Big Bear Lake is a small city situated in the heart of Southern California. It is surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest and extends along the South Shore of Big Bear Lake. It is popularly known as the “four-season destination” for tourists, and for the right reasons.
Whether you’re craving a mountain bike ride, skiing, snowboarding, or a hike in the forest, Big Bear Lake has it all and more for you.
The gorgeous city earned its name from the people of the Serrano tribe who settled here first. Since they only had grizzly bears to accompany them, they named the city “Big Bear Lake.”
Whether you’re traveling alone or with family, there are endless best things to do in Big Bear California.
Fun & Best Things to Do in Big Bear, California
From fishing to hiking to skiing and snowboarding, Big Bear Lake is the place to visit for adventure seekers. But wait; if you prefer a more serene and calm atmosphere, Big Bear Lake has cozy restaurants and plenty of natural attractions to please your senses!
Simply put, no matter your age or personality type, the all-around activities in Big Bear will cater to your unique needs. We’ve compiled a list of some of the top-rated things to do in Big Bear Lake, California to make your trip a memorable one.
1. Big Bear Lake
The mild weather, picturesque views, and epic scenery make Big Bear Lake a welcoming destination for tourists. If you’re visiting Big Bear, California for the first time, keep this place on the top of your list – like ours!
The lake is a perfect example of man’s exquisite skills and talents, featuring sapphire-blue waters and beautiful landscapes. Originally, there was a plan to build a rock dam to hold water to supply it to Redland’s citrus farms back in 1883. After 26 months of construction, the first water flowed from the dam.
Over time, the water tripled, and today, it’s essentially a snow-fed lake. In 1850, gold deposits were discovered in the Big Bear Valley. But the official mining camp began in 1860 by Bill Holcomb, what is now called Southern California’s largest gold rush.
You can enjoy the tranquil lake view with your better half. But if you’re looking for Big Bear activities to do around the lake, the place won’t disappoint you either. The surrounding areas offer endless joyful activities to do with friends and family.
Swimming, fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, hiking – you name it! If you’re a pro swimmer, you can take a short swim to the shore. If not, a boat ride will help you reach the island.
Besides, Hwy 18 (through Lucerne Valley), Hwy 330 (through highland), and Hwy 38 (through Redlands) are the three main routes that lead to Big Bear Lake.
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2. Big Bear Alpine Zoo
Address: 747 Club View Dr, Big Bear Lake, CA 92314, USA.
Are you an animal lover looking for fun things to do in Big Bear Lake? The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is your best option. Big Bear Alpine zoo is not an ordinary Zoo. The place is also a rehabilitation center and home to over 180 animals!
The zoo is a haven for orphaned and injured animals. The animals are kept temporarily as they heal or permanently if they are not ready to be released back into the wild.
Located in San Bernardino County, the goal of zookeepers is to rescue and rehabilitate animals before releasing them. Such a kind cause naturally compels animal lovers to visit the place. If you’re at Big Bear Lake with children, do not forget to visit the zoo.
Your children will love seeing owls, gray wolves, bears, mountain lions, and various other animals from a safe distance. You can click pictures or tour the zoo with an expert zookeeper to learn more about the animals. Besides, you can also participate in fun-filled programs. A visit costs $9 for children (3-12) and seniors (60+) and $12 for adults. However, you don’t need to pay for children aged 2 or under.
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3. San Bernardino National Forest
San Bernardino National Forest has something exciting for tourists regardless of the season. The forest is home to distinctive flora and fauna and holds several mountains and deserts within its boundaries.
The forest reserve was officially established by President Benjamin Harrison in 1893. If you’re traveling to Big Bear in fall or winter, and are looking for exciting things to do Big Bear, here’s what the place has in store for you.
The spectacular scenery in the gorgeous mountains offers a place to camp and hike. The forest has several trails and varied attractions. You can also go cross-country skiing for an exhilarating winter experience. Those planning a trip in the spring or summer season can explore the thick forest’s trails and roads on horseback or take a scenic driver – if you’re in a car.
Luckily, most facilities in the forest are free of cost. Nonetheless, a few areas require you to pay for maintenance purposes. The daily forest adventure pass costs $5, while the annual one costs $30. If you’re here for a couple of days, you can go with a day pass, of course.
Address: Big Bear, CA 92314, USA
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4. Castle Rock Trail
Hiking enthusiasts should not miss out on the Castle Rock Trail for sweeping views of the lake. The 4.3-kilometer trail is situated near Big Bear Lake, California. Residents often call it a “Premier” trail as it draws thousands of tourists from around the globe.
If you’re looking for some of the top things to do in Big Bear, keep this one on your list. The trail gives you a perfect opportunity to take a breath of fresh air, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
As you hike up, you can click photos of incredibly beautiful landscapes and Lake Bear’s spellbinding views, too. However, the trail is pretty steep, so make sure you wear a pair of comfortable shoes and clothes.
