Gold Mountain via the Pacific Crest Trail
Gold Mountain lies to the South of Big Bear and rewards a hiker with spectacular 360-degree views of the Desert to the North, the Big Bear Valley to the South, and most of the high peaks that circle the Valley. While there are several ways to reach Gold Mountain, including by Forest Service road in off-road vehicles, the most scenic and most popular hiking route begins on the Pacific Crest Trail and then follows Forest Service Road 3N69 to the top. This is an 8 mile hike of moderate difficulty that will typically take about 4 hours, but can take as long as 8 hours for slower hikers not used to the 7000′ – 8000′ altitude. Fit trail runners could knock the round trip out in about 2.5 hours.
From Big Bear, drive East on Hwy 18 around Baldwin Lake toward Lucerne Valley, turning left onto Holcomb Valley Rd (aka Doble Dump Rd that heads up to Dump Transfer Station). Continue up Holcomb Valley Rd approximately ¾ of a mile to where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the road, indicated by white posts on both sides of the road, and within site of the Transfer Station gates. Park on the side of the road with an Adventure Pass displayed. The trail head is on left (West) side of the road.
From the crossing at Holcomb Valley Rd, the Pacific Crest Trail first rises gradually up toward Gold Mountain with views of Onyx Summit in the distance. Early in the hike, look closely for signs of Big Bear’s gold rush. Above to your right (North), you can make out the old timbers of Lucky Baldwin’s Gold Mountain (or Doble) Mine, and if you look closely, you may see old rusted metal refuse scattered about the sides of the trail.
Then the PCT traverses a series of switchbacks that cross a large scree field (tailings?) as it rises from the Valley floor, affording better and better views of Baldwin Lake and the Mojave desert below.
At approximately 2 ¾ miles the PCT crosses USFS Road 3N69. This is the first intersection you come upon and where you want to take a left hand turn uphill to continue up 3N69, which is not marked.
Continue up USFS Road 3N69 about 1.5 miles until it levels out and you see San Gorgonio Mountain in the distance. At this point you must pay close attention and head off-road to your left (East) along the ridge line towards a large cluster of boulders that makes up the summit. If you start going down hill on the road and start seeing great views of Big Bear while on the road, you have gone too far.
When you leave the road, pick your way to your left through the trees, to the boulders, and scramble up to the top. You will see old fence posts and rusted wire, along with 2 different USGS survey markers indicating the top of Gold Mountain.
Gold Mountain’s location on the Northern edge of Big Bear Valley provides some unique views of the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski resorts, San Gorgonio Mountain and its neighboring peaks, and the Mojave Desert. The striking type of rock you see at the summit was also an early favorite in Big Bear construction and can be seen in older cabin fireplaces and rock walls around the Valley.