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Where to Stay in Big Bear: 7 Best Areas & Neighborhoods

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Big Bear Lake, a small city in San Bernardino County, is one of the prominent tourist destinations in Southern California. The town lies on the banks of its namesake, Big Bear Lake, renowned for its gorgeous turquoise color and the backdrop of the picturesque San Bernardino Mountains.

The town is also neighbored by a few charming, unincorporated settlements, including Fawnskin, Moonridge, Sugarloaf, and (to make things extra confusing) Big Bear City.

This corner of California is staggeringly beautiful. If you’re dreaming of a European alpine vacation without dealing with the hassle of passports or transatlantic flights, look no further! The Big Bear area has everything a travel enthusiast looks for.

Big Bear Lake has everything from mouth-watering foods to appealing lake views to adventurous activities like hiking, biking, boating, fishing, and skiing. The area is ideal for mountain vacations and is home to several top ski resorts.

With all that in mind, it might be tough to figure out where to stay in Big Bear Lake or if you’d rather eschew Big Bear Lake hotels in favor of a vacation rental in Fawnskin or Sugarloaf. Whether you’re planning on budget accommodation, a cabin resort by the lake, or one of the more popular Big Bear town center hotels, we can help you plan where to stay!

TL;DR: Best Places to Stay

Areas to Stay in the Big Bear Area

  • Area for Younger Travelers: Big Bear Lake West
  • Area for First-Time Travelers: Big Bear City
  • Area for Kids: Big Bear Lake East
  • Area for Nightlife: Big Bear Lake Central/The Village
  • Area for Luxury Travelers: Sugarloaf

Where to Stay in Big Bear, California

1. Big Bear Lake West

People kayaking in Boulder Bay Park of Big Bear Lake
Steve / Adobe Stock

Do you want to spend a few days near a gorgeous lake and beautiful mountains? Big Bear Lake West is an ideal location. Sometimes called the Boulder Bay Area, the west side of town starts from Fisher Cove and stretches up to Metcalf Bay. 

Big Bear Lake West is primarily residential but has plenty to entertain outdoorsy folks. Since this area lies between the National Forest and the lake, it offers eye-catching lake views. 

If you want to spend some quality time near the lake, visit this area of town. In addition, you can go to Boulder Bay Park to enjoy exquisite mountain views. It is an ideal place to picnic with your friends or the fam. Pleasure Point Marina is a perfect location to enjoy kayaking and paddle boarding. 

Big Bear Lake West has several opportunities for hiking lovers. Some popular trails in the area include Champion Lodgepole Trail and Siberia Creek Trail. I’d also recommend hiking out to Bluff Lake or even taking a private tour of this site of exceptional natural beauty.

The top things to do in Big Bear Lake West include:

  • Boulder Bay Park
  • Pleasure Point Marina
  • Hiking Champion Lodgepole Trail and Siberia Creek Trail
  • Fisher Cove
  • Blanca’s Restaurant
  • Garstin Island (aka Treasure Island)
  • Dam Keepers House
  • Bluff Lake

Accommodations in Big Bear West

Regarding staying, Big Bear Lake West gives you various options. It has a ton of lakefront properties covering different price ranges.

The area also has a wide range of hotels and vacation rentals. People who want to immerse themselves in nature can choose forest service cabins, too. Some top accommodations in Big Bear Lake West include:

See Related: Where To Stay In Morro Bay, California: Best Areas

2. Big Bear Lake Central/The Village

Big Bear Village Sign at Pine Knot Blvd. Big Bear Lake
David Lafontaine / Shutterstock.com

Are you coming to Big Bear Lake for the first time? You can’t find a better area to stay in than in the center of Big Bear Lake. This area is home to much of the action in Big Bear Lake, especially access to the lake itself. This part of town has numerous boat marinas offering activities like sailing, boating, fishing, and boat tours.

Apart from that, this part of Big Bear Lake is home to several entertainment options, yummy restaurants, and even a performing arts center. The town center also has attractions like Holloway’s Marina, Big Bear Marina, Big Bear Escape Room, Ski Beach Park, and Veterans Park.

