Welcome to Big Bear Lake, a picturesque mountain town nestled in the heart of Southern California. Located just two hours away from the bustling city of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake offers a peaceful escape and an abundance of outdoor adventures surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.
As you make your way up the winding mountain roads, you’ll be greeted by towering pine trees, pristine alpine lakes, and panoramic views of the San Bernardino Mountains. Whether you’re seeking a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, Big Bear Lake has something for everyone.
In this guide, we’ll take you through a comprehensive itinerary of how to make the most of a weekend in Big Bear Lake. From outdoor activities to dining options and local events, we’ll cover it all. So pack your bags, put on your hiking boots, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in this charming mountain town.
But first, let’s talk about how to get to Big Bear Lake.
Getting to Big Bear Lake
Getting to Big Bear Lake is easy and convenient. The town is located in the San Bernardino Mountains, roughly 100 miles east of Los Angeles. Here are a few options for reaching this mountain retreat:
- By Car: If you’re driving from the Greater Los Angeles area, take Interstate 10 east to the CA-30/CA-330. Continue on CA-330 until it merges with CA-18, which will take you directly into Big Bear Lake.
- By Air: If you prefer to fly, the closest major airport is LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT), located approximately 60 miles west of Big Bear Lake. From there, you can rent a car or arrange for a shuttle service to take you to the mountain town.
- By Shuttle: Big Bear Lake is also accessible via shuttle services from various locations in Southern California. These shuttle services offer convenient transportation options with multiple departures throughout the day.
Once you arrive in Big Bear Lake, a car is recommended to explore the area at your own pace. However, if you prefer not to drive, there are local taxi and rideshare services available to get around town.
Now that you know how to get to Big Bear Lake, let’s dive into where to stay during your visit.
Where to Stay
Big Bear Lake offers a range of accommodations to suit every traveler’s needs and preferences. From cozy cabins nestled in the woods to luxurious lakeside resorts, there’s something for everyone. Here are some popular options to consider:1. Cabin Rentals: Renting a cabin in Big Bear Lake is a popular choice for visitors looking for a rustic and private retreat. These cabins vary in size and amenities, from intimate one-bedroom cottages to spacious multi-bedroom homes. Many cabin rentals include features such as hot tubs, fireplaces, and fully-equipped kitchens, providing a home-away-from-home experience. 2. Lakeside Resorts: If you prefer a more upscale experience, there are several lakeside resorts that offer stunning views and a range of amenities. These resorts often feature private beach access, swimming pools, onsite restaurants, and spa services. They are perfect for those seeking relaxation and luxury during their stay. 3. Hotels and Motels: Big Bear Lake is also home to a variety of hotels and motels, varying in price range and amenities. Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly option or a full-service hotel, you’ll find plenty of choices in the area. 4. Bed and Breakfasts: For a charming and personalized experience, consider staying at a bed and breakfast in Big Bear Lake. These cozy accommodations provide a homey atmosphere and often include a delicious homemade breakfast to start your day off right. 5. Campgrounds and RV Parks: If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or prefer a more adventurous experience, there are numerous campgrounds and RV parks in the area. These allow you to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the beautiful surroundings to the fullest.
Regardless of where you choose to stay, make sure to book in advance, especially during the peak summer and winter seasons. This will ensure you have a comfortable and enjoyable stay in Big Bear Lake.
Now that you’ve secured your accommodation, it’s time to explore the outdoors and make the most of your weekend. Let’s dive into the exciting outdoor activities that Big Bear Lake has to offer.
