Castle Rock Hike: Big Bear’s Best Vantage Point

At a short two miles round trip this beautiful hike takes you from the highway running through Big Bear up to a massive collection of granite stones that provide a fantastic vista of one of Southern California’s best mountain towns. It is short but steep and is a great way to see Big Bear from a different point of view.

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  • 2 miles round trip
  • 600 feet of elevation
  • Very small parking area
  • Adventure Pass required


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Right around mile marker 45.5, a mile or so past the Big Bear Dam heading towards Big Bear City, the road heads inland making a small U and the trailhead for Castle Rock is right there. There is no parking at the trailhead itself but about a tenth of a mile up the road there is a turnout on the lake side that holds about 4 cars and is a good spot to start this hike from. Be warned though that if you go on a busy weekend you may have to park a decent distance away.

The Hike

After proceeding down the road you will see the sign for Castle Rock noting that it is one mile away, this is the official trailhead.

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From here the trail immediately heads up and while it is relatively easy to follow there are a few parts where it is hard to tell which way to go. I would recommend grabbing a GPS track to follow just so you don’t go the wrong way.

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The trail is well shaded and has a lot of massive trees looming over you as you head up. Just take your time and get used to the mountain altitude and everyone should be able to do it.

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After reaching the top of the first hill you will get your first view of the lake barely peaking through the trees.

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The trail continues to head up till it hits a few benches which notes the half way point for the trail and is a good place to relax if you are tired.

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From here the trail heads into the area where it is not as easy to follow. It is flat with lots of rocks and there are a few signs but you basically just want to continue heading away from the road. You can actually see the top of the rock peaking over the trees from here which shows your destination and helps so you don’t get lost.

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The trail heads around another small hill then takes you to the base of Castle Rock. Originally I tried to head up the backside, which has a lot of scrambling to get to the base of the rock.

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Once I got up the backside I could not find a good way to get to the top of the rock safely, so I just went and sat on the rock behind it and took in the views.

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After climbing down the front side I saw the best way to get up on top of Castle Rock is on the front side. This requires a good amount of scrambling though and I would not recommend it if you are afraid of heights.

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If you do make it to the top you do have a lot of amazing views though of the lake and city below. Even from the backside of the rock the views are spectacular.

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After hanging out up there and taking pictures I climbed down slowly. It is much sketchier on the way back down so take your time and be careful.

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All in all this is a great spot to visit in Big Bear, it is uphill enough to get your blood moving but easy enough that most everyone in the family should be able to do it (minus the scrambling). Let me know in the comments if you have suggestions of other spots to visit in Big Bear as well as I plan to spend more time there in the future.

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