Few things are more rejuvenating than a deep breath of pristine mountain air. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of fresh air, majestic mountains, or placid lake views in Big Bear Lake, which is nestled just 93 miles east of Los Angeles. There’s also no shortage of things to do in Big Bear Lake – no matter the time of year.
You and your group will have endless opportunities to explore the frontier – whether it’s on foot, mountain bike, kayak, or skis. Although Big Bear Lake is best known for its skiing, this outdoorsy oasis, tucked away in San Bernardino National Forest, holds year-round appeal with its extensive hiking and mountain biking trails, water sports, and golf. Fishing is another popular pastime here, but if you’re not the gotta-catch-your-dinner type – no worries. You’ll find comfort food in rustic lodges, casual bars and grills, barbecue joints, and cantinas. Or you can simply relax in the comfort of your cabin and let a private chef come to you. There’s no need to miss a minute enjoying beers with your crew by a fire pit in your private home.
This serene mountain lake getaway is worth the escape from LA – or from anywhere else. Here’s why:
Things to do in Big Bear during the winter
1. Big Bear Mountain Resort is considered by many to be the best ski resort in Southern California. Lessons and rentals are always available for your skiing pleasure. Grizzly Ridge Tube Park is part of this resort and caters to all ages who want to ride the magic snow carpet in a high-speed tube. In addition to snow tubing, skiers and snowboarders will want to go to Snow Summit – one of two mountains at this resort with over 240 acres of skiable terrain. Within this terrain are 27 trails and over 18 skiable miles for people at any skill level. No snow? No worries. They’ve got a state-of-the-art snowmaking system.
2. Bobsledding doesn’t get any better than Alpine Slide on Magic Mountain. Give yourself a moment to take in the beautiful scenery from the chair lift ride at the top of the mountain, and then take control of your slide. You can adjust your speed and maneuver your twists down the quarter-mile track. Once you’ve mastered the Alpine Slide, you’ll want to try the Mineshaft Coaster – the only mountain coaster in California that allows you to control the speed through hairpin turns and dips, tunnels, and bridges along this mile-long track.
3. Catch the thrill of Night Glow tubing at Big Bear Snow Play featuring the longest inner tube ride in Southern California. It’s open Friday, Saturday, and holiday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. During spring break, the schedule changes, and is open every evening.
4. At Big Bear City Airport Terminal, year-round tours are available with Helicopter Big Bear to take you to new heights and offer a unique perspective of the mountain. Up to three passengers can lift off in one aircraft (two passengers minimum). You’ll want to bring your camera with you to prove you did this before you scratch this activity off your bucket list. All ages are welcome!
Things to do in Big Bear during the Summer
5. Magic Mountain’s double waterslide is the perfect place to take the entire family to cool off in the summer. There’s also a Soaring Eagle ride to help you take in the spectacular mountain lake views. Let the fun continue with more rides, or take this opportunity to do some go-karting.
6. Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a rehabilitation facility for injured, orphaned, and imprinted wild animals. These animals are offered a temporary or permanent safe haven, depending on their needs and ability to survive independently. The facility first opened in 1959, following a wildfire that left wild animals in need of evacuation to a safe shelter. In 1961, a bear was a victim of another wildfire in the area – this bear became the new facility’s first resident. Since then, American Badgers, Arctic Foxes, a Bald Eagle, and Fallow Deer have joined the various black and grizzly bears, bobcats, Canadian geese, and more wild orphans. Summer and winter schedules vary, so be sure to check online before you go.
7. Horseback riding is another option during your Big Bear Lake getaway. Seven miles east of Big Bear Village in Big Bear City is Baldwin Lake Stables and Petting Zoo, where you can sign up for a sunset ride or hourly rides. If you prefer a private lift, you can schedule one and tailor the trail ride to your desire.
8. Big Bear Marina offers tons of water sporting fun. Sign up for a water school class with skiing options, wakeboarding, wakeskating, or tubing. Boating is fun on the lake and rentals are available, including pontoon boats, fishing boats, wave runners, kayaks, and paddleboards. The choice is yours!
9. Roll with the lake and enjoy a Paddlewheel Tour Boat ride on Miss Liberty. Pine Knot Marina offers a fully-narrated 90-minute guided tour with a discussion on Big Bear’s history. If a boat tour isn’t your thing, there are jet skis available to rent, or you can check out the kayak and boat rentals to enjoy some lake time on your own time. You can also rent fishing gear!
10. Take a lake cruise on a Big Bear Pirate Ship. Considered a must-visit attraction, these daily tours feature live entertainment – complete with authentic pirates. Each captain offers their version of entertainment, so if you want to return a few times, you’re always in for something new.
11. Boulder Bay Park is a popular spot for canoeing and kayaking on a beautiful summer day. Water levels will determine whether or not you can launch a kayak from the shore, but if you can, you’ll want to head to one of the boulder islands to walk around and enjoy the scenery. There are picnic tables available, so be sure to box your favorite lunch items so you can dine and watch the sunlight sparkle on the lake. Walking paths are everywhere at the park and beckon you to take a stroll to the floating dock where you can walk to the end and meditate among the surrounding beauty. Fishing is also an option at the port, so why not cast a line.