Exploring the Outdoors
Big Bear Lake is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities to enjoy in its stunning natural surroundings. Whether you’re seeking adventure or simply want to relax and admire the picturesque landscapes, there’s something for everyone. Here are some of the top outdoor activities to explore in Big Bear Lake:1. Boating and Fishing: With its pristine alpine lake, Big Bear Lake is the perfect destination for boating and fishing enthusiasts. Rent a boat for the day and cruise along the crystal-clear waters, or try your luck at fishing for rainbow trout or largemouth bass. Don’t forget to bring your fishing gear and fishing license! 2. Hiking and Nature Trails: Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails in Big Bear Lake. The area offers a variety of hiking and nature trails, catering to all skill levels. Explore the scenic beauty of the San Bernardino Mountains and discover hidden treasures like waterfalls, lush forests, and breathtaking viewpoints. 3. Mountain Biking: Big Bear Lake boasts excellent mountain biking trails that cater to both beginners and experienced riders. Rent a mountain bike and explore the challenging terrains, winding through the mountains and taking in the fresh mountain air. Bonus: Some trails offer stunning panoramic views of Big Bear Lake. 4. Horseback Riding: Saddle up and embark on a horseback riding adventure through the tranquil forests and meadows surrounding Big Bear Lake. Experience the beauty of the natural surroundings from a different perspective and enjoy the calming rhythm of horseback riding. 5. Zip-lining and Adventure Parks: If you’re a thrill-seeker, don’t miss the opportunity to go zip-lining through the treetops or challenge yourself with high ropes courses and other adrenaline-pumping activities at the local adventure parks. Test your bravery while enjoying the stunning scenery from above. 6. Nature Photography: With its abundant wildlife, striking landscapes, and changing seasons, Big Bear Lake offers endless opportunities for nature photography. Capture the beauty of the area through your lens and create lasting memories of your time in this scenic mountain town.
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful hike, an exhilarating adventure, or a chance to connect with nature, Big Bear Lake provides the perfect setting for outdoor exploration.
Next, let’s dive into the water activities that Big Bear Lake has to offer.
When it comes to water activities, Big Bear Lake offers a plethora of options to cool off and have some fun in the sun. From leisurely boat rides to adrenaline-pumping water sports, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Here are some of the top water activities in Big Bear Lake:1. Boating: Rent a pontoon boat, kayak, or paddleboard and explore the serene waters of Big Bear Lake. Bask in the sun, take in the stunning mountain views, and create lasting memories with family and friends. Whether you prefer a peaceful cruise or an adventurous ride on the waves, boating is a popular activity in Big Bear Lake. 2. Jet Skiing and Wakeboarding: For thrill-seekers and water sport enthusiasts, jet skiing and wakeboarding are must-try activities. Feel the rush of the wind in your hair as you race across the lake on a jet ski, or catch some waves and show off your skills on a wakeboard. Big Bear Lake is the perfect playground for these exciting water sports. 3. Kayaking and Paddleboarding: For a more leisurely experience on the water, kayaking and paddleboarding are excellent choices. Rent a kayak or paddleboard and glide along the calm waters of the lake. Explore hidden coves, observe the wildlife, and enjoy a peaceful and immersive experience in nature. 4. Fishing: Big Bear Lake is renowned for its excellent fishing opportunities. Cast your line and try your luck at catching trout, bass, catfish, and more. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice, fishing in Big Bear Lake is a relaxing and rewarding activity. 5. Swimming and Beach Activities: Big Bear Lake offers several public beaches where you can soak up the sun, build sandcastles, and take a refreshing swim. These beaches provide picnic areas, BBQ grills, and facilities for a full day of relaxation and fun with family and friends.
With its sparkling water, stunning views, and a wide range of water activities, Big Bear Lake is the perfect destination to beat the heat and enjoy aquatic adventures.
Now that you’ve explored the water, let’s venture into the abundance of hiking trails available in the area.