I’m also including the Village in this section. This cute little micro-district is in the heart of Big Bear Lake and is a great place to enjoy some retail therapy, fast or fine dining, and some of the area’s nightlife.

The Village is home to several bars and nightclubs. If you want to enjoy the nightlife or feel like partying, it is the best place in the entire Big Bear Lake.

Big Bear Village is also an excellent place to relish local coffee, candy, and mouth-watering meals. The Village also hosts several holiday celebrations and annual events throughout the year.

This part of the Big Bear area is ideal for those who want to be just a short walk from the heart of the action and Bear Mountain Resort, with easy access to everything, from food to lake access, to skiing, to nightlife, and everything else in between. It’s also where many tours depart from, like this awesome forest Segway tour and this Big Bear scavenger hunt.

Big Bear Lake accommodation is also home to some of the area’s top resorts and rentals, such as Robinhood Resort, Bear Creek Resort, and Pine Knot Guest Ranch.

Avoid this part of town if you want to stay in a tranquil area. You can encounter a lot of traffic, especially on weekends around The Village.

The top things to do in Big Bear Lake Central include:

  • Head to the Big Bear Visitors Center for inspiration!
  • Big Bear Performing Arts Center
  • Big Bear Escape Room
  • Holloway’s Marina
  • Big Bear Lake Brewing Company
  • The Village
  • Big Bear Bowling Barn
  • Pine Knot Trail

Accommodations in Big Bear Central/The Village

Several well-established hotels, resorts, lodges, and cabins exist in this part of Big Bear Lake. Some top options in this neck of the woods include:

See Related: Best Vacation Rentals in California

3. Big Bear Lake East/Fox Farm

The wooden gazebo at the Stanfield March Wildland and Waterfowl Preserve
Rosamar / Shutterstock

If you want to enjoy the charm of a small town with kids or have easy access to some of the area’s best skiing opportunities, Big Bear Lake East is the place for you.

Big Bear Lake East is a residential area with good options for dining and shopping. It also has nearby Snow Summit Resort, Eagle Point, Summit Estates, Winter Park, and Heavenly Valley attractions. Besides, there are several beautiful places of worship you can see. Big Bear Community Hospital is also situated in the area in case of booboos.

Big Bear Lake East offers visitors many attractions from the views of Bear Mountain to the lake’s sparkling, deep blue water. This plethora includes plenty of outdoor activities for kids.

You can take your little ones to the Big Bear Valley Historical Museum. The museum exhibits nine antique buildings representing the evolution of Big Bear town. In addition, you can sightsee Stanfield Marsh Wildlife and Waterfowl Preserve or enjoy a bike tour of Big Bear Lake.

Big Bear Snow Play is another point of interest for kids in Big Bear Lake East. The resort offers various recreational activities, such as snow tubing, a zip line, a ropes course, and a speedway.

There’s the awesome Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain if you’re still seeking an adrenaline rush. Here you can enjoy epic mini-bobsled experiences on the Alpine Slide, go-karts, and a water slide.

The east side of town also houses the Fox Farm Road neighborhood. This historic part of Big Bear Lake is a beautiful neighborhood to stroll, affluent with small-town vibes. There are several high-end vacation rental, lodge, and cabin options here.

The top things to do in Big Bear Lake East include:

  • Stanfield Marsh Wildlife and Waterfowl Preserve
  • Big Bear Snow Play
  • Ski Beach/Meadow Park
  • Snow Summit Resort
  • Eagle Point
  • Get the Burger
  • Big Bear Mountain Brewery
  • Sizzlers
  • Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain

Accommodations in Big Bear Lake East

Winter sports enthusiasts and families will get a lot out of the east side of Big Bear Lake. A wide range of accommodation options is available here, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding somewhere to rest for the night. Some top picks are:

See Related: Where to Stay in Death Valley: 5 Best Areas & Places

4. Moonridge

View From Cougar Crest of Big Bear Lake and Snow Summit Ski Resort with Early Snow
Joel Shawn / Shutterstock

Moonridge is another of the best places to stay in the Big Bear Lake area. Only 3 miles to the Southwest of Big Bear Lake, the unincorporated Big Bear neighborhood is well worth exploring and another great spot if skiing, snowboarding, or other mountain and winter sports are on your itinerary. 