12. The Big Bear Jeep Experience is an off-road adventure you’ll be sure to remember. Tours vary from sightseeing to advanced, off-road, and rock-crawling adventures.
More ways to get your cardio
Mountain biking is a year-round activity at Big Bear. Some of the best trails include Alpine Pedal Path, Cougar Crest, Gold Fever Interpretive Site, and Grays Peak.
13. If you need to rent a kayak, standup paddleboard, or bicycle, GetBoards Ride Shop is the place to go. If you’re settled in at your vacation spot already, they’ll deliver to you anywhere in Big Bear Lake.
14. Plan ahead before hitting the trailhead for a hike by getting maps and information on the local ranger’s trail conditions. It’s best to be safe to enjoy some of the best hiking trails for experiences best suited to your comfort level. A handful of trails you’ll want to explore include Barton Flats Area Non-Wilderness, San Gorgonio Wilderness, Lake Arrowhead Area Hiking, and Big Bear Valley Trails. Castle Rock Trail, in particular, has an elevation gain of 500 feet, and it’s worth the sweat equity for the lake views at the top.
15. Action Tours California offers three-hour zipline adventures for a fly through the forest. You won’t believe the views as you glide over Johnson Valley and the highest peak in Southern California, Mt. San Gorgonio. Muster up the courage to trek across a teetering suspension bridge after your first zipline. If ziplining isn’t for you, take it down a notch and sign up for a Segway or snowshoe tour.
16. The 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular is an annual event to celebrate Independence Day. The fireworks display is highly rated and can be viewed within 22 miles of the shoreline and the highest peaks overlooking Big Bear Lake. At Meadow Park, a 4th of July Fun Run event for the entire family offers a choice of three-course distances: 5K, 10K, or 15K. Prizes are awarded for the fastest runner – and best costume! Proceeds support the Bear Valley Search and Rescue.
17. Memorial Day Weekend Grill & Chill BBQ Festival is held throughout Memorial Day weekend at the Bartlett Events Area in The Village on Big Bear Blvd. The KC BBQ State Championship features over 30 cooks in competition for a $10,000 prize and the title of People’s Choice. Best of all, anyone attending can enjoy the samples from the BBQ competition while hanging out in the Chill Garden with an excellent brew or mixed cocktail. Bring plenty of cash because there are vendors on-hand in the Artisan Marketplace. Shop to the sounds of live music, and be sure to send the kids to the Kids Zone so they can expend some energy and get their chill on once they join you again.
18. Fishin’ For $50K Trout Derby is an event for both residents and visitors alike that’s held each September. Head to Big Bear Lake for a chance to win big! Try to tag one of five trout (previously released), each worth $10,000, or any 25 non-grand prize-tagged trout worth $200 each. Awards are distributed for men, women, boys, and girls who enter the Derby.
19. The Chili Cook-Off is an annual event held in July that’s meant to add a little spice to your vacation. More than 40 cooks from all over the southwest compete in the Top Chef title for a prize. Your duty is to taste, relax, groove to the music, and peruse the vendor’s tables for some unique purchases.
20. Attend the Tour de Big Bear at the “Cycling Capital of Southern California” road riding event. Choose your course from options that include 10K, 25K, 50K, 70K, 106K, and 109K mile courses meant to provide something for everyone who wants to participate. This four-day sell-out event includes a Poker Ride and a nighttime Glow Ride for family and friends before the Tour de Big Bear weekend.
21. Be thankful there’s a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, walk, or jog. Open Air Big Bear presents this annual event. Starting at Meadow Park on Thanksgiving morning, you can earn your turkey dinner by burning off calories by taking part in a 3, 6, or 9-mile race. Kids in strollers are welcome, and everyone is encouraged to have fun and dress up in their best turkey, bear, or fall costume for prizes. Three-mile runners are even treated to a yoga warmup routine with Colin Schour before the race.
22. The MTB Gran Fondo & Grizzly 100 is for all levels of mountain bike riders. Take the 20K Skyview up the Snow Summit Scenic Sky Chair or take the 50K Skyline course. Need more of a challenge? Take the Grizzly 100 and get your adrenaline pumping.
23. Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest at the Convention Center at Big Bear Lake is a quintessential autumn event that attracts thousands of visitors annually. Authentic German food, imported brews, Bavarian bands, traditional dances, and competitions are held during Oktoberfest, including the Queen Stein Carrying Contest.
24. Every summer, Big Bear Discovery Center hosts Music in the Mountains. This live, outdoor concert series benefits its education and conservation programs. The music is a mix of rock, bluegrass, blues, Western, and Celtic and is held in the theater under the stars.
25. More than 500 vintage autos, dragsters, and custom coupes congregate up the mountain for a two-day Antique Car Club Fun Run at Big Bear Village in August. It’s a crowd-pleaser!
