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Big Bear Lake as seen from Gold Peak, California

Big Bear Lake from Gold Mountain’s summit

High desert from Gold Mountain, Big Bear Lake, CA

Looking north from Gold Mountain

Gold Mountain

        • Location: Northeast of Big Bear Lake. From the intersection of highways 38 and 18 at the east end of the lake, head northeast on Highway 18 for 3.6 miles. Turn left on Holcomb Valley Road and go 0.9 miles to Pacific Crest Trail. The P.C.T. sign is easy to miss but the paved road ends shortly beyond, so if you reach that you’ve come too far.  There’s no designated lot; simply park on the dirt shoulder where available near the trail. A United States Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
        • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Big Bear Discovery Center
        • Distance: 8.4 miles
        • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
        • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain, altitude)
        • Suggested time: 4 hours
        • Best season: April-November
        • USGS topo map: Big Bear City
        • Recommended gear: sun hat; insect repellentsunblock
        • More information: Trip descriptions here and here
        • Rating: 9
Pacific Crest Trail to Gold Mountain, Big Bear Lake, CA

0:00 – Start of the hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

You’ve already hiked Silver Peak so in this post we’ll take a look at its taller neighbor, Gold Mountain. The 8,235-foot summit offers some of the best views in the Big Bear area and, like Silver Peak, is worth a long drive. There are several possible routes to the top. Below is the most straightforward approach; neither of the two junctions are marked but both are pretty obvious.

Pacific Crest Trail, Big Bear Lake, CA

0:09 – Looking down into the valley above the spur to Doble Camp (times are approximate)

To begin, pick up the Pacific Crest Trail on the left (west) side of Holcomb Valley Road. After a short distance you reach a signed spur for the Doble Trail Camp, where you get a nice view of either Baldwin Lake or a grassy meadow, depending on how much rainfall there has been. The P.C.T. continues at a gentle grade through a diverse landscape that includes junipers, pinyon pines, a few black oaks and even some cacti. The trail makes a few long switchbacks, providing some good views of the high desert, entering the shade of Jeffrey pines before reaching an unsigned junction with a forest road (3N69), approximately 2 3/4 miles from the start. Note that the P.C.T. is easy to miss on the descent.

Forest road, Gold Mountain, Big Bear Lake, CA

1:06 – Left turn on the unsigned forest road

Turn left and follow the road uphill through an attractive pine woodland. The grade is steeper than on the P.C.T. but not too difficult. As you ascend you get a good view to the west, including Bertha Peak and Delamar Mountain.

After about a mile and a half on the dirt road, it starts to descend. Here you have an unmistakable view of San Gorgonio Mountain to the south; it is at this point that you will leave the road. Bear left and follow a semblance of a trail leading between two pines. After climbing over a few logs, you reach the jumble of boulders that is the summit. A little moderate rock scrambling brings you to the top.

Approaching the summit of Gold Mountain, Big Bear Lake, CA

1:55 – Leave the trail and follow the ridge to the summit

The 360-degree panorama includes the high desert to the north and east, San Gorgonio and the lake to the south and the rest of the San Bernardino Mountains to the west. A big flat rock a few feet below the highest point makes for a particularly good spot to sit and enjoy the view.

San Gorgonio as seem from the summit of Gold Mountain, Big Bear Lake, CA

2:00 – San Gorgonio from Gold Mountain

Text and photography copyright 2015 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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