Even though I grew up here, I didn’t start hiking in the Trinity Alps Wilderness until about eight years ago. It’s hard to believe now, when my life is so woven into the wilderness, that a mere decade ago I had never passed a wilderness sign, lounged in a mountain meadow, or enjoyed an alpine lake.

Back then I asked a young hiker that I knew to recommend a day hike to a lake that wouldn’t kill me. That is how it happened that my first hike into the Trinity Alps was to Big Bear Lake — and indeed, it almost killed me. By the time I dragged my middle-aged, out-of-shape self up that relentlessly steep trail to the lake shore I had spent my last dollar of energy. But oh my goodness, the astounding beauty!

I have found over the years that time flattens a trail. My memory lessens the angle of ascent and I am always surprised when doing a hike I have done before at how steep it is. Yes, time flattens, and the more time that passes, the flatter my mind remembers a trail. But no amount of time flattens the trail to Big Bear Lake.  It’s steep.

Since that first hike, I have used Big Bear Lake Trail as the unit of steepness against which I measure all other trails. Stoney Ridge Trail for example is ¾ as steep, Foster Lake Trail is 1½ times as steep. So, of course, I have to hike to Big Bear Lake every summer to recalibrate my steepness unit.

The trail offers a lot of everything wonderful; a wild variety of alpine beauty. For much of the way the trail climbs through a shady forest with extraordinarily big trees. Taking a rest from the endless climbing, you can lean against a huge cedar and admire, in awe, the Bear Creek Twins which are two of the biggest Ponderosa pines in the world. The awe is a promise.

One section of the trail weaves in and out of a fairy-fern-forest with the ferns sometimes waist high. Climbing on, the peaks start doing their peak-thing and peeking through the trees at you.

After about 4 miles the forest ends and you hike over exposed granite the rest of the way to the lake. Growing on this granite shelf is the sweetest rock garden I have seen anywhere in the alps. Wildflowers force their way up through the cracks in the rock and bloom all summer long.

When you get to the lake there is a perfect sitting-rock, you’ll know it when you see it. Sit on it. Take your boots off and let your feet cool in the water. And now you too have a unit of steepness against which to measure all other trails.

If you are going: The trailhead road turns off Highway 3 about 8 miles north of Coffee Creek. There is a sign. The road is about 1½ miles and is rocky this year, it hasn’t been graded yet. However, there was a low clearance car at the trailhead. The hike to Big Bear Lake is about 9 miles round trip.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.