If visiting one of the tallest Christmas trees in the world doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, nothing will! We’re actually talking about Big Bear’s Champion Lodgepole Pine—a wild tree, not ornamented, but the festive feeling is still there. The 4.3-mile loop to reach it via Castle Rock Trail is truly one of the hidden gems of Big Bear.
The first mile is all uphill, with the altitude (7,500 feet) adding some challenge, but amazing views of Big Bear Lake make the ascent bearable. After reaching Castle Rock, the trail gets a bit hard to follow. Just head left, then stick to the right, heading away from the lake and toward the trees. Eventually the trail becomes clear again and is marked by yellow signs and arrows mounted to the trees. Continue until you reach forest road 2N86, then make a right and follow the road until you see a turn on your left to enter Bluff Lake Reserve—closed for the winter, but hikers can continue on the trail, passing by beautiful Bluff Lake. Another turn to the left leads straight to the Champion Lodgepole.
Tallest lodgepole in the world? Who knows for sure, but it’s a beaut—110 feet tall, 440 years old, towering above all the mere-mortal lodgepole pines around it. To complete the loop, follow the Bluff Mesa Trail to return to 2N86. Make a right onto the road and follow it until you hit the trail heading back toward Castle Rock, past Big Bear Lake to Highway 18.
Extra Cheer: Bear Valley Farms, just a few minutes down the road, is full of holiday spirit, and the young and young at heart will enjoy a hayride through holiday light displays, visiting goats at the petting zoo, shopping for Christmas crafts, and meeting Santa and Mrs. Claus. Warm up with a complimentary cup of hot cocoa and a Christmas cookie before leaving this foresty winter wonderland and returning to the real world.
Take CA-210 to CA-330 north toward Big Bear. Continue onto Hilltop Blvd./Hwy. 18 for approximately 29 miles. The trailhead will be on your right, roughly one mile past the bridge over the dam. Street parking is available. After your hike, get to Bear Valley Farms by continuing on Hwy. 18 through Big Bear City and turn right on E. Big Bear Blvd. The address is 1601 E. Big Bear Blvd. Open every Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. through Christmas. Buy tickets here. No dogs at the farm, but the hike is dog-friendly!