If you travel to Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, there’s a good chance you like the outdoors. Those looking for a short hike that’s quick to access from town should set out on Towne Trail. This 2 2/3-mile round trip hike ascends 200 feet on a gradual rolling course along the base of the mountains on the south side of Big Bear Lake. Discover periodic views north over the lake and the surrounding peaks as you enjoy this pleasant woodland hike between Snow Summit Mountain Resort and Forest Service Road 2N08, just above Knickerbacker Road.
Once you get going on Towne Trail, it is easy to follow. To find the trailhead, leave the parking lot for Snow Summit Mountain Resort and walk up the road to the right of the building labeled Tyndall Haus.
Find Towne Trail behind the row of condos on the right. A small trail sign on a shed marks the start of the trail. Turn right and begin up Towne Trail (if you hit the ski slopes, you went too far). Walk behind the condos for about a tenth of a mile and leave the development behind.
The trail enters San Bernardino National Forest and weaves over ridges and creases on the mountain slope. Several landings along the way provide opportunities to pause to admire the views through Jeffrey pines and black oaks toward Big Bear Lake. Dip across a seasonal stream, 2/3 of a mile from the start and continue west. Below the trail to the right, you will pass a handful of cabins on the outskirts of town(e).
At it’s west end, Towne Trail meets Forest Service Road 2N08. From here, you get one of the hike’s best views of Big Bear Lake. The white form of the Big Bear Solar Observatory is visible on the north shore of the reservoir below Bertha Peak. After enjoying the view, head back the way you came.
If you feel like switching things up, the trail may also be reached from the west end. Drive up Knickerbocker Road to Forest Service Road 2N08, which will be on the left just past the Knickerbocker Mansion Inn. Note: Forest Service Road 2N08 closes to vehicle traffic in the winter when parking also becomes restricted on Knickerbocker Road. Go 0.3 miles up Forest Service Road 2N08 to Towne Trail, which you will find on the left at the outside of a horseshoe bend in the road. An obvious line of boulders blocks vehicles from driving down the trail.
Big Bear’s winter season typically lasts between the third week of December and the third week of February. During that period, Towne Trail becomes a welcome course for cross country skiers and snowshoers, as well as hikers. When the snow is gone, mountain bikers can enjoy the trail too. No fee or permit is required to hike Towne Trail (unless you park your vehicle in the national forest along Forest Service Road 2N08, in which case a National Forest Adventure Pass is required). Dogs are welcome, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Big Bear Lake, take Route 18 (Big Bear Boulevard) to Summit Drive. The intersection has a traffic light. Drive south for 0.5 miles to the end of Summit Drive, turn right on Thrush Drive and park in the lot outside Snow Summit Mountain Resort.
Trailhead address: Thrush Drive & Forest Trail, San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Trailhead coordinates: 34.236792, -116.889687 (34° 14′ 12.45″N 116° 53′ 22.87″W)
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