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Planning the Perfect Adventure Trip to Big Bear Lake, California

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Big Bear Lake, California, is an adventure paradise year-round. Enjoy boating, hiking, and mountain biking in summer, and skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing in winter. This stunning destination offers diverse outdoor activities against a backdrop of beautiful mountain scenery.


Big Bear Lake, California: Elevation 6,752 feet, Population 5,031 (2022)

Big Bear Lake, California, is a premier destination for adventure seekers, nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains. This picturesque town offers year-round activities that cater to outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. In the warmer months, the lake itself is a hub of activity. Boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding are popular ways to explore the serene waters, while fishing enthusiasts can try their luck at catching trout and bass. The surrounding trails are perfect for hiking and mountain biking, offering stunning views of the lake and surrounding forest.

For those who crave an adrenaline rush, Big Bear Lake doesn’t disappoint. Ziplining through the treetops provides a bird’s-eye view of the lush landscape, and off-roading adventures take you through rugged terrain, offering a thrilling ride. The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain provides a unique experience, combining a scenic chairlift ride with a fast-paced descent down a bobsled track.

As winter blankets the region in snow, Big Bear transforms into a winter wonderland. Snow Summit and Bear Mountain ski resorts attract skiers and snowboarders from all over, with a variety of slopes suitable for all skill levels. Snow tubing, sledding, and snowshoeing are also popular, providing fun for the whole family. The charming village area offers cozy lodges, shops, and restaurants, perfect for relaxing after a day of adventure.

Big Bear Lake’s diverse array of activities, coupled with its stunning natural beauty, makes it an ideal destination for adventure year-round. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of winter sports or the tranquility of a summer hike, Big Bear has something to offer every adventurer.

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Getting to Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake is easily accessible from various parts of Southern California, making it a convenient destination for a mountain escape. Here’s how you can reach this scenic spot:

By Car: The most common way to get to Big Bear Lake is by car. The drive offers picturesque views and winding mountain roads. From Los Angeles, it’s about a 2-hour drive, depending on traffic and weather conditions. Take the I-10 East or CA-210 East to CA-330 North, which will lead you up the mountain to CA-18, taking you directly to Big Bear Lake. Ensure your vehicle is well-prepared for mountain driving, especially in winter, when snow chains may be required.

By Public Transportation: For those preferring public transportation, several options are available. The Metrolink train can take you from Los Angeles to San Bernardino. From the San Bernardino station, Mountain Transit provides bus services up to Big Bear Lake. The trip may take longer than driving but offers an stress-free way to enjoy the scenery.

By Air: The nearest major airport is Ontario International Airport (ONT), located about 60 miles from Big Bear Lake. From the airport, car rentals, shuttles, or rideshare services can take you up the mountain. Additionally, private flights can land at Big Bear City Airport, just a few miles from the lake.

Regardless of your mode of transport, check road conditions and weather forecasts before your trip to ensure a safe and pleasant journey to Big Bear Lake.

Local Adventure Vibe

Big Bear Lake, California, is a vibrant hub for adventure enthusiasts, offering a variety of clubs, events, and activities that cater to all levels of outdoor adventurers.

In winter, the town comes alive with skiing and snowboarding at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain resorts. The Snow Summit Ski Club and Bear Mountain Ski Club are popular among locals and visitors alike, offering training, social events, and competitions. Key events include the annual Snow Summit Night Sessions, where skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes under the stars, and the Bear Mountain’s Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails, a pre-season rail jam event drawing top talent.

For runners, the Big Bear Running Club provides a community for both casual and competitive runners. The club organizes regular group runs around the scenic lake trails and in the San Bernardino National Forest. Major events include the Big Bear Lake Half Marathon and the Kodiak 100 Ultramarathon, which attract participants from all over, offering challenging courses with breathtaking views.

Mountain biking is another major draw, with the Big Bear Mountain Biking Association (BBMBA) leading the way. BBMBA organizes group rides, trail maintenance, and skills clinics. The Big Bear Mountain Bike Gran Fondo and the Grizzly 100 are premier events, offering various distance options that cater to different skill levels, all through the stunning alpine terrain.

Climbers can enjoy the local climbing scene at the Big Bear Sports Ranch, which offers indoor climbing facilities and outdoor bouldering spots. Additionally, Big Bear Lake features zip-lining adventures, off-roading tours, and the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain, ensuring there’s never a dull moment for thrill-seekers.

Overall, Big Bear Lake’s adventure vibe is dynamic and welcoming, with plenty of clubs, events, and activities that make it an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.

Uniquely Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake, California, boasts several unique attractions and experiences that set it apart from other mountain destinations. Here are some highlights that travelers will find particularly interesting:

One of Big Bear’s most distinctive features is the Big Bear Solar Observatory. Situated on the north shore of the lake, this world-renowned research facility is home to one of the largest solar telescopes in the world. Visitors can learn about cutting-edge solar research and occasionally join public tours to get an up-close look at the sun.

