Trail Reviews: Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak
Distance: Around 8 miles
Surrounding the small town of Big Bear, CA and far from the noise of California’s largest cities sits San Bernardino National Forest. Within this small national forest stands Bertha peak at 8,201 ft. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the nearby cities and settle into the quiet wilderness, then San Bernardino is the place for you. I hiked this trail in the beginning of March and experienced sublime weather and encountered fewer people than I would imagine one would in peak summer season.
The Cougar Crest trail is a very popular one in the park as it offers breathtaking panoramic views of Big Bear lake nestled beneath the surrounding mountains. The trail begins winding through the forest among pine trees towering up above. Be mindful of the weather conditions in the days prior; the trail was very muddy for the first ¼ mile but jumping around to avoid the mud made it all the more fun in my opinion. The elevation gain is gradual and progresses as you climb up and out of the forest below. There are multiple benches near the end of the trail for you to sit and soak in the view of Big Bear lake, the snowcapped mountains, and the small town of Big Bear in the distance.
As you continue along the trail you will come to a fork going in three different directions. A post sticking up from the ground saying “Bertha Pk” will guide you to the right and closer to the peak. The stretch from this point onward is where the incline gets significantly steeper. From here the trail joins the Pacific Crest trail which will continue on to Bertha Peak. Take your time and soak in the view unfolding as you climb higher and higher with fewer obstructions.
As you reach the peak you will have a clear view of Sugarloaf mountain, San Gorgonio mountains just beyond, and the San Gabriel Mountains further east near Los Angeles. As with any peak summit, the weather gets colder the higher you climb, and the wind picks up atop the peak so be sure to dress accordingly so you can admire the view for as long as you wish.
Once you’ve had your fill of the breathtaking views, descend back along the same trail you came up until you reach the trailhead where you began.