Moonridge area consists of Upper Moonridge, Lower Moonridge, and High Timber Ranch. It makes a perfect getaway as the location is just a few minutes away from all the major attractions in Big Bear Lake. More importantly, though, it’s a significant part of town if you yearn to enjoy the slopes and wilderness around Bear Mountain.

If you love winter adventure, consider visiting Moonridge in the winter. Bear Mountain Resort is one of the area’s best and most popular ski resorts, offering a wide range of snow-based activities. 

Those traveling in the summer can explore nearby hiking trails, such as the Moonridge Truck Trail or Pebble Plain Trailhead. You can also embark on a Big Bear bike tour with a local guide to discover scenic views, charming mountain escapes, and the history of this community. 

Other major attractions include Bear Mountain Golf Course and Big Bear Alpine Zoo. Since Moonridge is set in such a tranquil setting, it is heaven for those looking for a quiet mountain retreat.

The top things to do in Moonridge include:

  • Big Bear Alpine Zoo
  • Bear Mountain Golf Course
  • Moonridge Truck Trail
  • Pebble Plain Trailhead
  • Bear Mountain Golf Course
  • Bear Mountain Ski Resort

Accommodations in Moonridge

Regardless of your plan for your time in Big Bear Lake, Moonridge is the abode of some of the best hotels and rentals in Big Bear. Some of these top accommodations include:

5. Fawnskin

Fawnskin sign, Big Bear Lake, California
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

Bordering the northwestern shores of Big Bear Lake, on the opposite bank of Big Bear Lake, Fawnskin is another tiny unincorporated town with oodles of character. This mountain resort community sits at a height of 6750 feet. It is rich with fascinating local history as well as plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures and excursions while being committed to offering visitors a genuine small-town vibe.

Cut off from the hustle and bustle of city life (even the comparative bustle of Big Bear Lake and Big Bear City); this area is suitable for those looking for a quiet neighborhood to spend their vacation. Plus, it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

I’d go so far as to say that this near-total hidden gem boasts some of Southern California‘s best and most incredible views. Fawnskin is home to postcard-perfect opinions, no matter how you turn your head, featuring vistas of snow-capped mountains, the deep blue lake, and the surrounding forest.

Fawnskin also offers several outdoorsy destinations to explore and enjoy, including Fawn Park and Captain John’s Fawn Harbor & Marina. Since Fawnskin is a little remote, it offers some of the area’s best hiking options where you’re unlikely to run into many other hikers outside of peak season.

If you plan to hike around here, you’ll be close to Grays Peak Trailhead, the North Shore Biking and Walking Trail, and the Cougar Crest Trail, which leads to the famous Pacific Crest Trail.

Fawnskin is also an ideal place to stay in the Big Bear area if you plan to camp or bring an RV. The Serrano Campground, Big Bear Shores RV Resort, and the Lighthouse Trailer Resort & Marina can be found between Juniper Point and Big Bear Solar Observatory. There are also several forest campgrounds north of Fawnskin if you want something more wilderness-y.

The top things to do in Fawnskin include:

  • Captain John’s Fawn Harbor & Marina
  • Juniper Point
  • Big Bear Solar Observatory
  • Woodland Trail
  • Pacific Crest Trail
  • Duane Boyer West Public Launch Ramp
  • Butler Peak
  • Grays Peak
  • Lucky Bear Fishing Charters
  • North Shore Cafe

Accommodations in Fawnskin 

While there aren’t any hotels in Fawnskin per se, the neighborhood is home to several rental houses, lodges, campsites, and cabins, meaning you can find a place in Fawnskin that matches your needs and budget. Let’s take a look at some of the best available options:

See Related: Where To Stay In Napa Valley

6. Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf Mountain view and skyline
dlhca / Shutterstock

Named after the nearby Sugarloaf Mountain, the neighborhood of Sugarloaf is an old yet classic unincorporated community to the south of Big Bear City and east of Moonridge. Tucked away in the mountains, stunning Sugarloaf offers privacy and seclusion, making it a perfect option for travelers looking for fun and peace.

It also favors the more self-sufficient tourists. Those who prefer to do their cooking or can’t abide tourist traps can rent a cabin or pitch a tent and stay away from the more crowded places of Big Bear Lake!