The Alpine Pedal Path is a unique, family-friendly trail that offers a leisurely way to explore the natural beauty of Big Bear Lake. This paved path winds along the north shore, providing stunning lake views and opportunities to spot local wildlife. It’s perfect for walking, biking, or rollerblading.

Experience the lake from a different perspective with the Big Bear Pirate Ship Tour. This replica of a Spanish galleon takes guests on a whimsical voyage around the lake, complete with pirate-themed storytelling, entertainment, and stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains.

The Big Bear Lake Village is a charming, historic downtown area with a unique blend of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. Stroll through the village to discover quaint boutiques, local art galleries, and a variety of dining experiences ranging from cozy cafes to gourmet restaurants.

Big Bear Lake has a rich Gold Rush history, and remnants of this era can be explored through guided tours of the historic Gold Rush sites. Learn about the region’s mining past at the Big Bear Historical Museum, where exhibits and artifacts bring the 19th-century gold mining days to life.

These unique aspects of Big Bear Lake make it a fascinating destination, offering travelers an array of exclusive experiences that can’t be found anywhere else.

Food and Drink

Big Bear Lake, California, offers a vibrant culinary scene perfect for adventure travelers looking to refuel after a day of outdoor activities. Here are some of the top spots:

The Peppercorn Grille: The Peppercorn Grille is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, known for its cozy ambiance and delicious menu. Offering a mix of American and Italian cuisine, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy hearty meals like steaks, seafood, and pasta after a long day of adventuring.

Big Bear Lake Brewing Company: For craft beer enthusiasts, the Big Bear Lake Brewing Company is a must-visit. This brewpub offers a range of locally brewed beers, from hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, paired with a menu of pub favorites like burgers, sandwiches, and gourmet pizzas. The relaxed atmosphere makes it an ideal place to unwind and share stories from the day.

572 Social Kitchen and Lounge: Located in the heart of the village, 572 Social Kitchen and Lounge offers a lively setting with outdoor seating and live music. The menu features a variety of comfort foods, including flatbreads, salads, and hearty entrees. Its vibrant atmosphere makes it a great spot to relax and socialize.

Hacienda Grill: For those craving Mexican cuisine, Hacienda Grill serves up authentic dishes in a warm, welcoming environment. Enjoy flavorful tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas, along with refreshing margaritas. The festive ambiance and hearty portions are perfect for refueling after outdoor excursions.

Whiskey Dave’s: Adventure travelers looking for nightlife will enjoy Whiskey Dave’s, a popular bar offering live music, DJ nights, and a wide selection of drinks. It’s a lively spot to cap off an adventurous day with dancing, pool, and great company.

These bars and restaurants provide a perfect blend of relaxation, great food, and lively entertainment for adventure travelers visiting Big Bear Lake.

Best Places to Stay

Hotels and Resorts

Big Bear Lake, California, offers a variety of accommodations that cater to adventure travelers, providing convenient access to outdoor activities and comfortable amenities for relaxation after a day of exploration. Here are some top choices:

The Lodge at Big Bear Lake: The Lodge at Big Bear Lake is a rustic yet modern hotel located in the heart of Big Bear Village. It offers cozy rooms and suites with easy access to nearby shops, restaurants, and adventure activities. Amenities include a heated outdoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center, making it a great base for adventure travelers.

Big Bear Frontier: Big Bear Frontier offers a range of cabins and hotel rooms right on the lake’s edge. With direct lake access and proximity to hiking and biking trails, it’s perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in nature. The rustic cabins, complete with fireplaces and kitchenettes, provide a cozy retreat after a day of outdoor activities.

Snow Summit Townhouse Rentals: For ski and snowboard enthusiasts, Snow Summit Townhouse Rentals provide the ultimate convenience. Located near Snow Summit Ski Resort, these townhouses offer ski-in/ski-out access, spacious accommodations, and fully equipped kitchens. It’s an excellent choice for those planning to hit the slopes frequently.

The Robinhood Resort: The Robinhood Resort, located in Big Bear Village, combines comfort with convenience. Offering a variety of rooms and suites, some with fireplaces and jacuzzis, it’s close to dining, shopping, and outdoor adventures. The on-site Nottingham’s Tavern provides a cozy spot for meals and drinks.

Pine Knot Guest Ranch: For a more secluded and rustic experience, Pine Knot Guest Ranch offers charming cabins set on a peaceful property with a meadow and private hiking trails. It’s ideal for those looking to unwind in a tranquil setting while still being close to the lake and other attractions.