Big Bear Lake is a hiker’s paradise, offering a vast network of trails that cater to all skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner looking to explore, there’s a trail for you. Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to discover the natural beauty of the San Bernardino Mountains. Here are some of the top hiking trails in Big Bear Lake:1. Pine Knot Trail: This popular trail offers a moderate hike with breathtaking panoramic views of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains. The trail is approximately 6 miles round trip and features beautiful wildflowers, towering pine trees, and the opportunity to spot local wildlife. 2. Bertha Peak Trail: For a more challenging hike, the Bertha Peak Trail is a great option. This 8-mile round trip trail takes you to the summit of Bertha Peak, offering stunning views of Big Bear Lake and the San Bernardino National Forest. Keep an eye out for the historic fire lookout tower along the way. 3. Castle Rock Trail: This short but rewarding trail leads you to a unique rock formation known as Castle Rock. The 2-mile round trip hike offers beautiful vistas of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains. It’s a great choice for families and those looking for a shorter, scenic hike. 4. Gray’s Peak Trail: This moderate trail takes you to the highest peak in the San Bernardino Mountains. The 7-mile round trip hike offers panoramic views, wildflowers in the spring, and an opportunity to spot local wildlife. Be prepared for a steady climb and breathtaking vistas at the summit. 5. Woodland Trail: If you’re looking for an easy and leisurely hike, the Woodland Trail is perfect. This 1.5-mile loop trail winds through a beautiful forested area, showcasing the natural beauty of Big Bear Lake. It’s a great choice for all ages and skill levels.
Remember to always prepare for your hike by wearing appropriate footwear, bringing plenty of water, and informing someone of your hiking plans. Additionally, be mindful of weather conditions and any trail closures or restrictions.
Now that you’ve immersed yourself in the beauty of Big Bear Lake’s hiking trails, let’s discover the winter wonderland that awaits during the colder months.
When winter arrives, Big Bear Lake transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a wide array of activities for outdoor enthusiasts and winter sports lovers. With its snow-covered slopes and picturesque scenery, Big Bear Lake becomes a popular destination for winter recreation. Here are some of the top winter activities you can enjoy:1. Skiing and Snowboarding: Big Bear Lake is home to two premier ski resorts: Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. These resorts offer a variety of slopes for all skill levels, from beginner-friendly runs to challenging terrain parks. Rent equipment, take lessons, and hit the slopes for an exhilarating day of skiing or snowboarding. 2. Snowshoeing: If you prefer a more relaxed winter activity, snowshoeing is a fantastic option. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore the snow-covered forests and meadows surrounding Big Bear Lake. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the tranquility of the winter landscape. 3. Tubing and Sledding: For family-friendly fun, head to the tubing and sledding hills in Big Bear Lake. Grab a tube or sled and slide down the hills, feeling the rush of excitement as you make your way down the snowy slopes. It’s a thrilling activity that both kids and adults can enjoy. 4. Winter Hiking: The hiking trails in Big Bear Lake take on a new beauty during the winter months. Strap on your snow boots and explore the snow-dusted trails, admiring the serene landscapes and the peacefulness of the winter season. Just ensure you’re prepared with appropriate winter hiking gear and always check trail conditions. 5. Ice Skating: Lace up your ice skates and glide across the ice at the local ice skating rink. It’s a classic winter activity that allows you to enjoy the outdoors and have fun with family and friends in a festive atmosphere.
No matter which winter activity you choose, be sure to dress in warm layers, stay hydrated, and follow safety guidelines. Big Bear Lake offers a winter wonderland that will leave you with unforgettable memories.
After a day of outdoor fun, it’s time to explore the dining options that Big Bear Lake has to offer. Let’s dig into the local culinary scene.
