When Angelenos say they're going up to the mountains, Big Bear Lake is usually what they mean. With alpine-style villages surrounding a seven-mile-long fresh water lake, the popular vacation hotspot was previously discovered in 1845 as Yuhaviat and was actually widely known by miners as a mecca full of gold. Today, however, it sits less than a hundred miles away from the smog and chaos of Downtown Los Angeles, and remains a snow-fed reservoir for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure lovers of all sorts. Surrounded by the beautiful San Bernardino National Forest, the area offers cool but moderate year-round temperatures, plenty of trails to hike, and lots of dog-friendly activities, including a boat tour made just for a man and his best friend!
A wide array of stunning ski slopes can be found all along the south shore. There’s also the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, tons of water-sports opportunities, numerous restaurants, and a variety of warm and welcoming lodgings such as Apples Bed & Breakfast Inn. The more serene north shore offers easy access to walking and biking trails, a splendid alpine scenery, a fascinating nature center, as well as the gorgeous Windy Point Inn. Plus, there are two giant ski resorts in the area, including Snow Summit (one of the biggest Southern California has to offer with over thirty runs on over two hundred skiable acres), and Bear Mountain, which happens to be a prime location for avid snowboarders as the West Coast’s only super pipe. So ski, snowboard, skate, sail, fish, golf, or hike amidst majestic mountains at this natural wonderland. It’s truly the spot for a nice long weekend getaway, or even that week-long vacation you and the kids are in desperate need of. What are you waiting for?
Thrill-seekers and beach bums will both find common ground at this SoCal favorite all four seasons of the year. No matter spring, summer, fall, or winter, the San Bernardino Mountains will draw you outside for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and golfing. One of the most popular hikes happens to be the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs all the way from Mexico to Canada, or the single-track Grout Bay Trail, a 12-mile loop that makes a roller-coaster ascent through the forest-- a stellar intermediate mountain bike route for riders. When the sun gets too scorching hot, that crystal clear lake will be calling your name, with ample opportunities for boating, waterskiing, swimming, kayaking, and of course, fishing, since there are tons of trout and catfish to reel no matter what month may be. In recent years, large and small mouth bass have also become more abundant in the area, making Big Bear Lake fishing much more than just a tall tale, but a super spectacular sport for fish-loving locals and visitors alike. Find all the gear you need at local outfitters near Trout Alley, on the lake’s west side. Even get some expert insight by hiring a guide or chartering a fishing excursion.
When the weather turns cold, there are some of the nation’s best ski resorts right at your very fingertips. Snow Summit is family-friendly with a variety of terrain including a freestyle park—but there are plenty of ways to enjoy the snow beyond the lift line as well. Go tubing, sledding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, winter horseback riding, or even just go about making millions of snow angels (and snowmen!). Plus, besides the alpine scenery and awesome lake views, you'll find other sights, events, and attractions to keep busy with. Families love the Moonridge Zoo, a 2.5 acre home for animals wounded in the wilderness where caretakers treat and care for animals until they are well enough to return to the wild.
Foodies will find enough eateries to satisfy whatever that belly is craving all along Big Bear Blvd., the main road through town. From local coffee shops such as Grizzly Manor Café (where the chocolate chip pancakes are bigger than the plates!) and other casual restaurants, to familiar chains, tiny pizzerias, and lavish bistros, there are quick and easy bites or family-style meals for any time of day. So grab a burger and local brew at Big Bear Mountain Brewery and then head on over to the Village for window shopping and souvenir hunting at a bounty of boutiques, specialty stores, and antique shops. The area is also an artists' community, so local galleries often showcase the works of local painters, photographers, sculptors, and woodworkers. August's "Art on the Lake" annual festival is a must-see, turning the whole Village into an open air gallery featuring dozens of local artists-- not to mention some of Big Bear's best food, wine, and beer!
Make it an even more stellar getaway by embarking on the various day trips available at this lakeside vacation spot. Trek on out toward the trees of the San Bernardino National Forest, which offers one million acres of natural beauty—there really is no better place to experience wild flowers in full bloom or to see some fall foliage without massive crowds. Why not attend some of the fun local events such as Oktoberfest, Old Miners’ Days, or the Big Bear Lake Film Festival? How about experiencing maximum thrills by leaping off the granite boulders near China Island (a.k.a. Garstin Island at the lake’s west end). If you’re more into just simple lounging, hang out on the shore with the friendly lifeguards at McDill Swim Beach near Meadow Park, or how about checking out artifacts from the gold mining days at the Big Bear Valley Historical Museum, which also features displays of early ranching and logging in the region dating all the way back to 1802. There’s also The Discovery Center and a tour abroad the Time Bandit pirate ship, a 1/3-scale replica of the Spanish galleon featured in the 1981 movie Time Bandits.
Other options include climbing the trail to the top of Castle Rock or learning how to cook at Copper Q, a new culinary-gadget store with a demo kitchen, cooking classroom, espresso bar, not to mention cupcakes that are simply to-die-for! Plus, cooking aficionados can browse through hundreds of eco-friendly cutting boards, Dutch ovens, and serving pieces. You can even rent out some wheels at Bear Valley Bikes to roll through the 2.5-mile Alpine Pedal Path hugging the North Shore before chowing down at popular dining establishments like Evergreen International, which offers breathtaking views of the lake, or Himalayan Restaurant, a mecca for Indian/Nepalese cuisine made with fresh spices and ingredients. You’ll be savoring the greatest momo dumplings around!
Face it. Perfect accommodations make any vacation all the more enjoyable. Rental cabins or condos provide a local home base that’s terrific for relaxing with family and friends, storing outdoor gear, and prepping delicious family meals and snacks in a real kitchen, all with lots of space and ample privacy. Shorts stays at locations such as Pine Knot Guest Ranch or Alpine Village Inn offer much-needed rest and relaxation. What’s more is that most area accommodations ensure absolute comfort to all travelers, with necessary amenities ranging from wood-burning fireplaces, to fluffy pillows and down comforters, to full kitchenettes or BBQs, as well as easy access to pool tables, foosball, air hockey, darts, and more.
Whether you’re in for a traditional cabin-style retreat, or a chicer and more casual quick modern getaway, there are tons of places to live, love, and learn within the mountains of Big Bear. Kick off those shoes, chill out, and take in a pleasant evening under starry skies at the spectrum of lodging choices-- full service hotels, charming B&B’s, rustic resort cabins, and luxurious vacation rentals await!
Sure it might be an hour or two drive from L.A. or Orange County, but trust us, it’s so worth it. Walk, hike, or ride a bike anywhere around Big Bear to discover and do tons of new and awesome things. For those who want to fly into the area, the nearest major airports are LA/Ontario International Airport and Palm Springs International Airport. There’s also the Big Bear City Airport, a general aviation airport on the east end of the lake. It’s super simple to navigate the area by car as well, and vehicle rentals are always available. What’s more is that the city does extremely well with maintaining clean and snow-free roads all year long. Walkers and trekkers have an incredible amount of hiking options, and there are plenty of biking trails available for public use. Travelers are even free to use boats, jet skis, canoes, and other water apparatuses on the lake itself. And for public transit, check out The Mountain Area Regional Transit Authority (MARTA), which is the primary public transportation provider for Big Bear Lake, offering not just local, but off-the-mountain bus services to patrons of all sorts. Get movin’ today.
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