Since the early 1900s, Southern Californians have been visiting Big Bear Lake. Back then, the journey was an adventure in itself, in an open-sided stagecoach, bouncing along winding mountain roads and keeping a lookout for grizzly bears. Nowadays, you can make the trip in a couple of hours by automobile. We'll help you find out more about Big Bear, why and when to go, and what you can do once you get there.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Big Bear Lake?
- Sunny skies, mountains, year-round activities and lot of cute places to stay make Big Bear Lake a family-friendly destination.
- You can leave your GPS at home. It's hard to get lost at Big Bear Lake. The town may have "Big" in its name, but the area is small, making it easy to find whatever you're looking for.
- Big Bear Lake rates high on small town charm, with cobbled streets in the city center (known as simply "the village") where you'll find small coffee shops, restaurants and other local shops.
- With its close proximity to Los Angeles and 75 inches of snow per year, Big Bear Lake is very popular with Southland skiers. Snow Summit ski resort was rated best in the country for snowboarding by Transworld Snowboarding in 2010 and it offers plenty of good skiing, too.
Best Time to Go to Big Bear Lake
It's hard to find a vacation destination like Big Bear Lake that offers something for everyone year round, so it tends to be popular. Big Bear Lake weather dictates what activities you'll wind up doing, though. Big Bear Lake's winter play season runs from late December through late February, summer is busiest from early July through Labor Day1 weekend.
The annual Oktoberfest begins mid-September and goes every weekend till the end of October. Oktoberfest is a beer drinkers' festival, celebrated here for more than 40 years.
7 Great Things to Do at Big Bear Lake
- Zip Line Tour: If you have the need for speed, try this: zipping downhill at 45 mph. Of course, you'll be strapped safely into a harness that supports your legs and torso and we found that the tour operators make you feel at ease, providing instructions and distracting from your worries with fun banter. It may also help to know that you do it in stages, with nine small zip lines that last approximately 20 seconds each. Make your reservations ahead of time at Kijubi.com.
- Segway Tour: You've probably seen a Segway personal transporter and thought "Gee, that looks like fun." With Action Segway Tours, you'll learn how to ride a Segway and soon will be zipping along through a scenic park with a wide grin on your face.
- Moonridge Zoo: Where do bad Big Bears and Wiley Coyotes go? If they're lucky, they end up at Moonridge Zoo. More of an animal sanctuary and rehabilitation center than a zoo, they care for and display rescued animals - and a few that ran afoul of law one too many times. It's a great place to take kids, especially during animal feeding tours, when they can ask the zookeeper questions.
- Off-Roading: Though this tour can be taken year round, it may be more fun in the summer. We recommend you make your reservations ahead of time.
- Winter Snow Play: Snow Summit is an all-in-one resort where you can find lodging, rent ski gear and take skiing or snowboarding lessons. The lessons are easy and fun, even if it's your first time. Snow Summit can be crowded in peak season, but you can buy your tickets before you leave home. If you prefer not to ski or snowboard but would still like to play in the snow, go tubing at Big Bear Snow Play, a fun family activity.
- Spring, Summer & Fall activities: Boating and biking play a large part in Big Bear Lake summer activities. With a beautiful lake, it's only natural people would enjoy many water sports, and fishing, find out more about activities on the lake. Big Bear Lake also offers steep, winding roads that can even challenge world-class cyclists, but don't fret if you don't have a bike, there are many bicycle rental companies to choose from.
- Do Nothing!: While everyone else is busy skiing, fishing or biking, you might be in the mood to do absolutely nothing. Big Bear Village offers relaxing activities like people watching while enjoying a hot cup of coffee.
Annual Events You Should Know About in Big Bear Lake
- June: JazzTrax Summer Music Festival
- July: 4th of July fireworks
- August: Art on the Lake, Fine Arts Festival
- October: Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest
Tips for Visiting Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake tends to be busy year round, but more so during peak winter season from December through late February. In the summer, busy season lasts from July through Labor Day1 weekend. During those times, we recommend making lodging reservations one month ahead, just to play it safe.
At more than 6,000 feet in elevation, Big Bear can present some challenges you won't experience at sea level. Use our guide to find out what you need to know before you go to the mountains.
We found ourselves under prepared for the amount of snow during our visit, but you know better! Check the weather before you go.
Where to Stay
Use our guide to find the Big Bear Lake lodging that's best for your trip.
Where Is Big Bear Lake?Big Bear Lake is located 100 miles from Los Angeles and 90 miles from Palm Springs.
If you want to go by bus, it's easiest to take a Greyhound to San Bernardino, then take a local MARTA bus to Big Bear Lake.
The nearest airport is in Palm Springs, approximately 90 miles from Big Bear Lake.
1 Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September.