Big Bear Lake is not only known for its stunning natural beauty, but also for its diverse and delicious culinary scene. From cozy cafes to upscale restaurants, there are plenty of dining options to satisfy every palate. Here are some top dining options to consider during your visit:1. Steakhouses and Grills: Indulge in a mouthwatering steak or grilled delicacy at one of Big Bear Lake’s steakhouses. These restaurants offer a variety of cuts and cooking styles, ensuring a satisfying dining experience for meat lovers. 2. Farm-to-Table Cuisine: Big Bear Lake takes pride in its fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Experience the flavors of the region with farm-to-table restaurants that showcase the best of California’s bounty. Enjoy dishes made with locally grown produce, sustainable seafood, and artisanal products. 3. Pizza Shops: Craving a slice of pizza? Big Bear Lake is home to several pizza shops offering a range of toppings and styles. Whether you prefer a classic cheese pizza or a gourmet creation, you’ll find something to satisfy your pizza cravings. 4. International Cuisine: Expand your palate with a variety of international cuisines available in Big Bear Lake. From Italian trattorias and Mexican taquerias to Thai restaurants and sushi bars, there’s no shortage of global flavors to explore. 5. Microbreweries: Big Bear Lake has a burgeoning craft beer scene, with a number of microbreweries offering a wide selection of locally brewed beers. Take a brew tour, sample different beer styles, and enjoy the lively atmosphere at these vibrant establishments. 6. Cafes and Bakeries: Start your day off right with a visit to one of Big Bear Lake’s charming cafes or bakeries. Grab a freshly brewed cup of coffee, indulge in a delectable pastry, and relax in a cozy setting before setting out for your day’s adventures.
These are just a few examples of the diverse dining options available in Big Bear Lake. Keep in mind that many restaurants offer both indoor and outdoor seating, allowing you to enjoy your meal while taking in the scenic views of the mountains or the sparkling lake.
No trip to Big Bear Lake is complete without exploring the local shopping scene. Let’s dive into the shopping options available in the area.
When it comes to shopping, Big Bear Lake offers a unique and eclectic mix of shops and boutiques, perfect for finding that special souvenir or unique item. From trendy clothing stores to quaint art galleries, here are some of the shopping options you can explore during your visit:1. Art Galleries: Immerse yourself in the local art scene by visiting the art galleries in Big Bear Lake. Discover original paintings, sculptures, and other artistic creations by local and regional artists. It’s a great way to bring a piece of the area’s creative spirit home with you. 2. Outdoor Gear and Sporting Goods: Gear up for your outdoor adventures by visiting the outdoor gear and sporting goods stores in Big Bear Lake. From hiking equipment to snowboarding gear, you’ll find everything you need to make the most of your time in the mountains. 3. Gift Shops and Souvenir Stores: Take a piece of Big Bear Lake home with you by browsing through the gift shops and souvenir stores. These shops offer a wide range of unique items, including locally made crafts, clothing, jewelry, and home decor. It’s the perfect way to remember your time in this beautiful mountain town. 4. Boutiques and Fashion Stores: Big Bear Lake is home to a variety of boutiques and fashion stores, offering trendy clothing, accessories, and footwear. Whether you’re looking for a stylish outfit for a night out or a cozy sweater to keep you warm, you’ll find plenty of options to suit your style. 5. Antique Stores: Step back in time and explore the antique stores in Big Bear Lake. Hunt for hidden treasures, vintage collectibles, and unique home decor pieces. It’s a chance to find something truly special and add a touch of nostalgia to your home.
As you explore the shops in Big Bear Lake, be sure to support local businesses and artisans. Not only will you find one-of-a-kind items, but you’ll also contribute to the community’s economy.
After a day of shopping, you may want to unwind and experience the vibrant nightlife that Big Bear Lake has to offer. Let’s explore the options for evening entertainment.
