With mountain resorts, a freshwater lake, and a roster of annual festivities, the alpine town of Big Bear is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts all throughout the year. Located 100 miles (160 km) from Downtown Los Angeles, the Southern California city lures snow bunnies in the winter with its downhill slopes and terrain parks, while the destination attracts hikers, bikers, fishers, and swimmers during the warm weather months. The purchase of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit by the owners of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort has brought rejuvenation to the downtown area called The Village, where you can find chic boutiques, eclectic eateries, and upscale cocktail bars. There’s never a bad time to visit Big Bear Lake, as there’s always adventure, beauty, and luxury just waiting to be discovered.
Areas & Neighborhoods in Big Bear Lake
While Big Bear draws thousands of powder hounds in the winter, the town offers plenty in the way of snow-free activities. Whether you’re coming to hit the slopes, watch the New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade, or shop and dine along Pine Knot Avenue, these are the places you need to know.
The Village — Centered around Village Drive and Pine Knot Avenue, the rustic downtown district serves as the central hub for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Here, diverse culinary options include everything from family-owned cafes to fine dining, and cuisines ranging from burgers and pizza to Indian and Japanese. The Bowling Barn, Big Bear Funplex, and the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain are great spots for family-friendly fun, while at night, adults can find craft cocktails, draft beer, karaoke, pool tables, and live music at venues like The Cave.
Bear Mountain — On the southeast edge of town, the Bear Mountain Ski Resort boasts 4 peaks, 11 lifts, 32 trails, 17 rideable miles (27 km), and parks including the Red Bull Plaza and The Scene. The mountain offers terrain for all ages and skill levels, along with the largest learning area in Southern California. In and around the main lodge are a variety of eateries serving hearty pub grub and juicy barbecue. In the summer, golf lovers flock to the lush greens and rolling fairways of the idyllic 9-hole Bear Mountain Golf Course. Nearby, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo houses wildlife in need and rehabilitates them back into their natural habitat.
Snow Summit — Closer to the center of town, the Snow Summit Ski Resort is Southern California’s snow capital, with 16 lifts, 31 runs, 18 miles (30 km) of rideable terrain, and the most dependable snow conditions in the region. The resort area is just as active in the summer, with cross-country biking trails and downhill parks, some of the best hiking in the San Bernardino National Forest, and family-friendly activities like a climbing wall, zipline, and Eurobungy trampoline at the Basecamp. Of the resort’s year-round activities, a favorite is the spellbinding New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade, when more than 100 skiers and snowboards light up the night as their make their down the mountain in the dark with torches.
Big Bear Lake — In the spring and summer, Big Bear Lake offers a wealth of fun to be had on the water. Everything including paddleboarding, windsurfing, water skiing, jet skiing, and canoeing can be enjoyed here, with boats and equipment rentals to be found at any of the marinas that dot the lake’s 23 miles (37 km) of shoreline. On the north side of the lake, the Big Bear Discovery Center features eco-tours, nature-based exhibitions, and children’s educational activities.
What to See in Big Bear
The higher you go in Big Bear, the better the view—and thankfully, it’s not hard to go higher. Throughout the year, Snow Summit Ski Resort offers some of the most breathtaking vistas in the region. During the winter, a ski lift can bring you to an elevation of 8,200 feet (2,500 m) for dramatic views of the snowy San Bernardino National Forest. In the spring and summer, the Scenic Sky Chair takes you to the same elevation, where, after admiring the sights of the mountains and lake, you can hike back down the peak on either the Log Chute Trail or the Mountain Top Loop.
Sightseeing in Big Bear Lake
If visiting Big Bear in the winter, you’d be remiss not to take advantage of the sensational mountains at your disposal. With discounted lift tickets for Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, you can plow your way through powder-filled bowls or glide down easy groomers, as both resorts boast runs for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, as well as lessons with on-site pros. Head to the terrain parks to hone your freestyle skills or grab the whole family for a fun-filled afternoon at the inner tube or skill-builder parks. After a hard day of play, you can scope out the buzzing apres-ski scene in the area near the base of Bear Mountain or in The Village in downtown Big Bear.
In the summer, there’s just as much to do in this stunning mountain retreat. Take advantage of unparalleled hiking and biking trails, opportunities for rock climbing and horseback riding, and watersports including paddleboarding, kayaking, and jet skiing. For even more adventure, journey out of Big Bear for a thrilling zipline excursion in the San Bernardino National Forest. An off-road jeep takes you into the verdant landscape, where you start with a walk over a rickety suspension bridge. Upon reaching the other side, it’s time to take a deep breath and jump. On 9 exhilarating lines, feel the rush of adrenaline as you soar through the trees at up to 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) and 85 feet (26 m) above the forest floor.