Just two hours from Los Angeles, the San Bernardino Mountains offer a cool, pine-scented escape. At an altitude of 2,060 metres, Big Bear Lake is a hub for alpine recreation. Known for its famed Snow Summit and Bear Mountain resorts in the winter and its seven-mile lake in the summer, Big Bear serves as a year-round Southern California escape.
'We are known for skiing and snowboarding, but there’s a lot to do up here in the summertime as well,' says Clayton Shoemaker, the marketing director for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. 'Whether you’re a walker or a cyclist, you can access 60-plus miles of cross-country trails.'
When the snow melts, Snow Summit’s Scenic Sky Chair transforms into a mile-long ride to 2,500-metre panoramic views and trails for mountain bikers and walkers. Whether you’re seeking single-track climbs or flat lakeside paths, Big Bear offers a collection of recreational paths for every level—many of which offer incredible views of the lake below.
'Big Bear Lake’s 22-miles of shoreline is highlighted by the six marinas located around the lake,' says City Manager Jeffrey Mathieu. 'If you love playing on the water, you’ll love Big Bear Lake because of all the features.'
Surrounded by towering peaks and lined by Ponderosa pine forests, the shimmering lake is a popular playground for motorised- and people-powered water craft. You can hire equipment of all kinds, including paddleboards, kayaks, or boats for waterskiing or fishing.
Looking for a unique perspective of this alpine town? Glide among the treetops on a zipwire tour, fly over mountain lakes and the Mojave Desert in a helicopter, or get behind the wheel to take on rugged terrain on a Big Bear Jeep Experience. The lake is also home to nesting bald eagles in winter, which you can see on tours offered by Big Bear Discovery Center.
If you’re looking to anchor your trip to a specific occasion, there’s no shortage of events throughout the year, ranging from fishing tournaments and fireworks to the annual Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest, where you can test your strength at the stein-holding competition and sample German food on consecutive weekends every autumn.
With its inviting destinations and uncrowded wilderness, this region feels like an insider’s secret amid the bustling excitement of Southern California.
Mount San Gorgonio—nicknamed “Old Grayback”—is the tallest peak in Southern California, at 11,502 feet/3,506 meters.
Surprising alpine scenery around Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear beckons, with pine-scented trails in summer and winter sports when the snow flies. If you’re into action, get the adrenaline rush of seeing the world’s best NASCAR racers compete at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. For a dreamier escape, float in a hot-air balloon above rolling Temecula Valley wine country.
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