Kicking Butler

Hiking Butler Peak in the San Bernardino Mountains

When you reach the fire lookout tower that crowns 8,535-foot Butler Peak, you reach a 360-degree panoramic view that captures the grandeur of SoCal’s most epic mountain ranges—the towering ridges of the San Bernardino Mountains to the east and the daunting peaks of the San Gabriels to the west. The hike is 9.1 miles (round-trip), with 1,532 feet of elevation gain. The Forest Service website notes that the fire road to Butler Peak is closed to vehicle traffic, but don’t worry; it’s open to hikers. Contact the Big Bear Discovery Center (909-382-2790) for the latest information.

The 80-year-old tower is one of seven fire lookout stations in the San Bernardino National Forest. Volunteer workers are sometimes at the lookout during the day and can explain how they track fires with mapping tools. Landform ID is a breeze, thanks to a book in the lookout with photos that detail exactly what mountains and features you’re seeing in every direction.

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The trail up Butler is a fire road—a clear path to follow all the way to the top. There’s no official trailhead, but the open parking area and campground half a mile up fire road 2N13 is a great place to start. Just over a mile and a half into the trek you can clearly see the Hanna Rocks, a popular climbing spot, to the north. At this point there’s a fork in the trail and you’ll want to take a fishhook left to stay on the right track. Just before the peak is a series of switchbacks and a steep set of stairs that lead you up to the lookout. From there you can enjoy views of both Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead or look farther to Old Greyback and Cucamonga Peak.

The Forest Service website notes that the fire road to Butler Peak is closed to vehicle traffic, but don’t worry; it’s open to hikers. Contact the Big Bear Discovery Center (909-382-2790) for the latest information. From CA-210 take Exit 81 for CA-330 north. After 15.1 miles, continue onto CA-18 (toward Big Bear) for another 12.3 miles. Turn left on CA-38 west for 3.3 miles and then make another left at Rim of the World Dr. for 1.2 miles of dirt road. Turn left at the fork onto 2N13 and follow that for another half-mile to a parking area on the right. Dog-friendly!

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