Hiking to Castle Rock

It was years ago. I remember it was a beautiful Sunday morning. My gal, Lisa, and I decided to go on a hike. We were not avid hikers, but we liked to get out in the forest and

sign that marks the start of the trail to Castle Rock
The sign that marks the start of the trail up to Castle Rock

commune with nature once in awhile.

Not having hiked a lot of the Big Bear area at that time, I remembered a little sign that marked something called the Castle Rock Trailhead. The trail is on what Big Bear Valley locals call the “Little Arctic Circle,” the twisty road just past the Big Bear dam. We headed that way.

We found that the only place to park was a turnout about half a football field away from the start of the trail. We parked, grabbed the video camera and the dog and headed for the trail.

When we reached the sign marking the start of the trail it said the trail was only a mile long. We both smiled. No problem. We’re tough; this will be a snap, hardly worth the effort.

For the most part the trail is a narrow path, and you’re forced to walk single file. The terrain is heavily wooded, and the ascetics of the area are incredible. Tall trees, a trickling stream, ferns, blue sky overhead: mountain hiking at its best.

The big surprise is that the trail gains about 500 in elevation in that short mile. With a video camera in my hands and a pack on my back, it was like climbing a ladder. A couple of times I was forced to go it on all fours, crawling along like the dog. Lisa was kind enough not to say anything as she seemed to have no problem at all on the trail. The dog looked at me funny. Still it was beautiful.

At the top we met another challenge. To get to the top of Castle Rock, you have to do a little rock climbing, and it ain’t all that easy. However, finally we reached the top and the staggeringly picturesque complete panorama afforded you to view from that vantage point makes the somewhat torturous adventure of the climb more than worthwhile.

And the walk down is easy.

The hike is not to be missed and leaves you with a memory never to be forgotten.

The Castle Rock trailhead is located 1.1 miles east of the Big Bear Dam on State Highway 18 or 3 miles west of the Big Bear Lake Village. There is limited parking 50 yards east of the trailhead in a turnout on the north side of the highway. The Adventure Pass is not required on the turnout. There is a small sign marking the Castle Rock Trailhead across the highway.

Although it’s not a long hike, the elevation gain is 500 feet, making it a steep climb by any standards. From here its 0.5 of a mile of a steep trail then it levels out for another 0.5 of a mile of less steep trail. Castle Rock is a large 100 foot outcropping from immediately east of the saddle. This trail offers spectacular views of the lake and an opportunity to see pines, white fir trees and cedars.