While Big Bear Lake is primarily known for its outdoor adventures and natural beauty, the town also offers a vibrant nightlife scene for those seeking evening entertainment. After a day of exploring, there are plenty of options to unwind, socialize, and enjoy the local atmosphere. Here are some of the nightlife options in Big Bear Lake:1. Bars and Breweries: Big Bear Lake has a variety of bars and breweries where you can relax and enjoy a refreshing drink. Sample locally crafted beers, sip on handcrafted cocktails, or unwind with a glass of wine. Many establishments have cozy indoor seating or outdoor patios where you can soak in the mountain ambiance. 2. Live Music Venues: If you’re a music lover, Big Bear Lake has live music venues that feature a range of genres. Enjoy the sounds of talented local musicians or catch a performance by touring bands. From cozy intimate venues to larger concert spaces, there’s always something happening for music enthusiasts. 3. Comedy Clubs: Laugh the night away at one of Big Bear Lake’s comedy clubs. Experience the humor and wit of professional comedians as they entertain the crowd with their stand-up routines. It’s a great way to unwind and enjoy a night of laughter. 4. Entertainment Centers: Big Bear Lake is home to entertainment centers that offer a mix of activities, including bowling, arcade games, and more. Challenge your friends to a game of bowling or test your skills at the arcade. It’s a fun and lively option for an evening out. 5. Special Events and Festivals: Throughout the year, Big Bear Lake hosts a variety of special events and festivals, which often include live music, entertainment, and a festive atmosphere. Check the local event calendar to see if there are any events happening during your visit.
As you venture out for a night on the town in Big Bear Lake, be sure to drink responsibly and arrange for a safe way to return to your accommodation.
Now that we’ve explored the nightlife, let’s dive into the exciting local events and festivals that take place in Big Bear Lake throughout the year.
Local Events and Festivals
Big Bear Lake is a vibrant community that hosts a wide range of events and festivals throughout the year, offering visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture and celebrate the unique charm of the mountain town. From music festivals to holiday celebrations, here are some of the exciting events and festivals you can look forward to in Big Bear Lake:1. Oktoberfest: Big Bear Lake’s Oktoberfest is a beloved annual event that celebrates German culture with live music, traditional food, and, of course, plenty of beer. Join in the festivities as you indulge in delicious bratwurst, polka dance, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of this iconic event. 2. Big Bear Farmers Market: Held throughout the summer months, the Big Bear Farmers Market is a gathering of local farmers, artisans, and vendors. Explore the market and discover a variety of fresh produce, handcrafted goods, and locally made products. It’s a great way to support local businesses and experience the flavors of the region. 3. Concerts in the Village: During the summer, the Big Bear Lake Village comes alive with the sounds of live music. The Concerts in the Village series showcases a diverse lineup of talented musicians and bands, offering free outdoor concerts for locals and visitors to enjoy. 4. Snow Summit Summer Series: Snow Summit, the popular ski resort in Big Bear Lake, transforms into a hub of activity during the summer. The Snow Summit Summer Series features a variety of events, including mountain biking races, outdoor concerts, and family-friendly festivals. It’s a great way to enjoy the stunning mountain backdrop and participate in exciting summer activities. 5. Christmas in the Village: As the holiday season approaches, Big Bear Lake comes alive with a festive spirit. Christmas in the Village features twinkling lights, holiday decorations, and a range of family-friendly activities. Enjoy live entertainment, visit Santa Claus, and browse the shops for unique gifts and holiday treats.
These are just a few examples of the many events and festivals that take place in Big Bear Lake throughout the year. Check the local calendar or inquire with the visitor center to see what events coincide with your visit. Attending these events is a wonderful way to connect with the community and make lasting memories during your time in Big Bear Lake.
Now that we’ve covered the exciting events, let’s wrap up with some essential tips to ensure you have a great weekend in Big Bear Lake.
