Road Trip: Big Bear Lake, CA

Big Bear Lake, located in Southern California's San Bernardino Mountains, is a popular year-round recreational destination. Formed by a dam on the Santa Ana River, the lake offers opportunities for boating, fishing, and water sports in the summer months. Surrounding forests provide hiking, mountain biking, and off-road trails, while nearby ski resorts offer winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. The area is home to diverse wildlife, including bald eagles and black bears. Visitors can enjoy scenic drives, picnicking, and camping amidst the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and pine forests. Here are some travel tips in case you're planning a visit to Big Bear Lake, CA 

Big Bear Lake Travel Tips 

Plan Your Visit: 

Research accommodations, activities, and events in advance to make the most of your time in Big Bear Lake.

Choose the Right Season: 

Consider visiting in the summer for water sports and outdoor adventures, or in the winter for skiing and snowboarding.

Pack Appropriately: 

Bring layers, sunscreen, and hats for sun protection in the summer, and warm clothing and snow gear for winter activities.

Explore Outdoor Activities: 

Enjoy boating, fishing, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and off-road adventures in the surrounding forests and mountains. There's even a zoo you can visit.

Visit Ski Resorts: 

Experience skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and other winter sports at popular resorts such as Big Bear Mountain Resort and Snow Summit.

Attend Events: 

Check the event calendar for festivals, concerts, and seasonal events happening in Big Bear Lake throughout the year.

Relax by the Lake: 

Spend leisurely days picnicking, sunbathing, or strolling along the shores of Big Bear Lake, enjoying the serene mountain scenery.

Dine at Local Restaurants: 

Sample diverse cuisine at restaurants, cafes, and breweries in Big Bear Lake Village, offering everything from casual dining to fine dining experiences.

Stay Active: 

Take advantage of fitness centers, yoga classes, and outdoor yoga sessions to stay active and healthy during your stay in Big Bear Lake.

Respect Nature: 

Practice Leave No Trace principles, respect wildlife, and follow trail etiquette to preserve the natural beauty of Big Bear Lake for future generations.

Trip Recap

It felt like it was time to escape the polluted city of Los Angeles so, I ended up booking a cabin through Airbnb in Big Bear Lake, CA for youngest brother Steve’s 33rd birthday. Husband Matt and brother Sean had to work so it was just Steve and I on this trip. Regardless, it was fun and our Airbnb hosts surprised my bro with a cake delivered from Sister My Sister Bakeshop. We visited a zoo, walked to the lake, took a pirate ship tour, explored the village, and ate at delicious restaurants and saloons.

Really loved this view from our first day of the trip at Big Bear Lake, CA. Driving 2.5 hours out of Los Angeles was a great escape. 

While relaxing at the cabin after our Instacart order arrived, a woman pulled up and delivered a birthday cake courtesy of our Airbnb host Laura. Tip: Whether it's a birthday, anniversary, or any special occasion, make sure to let you host know. It seems Airbnb is going out of their way to help guests celebrate special milestones. Steven got a set of pins for his birthday from Airbnb along with a card that said to use #airbnblove when sharing on social. 

Below is a photo of our awesome 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom cabin complete with a hot tub, washer/dryer, upstairs area with a separate bathroom, and smart TV. During family vacations, I mainly book Airbnbs that have washer/dryers since we can easily wash our clothes, which means less to pack and carry. 

Day 2 - On a whim, we decided to sign up for the Pirate Ship Tour. We originally just wanted to take photos of the ship located at Holloway's Marina but then we realized, hey we might as well set sail since there was one more tour at the end of the day at 6pm.

I didn't realize it was Steve's first time on a ship. Wish our brother Sean and my husband Matt were there to join in on the fun. As soon as we took off from the marina, pirate ship music blasted on the speakers, which cracked me up. Then, "Sailing" by Christopher Cross was played and made it the perfect soundtrack for the day. 

Watch our Insta360 OneX2 video below from the pirate ship. So happy I was finally able to test my 360° camera on the ship.

We learned about the history of Big Bear Lake and all the celebrities who used to own homes in the area. 

This boat tour got me hooked on Yacht Rock and now I listen to it almost daily. It just exudes good vibes and reminds me of how cool it was being on the lake taking in the scenery, the wind, and watching the sun reflecting on the water. 

We made a visit to the Big Bear Alpine Zoo to check out the animals. I have mixed emotions when it comes to zoos. I just hate seeing things trapped in captivity although, I know there's rehabilitation that goes on. It didn't help that I witnessed a bear pacing back and forth, which to me indicates it was stressed out.

We saw a sleeping bear at the zoo. He was wet from taking a dip in his little pool. 

After walking around the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, we made our way to the village and stopped at Jasper's Smokehouse. I ordered Maggie's Mess Sampler Platter consisting of fried zucchini and okra, catfish nuggets, a hot link, chicken strips, hushpuppies, served with so many sauces.

The birthday boy ordered a Beer-Battered Shrimp Po'Boy sandwich and a beer. 

Below is a photo of my car parked in front of our cabin. Thought I'd snap a photo of it outside of the city. 

It was so great to relax in the hot tub under the tall trees listening to all the birds and being immersed in nature. 

I miss the view from our cabin porch. Loved drinking my Chai Tea Lattes while hearing the birds and breathing the fresh mountain air. 

When we were in the village, we saw some bear statues.

I loved visiting the Village Faire shop upstairs for souvenirs. Loved it so much that we went back twice! Had to pick up a few things during our last day of the trip before heading back to Los Angeles. 

Despite it just being me and Steve on this road trip for his 33rd birthday, we had so much fun and experienced an awesome Pirate Ship Tour, did some sightseeing, ate delicious food and bought souvenirs. Our Airbnb was amazing and our hosts went above and beyond with the cake. 


Now, I want to go back for my birthday, since there was so much I didn't get to do from my activities list below: 

Hiking Trails Full List:

Bear Lake Woodland Trail (Easy)
41948 N Shore Dr, Big Bear, CA 92314

Alpine Pedal Path Trail (Easy) - Paved walking path - not a dirt trail

Jenks Lake Trail 

Mineshaft Coaster - Single ride $20 
800 Wildrose Lane Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

Go-Karts - Single Kart $7.00

Lake Tour - Miss Liberty Paddlewheel Tour Boat
439 Pine Knot Ave Big Bear Lake, California 92315

Pedal Boat
603 Landlock Landing Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

Double Kayak


Grizzly Manor Cafe (Diner food, breakfast, American)
41268 Big Bear Blvd Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

Bone-Side Down BBQ & Grill (Ribs & Meat Combos!)
40465 Big Bear Blvd Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

Murray’s Saloon & Eatery (Seafood & Burgers)
672 Cottage Ln Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

Peppercorn Grille (Seafood, Steak, Italian) 
553 Pine Knot Ave Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

I’m definitely considering going back to try everything I missed!

Don't forget to PIN this post! 😁

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