Best spots to eat in Big Bear
26. Nottinghams Restaurant-Tavern is the place to dine for some classic California cuisine. Order the steak in King Richard’s Room, where a tableside fireplace will warm you up, or outside in Camelot’s Courtyard where you can bring your fur baby, no problem. You’ll want to head upstairs to Friar Tuck’s Tavern for happy hour, some live music, entertainment, and dancing.
27. Barbeque chicken flatbread is one delicacy offered at Big Bear Lake Brewing Company. Order a salt pretzel, fish tacos, a widow-maker burger, or a Kielbasa sandwich, and wash it down with homebrew made on-site.
28. Take dining to the next level and order a chef to cook for you! Simply make a call to Personal Chef Allen. All you need is a kitchen inside your vacation rental, such as the Gambler rental, available through AvantStay. In the mood for fish, Italian, or a vegan dinner? No problem! Whatever you want, it’s on the menu.
29. Spice things up at the Himalayan Restaurant, the ideal place for lunch or dinner plates full of lamb vindaloo, butter chicken, tofu saag, and more Nepal and Indian dishes.
30. North Pole Fudge and Ice Cream Company on Pine Knot Avenue is a dream come true for sweet tooths seeking a sugary ending to a day spent skiing, hiking, or biking. You’ve burned the calories, so go for it!
31. Sonora Cantina is known for having mouth-watering Mexican food, especially the shared parrilladas. More menu items include taquitos, carne asada, arroz con pollo, and tequila lime poppers.
32. Comfort food is unmatched at Teddy Bear Restaurant. Order the homemade chicken or turkey pot pies, or stop by for breakfast specials, and be sure to add a side of cinnamon cornbread.
33. The Cave Big Bear on Village Drive is open Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for those who crave some Rockin’ Burritos.
Shopping in Big Bear
34. A stop in Stupidiotic will keep you giggling as you browse through a gallery of quirky items such as a squirrel picnic table, face meme stickers for face masks, shower beer holders, and shower memo pads.
35. Bearly Used Books in the Village Faire Upstairs Mall sells books of all genres and for all ages.
36. O Koo Ran on the corner of Village Drive and Bartlett Road is full of unique finds, including accessories, bath and body products, housewares, souvenir gifts, and every type of casual comfort wear you can imagine for women and babies.
37. Interlaken Shopping Center has just about everything you need, right down to a laundromat. There are two Starbucks here and a post office, a DIY center, and an Italian restaurant – Maggio’s.
38. Big Bear Superstore will make t-shirts on request. It’s also where you can purchase some souvenirs to remind you of this mountain lake wonderland and share them with those who couldn’t join you for this getaway. You can also buy seasonal clothing here in case you forgot to pack your warmest socks.
39. All that mountain activity is sure to cause some muscle soreness. Treat your tired body at Altitudes Massage. The Spa Day Hooray package has it all: a 1.5-hour treatment time with 60 minutes dedicated entirely to your specified needs, aromatherapy, hot stones, head, and foot massage, and a choice of mini-facial, foot treatment, or back facial. After the massage, enjoy a selection of tea or champagne, included with the package.
40. Get some “me” time at Elevations Day Spa. Waxing, makeup, hair, nails, body wraps, skincare, and massages are all available with an appointment in advance. Specialty treatments include an hour of foot massage, beginning with a Chinese herbal scrub. From there, the hour continues with a hydrating treatment and half an hour of reflexology.
41. Spatique by Margo is an excellent stop for some CranioSacral therapy, which is a gentle approach (barely a touch) to release tensions deep in the body. It’s known to relieve pain and dysfunction and allows the body to self-correct. Swedish massages, lymphatic drainage, Lomi Lomi, myofascial release, deep tissue massage, pregnancy/prenatal massage, reflexology, and chemical peels are also offered here.
42. Mountain Mobile Massage & Spa brings the massage to you no matter where you are on Big Bear Lake, be it a rental home, hotel, or party location. Or you can schedule a visit to the on-site location. It’s up to you, but know there’s an upcharge for off-site massages that include deep tissue and trigger point therapy, the basic Swedish massage, or a sports massage, reflexology, or Shiatsu bodywork.
43. The small township of Fawnskin was once an artists’ colony full of artisans, musicians, composers, and actors from the Los Angeles area who craved an escape. The town got its name as an urban legend, referencing hunters who once discovered deer (fawn) skins stretched out to dry in the sun. This tiny North Shore village was once a passthrough for stagecoaches during the 19th century. Today, it’s a prime place for getaways to unwind from city life. Within Fawnskin is Holcomb Valley, where gold miners, loggers, and hunters thrived during the 19th century.
Whether you’re looking to relax, drink, eat, shop, or adventure until you can’t adventure anymore, Big Bear is the place for you! Explore this exciting man-made landmark for all its glory during any season of the year. Book one of AvantStay’s Big Bear properties to experience this magical, mountainous paradise yourself.