Champion Lodgepole Pine tree Big Bear Lake

The Champion Lodgepole Pine Trail is a must-see on your trip to Big Bear. The area is beautiful and more lush than all the other areas in the mountains around Big Bear Lake. The best thing is that the trail is great for families with young children and grandparents. The trail is an easy 1/2 mile walk (you won't need special hiking shoes, just comfortable ones) through the forest and along a little stream. The stream is seasonal and the water that flows here comes from rain and snow that percolates in the soil above and then underground rock causes it to surface along this stream.

Champion Lodgepole  Pine in Big Bear LakeThe Champion Lodgepole towers over the woman standing on the edge of the meadow.

Lodgepole Pines are common in the Sierras where it is colder, but rare in Southern California. Lodgepole pines seldom grow taller than 70 feet and in Southern California they usually grow above 8,000 feet. An exception to these rules occurs high on the mountaintop about 3 miles south of Big Bear Lake near Bluff Lake. Bluff Lake is a shallow lake owned by the Wildlands Conservancy reserve that is surrounded by lush forest and green meadows. Here at an elevation of 7500 feet, grow the largest Lodgepole pines in the world. This small pocket of Lodgepole Pines is thought to be a remant from a time when the climate was colder. The world "Champion" (discovered in 1963) is a magnificent, double-topped tree that towers above the surrounding forest reaching a height of 110+ feet. The circumference of the trunk at the bottom is 22 feet, however the bulbous base is 36 feet in circumference. It's age is estimated at 452 years, which means that it began to germinate in the year 1560.

The Forest Service has put up new signs and also left brochures at the parking area that explain the area around the numbered posts along the trail.

Follow the Champion Lodgepole trail about 1/2 mile through the forest along a trickling stream, you will then come to a fork in the trail where you will bear left (you will see a wooden bench near the numbered post ) continue a short distance then you will see a sign for the Siberia Creek trail and the Champion Lodgepole; turn right and walk a few yards through a lush area filled with Bracken Ferns, Wild Columbine, Lupine, Corn Lilies and other wildflowers. Cross over the tiny wooden bridge, on your left will be a large green meadow and on your right, this magnificent tree surrounded by a small wooden fence and wildflowers. The old plaque was vandalized or stolen years ago, and for 12 years the sign holder remained empty, however the forest service has now installed an attractive new sign with a protective lucite cover, which unfortunately at the moment is broken. In this fragile area, please watch your step and avoid walking on any of the plants.This is one of the lushest areas in the mountains around Big Bear Lake. Best months to see the wildflowers are June and July, and October is a great month to see the changing colors of the leaves.

You can return the way you came or take the opportunity to walk the beautiful Siberia Creek Trail which is another easy one-mile walk. You can walk the trail for about a mile until you reach the Gunsight and then return the way you came./p>

  • LENGTH: From Forest Road 2N11, 1 Mile (Round Trip).
  • ELEVATION GAIN: -50' From Start
  • WHAT YOU NEED: An Adventure Pass to park your car in the forest -these can be purchased at the Discovery Center, Ranger Station and various other stores in Big Bear Lake.
  • WHAT YOU SHOULD BRING: Comfortable walking shoes - a hat - sunglasses - water - snacks - camera.
  • HOW TO GET THERE: From the west end of Big Bear Lake Village, drive south west to Mill Creek Road, continue about 1/4 mile, follow Mill Creek Rd (2N10) left after it intersects with Tulip Lane. This road is paved for about one mile and then becomes dirt. Follow the 2N10 road until you reach 2N11, then bear left and follow the Champion Lodgepole signs to the parking area at the beginning of the hiking trail. The last half mile of the road is very rough but you can make it in a 2-wheel drive if you go slow.