The extra safety areas on the trail are marked to add to the convenience of tourists. You’ll come across an information center and several facilities, but it’s best to go hiking prepared. Make sure you pack your bag for all the hiking essentials.
The parking is 50 yards – relatively limited. Summer is the best season to go hiking on this trail. So, it’s best to plan your trip accordingly. Further, you can check out the website for detailed directions and routes to take.
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5. Bear Mountain Golf Course
Address: 43092 Goldmine Drive, Big Bear Lake, California 92315.
Are you a serious golf lover looking for some fun in Big Bear Lake? The Bear Mountain Golf Course is a perfect place for you!
Don’t fret, though; the Bear Mountain Golf course is for everyone – seasoned golfers as well as beginners. The golf course offers you a healthy outdoor activity to do with friends and family.
However, if you’re looking for Big Bear things to do today, unfortunately, you won’t be able to visit this place because it’s currently closed for the winter. The golf course is opening in May. But if a trip to Big Bear is on your to-do list for this year, you can plan your visit accordingly.
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6. Big Bear Escape Room
Not many people talk about the Big Bear Escape Room when they plan to visit Big Bear, California. But guess what? It is one of the most enticing places for adventurous souls seeking fun and thrill.
If you’re visiting Big Bear Lake for the first time, do not forget to visit the escape rooms. No matter your taste, there is a theme room for everyone out there. You have 60 minutes to solve riddles and challenges, which is pretty exciting.
Going by guest reviews, tourists who have visited the place consider it the “Best Part” of their entire trip. But what makes it so unique? It gives you a chance to test your critical thinking and communication skills, and boost your morale if you get out in time!
Bear Valley Search and Rescue, Holcomb’s Lost Gold, and the Big Bear Asylum are popular escape rooms. All escape rooms require 2 or more partners. However, the best way to complement your experience is to visit it with more people.
For example, you can come with your family, a group of friends, or a team of colleagues. Note that the maximum number of players you can bring is 10, so make sure you do not exceed the given number. The game cost is $250 for the entire room or $25-$30 for a single person.
Address: 40588 Village Dr, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315.
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7. Alpine Pedal Path
Address: 740 Stanfield Cutoff, Big Bear, CA 92314, USA.
Looking for free Big Bear, California things to do? Mark your calendars for a soothing visit to the Alpine Pedal Path. The 3.2-mile path stretches from the Stan-field cut-off across the north shore of Big Bear Lake. Being a one-way path, it is great for bikers and hikers alike.
On your way, you’ll stumble across plenty of people; bikers, wheelchair users, hikers, kids, and parents pushing baby carriages. There are also many benches to sit on and rest with your family. Juniper Point, in particular, has plenty of picnic tables. With several seating facilities and a soothing surrounding atmosphere, you can enjoy an outdoor meal.
You can bring snacks or do a BBQ with your friends and family. Furthermore, it’s a great place to catch sight of visiting bald eagles. Typically, the eagles arrive late in November and stay in the area till April.
However, note that the place is open from dawn to dusk, so make sure you plan your visit accordingly. Besides, if you’re bringing any pets, keep them on a leash to avoid causing trouble to walkers.
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8. Bear Mountain Ski Resort
Bear Mountain Ski resort is just 2 miles away from its sister resort – Snow Summit. Both resorts operate under the same management team known as Big Bear Mountain Resorts (BBMR) Bear Mountain has three main peaks: Goldmine, Bear Peak, and Silver Mountain. With an elevation of 8,805ft, Bear Peak is the highest peak in Southern California.
The ski resort is open for skiers and snowboarders to have the time of their lives. Whether you’re a novice or an expert in skiing, the mountain resort has the right trail difficulty option for you.
Address: 43101 Goldmine Dr, Big Bear Lake, California 92315.
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9. Snow Summit Ski Resort
Address: 880 Summit Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, USA.
Snow Summit resort is located in the San Bernardino Mountains, in Big Bear Lake, California. It has over 31 trails, 240 acres of skiable terrain, and several lake activities.
The mountain’s top elevation of 8,200ft gives skiers the chance to access a 1,200 ft drop. Besides, night skiing, wall climbing, and tube parking are other on-mountain, fun-filled activities.
Since both Bear Mountain Resort and Snow Summit are managed by Big Bear Mountain Resorts, your lift ticket is good for both. Also, if you want to travel from one resort to another, the company offers you a free shuttle service.
The only difference between both resorts is that Bear Mountain has more terrain parks, whereas Snow Summit has more traditional paths. When you’re on the chair lift, you get a chance to view the scenic beauty of Bear Lake, the surrounding town, and the beautiful mountains. You will love exploring the wondrous mountains and what they have to offer.
