Big Bear holds such a special place in my heart. It’s where we use to go to summer camps, where we would vacation as a family, and where you would head if you want some good snowboarding and skiing in the winters here in Southern California. There are so many things to do in Big Bear California in Summer and Winter!
It’s also the place we got to call home for an entire Summer recently and I fell even more in love with this quaint little town.
Big Bear is mostly known for their winter snowy mountains where you can go ski and snowboard, but there are so many things to do in Big Bear in the Summer too!
I wouldn’t be able to choose which season I think is best in Big Bear because it is beautiful and perfect all year round, and there’s always something to do, no matter the weather.
Things to Do in Big Bear in Summer
Spend the Day at Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake is a beautiful lake in Southern California that brings about a lot of entertainment. They have great trout fishing, relaxing cruises and fun water activities available. Here are some of our favorites.
Take a kayak out for a couple hours and enjoy some time out on the water. Plus you’ll get a bit of exercise too. The Big Bear Lake Marina has rentals available for one hour or two. You can rent a one or two seater as well, so you can share the workout. It’s easy paddling away from the marina, but can be difficult to get back if the wind picks up, so we recommend staying close.
It’s a great workout and a great way to get out on the water and enjoy the beautiful day.
Rent a Pontoon
A day out relaxing on the lake in a pontoon is the best day! Grab some lunch and some drinks (yes, alcohol is allowed, as long as the driver and minors aren’t drinking) and take your family and friends out on the lake for the day. Don’t forget to bring your favorite tunes, and cruise up and down the lake, enjoying the afternoon. Definitely one of our favorites!
Anytime we had friends and family come visit us over the summer, we were sure to rent a pontoon and take everyone out at least one day on the water. It’s very peaceful and it’s fun to look at all the houses on the shores.
If you like trout fishing, this is the lake for you! Big Bear hosts several trout tournaments throughout the year, and even one that can win you $50,000 if you catch the tagged fish! You can rent a fishing boat, bring your own, or even fish from shore. Just be sure to have your fishing license with you! Children under 16 can fish for free!
Try Out Stand Up Paddle Boarding
If you’ve never tried Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP), then Big Bear Lake is a great place to learn. There aren’t many waves on this lake unless it’s a really windy day, so it’s calm enough to learn to balance and float on your board. If you’ve already tried SUP, you’ll enjoy this leisurely ride around the lake.
Go Jet Skiing
If you’re looking for a more exhilarating experience, you can rent (or bring your own) jet skiis at the marina. Ride around the lake enjoying the water and the wind in your hair.
Hike Castle Rock
Castle Rock- Big Bear Lake, California
Our favorite hike in Big Bear Lake, is probably the most famous there, Castle Rock. It’s a bit of a harder hike where you are hiking uphill almost the whole way, but the views at the top make it all worth it. This hike is approximately 2.6 miles round trip, and has a 500 foot elevation gain. But don’t let that deter you, there are several people who take their children and even dogs on this hike, and they make it just fine. Take it slow if you have to, and enjoy the views all around. There are several great photo opportunities the whole way up. You’ll see some small wildlife like squirrels and chipmunks on the way up as well.
Once you get to the top, you have the option to climb Castle Rock. It is a bit of a climb up a bunch of huge rocks. I won’t say it’s easy to do, because it depends on the person, but I will say that there are tons of people who climb it everyday, so it’s not too too crazy. Sometimes it is hard to find the path up, and we see people going up different paths that won’t get you to the top.
Hopefully there will be someone who knows where they’re going, and you’ll be able to follow them.
But if not, we’ll try to explain it as best as we can.
You’ll know you’re at Castle Rock when you run into lots of huge boulders that you have to walk far to get around them. If there’s a easy path that doesn’t make you walk around the boulders, that’s not it.
As soon as you reach Castle Rock, you can climb up the rocks to get to the very top. These rocks are really big, so it takes a bit of a stretch to get your legs up.
Some of our friends opt to stay down because it seems a bit more daunting. You don’t need ropes or anything, just a decent balance.
