Bluff Lake Reserve is in the San Bernardino Mountains, near Big Bear Lake. Despite being only about two miles from Big Bear, the narrow mostly-paved, then dirt road to Bluff Lake makes it a bit of a drive. However, in season, it was easily accessible in my Prius.
This was my fourth new Wildlands Consevancy site visited this year, after hiking Mission Creek, Pioneertown Mountains, and Wind Wolves Preserves. Unlike the other sites however, this one is up in the mountains, at around 7,600 feet, so it's cooler, with a later hiking season. However, like those other preserves, this one also protects something unique.
In this case, it's an alpine lake, meadow, and marsh. After the Wildlands Conservancy acquired the site, they eliminated the non-native catfish, which allowed amphibians and other endemic species to return to their previous home.
Also unlike those other preserves, this one is really small. The lake's area is given as 20 acres, and the preserve just surrounds the lake, so I doubt we're talking even 100 acres of land. But, as I said, very pretty, and unique in the local mountains.
Because of the tiny size, it's not much of a hike to just go around the lake. I added to that with a short detour to see the Champion Lodgepole, one of the largest of its type in the state. With more time, I'd have continued down Siberia Creek, which also looked very Sierra-like.
You get to the Champion Lodgepole by continuing past the end of the lake maybe a 1/4 mile. Pretty hard to miss. It's signed, and adjacent to another meadow, so you can take it in. That's it, the rounded tree in the photo above.
After passing around the tree, I then looped back around to continue my way around Bluff Lake.
T\As I got around to the eastern parking area for Bluff Lake (I accessed from the north side), there was a naturalist on-site, this day, but a large hiking group (8-10) were there ahead of me, so I didn't have a chance to chat with him. So, instead, just continued around the lake.
Not a lot of flowers blooming when I went. Perhaps still a bit early season. The land seemed marshy, so I'd expect, despite the dry year, there will still be some flowers blooming around here as the summer progresses. What few flowers there were had butterflies making their rounds, however.
The Preserves hours are given as 9am - 6pm in the summertime. There is no auto access in the winter, when the access road is closed to prevent severe erosion when wet.
Because of the early closing and my late start, I decided to drive my car away from the access point and to the trailhead to Castle Rock. This, despite the fact that I was parked outside the gate. Just didn't want the to think someone was maybe overstaying their welcome in the Preserve.
It's only about 1/2 mile from the Bluff Lake parking area to the Castle Rock south trailhead, so, yes, with enough time, you can either hike in to Bluff Lake by walking the access road when the Castle Rock trail hits the road(2N10, from Mill Creek Road), or hike to Castle Rock from Bluff Lake. From the trailhead, it's less than a mile to Castle Rock. Turns out getting to the top is a bit of a scramble, however, and take some tolerance for being exposed to possible falls. So I got near, but not to, the top, took a few pictures, then backed out.
About four miles, total, between my two hikes. Making it one hike would have added a mile. Bluff Lake is an easy, flat walk. Castle Rock, as I said, is a bit of a scramble, and not for the faint of heart. Dogs are permitted on both trails, provided they are on a leash. No charge for parking at either trailhead. No facilities advertised, however, although I did see a portapotty near where the naturalist was stationed, near the east access point to Bluff Lake.Numerous hikes still to blog. It's been a pretty good hiking year, so far.