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10. Big Bear Discovery Center
Address: 40971 North Shore Drive/Hwy 38, Fawnskin, CA 92333, USA.
If you’ve just arrived at Big Bear Lake, it’s here you’ll find all the information about hiking trails, camping, and biking. Over 190,000 people visit this stop by each year to enjoy theatre productions, outdoor concerts, and fascinating exhibits.
This is the place to book tickets for trailheads, live performances, or to take part in weekly programs. There is also a small Nature Discovery Zoo just outside the Discovery Center – a perfect place for kids between the ages of 2-7.
Sunsets and dawn sunrises perfectly complement the beauty of the outdoor amphitheater. If you want to take a convenient trip, make sure you visit the Big Bear Discovery Center for all the information. The goal of the Discovery Center is to inform visitors about the surrounding areas and make their tour even more enjoyable.
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11. Teddy Bear Restaurant
Address: 583 Pine Knot Ave, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, USA.
Your visit to Bear Lake, California, is incomplete if you don’t dine in the Teddy Bear Restaurant! The restaurant follows a long history dating back to 1944. The original construction only included the front, bathroom, and kitchen. Though the building had to house a second story, it remained incomplete.
There are several rumors about the building, and the most popular one is about the arrival of an unknown lady. It is believed that an anonymous lady appeared on the building scene with a nickel, walked around, and blessed the business.
Since that time, the restaurant has been running successfully, for 63 years and counting. The restaurant specializes in homestyle cooking, and customers often drive up the hill just to enjoy a piece of the palatable pie.
The restaurant chefs strictly follow the original, special soups, chillis, and machaca recipes – unique to the restaurant. They also bake their own bread and make their own creamy mashed potatoes
Some of the restaurant’s regular customers introduced their own meals, which the company found so good it added them to the menu!
Breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, soups, appetizers, desserts, juices, and beverages – think of a food type, and you’ll find it all in one place. Further, the Teddy Bear menu has kid-friendly menu items, too. Do not forget to dine in this restaurant with your family!
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12. Big Bear Jeep Experience
Address: 42011 Big Bear Blvd A, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, USA.
Looking for an adventurous way to enjoy yourself in Big Bear? If yes, try out the Big Bear Jeep Experience! It is a local agency offering engaging and unique tours in the city. All you need to do is contact the Big Bear Jeep Experience and plan a trip with them.
You can choose easy routes with a relatively smooth trail and picturesque views if you’re a beginner. For example, Holcomb Valley Gold Dever Trail is beginner-friendly and gives you a chance to see a few historic locations.
On the flip side, if you are a seasoned off-road driver, you have the option to ride on rocky paths for an exhilarating experience. For instance, the Gold Mountain Trail featuring challenging terrain can be an option for you.
An experienced guide also accompanies you on your way. This gives you a chance to learn more about off-road driving. A single tour includes a personal jeep (for up to 4 passengers), fuel, beverages, snacks, and an experienced off-road guide.
A 2-door jeep costs around $199, and a 4-door jeep costs $249. The approximate time of the trip is around 1.5 hours. The price of this fun-filled ride is slightly high compared to other activities in Big Bear CA, but it’s worth it.
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13. Cougar Crest Trail
Cougar Crest Trail is another popular trail in Big Bear, California. The 2.4 miles moderately difficult trail spreads across the San Bernardino National Forest.
The trail overlooks Big Bear Lake and provides a scenic view of the surrounding areas. You can catch the sight of beautiful wildflowers on your way. The best time to visit the trail is from March to November. The mild weather perfectly complements your hiking trip.
You can access the trail from a paved path via Cougar Crest Trailhead or Big Bear Discovery Center. You can access the trail through the parking area of Big Bear Discovery Center, and take the paved path. The trail is located on north shore drive, State Highway 38.
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14. The Boulder Bay Park
Address: 39080 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, USA.
Looking for things to do in Big Bear this weekend? Consider visiting the breathtakingly beautiful Boulder Bay Park! The park offers endless recreational activities, and locals and tourists often visit the area just to have a picnic with the family.
Visitors enjoy kayaking, hiking, canoeing, and snow sports in the winter season. If you’re at Boulder Bay Park in the summer season, you can head to the waters of Boulder Bay and enjoy some leisurely fishing. The park also features a bandstand where summer concerts are held.
The vibrant lush green plants and trees are pleasing to the eyes during the spring season. The mild climate and sunshine are perfect for hikers to go hiking along the lake or enjoy activities like kayaking.
The fall season brings a spectacular transition to the park, with all that is green turning orange, red, and gold – a perfect time to click memorable photos with your family!
The winter season in Boulder Bay Park is yet another treat for visitors. From sledding to snowball fighting, tourists of all ages get a chance to enjoy the fluffy snow.