This hike is very popular, so it gets really busy on the weekends. There is no designated parking around the hike entrance, so you have to grab a spot in some of the turn out areas. Please make sure to read the signs and make sure there’s not a “no parking” sign. We recommend doing this hike on a week day if possible, or earlier in the morning.
We also recommend doing this hike in the Spring, Summer or Fall months. But as long as there’s no snow on the ground, you should be good.
How Do You Get to Castle Rock?
Castle Rock is 1.1 miles east of the dam on Hwy 18. You’ll see the entrance right before the “Big Bear Lake” city sign. Be sure to park in an appropriate place, all the way off the street, and no where there is a “no parking” sign present.
Find Some Other Hikes Around Big Bear
There are several hikes around Big Bear for all levels. Check into the Discovery Center to learn all about the best one for you! We recommend checking out Pineknot Trail and loved Grand View Point towards the top!
Have Fun on the Alpine Slide
At first we thought the Alpine Slide was just a small little park for kids. That is until we tried the Alpine Slide ourselves! It’s a fun luge type slide down the mountain, and we went fast! You get to control your speed, so if you’re nervous, don’t push it. If you’ve never been before, they have you ride on the slower track first. But if you’re up for it, jump to the fast track and race down the mountain. It’s such a fun ride! You can purchase one ride or a 5 ride pass. We were impressed by how much fun it was. Definitely not what it looks like.
Play Your Hand at Mini Golf
They also have mini golf there, which would be fun to get a group of your friends to play against each other, or a great place to take the kids!
Check Out The Big Bear Zoo
The Big Bear Zoo was surprisingly really cool! You wouldn’t think at a small town like Big Bear would have a decent zoo. They have all the animals you would hope to not find while hiking in the mountains. The Grizzly Bears were my favorite, and we just watched these massive animals walking around their land. They have several huge wolves, who like to watch the raccoons in the next enclosure.
It’s a great place to go enjoy for a couple hours and see some animals you probably don’t get to see as much at regular zoos.
Visit the Discovery Center
Stop by the Discovery Center if you’re looking for some great hiking suggestions or guidance. It’s also a fun place to stop with the kids, as they have a mini museum to showcase some of the wildlife and history of the area.
Head to Downtown Big Bear
Downtown Big Bear is such a cute little area. There are 2 streets that run perpendicular to each other, with several great shops and restaurants. This is where you’ll find all the night life and most people during the day. If they aren’t at the lake or hiking, they’re probably in Downtown.
Weekends get really busy, but there’s enough room for all. Dine outside with live music, or head to the whiskey bar to see a band. Shop till you drop at all the charming shops, and grab some ice cream or fudge from the candy shop.
See a Movie
Big Bear also has their own movie theater with some new movies playing. They aren’t open all the time, and there are only about 3 movies going at once, so be sure to check out the schedule before heading there.
Rent a Bike
Rent a bike for the day (or even a couple hours) to ride around the lake. There are a few places that rent out bikes for you to ride around, so they’re easy to rent!
Try an Escape Room
We unfortunately were not able to try out the escape room while we were there, but we’re sure it’s a good time. We haven’t found very many escaper rooms that weren’t worth it, so we say give it a shot!
If you’re in the area and looking for somewhere else to vacation, you should check out what to do in Idyllwild, California.
Things to Do in Big Bear in Winter
Big Bear, Southern California’s oldest Ski Resort, is known for its board terrain parks and ski runs for all levels of experience including a double black.
Spanning three peaks over 8,000 feet, Big Bear (not to be confused with Bear Valley in the Central Sierra) in the San Bernardino mountains is a year-around resort destination in Southern California. 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles and 25 miles northeast of the city of San Bernardino the Big Bear region receives significant winter snow between mid-December and March. Big Bear is home to two premier ski resorts: Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.
Snowboarding at Big Bear Mountain and Snow Summit
Big Bear Mountain and Snow Summit offer 75 trails, 20 lifts, four high-speed chairs, and seven snowboard parks for all levels of skill. Lift tickets are interchangeable. Big Bear offers some of the most innovative terrain parks for snowboarders and Southern California’s only superpipe.
