for sure one of the most beautiful hikes in Big Bear Lake and especially so in the winter months. It can definitely be a challenge to hike in this area when the first little bit of trail is basically a sheet of ice. In the winter months that usually scares off everyone but locals with the correct equipment. When Big Bear Lake gets deep snow you will usually need cat tracks for the first half mile and then snowshoes for the rest of the hike. Plus there have been many, many January mornings I have been the first trekker breaking trail basically straight uphill in two feet of snow. Do you want to sweat out all those Christmas cookie carbs? Even on an eighteen-degree Big Bear Lake morning, Castle Rock Trail may be the scenic snowy hike for you!

Beyond Castle Rock Trail Big Bear

Did you know there is so much more than just Castle Rock Trail? Once you reach Mill Creek Road at almost seven thousand feet you can continue uphill towards Skyline Trail and views overlooking San Gorgonio. Tired of all those uphill slogs? Head west towards little-known Kidd Creek and some of the most majestic pine-filled vistas in all of Big Bear Lake. At these, some of the highest elevations in the Big Bear Valley, the views can not be beat all winter long!



  1. Debbie

    Even though I live within a couple of hours of Big Bear and have been there quite a few times, I’ve never really hiked any of the trails there. I’d love to check them out. In the summer though. 🙂

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      Amber Wood

      We have seriously beautiful trails! I’m just getting back into running this week after taking many years hiatus for health problems. Looking forward to many link-ups in the future!

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