If you want to extend your stay in the park, you have the option to stay in gorgeous mountain cabins. The cabins feature premium fireplaces, fully-equipped kitchens, bathrooms, game rooms, and more.
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15. Big Bear Village
Address: 39080 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, USA.
The Big Bear Village is a charming district that offers several dining, shopping, and entertainment options. Christmas, Halloween, and several other popular holiday events take place in the village annually.
Regardless of the season, the village is a beautiful sight. In the spring and summer seasons, the lush green trees and colorful blooming flowers give a sense of serenity to the visitors. The leaves turn orange, yellow, and gold during fall. The winter season transforms the village into a snow paradise with holiday lights shining bright in the trees.
The village shopping and dining along Big Bear Boulevard are some of the best things to do in Big Bear. You’ll find plenty of shopping options in the village, from art galleries to kitchen supplies and gym wear.
The village restaurants offer several cuisine options, including Chinese, Latin, Italian, Nepalese, Japanese, and American. So, if you want to explore diverse and distinct flavors, do not forget to visit this place.
If you’re looking for entertainment options, the place won’t disappoint you, either. Urban Adventure Quests, Bowling Barn, and Mountain Room Escapes are a few great options to enjoy your trip with friends.
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16. Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
Address: 800 Wildrose Ln, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, USA.
The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain is one of the most amusing Big Bear things to do. The place has some exciting activities to share laughs with companions, make unforgettable memories and take in the excellent view of Big Bear Lake.
Interestingly, the Alpine Slide is one of the world’s longest slides, and just like the name suggests, it offers bobsledding slides. It features 3,000 feet luge-like track where you can slide down all by yourself or with toddlers and younger children.
You get to choose the speed as you sled down the track. Therefore, it is pretty safe. The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain is about one and a half minutes of an unforgettable sliding experience. The surrounding scenery is simply gorgeous.
You can purchase the tickets for the Alpine Slide on-site. A single ride on the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain costs $9. But you also have the option to buy a five-ride book for $40. Children 36″ – 48″ tall ride with an adult 18 years or older. All riders require a ticket.
17. Big Bear Snow Play
Address: 42825 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, USA.
Big Bear Snow Play offers a perfect chance for exciting recreation. The winter wonderland is a paradise for snow lovers. The Big Bear Snow Play was once known as the Rebel Ridge. It provides the longest tube runs in Southern California.
Further, the magic carpet uphill lift eliminates the struggle to drag your tube through areas covered in heavy snow. In times of less snow, the Lenko Fan snowmaking machines blast enough snow to ensure you enjoy more time with your family and friends, and the snow doesn’t die out.
The Big Bear Snow Play also offers an aerial adventure for you and your travel buddies. Here you have to balance on ropes while climbing obstacles and crossing bridges.
Additionally, the Big Bear Speedway Sodi karts have several mini-race cars for a thrilling experience. These cars are pretty safe because they have four-point seat belts and special remote controls. The remote controls allow the pit crew to shut down the ride at any time for safety purposes.
Besides snow tubing, the Big Bear Snow Play also features glow tubing! So, you can make memories at night too. The blue, red, and green inner tubing lights offer a whole new tubing experience. The base lodge in Big Bear features cotton candy machines and video games for kids to enjoy.
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18. The Big Bear Solar Observatory
Address: 40386 N Shore Ln, Big Bear, CA 92314, USA.
If you’re interested in solar astronomy and are looking for the best things to do in Big Bear, do not forget to stop by the Big Bear Solar Observatory. The Observatory was established by the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in 1969, and the University continues to operate the building.
The building was constructed near Big Bear Lake because it offers a clear sky view and a cool lake that reduces ground movement and helps capture more balanced pictures.
The instruments and telescopes in the observatory are designed to study the activities and phenomena of the sun. Unfortunately, the free public tours to the observatory are limited to 16 people at a time.
So, you cannot visit the area anytime and expect to get in. Also, the tours are currently closed, so make sure you visit the website for the latest updates and reserve your trip accordingly.
If you get a chance to visit the place, knowledgeable guides will answer all your questions. The observatory is an absolute treasure for science lovers.
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Is Big Bear Worth Visiting?
Whether you’re a nature lover seeking serenity in the woods or an adventurous soul wanting to experience some fun-filled activities, the greater Big Bear region surely will have something in store for you.
Nature lovers can hike or ride a bike on several trails around Big Bear Lake. While thrill-seekers looking for an exhilarating experience can go jeep riding, alpine sliding, or enjoy solving riddles in an escape room.
If you love science, the Big Bear Solar Observatory is the place for you. Summers offer the perfect mild weather to hike and ride bikes, whereas winters are ideal for winter sports, including skiing and snowboarding. No matter your age, the many activities in Big Bear Lake will make your trip an unforgettable one!
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