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13 Best Things to Do in Big Bear

Big Bear Lake is one of the most alluring destinations in Southern California, with lots of things to do on and off the water. While you could always just relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air and the scenery you might want to take advantage of a few of the opportunities it offers. These are just a few of the options when you visit Big Bear.

Hit the Trails Big Bear Lake from the Cougar Crest Trail,
Credit: Big Bear Lake from the Cougar Crest Trail, by dlhca/Shutterstock.com

Hit the Trails

What Is It? Visiting Big Bear you’ll have miles and miles of trails for enjoying a scenic hike around the lake or in the San Bernadino Mountains, with everything from short and easy treks to more lengthy outings. 

Why Do It? The Woodland Interpretive Trail is an easy 1.5-mile loop that includes 16 posted stops where you can learn about the area’s wildlife, geology and botany along the way. It offers picturesque views of the lake and boulder outcroppings kids like to climb on. 

Good to Know: The Castle Rock hike is one of the most popular, running 2.4 miles round trip starting from Boulder Bay, meandering through dense forest and passing a seasonal waterfall.

Picnic at Boulder Bay Park Boulder Bay at Big Bear Lake
Credit: Boulder Bay at Big Bear Lake by inkknife_2000 via Flickr

Picnic at Boulder Bay Park

What Is It? Boulder Bay Park is located a couple of miles from Big Bear Dam. 

Why Do It? It offers an ideal spot for a picnic where you’ll be surrounded by spectacular natural beauty year-round. Spring turns the area to a lush green with vast swathes of blooming trees, flowers and plants, while fall transforms the landscape with vibrant foliage. 

Good to Know: Even in winter, it’s gorgeous dusted with snow, although you’ll have to bundle up as it can get quite chilly. In the summer, the park’s bandstand hosts a concert series too.

Visit the Zoo Big Bear Alpine Zoo
Credit: Big Bear Alpine Zoo by Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Visit the Zoo

What Is It? Located just across from Big Bear Ski Resort, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo opened in 1959 to rehabilitate animals that were injured during a forest fire. 

Why Do It? Today it rescues, rehabilitates and re-introduces injured and vulnerable wildlife back into their natural environments. Those that can’t make it on their own are provided a permanent safe place to live out their lives. Today, visitors can see more than 85 different species, including wolves, bobcats, black bears, arctic foxes, owls and much more. 

Good to Know: Docents can be found throughout the zoo, providing hands-on artifacts and tools to teach visitors about the animals, and you can even take a docent-led tour to learn more about them too.

Enjoy Snow Sports Bear Mountain Ski Resort in Big Bear Lake, CA
Credit: Bear Mountain Ski Resort in Big Bear Lake, CA by wikimedia.org

Enjoy Snow Sports

What Is It? Other than playing on the lake, Big Bear Lake is well-known for its surrounding mountains that offer outstanding skiing opportunities. 

Why Do It? Big Bear Mountain Ski Resort is made up of two ski resorts, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. The former offers the largest learning area for beginners in Southern California and is especially popular with snowboarders, home to the only superpipe in the region. The latter has more than 18 skiable miles across over 240 acres of terrain and 31 trails for all ability levels. 

Good to Know: Snow Summit is also home to plenty of other winter activities, including tubing at Grizzly Ridge Tube Park and après activities near the warmth of the fire pits in the meadow area.

Cycle the Alpine Pedal Path Woman making downhill with mountain bik
Credit: Woman making downhill with mountain bik by oneinchpunch/shutterstock.com

Cycle the Alpine Pedal Path

What Is It? The Alpine Pedal Path is really a must-do, and while it’s possible to walk or bike, be sure to bring yours or rent one to explore this paved path that’s suitable for cyclists of all fitness levels. 

Why Do It? It begins at Serrano Campground and stretches over three miles to the Stanfield Cutoff with benches to stop and rest along the way, gazing out at the gorgeous views and keeping an eye out for bald eagles and other birds.  

Good to Know: Juniper Point offers picnic tables and barbecue grills if you want to bring some food and enjoy an entire day of fun.

Get Out on the Water Couple kayaking on Big Bear Lake, California
Credit: Couple kayaking on Big Bear Lake, California by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

Get Out on the Water

What Is It? The opportunities for water sports at Big Bear Lake are practically endless. 

Why Do It? If you like to fish, you can test your skills and luck at hooking trout, bass and catfish. This lake truly offers it all, from pontoon boating, sailing and powerboating to windsurfing, water-skiing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and canoeing. 

Good to Know: Smaller vessels like canoes, paddleboards and kayaks are ideal for getting into hidden coves, inlets and bays larger vessels can’t reach. You can rent your preferred option at any one of the marinas around the 23 miles of shoreline.

