“A steep trail leading up to a wonderful swimming lake nestled into a granite cirque.
— Dawn Westrum
Lake — River/Creek — Swimming — Views — Wildlife
Water is plentiful along the trail and the run down could be fun if you are surefooted.
The total running distance is 10 miles round trip. Drive to the trailhead from the north. Some maps show the Bear Creek Road connecting through to the highway to the south, but it definitely does not.
The trail starts from the south side of the parking area, and meanders almost down to the Trinity River before making the first (and only unbridged) crossing of Bear Creek. Switchback up for a few minutes, and you'll see your car again very close from across the creek....If you don't mind getting your feet wet you could save 1/4 mile here. The trail will climb steadily the rest of the journey up to the lake, mostly through forests and along the creek.
There is a good campsite/picnic site about halfway up right along the trail. The route is mostly shady but can be hot in summer. The trail itself seems well-maintained with a stock bridge crossing Bear Creek the second time. A section of ferns along the trail near the top was fairly overgrown but otherwise it was open running under pine trees and other types of forest.
About 1/2 mile from the top, you can finally see views of the granite, jagged peaks of the Trinity Alps. There are some nice waterfalls and campsites below the lake along the creek, and this is a popular weekend backpacking trip. Big Bear Lake is great for swimming, although access to the water is limited to boulders as the vegetation is thick. It's possible to travel off-trail to Wee and Little Bear Lakes for more camping options or a longer weekend outing.
Return the same way to descend back to the trailhead.
Several groups have seen rattlesnakes.