The view from the Butler Peak Fire Lookout Station is nothing short of amazing. It boasts incredible 360° views – including views of Big Bear Valley, Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Apple Valley, San Gorgonio Peak, and the Inland Empire. The elevation is 8500 ft! It has been said that on a clear day, you can see all the way to Catalina Island from Butler Peak.
The drive to Butler Peak is easy. Start on Fawnskin (located on the north shore side of Big Bear Lake – near the fire station) and head north on Rim of the World Drive. Turn left on Forest Road2N13 and continue to follow 2N13 until you see signage for 2N13C on your left. When you reach 2N13C, turn left and continue to the end of the road. The roads were just recently re-opened to the public last year for the first time since the 2007 fire. However, they are in rough shape and are extremely narrow, so low clearance vehicles are not advised.
On our most recent trip to Butler Peak, we took a 4×4 and in total, it took about 35 minutes. Although we did not time it exactly we estimated it was about 8 miles up and back. You can also hike or mountain bike (experience recommended!). In total, we estimated that it was about 8 miles round trip. At the start of the drive, we passed the area where the 2007 fire in Big Bear Lake passed through. It was an eerie experience to see the damage done by the fire. Directly following this, we reached the top, where there is a small parking area.
The hike to the tower on Butler Peak Trail is fairly short and the trail is easy enough. It took us a few minutes to get to “The Stairway to Heaven”. With the way the sun’s rays shine down, it’s easy to see how it acquired this infamous nickname. We were all a little winded (8,500 ft of elevation will do that!) by the time we reached the stairs, which are quite narrow by the way, and heart rates were increasing. At the top of the stairs, we were greeted by volunteer rangers who informed us that Butler Peak just celebrated its 80th birthday.
As a word of advice, make sure to bring a sweater or light jacket, as it does get quite windy up there.
Having visited many spectacular destinations, I can honestly say that Butler Peak is one of my favorites. So next time you visit Big Bear Lake and are looking for a free adventure, grab your Go-Pro and head up to Butler Peak!