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U.S. Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area


The Big Bear Discovery Center The Big Bear Discovery Center. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Yellow rabbitbrush Native plants are featured at The Big Bear Discovery Center. Yellow rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorous). Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

California buckwheat Native plant identification is featured at The Big Bear Discovery Center. California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum). Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

The Big Bear Discovery Center

Forest: San Bernardino National Forest

District: Mountaintop Ranger District

Description: The Big Bear Discovery Center is a prototype for urban forest Visitor Centers around the country. It is celebrating its tenth year of operations. Paved sidewalks around the Center allow visitors to view native plants growing in their natural environment. Signs identify over 20 plant species and a small native cactus garden has been recently created. Some of the identified plants include rubber rabbitbrush, yellow rabbitbrush, big sagebrush, California buckwheat, firecracker penstemon, bumblebee penstemon, Bridge’s penstemon, red mountain bugler, curl-leaf mountain-mahogany, sulfur flower, Wright’s buckwheat, flannelbush, singleleaf pinyon pine, rose sage, interior rose, Utah service berry and Rydberg’s horkelia.

At the Center, there are two popular adjoining trails where visitors can create their own journey. The Alpine Pedal Path is a 3.5-mile long asphalt path that wanders along the north shore of Big Bear Lake. It is an easy path accessible for hikers, skaters, joggers, strollers, and wheelchairs. A list of plants observed along the Alpine Pedal Path is available at the Center. The Cougar Crest Trail is a 4 to 5.5 mile long natural path that leads through a variety of habitats. It is moderate to difficult; the first mile is a gentle uphill climb, but gains altitude thereafter. The Cougar Crest Trail ends at the juncture of the world famous 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail.

Nature Walks!

  • Saturdays 1 p.m. and 2 p.m; and
  • Sundays 11:00 am and at 12:00 pm.

Join us for a 30-minute nature walks to learn about the local plants and wildlife and some very interesting historical facts. This is a great activity for families and individuals wanting to gain a greater appreciation for the San Bernardino National Forest. Nature walks are not strenuous, designed for all levels of physical conditioning, and are free!

See the Big Bear Discovery Center’s Guided Tours at the Discovery Center web page for additional events, activities, tours, and school programs.

Safety First: The weather at the Center can be warm in the mid-summer. We recommend wearing a hat, use sunscreen, and carry water.

Directions: The Big Bear Discovery is located on North Shore Drive, Highway 38, Big Bear Lake, California. Phone: 909-382-2790; Mailing Address: P.O. Box 66, Fawnskin, CA 92333

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest, Mountaintop Ranger District. In a unique partnership with the Forest Service, the non-profit National Forest Association manages this state-of-the-art Visitor Center and educational facility.

Closest Town: Fawnskin, California.