These accommodations provide a range of options for adventure travelers, ensuring a comfortable and convenient stay in Big Bear Lake, whether you’re skiing, hiking, or simply enjoying the natural beauty.


Big Bear Lake, California, is a paradise for camping enthusiasts, offering a variety of campgrounds that cater to adventure travelers seeking to immerse themselves in nature. Here are some of the best places to camp in the area:

Serrano Campground: Serrano Campground is one of the most popular spots for camping in Big Bear Lake. Located within the San Bernardino National Forest and close to the lake’s north shore, this campground offers easy access to hiking, fishing, and boating. It features well-maintained campsites, including tent and RV options, with amenities like flush toilets, showers, and picnic areas. The adjacent Alpine Pedal Path provides a scenic route for biking and walking.

Pineknot Campground: Pineknot Campground is ideal for those looking to combine camping with hiking and mountain biking. Situated near the base of Snow Summit, it offers direct access to a network of trails leading into the forest. The campground provides tent and RV sites, as well as picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. Its proximity to Big Bear Village makes it convenient for accessing local dining and shopping.

Holcomb Valley Campground: For a more remote and rustic camping experience, Holcomb Valley Campground is an excellent choice. Located in the historic Holcomb Valley, this campground offers a serene setting away from the crowds. It’s perfect for adventure travelers interested in exploring off-road trails, historical mining sites, and expansive vistas. The campground has basic amenities, including picnic tables and vault toilets, making it suitable for tent camping and small RVs.

Hanna Flat Campground: Hanna Flat Campground is another great option, nestled in a quiet area of the San Bernardino National Forest. It’s ideal for those seeking a peaceful camping experience with opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and stargazing. The campground offers spacious sites, suitable for tents and RVs, with amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets.

Yellow Post Sites: For the ultimate back-to-nature experience, consider the Yellow Post Sites. These dispersed camping sites are scattered throughout the forest and offer no amenities, providing a true wilderness experience. Accessible only by off-road vehicles, these sites are perfect for experienced campers looking to escape the crowds and enjoy solitude in the wilderness.

These campgrounds provide a range of options for adventure travelers, ensuring an unforgettable camping experience in the beautiful surroundings of Big Bear Lake. Whether you prefer a developed campground with amenities or a primitive site deep in the forest, Big Bear Lake has something to offer every camper.

Enjoying Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake, California, is an adventurer’s paradise, offering a plethora of outdoor activities and experiences that cater to all levels of thrill-seekers. Nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, this stunning destination provides an ideal setting for year-round adventures. Here are some of the best adventures you can embark on near Big Bear Lake.

Hiking and Backpacking

Big Bear Lake is surrounded by miles of hiking trails that offer varying levels of difficulty and breathtaking views. Some of the most popular trails include:

Castle Rock Trail: This is a moderately challenging 2.7-mile round trip hike that rewards hikers with stunning views of Big Bear Lake from the top. The trail features interesting rock formations and beautiful forest scenery.

Pine Knot Trail: A favorite among locals, this 6-mile round trip trail starts at Aspen Glen Picnic Area and winds through the forest, offering spectacular views of San Gorgonio Mountain. It’s a great trail for both hiking and mountain biking.

John Bull Loop: For experienced hikers looking for a challenge, the John Bull Loop offers a rigorous 12-mile trail that takes you through rugged terrain and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

For those interested in longer treks, the Pacific Crest Trail passes near Big Bear Lake. This iconic trail stretches over 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, and hikers can access a section of it near Big Bear for a taste of this legendary adventure.

Mountain Biking

Big Bear Lake is renowned for its mountain biking trails, which range from beginner-friendly paths to challenging downhill courses. Snow Summit Bike Park is a premier destination for mountain bikers, offering lift-served access to a variety of trails. Some highlights include:

Miracle Mile: This expert-level trail features jumps, berms, and technical sections that are sure to get your adrenaline pumping.

Party Wave: A favorite among intermediate riders, Party Wave offers a mix of flowy sections and technical features.

Skyline Trail: For those looking for a longer ride, the Skyline Trail is a scenic 15-mile cross-country trail that offers beautiful views of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains.

Water Sports

The lake itself is a hub of activity during the warmer months. Adventure seekers can enjoy a variety of water sports, including:

Kayaking and Paddleboarding: Rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the calm waters of Big Bear Lake. Boulder Bay Park is a great starting point for a peaceful paddle.

Jet Skiing and Wakeboarding: For those seeking more excitement, jet skiing and wakeboarding are popular activities. Several local outfitters offer rentals and lessons for beginners.

Fishing: Big Bear Lake is stocked with a variety of fish, including trout, bass, and catfish. Anglers can enjoy fishing from the shore or rent a boat for a day on the water. The annual Troutfest, held in the fall, is a popular event for fishing enthusiasts.

