Trailhead: Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Length: 5.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1300 ft.
Total time: 4 hours
Dogs: Wouldn’t recommend on this trail.
Parking: Parking at trail head on the side of the road (free)
The trailhead here goes right off the highway, right between two blind curves so have fun crossing that road.
Follow the trail up and you’ll end up on the right side of Castle Rock when you’ll see a split in the trail. Take the trail to the left at the split if you want to head to Bluff Lake, unlike what we did, which was go to the right and end up in a wash somewhere.
This was played off as an “accident” but I’m pretty sure the person I was with was checking out good locations to store a body.
We ended up backtracking and, yet again took a wrong trail (my pick this time) which ended up in us off roading until we got to the fire road. We meandered along that for a bit until we got to a fork, and made a left towards a locked gate and the ruins of a cabin that said “Private Property.”
From Alltrails: Be sure before crossing into Bluff Lake Preserve you contact and get permission from The Wildlands Conservancy (909) 797-8507, there are rare plants and meadows here, be careful where you tread.
I’m not going to lie to you, we 100% did not get permission to go on the property (and didn’t realize we were supposed to). We crossed over some greenery to a rock that overlooked the lake. A very nice volunteer ranger politely told us we were in a restricted area, asked that we stay on the trails, and didn’t yell at us for being the bumbling, habitat-destroying jerks we were. He didn’t even kick us off the preserve and instead suggested to check out the Lodge Pine, which is a 450 year old tree that is over 100 feet tall (rare for that type of tree), and the amphitheater built by the YMCA that had a very bayou vibe.
Bluff Lake is a very cool place with lots of interesting flowers (the ranger told us they change by the week) and rock formations. It’s well worth the visit.
From here, we back tracked and ended up on the correct trail. We made our way up Castle Rock, which required a bit of climbing, but has a great view of Big Bear Lake:
While there is some elevation gain on this trail (and even more if you go the wrong way and have to climb back up), this is a fairly easy trek that has a lot of payoff. I’d recommend planning for a half day trip here. Castle Rock is a great place for a lunch or early dinner with a great view.
Learn more about Bluff Lake at the Wildlands Conservancy page.