One of the grand discoveries made while living in SoCal was Big Bear Lake. My roommate made the trip up there for the first time with her mom and instantly fell in love with it—so much in fact that she really considered moving there. In result, we made several trips to Big Bear—day trips and weekends. Since we were both planning on moving back to our respective home states, we decided to venture on another hiking day trip.
The drive to Big Bear is a few hours, which includes a driving climb up a mountain. It’s uncanny how you can literally see the difference in the skies from Los Angeles and Big Bear. Your car following the road elevation emerges you from the smog of LA to clear, clear, clear blue skies. Clean and pure air fills your lungs.
Once we rolled into town, the first order of business was to obtain a parking “Adventure” pass, which is a small fee to pay in order to park at some of the trails and nature activities around Big Bear. There are many places that sell the passes—various gas stations and small convenience store shops. Make sure you get one of these beforehand otherwise you are subject to a towing and hefty ticket.
This day’s hike was the Pine Knot Trail. One way is about 3.1 miles on the trail—so about 6.2 total—along with an elevation climb up the hill/mountain of about 1200 feet. The majority of the day was dedicated to hiking, about four-ish hours to be exact. It’s so therapeutic to go on hikes like this; hikes that are legitimately away from civilization and you’re completely surrounded by nature. The only sounds you hear are your feet taking each step, the buzzing of quiet, still nature, birds chirping and your breath. Unlike the popularized Hollywood Sign hike filled with people, Pine Knot Trail has far less traffic.
If you’re going to do this one, go pretty early in the morning before the sun gets at optimal beaming position at high noon—it was quite brutal especially with the constant climb. Also keep yourself hydrated with plenty of water. I’m so guilty of not doing that and it can be pretty bad suffering from heat stroke or passing out from dehydration—two things I have done before, hah. If you’re taking care of yourself and pacing yourself well, the hike is a great workout and you have time to spend time reflecting. Your phone probably lost signal like mine anyway so it’s perfect isolation.
One of the most interesting things on this hike was that about halfway through, the trail evened out and there was an outdoor bathroom! A small wooden shack, uncovered and exposed up top to the fresh air and sun with a toilet that empties deep into the ground. How they manage to clean that stuff out is beyond me, but it was refreshing to see that in 2017, we have a place to stop and take a bathroom break in the middle of the woods. We were both getting pretty concerned about having to do it the old-fashioned nature way.
In this silent place of outdoor solitude, you can bask in nature, embrace it and breathe it in. Aside from the frequent creepy crawly critters (namely lizards and geckos to which I freaked out and shrieked at), the amazing views are endless. Maneuvering between trees, scaling rocks, crossing small streams over a fallen tree trunk, it’s so serene to take it all in. We came across this wide open meadow of green grass and it was something straight out of a Disney movie—Bambi.
The best part was definitely reaching the top. After crossing through the flatter meadow, the climb gets a bit more intense for the last stretch home, but once you get to the top, there is miles and miles of green trees all around. You can see the mountain in the far distance and see Big Bear Lake in its massive majesty. This spot is ideal for picnicking—we saw a family resting and eating on the rocks up there—to which we had our various nut snacks and water to refuel us for the climb down.
Truthfully, there were moments where I wanted to turn back and give up cause the heat and intense elevation were getting to me, but we pushed through and it was worth it. The view at the top is very worth it. Plus, the hardest part is over when you’re going up; so going down is relatively much easier—just gotta be wary of your knees and not hurt the joints. Big Bear is definitely on the list of things I will miss about living in Los Angeles—or hiking in general, really. In Houston where I live there aren’t nature trails or places to rock climb, at least that I know of. It’s all very urban and cityscape, so I will probably venture out to Austin, TX for my nature fixes! If I’m just a dingus and not aware of great hiking spots in Texas, please leave them in the comments!
Original date: June 8, 2017
**Fisheye photos taken with 0.45X Phone Lens