Winter Sports

When winter arrives, Big Bear Lake transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a range of snow sports:

Skiing and Snowboarding: Snow Summit and Bear Mountain are the go-to destinations for skiing and snowboarding. With a combined total of over 400 acres of skiable terrain, these resorts offer something for everyone, from beginner slopes to advanced terrain parks.

Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing: For a more tranquil winter adventure, explore the numerous snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails in the area. The Big Bear Discovery Center offers guided snowshoe tours that are great for families and beginners.

Snow Tubing: For some family-friendly fun, head to Big Bear Snow Play or the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain for snow tubing. These parks offer groomed hills and lift access, making it easy to enjoy a day of tubing.

Rock Climbing

Big Bear Lake is home to several excellent rock climbing spots. Castle Rock is a popular destination, offering a variety of routes for different skill levels. The area’s granite boulders and crags provide a perfect setting for both traditional and sport climbing.

For those new to climbing, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo offers climbing walls and ropes courses, providing a fun and safe environment to learn the basics.


Big Bear Lake is a haven for off-roading enthusiasts, with numerous trails and roads that cater to all levels of experience. The Holcomb Valley area offers a network of trails that are perfect for exploring in a 4×4 vehicle or ATV. Some popular off-roading trails include:

Gold Mountain: This challenging trail offers steep climbs, rocky terrain, and stunning views. It’s a favorite among experienced off-roaders.

Cactus Flats: A great area for beginners, Cactus Flats offers a mix of easy and moderate trails that wind through the scenic desert landscape.

For those without their own off-road vehicle, several local companies offer guided tours and rentals, allowing you to experience the thrill of off-roading without the hassle of bringing your own equipment.

Horseback Riding

Experience the beauty of Big Bear Lake from a different perspective with a horseback riding tour. Baldwin Lake Stables and Big Bear Equestrian Center offer guided trail rides that take you through the serene mountain landscape. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, horseback riding is a fantastic way to explore the area.

Zipline and Ropes Courses

For an adrenaline-pumping adventure, head to Action Zipline Tours. This exciting tour includes nine high-speed ziplines that take you soaring through the treetops, providing stunning views of the forest below. The tour also includes a suspension bridge and a guided off-road ride to the starting point.

Another thrilling option is the Big Bear Ropes Course, located at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. This challenging course features a variety of obstacles, including swinging logs, suspended bridges, and tightropes, providing a fun and engaging way to test your agility and balance.

Wildlife Viewing

Big Bear Lake is home to a diverse array of wildlife, making it a great destination for nature enthusiasts. The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a unique facility that focuses on the rehabilitation and release of injured and orphaned wildlife. Visitors can see a variety of animals, including bears, wolves, and eagles, and learn about the important conservation work being done.

For a more natural wildlife viewing experience, head to the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve. This protected area is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including the rare pebble plains habitat. Birdwatchers will also enjoy the opportunity to spot a variety of bird species in this serene setting.


The clear mountain skies of Big Bear Lake provide excellent conditions for stargazing. The Big Bear Solar Observatory offers public tours and stargazing events, allowing visitors to explore the night sky through powerful telescopes. For a more immersive experience, consider camping at one of the local campgrounds and enjoy a night under the stars.

Local Events and Festivals

Big Bear Lake hosts a variety of events and festivals throughout the year, many of which cater to adventure travelers. Some highlights include:

Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest: This annual event is a celebration of German culture, featuring traditional food, music, and dancing. It also includes a variety of outdoor activities, making it a fun event for adventure enthusiasts.

Big Bear PaddleFest: Held in July, this event includes a series of paddleboard races and activities, attracting paddlers from all over to compete and enjoy the beautiful lake.

Kodiak 100 Ultramarathon: This challenging race takes runners through the rugged terrain of the San Bernardino Mountains, offering a true test of endurance and determination.

Tour de Big Bear: A premier cycling event, Tour de Big Bear offers routes for all levels of cyclists, from family-friendly rides to challenging courses that take riders through the stunning mountain landscape.


Big Bear Lake, California, is a haven for adventure travelers, offering a diverse range of activities year-round. From the thrill of skiing and snowboarding in the winter to the serenity of hiking and kayaking in the summer, this scenic mountain destination provides endless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. With its stunning natural beauty, vibrant local culture, and numerous adventure clubs and events, Big Bear Lake is the perfect place to explore, relax, and create unforgettable memories. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or seeking a peaceful retreat, Big Bear Lake has something special to offer everyone.

Big Bear Lake, California, offers an incredible array of adventures that cater to all types of outdoor enthusiasts. From hiking and mountain biking to skiing and water sports, there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy in this beautiful mountain destination. Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping thrills or serene natural beauty, Big Bear Lake has something for everyone, making it a must-visit destination for adventure travelers.

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