Cougar Buttes

5/5 (6 reviews)
Lucerne Valley, California (San Bernardino County)
Last Updated: 09/26/2022
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Trail Information

Highlights

Cougar Buttes is one of the great off-road areas of Southern California that has yet to be discovered by the main stream off-road community. Just minutes from Big Bear and Johnson Valley, this small area is easy to miss with its few rock pile hills, it almost looks like it could be someone's backyard. But don't let this fool you, Cougar Buttes has everything Johnson Valley has but in a much smaller and more accessible area. Everything from high speed sandy roads to some of the most extreme rock crawling and Jeeping in all of the United States. Whether you are into rock crawling, some 4x4'ing, pre-running dirt roads, overlanding, or simply just want to take a short vacation. Cougar Buttes should be your place on your next trip.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Cougar Buttes, has everything Johnson Valley has but in just a fraction of the area. The area has everything from high speed sand roads and geocaches to rock crawling ranging from simple to extreme. What makes this area different from most others is there aren't many official trails, but just an area you can try to explore and see how far you can make it. The best example of the area would be to think of desert rocky terrain you would see in Star Trek. Cougar Buttes would be something like that. There are several named trails in the area. Even though the trails are named, they are very hard to follow due to the lack of signage or obvious paths. Those trails are; Hammer Down, Bull Frog, Cake Walk, Split Fingers, and The Skull.

Trail Reviews

5/5 (6 reviews)
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 04/03/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

This is a choose your own adventure trail. There are dozens of parallel paths cut in the landscape to make your way toward the rock formations. The formations are very cool to see up close.
Trail Review: Cougar Buttes - George Deyarmond
Josh Noesser
Official Crew
90950
Status: Temporary Closure
Visited: 04/27/2021

This is the weekend for Military use... Make other plans if you are going to be in the shared use area https://www.29palms.marines.mil/Staff-Offices/Government-and-External-Affairs/Johnson-Valley/fbclid/IwAR1P9xPv9BFcI9_RKJwPoHIlYTZCVZ70xbytUkGJjlQ83Za02vLDud2Px5M/
Josh Noesser
Official Crew
90950
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 11/22/2019

Love this place. I always forget how much I like it everytime i go there.... This time i rolledover... Oh well. It was still fun.
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 02/07/2019

We drove through Cougar Buttes on our way to King of the Hammers earlier this year. This was the last trip my Cherokee Trailhawk KL ever went on and this is the trail where the transfer case blew up and it got stuck in 2WD. Despite all that, this is a *really* awesome area that's worth visiting. Had I not been so bummed out about my vehicle I think I would've enjoyed it much more. Now that I have the JL, I'll need to revisit.
Trail Review: Cougar Buttes - Carl Hartenstein
Trail Review: Cougar Buttes - Carl Hartenstein
Tom H
3900
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/02/2018

Cougar Buttes is a great place to wheel, and don't let the description above discourage you from visiting. You only get into trouble if you look for it. Newbies in stock vehicles can still have a lot of fun out there as long as you pick your routes. Cougar Buttes is, in effect, a large jumble of boulders and rocks with a myriad of possible ways to drive up, over, or around them. There are few well-defined trails per se. You just head off into the buttes looking for a passage. Newbies will reach a rock canyon wall that is 8 feet tall and turn around without hesitation; but this might be the same rock wall that expert wheelers will climb over. The camping is great too. There is enough open space for kids to play and ride their bikes while Dad heads off in the jeep. Finally, don't forget that this is the California high desert. It will be impossibly hot from May until September, and the nights will be cold from December through March. Plan accordingly.

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