Their newest attractions are Bear Mountain’s skill builder parks. The Inter-Resort Express Shuttle takes riders to Snow Summit’s Westridge Terrain Park. Here you can ski or snowboard under the lights into the night.
Night sessions are held most Friday and Saturday evenings from 3 pm – 9:30 pm weather conditions permitting.
And, you get to snowboard down the mountain while looking at Big Bear Lake from the top!
Downhill and Cross-Country Skiing
At Snow Summit, the focus is more on traditional downhill skiing with trails for all levels of experience, but boarders are welcome too. More than two thirds of the trails are for intermediate and advanced skiers with interconnected runs.
Big Bear has two inner tubing areas: Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain and Snow Play. Alpine Slide is open for night tubing sessions.
There are many walking paths around Big Bear Lake that are ideal for snowshoeing. Check Big Bear Discovery Center (40971 North Shore Drive) for information about cross country skiing, snowshoeing, trail and hiking maps.
Ski and Snowboard Lodging Packages
Snow Summit and Bear Mountain offer Lift and Lodging Ski Packages with discounted interchangeable lift tickets for both resorts along with accommodations at one of Big Bear’s participating cabins, hotels, resort lodges, bed & breakfasts and vacation rentals. Midweek and weekend packages are available.
Big Bear Cabin Rentals
Nestled in little villages Big Bear Lake resort cabins are free standing or duplex rental units, ideal for couples and families. Management offices with friendly, knowledgeable staff are on site and most units offer daily maid service. Dogs are welcome at Bear Creek Resort, that has cabins that sleep from two to sixteen. Big Bear Cabins and Vacation Rentals offers over 300 cabins and vacation homes.
Always carry chains in your car during winter time and check the Bear Mountain website for road conditions.
Directions to Big Bear
There are three routes to Big Bear Mountain:
1) State Highway 330/18 through Running Springs is the fastest and easiest route. It can get congested on busy holidays and weekends.
2) Highway 38 through Redlands is a bit longer, more scenic and has less traffic.
3) Highway 18 through the Lucerne Valley, which gets less snow during storms and has the least amount of mountain driving.
Places to Eat in Big Bear
572 Social Kitchen and Lounge
This bar is hard to miss. It’s an outdoor bar/restaurant that is family friendly. There’s typically live music all day and night on the weekends, and you can enjoy your dinner and drinks outside. Weekends can get busy, so be sure to book a table early if you want to eat outside. There’s also indoor seating as well.
This whiskey bar is lots of fun on their live music nights. Stop in to grab a drink and check out a new local band. They do have more than just whiskey to serve, and also have pool tables so you can hang out there for a bit.
Murray’s Saloon & Eatery
Up for some karaoke? This bar has karaoke nights on the weekends, but just know it’s a small bar and can get packed quickly! It’s fun to stop in, grab a drink and listen to or sing some karaoke.
North Pole Fudge and Ice Cream
This is probably my favorite place in all of Big Bear! They have the best fudge and candies, and I always go for the ice cream when we stop in as well.
Sister Sister Bake Shop
Looking for something sweet to eat? Check out Sister Sister Bake Shop for great cupcakes and cookies!
The Bone Yard Bar & Grill
This restaurant has a large variety of food, so everyone will be happy. The food is also pretty good.
That Burger Place
This burger place is a cross between fast food and restaurant. But they have some really good burgers. The quality is more on the restaurant side, but the service is fast. Great place to stop in for lunch after an activity to refuel.
Fire Rock Burger & Brews
Looking for some burgers and beer? Fire Rock Burger & Brews is your place. They have really delicious and flavorful burgers and they even have beer floats! Yeah…beer and ice cream. You’ve gotta try it out.
Whether you’re looking for things to do in Big Bear in the Summer, or Things to do in Big Bear in the Winter, you’re sure to find lots. Big Bear is great any time of year, and we definitely recommend you taking a weekend away and enjoying all this little town has to offer.