So for fall colors in Big Bear, shift gears and head to Pine Knot Trail where there’s plenty of easy parking. There the seasonal show unfolds with brilliant hues of gold and yellow as abundant oaks change color, interspersed between all the pine trees. And as autumn progresses hikers and bikers even see acorns at select points along the trail in a further reminder of the season. Hike far enough along Pine Knot Trail and you’ll reach the ultimate sight, Grandview Point, with sprawling 270-degree vistas of 11,502 ft. Mt. San Gorgonio and surrounding Wilderness area.
The show begins at Aspen Glen picnic area—be sure to have an Adventure Pass if you park—where a few well placed and spaced oaks serve notice that there’s more where they came from. A developed trailhead with picnic tables, pit restrooms and signage make for a great starting point.
The trail was recently rerouted up the picnic area’s southern ridge, a great improvement from the previous barren, dusty death march over rocks and stones to the east, and on a recent outing many oaks already sported nice color with still more changing.
A little over a half-mile of trail was rebuilt, done entirely by Southern California Mountains Foundation’s Urban Conservation Crew. While the reroute was to protect the endangered Ash Grey Paint Brush associated with Pebble Plain terrain at the beginning, it’s also a welcome addition to the trail. The project cost $6,000-$8,000 and took three weeks to complete.
As hikers climb the new portal they traverse with more gentle, gradual climbing, punctuated by steeper sections. Along the way Pine Knot joins with mountain biker favorite Cabin 89 trail at a well-marked junction. One of the so-called “illegal” trails lining the south shore network, Cabin 89 also has seen rehabilitation as the Forest Service seeks to bring such routes up to its standards.
Pine Knot continues across the ridge to seamlessly connect with the old trail above the seasonal stream. The trail is well-packed and skirts neat places, like Alpine Slide and runs at now-closed Snow Forest ski area with occasional lake views.
After a couple miles the trail crosses forest road 1N01, then continues up the ridge another mile past Deer group camp—great spot for a break with beautiful meadow views underneath tall pine trees—to Skyline Dr. and new worldclass singletrack trail of the same name open to hikers, bikers and equestrians.
Three miles each way plus a half-mile spur to Grandview Point, Pine Knot Trail is practically sacred ground for mountain bikers. The site of many Team Big Bear races through the years, going up it has a nice sustainable climb and coming down serves up top notch singletrack. Not to mention it’s accessed by Snow Summit’s Scenic Skychair, which operates Friday, Saturday and Sunday in fall.
Call Big Bear Discovery Center 909-866-3437.