Big Bear MTB Without the Ski Lift

When you think about mountain biking in the Big Bear area, a first thought may be of riding up the chairlift at Snow Summit for some downhill action, or riding the famed Santa Ana River Trail. While these are great ways to spend a day in the local mountains, many lesser known riding options are worth exploring.

Skip the Lift – Lesser Known Riding in Big Bear

by Shari Sullivant

Many lesser known riding options are worth exploring in the Big Bear area. Skip the lift and search out some of the gems that are tucked amongst the trees, flowers and mountain air in this backyard destination for all SoCal residents.

When you think about mountain biking in the Big Bear area, a first thought may be of riding up the chairlift at Snow Summit for some downhill action, or riding the famed Santa Ana River Trail. While these are great ways to spend a day in the local mountains, many lesser known riding options are worth exploring.

An alternative to taking the chair up the mountain at Snow Summit would be to pedal up and get a good aerobic workout. Park at the Aspen Glen picnic area on Mill Creek Road, just off Bear Boulevard on the south shore of the lake. The climb starts up Mill Creek Road which eventually turns to dirt and becomes Skyline Drive. Once at the top, you can explore the area, including aptly named Grand View lookout. When you are ready to head back, Pine Knot is a fun single track trail that will take you back down to your start at the picnic area.

Multiple arches of the Bear Valley Dam hold back the Big Bear Lake water – a historical site in the area

Another option would be to ride up to Gray’s Peak, a 1,200 foot ascent to the 7,920 foot summit in just 3 ½ miles. For this ride, park at the trail head across the road from the Grout Bay picnic area on the north shore of the lake as you head towards Fawnskin. A twisting, sometimes challenging single track trail, mainly used by hikers, will take you to the peak for beautiful views. You cross a fire road near the midway point of this trail, which will lead to a series of easy, fun single track trails that eventually land you at Hanna Flat Campground. Exploring these trails on the way down is fun, and the campground is a good spot to replenish your water and take a break before heading back. Continue on 3N09, being aware of vehicular traffic, to a series of forest service roads that tour you through the historic settlement, including what’s left of Two Gun Saloon, Hangman’s Tree, and an old log cabin. A fun, easy ride with some historical exploration the whole family would enjoy.

These are just a few of the many possibilities for riding in the Big Bear area. There are rides for everyone, from the paved trail along the shore of the lake to challenging single track. Consult a Big Bear trail map or guidebook for more details and possibilities. Take a picnic lunch, or explore the many restaurants and shops in town. Worth visiting are; Bear Valley Bikes and the Grizzly Manor Café, which serves delicious breakfasts until 2:00 pm. Spend some time in SoCal’s beautiful local mountains where it is bound to be cooler than the flatlands during our warm summer months. -SS

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