Big Bear Hug

Hike to Grays Peak in Big Bear and Visit Oktoberfest

Hike on Grays Peak Trail in Big Bear California

Don’t be fooled by the name: Grays Peak in Big Bear is fall-loaded with vibrant colors. This 6.8-mile (round-trip) hike in the San Bernardino National Forest provides all the fall feels, with crisp mountain air, beautiful churning leaves, and the peace and quiet that comes after summer has passed. The trail climbs almost immediately, with views of the lake below. Though the hike is consistently uphill, the grade is so gentle it’s hard to notice you’re gaining 1,174 feet in elevation (your lungs might notice the altitude though … Big Bear is at an elevation of 6,752 feet, and while not very high by mountain standards, it is a noticeable difference from the 305-foot elevation of LA! Be sure to take your time and let your body adjust as needed).

Sign for Grays Peak Trail in Big Bear Southern California

Fall colors on Grays Peak Trail in Big Bear Lakes Southern California

Hiker on Grays Peak Trail amid fall foliage in Big Bear Lakes

Approximately 0.7 mile into the hike the trail intersects with forest road 2N04X. Head right and follow it for around 0.3 mile until it meets up with forest road 2N70. Make another right and take this road for just 0.1 mile until you see the Grays Peak trail sign on the left-hand side. From there it’s a straight shot to the summit. As you leave lake views behind, gain a glorious vantage of the surrounding San Bernardino Mountains and San Gorgonio Wilderness. Inhale the scent of pine trees as you make your way through forest filled with black oak, lodgepole pine, aspens, and Douglas firs.

Hiker standing on a boulder surrounded by pine trees at Grays Peak in Big Bear

The leaves on the black oak trees turn beautiful shades of yellow, crimson, and orange this time of year, making Big Bear one of the best local places to see fall foliage. The summit itself is rather unremarkable—there’s no sign announcing your arrival, or even a definitive summit. It’s more a rock jumble surrounded by trees that mostly obstruct views. However, if you look to the southeast you can glimpse San Gorgonio, the highest peak in southern California, at 11,503 feet (its nickname is Old Greyback due to the summit resembling a gentle hump covered in gray rocks with zero trees, a trait which makes it easy to find in the mountain range). Return the way you came.

Hiker passing large boulder rock on Grays Peak Trail in Big Bear Lakes Southern California

Hikers hiking boots surrounded by pinecones on Gray Peaks Trail in Big Bear Lakes Southern California

OKTOBERFEST: A tradition for over 50 years, now’s the time to get over to the Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest. With German bands, German beers, German food, shopping vendors, and contests, this is easily the best Oktoberfest celebration in SoCal. You can even bring your own stein (or buy one at the event). Open Friday to Sunday every weekend through November 7, 2021. General admission tickets start at $16; advance reservations strongly recommended. Free parking, and a complimentary shuttle service is offered throughout Big Bear Valley. No dogs. Prost!

From the 210 Freeway, take the CA-330 north toward Big Bear and follow it to CA-18. As you reach Big Bear Lake, make a left at North Shore Dr./CA-38, and then in around 3 miles make a left (the road doesn’t have a name, but it is very obviously the entrance to a parking lot). Adventure Pass required. Dog-friendly!

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