Just a short two-hour drive from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake couldn’t be further removed from big city life. Surrounded by the lush San Bernardino National Forest, Southern California’s largest recreational lake is a natural beauty in any season. Whether you’re chasing a winter wonderland, summer by the lake or a fall cabin there is so much to do and see in Big Bear. From skiing to hiking or swimming in the lake, your family will never be bored at Big Bear Lake. You should book a vacation rental near Big Bear Lake to be close to the water and hiking trails and several vacation rentals are also dog-friendly, making it the perfect family getaway. After you book your rental, you’ll be eager to start planning what you’re going to do in this tranquil paradise. Here are some of our favorite things to do on a trip to Big Bear Lake.

1. Spend a day by the water

Summertime at Big Bear Lake offers endless opportunities to explore the great outdoors. Head out on the lake for a relaxing canoe or kayak ride then take a dip in the clear waters. At an elevation of 6750 ft, the Alpine lake may be a little on the cool side but that doesn’t stop visitors from water skiing, wake boarding or jet skiing. San Bernardino County is known as one of the recreation capitals of California, so enjoy your time and don’t be afraid to try something new in beautiful Big Bear!

2. Visit the Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Just near Bear Mountain Ski Resort is the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, which is one of two Alpine zoos in the United States. Check out this unique zoo and see a black bear in person, without any danger! Animals at the zoo include a bald eagle, arctic fox and even a snow leopard. Many of the animals are native to the area and it’s a great way to get to know where you’re vacationing. The zoo offers tours or you can visit on your own. Be sure to check the website as winter and summer hours vary and don’t forget your camera! You never know what you’re going to spot on a trip to the Big Bear Alpine Zoo.

3. Ski on Bear Mountain

As the days get shorter and the cold weather rolls in, Big Bear becomes Southern California’s premier ski destination. The twin peaks of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit combine to welcome skiers and snowboarders all winter long. Home to the only superpipe in Southern California, Bear Mountain is a noted playground for snowboarders and was frequented by Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White in his younger years. Complimenting this, Snow Summit is a more family-orientated park with plenty of space for beginners. Whether you are a well-practiced skier or a beginner, the Bear Lake area has something for everyone. Be sure to book your vacation rental a few months in advance to get your spot. Big Bear Lake is a popular destination in the winter and summer, and vacation rentals can fill up fast.

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4. Make a shopping trip

Big Bear Lake Village is right along the water and may even be within walking distance of your vacation rental. Take a trolley through town and explore the various shops and restaurants the mountain town has to offer. Popular hotspots include the Peppercorn Grille and Village Pizza. The town’s entertainment district hosts several events throughout the year including the annual Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest that boasts the most elevated Biergarten in the United States. Locals are friendly, so feel free to ask them questions and join them on their adventures. They may even have some hints for you on Big Bear Lake fishing and the best snow summit.

5. Go for a hike

Take a hike or a bike ride through the stunning San Bernardino Mountains and soak up the beautiful pine-scented surroundings. As the snow melts in the spring, the forest comes alive and there is no better place in Southern California to see nature bloom. One of the best hikes in Big Bear Valley is the Castle Rock trailhead which is a short but steep hike with fantastic panoramic views of the lake. One of the most popular mountain biking trails is Skyline Ridge, which passes through Snow Summit Ski Resort. Getboards in Big Bear Lake Village has bikes, kayaks and more available for rental if you do not have your own with you.

6. Visit the Discovery Center

The Big Bear Discovery Center is another great way to learn more about the area and get advice on more things to see and do. Visitor guides will tell you all about how to avoid and deal with black bear sightings as well as other tips on places for boating, fishing and much more. The discovery center also hosts Music in the Mountains, a summer concert series that benefits the Southern California Mountains Foundation.

7. Throw out a line

At Big Bear Lake you can explore the outdoors on foot or relax and drop a line in many areas of the lake and get a good catch. Big Bear offers some truly amazing fishing with trout, bass and catfish all abundant in the lake. Boulder Bay Park is a great spot to fish as well as Big Bear Charter Fishing. Head to the farmers market after to get additional ingredients needed for the perfect lakeside cookout. Big Bear Lake weather varies by season, but the best time for fishing is usually in the fall or spring. Find a vacation rental on the north shore to be close to several fishing spots as well as the Serrano Campground. Or, book it on the south shore to be near the ski resorts.

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