Hiking up the Castle Rock Trail to the viewpoint is tough but rewarding. Once you get to Castle Rock, you'll have sweeping views of Big Bear Lake and the mountains surrounding it.
Since the whole hike is under two miles, I've included an easy extension to a hidden mountain lake, Bluff Lake, which also features ruins from an 1890s mountain resort. There's a lot to see packed into this short hike, and it's worth the effort.
For the average hiker, this trail can take about 1.5 to 2.5 hours to complete, depending on one's pace and the amount of time spent at the viewpoint. It's important to note that the trail has a moderate to steep incline so the duration might vary based on individual fitness levels and hiking experience. Always ensure you have adequate water and are prepared for the conditions.
- Starting Point: The trailhead is well-marked. Check out the notice board for any updates before you start your hike.
- Initial Climb: Right from the beginning, the hike is steep and climbs up the left bank of a (usually dry) stream.
- Trail Markers: Look out for wire bins filled with rock. You will follow These trail markers on the way up to Castle Rock. You should never be more than a few minutes away from one. If you are, you've gone the wrong way.
- Mid-section Views: This middle section, where you first start getting views of Big Bear Lake, has many little side trails. Again, look for the stone markers and follow them.
- Reaching Castle Rock: As you approach Castle Rock, the trail winds around to the left of the rock. Continue around to the far side of Castle Rock. Another old-school sign tells you that you've arrived.
- Scramble to the Top: If you want to scramble to the top of Castle Rock, look for the notch behind the viewpoint area. There's a rope to help you up the first part, and there's another challenging boulder right after that. If you're not comfortable with this scramble, don't do it. Just enjoy the views below.
- Extension to Bluff Lake: If you want to hike another mile to Bluff Lake, continue onto Bluff Lake after Castle Rock. The beginning of this section is steep, but it eventually levels out. The Castle Rock Trail ends at Kidd Creek Rd. (2N86). Make the right onto the dirt Forest Service road. The road dead-ends at a small cabin. Hike toward the cabin and through the gate into Bluff Lake Reserve. You'll pass the remains of John Healy Williams's cabin, which dates back to the 1890s.
The Castle Rock Trail is especially popular in the fall due to the changing colors of the leaves and the cooler temperatures. The scenic views and fall foliage make it a favorite among hikers this season.
The Castle Rock Trail is located on the south side of Big Bear Lake.
Address:Castle Rock Trail 1W03, Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315.
Parking can be challenging due to the trail's popularity. A small parking lot is just east of the trailhead, and a few other turnouts are nearby. It's recommended to park head-in and be cautious when walking along the road to the trailhead.