Featured in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!
Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
- Location: Near Big Bear Lake. Take route 330 north to 38 east. At Big Bear Dam, continue on 38 (slight left) along the north side of the lake. The signed trail head parking lot is on the left, 0.6 miles before the town of Fawnskin. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required to park here. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: San Bernardino National Forest, Mountain Top Ranger District
- Distance: 7 miles (out and back)
- Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
- Suggested time: 3.5 hours
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (altitude, distance)
- Best season: April to October (closed November to March)
- USGS topo map: “Fawnskin”
- Recommended gear: sun block; sun hat
- More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 8
Presiding over the western end of Big Bear Lake, Gray’s Peak–with a moderate grade and a lot of scenic variety–is one of the area’s most popular hiking destinations. Expect to see mountain bikers as well as other hikers. The best time to hike might depend on day to day conditions: at 7,920 feet, it’s high enough to retain snow into the spring and summer months following a wet winter, but it’s also not quite tall enough to truly escape the summer heat and with much of the trail exposed, on warm days, an early start is recommended. Fall colors can be attractive, although the air can be quite nippy in October.
From the parking area, follow the trail up a series of switchbacks through the pines and oaks for an attractive, if not particularly memorable, 1.1 miles. Stay right at a junction and then look for a single-track branching off to the left, signed for Gray’s Peak. The ascent continues, passing by several interestingly shaped jumbles of boulders.
At 2.5 miles, you make a sharp left turn and head south. From here, you get excellent views to the west which on clear days can include Mt. Baldy, Antelope Valley and even a bit of the Sierra Pelona range. Head southeast, noting prominent Butler Peak to the west, and curl around the south side of the mountain. At 3.4 miles, a short spur branches off to the left, leading to the summit.
Numerous pines block the view, meaning the summit vistas aren’t quite as panoramic as those of nearby Bertha Peak, but you can still get a glimpse of the lake, Sugarloaf and San Gorgonio through the trees. Several boulders make for nice resting spots before descending.
In case you were wondering, Gray’s Peak was named for Alex Gray, a local businessman who founded nearby Gray’s Landing in 1918.