Once a popular ski destination, the area is now more residential, featuring Kallans, a cozy neighborhood bar & grill, and several parks for kids and pets. However, while ostensibly lacking in things to do, it is still a perfect getaway for adventure lovers.

Sugarloaf offers many things to do year-round, including skiing, hiking, and biking. The easy access to lakes, forests, and mountains makes this area ideal for lovers of the great outdoors.

There are also several campsites in the Sugarloaf area if you plan to sleep under the stars. If you’re working to a budget, I’d highly recommend this, as some of the prices for rentals in Sugarloaf are pretty steep!

If you love enjoying mountain biking, backcountry hiking, or fishing, you must explore Sugarloaf at least once. Sugarloaf won’t disappoint you if you search for that friendly, small-town vibe. Though this area’s tourist amenities aren’t as well developed as other neighborhoods in the Big Bear area, it does include a laundromat and some stores for you to grab supplies.

The top things to do in Sugarloaf include:

  • Sugarloaf National Recreation Trail
  • Access to San Bernardino National Forest
  • Erwin Lake Park
  • The Arrastre Recreational Shooting Sites
  • Deadmans Ridge
  • Sugarloaf Park
  • TAZ.guru
  • Bark Park Dog Park

Accommodations in Sugarloaf

While there isn’t anything to speak of regarding hotels in Sugarloaf, this neighborhood offers a wide range of vacation rentals. Whether you’re looking for a spacious home for a large group or a place for just two, the area offers multiple options and guarantees a comfortable stay. Let’s take a peek:

7. Big Bear City

First snow at Big Bear City
divanov / Shutterstock

The people who call this part of California home must be pretty intuitive because “Big Bear” could refer to the lake, the town of Big Bear Lake, or Big Bear, also known as Big Bear City. See what I mean? It’s confusing to a humble outsider!

My pitiful intellect aside, Big Bear is still a great place to stay. Despite being older, more heavily populated, and somehow more deliberately designed compared to its sister town of Big Bear Lake, Big Bear City still has plenty of small-town vibes for a relaxing vacation.

Friendly, family-run stores and eateries make for a very welcoming stay in Big Bear. Plus, you can enjoy easy access to several hiking trails and landmarks like the Eye of God. This immense quartz dome megalith is a sacred shrine to the local Yuhaaviatam, a Serrano Natives who have inhabited the Big Bear region for over 2,000 years.

There are other opportunities to learn more about the area here. Make sure to check out Blue Quartz Mine, as well as the Big Bear Valley Historical Museum, to get boned up on local history. If you’re looking for something to pump blood, take a little tour up to Johnson Valley for a zip-lining excursion!

The top things to do in Big Bear City include:

  • Big Bear Retreat Center
  • Gold Mountain
  • Eye of God Hiking Trail
  • Lumberjack Cafe
  • Lippy’s Country Store
  • Blue Quartz Mine
  • Big Bear Valley Historical Museum
  • Zip-lining in Johnson Valley

Accommodations in Big Bear City

Whether you are traveling with your family or friends, Big Bear City offers a wide selection of vacation rentals for all types of tourists. It’s also home to the famous Gold Mountain Manor, one of the oldest Bed & Breakfasts in the area. On top of that, consider the following places for a comfortable stay in the area:

FAQs 

Why is Big Bear Lake called “Big Bear” Lake?

The city got its name because of the number of grizzly bears that once roamed the region. Although grizzly bears have been driven from the area, you can still find many black bears in the region.

What is Big Bear known for?

Sitting in the heart of Southern California, the Big Bear area is famous for its sublime landscapes. Hiking, mountain biking, fishing, skiing, snowboarding, and other outdoor activities can be enjoyed here. Boasting unique neighborhoods and accommodations of all types, Big Bear is a perfect vacation place for couples, families, and friends.

Can I swim in Big Bear Lake?

Well, as per the Big Bear Municipal Water District, swimming in the lake is permitted in the summers, but at your own risk. Big Bear Lake is ideal for swimmers of all levels. Since there are no lifeguards, remember not to swim farther than 50 feet from the shore for your safety.

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