Tips for a Great Weekend in Big Bear Lake
A weekend getaway to Big Bear Lake promises a memorable experience surrounded by breathtaking beauty. To make the most of your time in this charming mountain town, here are some essential tips to ensure a fantastic weekend:1. Plan and Book in Advance: Big Bear Lake is a popular destination, especially during peak seasons. To secure your preferred accommodations and activities, it’s advisable to plan and book in advance. This ensures you can enjoy all the activities and attractions you have in mind without any last-minute disappointments. 2. Stay Hydrated and Pack Snacks: Whether you’re hiking, skiing, or engaging in other outdoor activities, remember to stay hydrated by carrying a reusable water bottle. Additionally, packing some snacks will keep you energized throughout the day, especially during longer hikes or winter activities. 3. Be Prepared for Changing Weather: Big Bear Lake experiences diverse weather conditions, so it’s crucial to be prepared for changes. Dress in layers, bring a waterproof jacket, and check the weather forecast before heading out. This ensures you’re comfortable and ready to adapt to any weather surprises. 4. Follow Leave No Trace Principles: Preserve the natural beauty of Big Bear Lake by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Respect the environment by packing out your trash, staying on designated trails, and avoiding any activities that could harm the local flora and fauna. 5. Embrace the Seasons: Big Bear Lake offers different experiences throughout the year. Enjoy the summer sun by participating in water activities, embrace the vibrant fall colors with hikes and scenic drives, hit the slopes during the winter for skiing and snowboarding, and witness nature awaken in spring. Each season offers its own unique charm. 6. Engage with the Local Community: Big Bear Lake is known for its friendly community. Take the time to engage with locals, ask for recommendations, and learn about the area’s history. Their insights and stories can add depth and richness to your overall experience. 7. Take Advantage of Local Transportation: If you prefer not to drive, utilize the local transportation options available, such as shuttle services or taxi cabs. This allows you to explore Big Bear Lake without the hassle of finding parking or navigating unfamiliar roads. 8. Be Mindful of Wildlife: Big Bear Lake is home to diverse wildlife. While it’s exciting to spot some of these creatures, remember to observe them from a safe distance and avoid feeding or approaching them. Wildlife should be respected and admired from afar. 9. Capture Memories: Don’t forget to bring your camera or smartphone to capture the breathtaking views and memorable moments during your weekend in Big Bear Lake. From panoramic landscapes to wildlife encounters, there’s plenty worth documenting. 10. Relax and Unwind: Lastly, don’t forget to take the time to relax and fully immerse yourself in the tranquility of Big Bear Lake. Whether it’s enjoying a peaceful lakeside moment, indulging in a spa treatment, or savoring a delicious meal, make sure to rejuvenate and unwind during your stay.
These tips will help you make the most of your weekend in Big Bear Lake, ensuring a memorable and enjoyable experience in this scenic mountain town.
As you wrap up your weekend getaway, take a moment to reflect on the beautiful memories you’ve made and the adventures you’ve embarked upon. Whether you return to Big Bear Lake in the future or explore other destinations, may your travel experiences continue to be filled with joy, discovery, and a deep connection with the incredible world around us.
Big Bear Lake truly offers a remarkable experience for those seeking a weekend getaway or a longer vacation immersed in the beauty of nature. From the moment you arrive in this charming mountain town, you’ll be captivated by the stunning landscapes, the plethora of outdoor activities, the delicious dining options, and the warm hospitality of the local community.
Whether you’re exploring the numerous hiking trails, partaking in water activities on the serene lake, enjoying the thrill of winter sports on the snowy slopes, or simply relaxing and unwinding amidst the picturesque scenery, Big Bear Lake has something to offer every type of adventurer.
Additionally, the vibrant nightlife, local events, and festivals showcase the rich culture and community spirit of Big Bear Lake. From live music performances to festive holiday celebrations, there’s always something happening to engage and entertain visitors.
As you plan your weekend in Big Bear Lake, remember to book your accommodations and activities in advance, stay hydrated, be prepared for changing weather conditions, and take the time to engage with the local community. By following these tips, you’ll be well-equipped to have an unforgettable experience.
Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure, relaxation, culinary delights, or cultural experiences, Big Bear Lake delivers an unforgettable blend of natural beauty and community charm. So pack your bags, embark on a journey to Big Bear Lake, and immerse yourself in the magic that awaits in this breathtaking mountain town.
Your weekend in Big Bear Lake will leave you with cherished memories and the desire to return again and again to embrace the serenity and adventure it offers.