Whiz Across a Zipline woman zip lining
Credit: woman zip lining by Brocreative/shutterstock.com

Whiz Across a Zipline

What Is It? Big Bear offers zip lining too, through Action Zipline Tours. 

Why Do It? You’ll be able to fly across nine high-speed zip lines, ranging from 140 to 860 feet long, racing through the treetops and over rocky canyons while taking in stunning mountain vistas at an elevation of up to 85 feet, and at speeds as high as 45 miles an hour. The first few are ideal for beginners who want to get comfortable first, then they get progressively faster and longer as you go along. There’s also a suspension bridge to add more thrill to the ride. 

Good to Know: Expert guides facilitate the whole tour and you’ll be outfitted with all the necessary equipment, including gloves, helmet and harness.

Big Bear Mountain Brewery Big Bear Mountain Brewery
Credit: Big Bear Mountain Brewery by Big Bear Mountain Brewery

Big Bear Mountain Brewery

What Is It? If you’re a brew enthusiast, after all those activities one of the best things you can do is sample the local craft beer in a historic lodge. 

Why Do It? Big Bear Mountain Brewery is a top pick as a must-visit for craft beer lovers. It hosts an onsite brewery and taproom for tasting a selection of hand-crafted beers and there’s also a kitchen serving up outstanding dishes to pair with it. Try the famous chili, which is made with their very own Red Ale and covered with cheese and onion.

Good to Know: You can enjoy a flight of miniature-sized beers to decide which one you like best.

Visit the Big Bear Discovery Center Big Bear Discovery Center
Credit: Big Bear Discovery Center by Big Bear Discovery Center

Visit the Big Bear Discovery Center

What Is It? The Big Bear Discovery Center serves as the town’s visitor center.

Why Do It? It provides the latest and greatest information about what to do, current trails and road conditions, special events like concerts, theater productions and more. You can talk to the rangers to learn about the area’s flora and fauna,  join a free ranger-led docent walk or take part in a nighttime interpretive program. 

Good to Know: Young kids, ages 2 through 7 can connect to nature in the Nature Discovery Zone too.

Shopping and Entertainment at Big Bear Village Big Bear Village
Credit: Big Bear Village by Big Bear Village

Shopping and Entertainment at Big Bear Village

What Is It? The Village is located in the heart of Big Bear Lake, a charming district that serves as the central hub for dining, shopping, art galleries, and entertainment.

Why Do It? There is lots to do for all ages, with family-friendly attractions like arcade gaming rooms, bowling, and urban scavenger hunts, plus frequent events are hosted here as well. If you’re visiting around Halloween or Christmas, you definitely won’t want to miss it. 

Good to Know: Even if you aren’t, Santa Land is open all year and includes 12 different themed rooms, including a gift shop, selfie stations, a child’s playroom, and a snack bar.

Horseback Riding Gold Rush Mining Adventures
Credit: Gold Rush Mining Adventures by bigbear.com

Horseback Riding

What Is It? One of the best ways to enjoy the magnificent Big Bear scenery is on horseback.

Why Do It? You’ll be able to see plenty of hidden treasures without the effort of a strenuous hike which means you’ll take in more in a lot less time. Baldwin Lake Stables, just seven miles east of The Village, is open year-round and offers a variety of rides, including one-, two-, and three-hour options as well as half-day rides along the historic Pacific Crest Trail, which features expansive views of the vast Mojave Desert.

Good to Know: There are sunset rides and private ride options too.

Go Kart Racing at Big Bear Speedway Big Bear Speedway
Credit: Big Bear Speedway by bigbearsnowplay.com

Go Kart Racing at Big Bear Speedway

What Is It? If you want to feed your need for speed, Big Bear Speedway, open summer through fall, offers the chance to experience authentic racing in SODI RT8 Karts. 

Why Do It? You can go solo in a single kart or choose a double training kart with two steering wheels for two, perfect for parents with little ones from four through 13 years old. Fourteen-year-olds who are at least 5’4″ can drive their own. 

Good to Know: Racers compete against the clock, reaching speeds of up to 30 mph on the one-fifth of a mile open-air racetrack, with s-curves and hairpin turns.

Test Your Skill on the Big Bear Ropes Course Big Bear Ropes Course
Credit: Big Bear Ropes Course by bigbearsnowplay.com

Test Your Skill on the Big Bear Ropes Course

What Is It? The Big Bear Ropes Course includes 37 obstacles that are spread over 6,400 square feet on two levels ranging from 12 to 35 feet in height. 

Why Do It? It’s a great way to test your athletic prowess as you’ll have to balance on the ropes, cross bridges, and climb through obstacles.

Good to Know: The self-guided tour includes a climbing harness for safety.

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