Big Bear Valley is well known for its winter sports fun. But after the snow melts and the skiers flee the area, a whole new adventure awaits you.
During the summer months, the ski resorts offer more adventures like scenic chairlift rides, slides, and hiking trails.
The valley and mountains around it are full of hiking and biking trails waiting to be explored. Many trails start near the “Big Bear Discovery Center”.
Big Bear, CA, is known for winter sports
You can Ski, Snowboard, Snowshoe, or Snow Tube, or just stroll along the frozen lake
Summertime fun includes boating, hiking, ziplining, bobsledding, Stargazing, and dining
Outside the Yosemite valley, you can go on long hikes, visit the Giant Sequoia trees, or go whitewater rafting
Big Bear Discovery Center offers maps, passes, a café, a souvenir shop (Adventure Outpost), and expert advice from the on-duty rangers.
Big Bear Discovery Center
Located adjacent to Big Bear Lake on highway 38, the center offers maps, passes, a café, a souvenir shop (Adventure Outpost), and expert advice from the on-duty rangers. You can also join educational Naturalist-led interpretive programs and events.
From the balcony of the discovery center, you can enjoy a great view of the Lake nestled in the middle of the San Bernardino Forest - a perfect photo opportunity.
The trail to the Lake
We decided we want to enjoy a hike close to the lake, so we started by talking to the rangers. They were very friendly and helpful. They gave us a map of the area showing all the trails. They showed us how to walk from the Discovery Center to the Alpine Pedal Path - which runs adjacent to the lake.
The best way to find this trail from the Discovery Center is to look for signs to the “Cougar Crest Trail” then turn left towards the lake.
The trail is paved asphalt, which makes it popular with bikers too. It meanders through forests and meadows with many views of the lake. Along the trail, you can find many shady benches to catch your breath and admire nature. Close to the shoreline you can find picnic tables and barbeques (closed during fire season).
The trail is about 3.5 miles long and considered very easy. It is easily accessible for hikers, skaters, joggers, and even strollers and wheelchairs.
Nature Trail Loop
This short - .5-mile loop is great for families with kids. It is a very easy hike in the middle of the forest.
You can do this hike on your own or you can go with a volunteer naturist on a guided tour. As you walk, learn about the local plant life, wildlife, and some interesting historical facts.
Cougar Crest Trail (Bertha Peak Trail)
For a more strenuous hike, take this trail to Bertha Peak for a commanding view of Big Bear Lake. The hike is about 7 miles round trip and may take up to 4 hours to finish. It is considered moderate difficulty.
It starts from Cougar Crest trailhead near the Discovery Center. If you park at the trailhead, you will need an adventure pass. Alternately, you can take advantage of the free parking at the center and walk to the trailhead. This will add a 1-mile to your hike.
The hike is a steady climb while you gain about 1400-feet of elevation. It gets harder towards the top due to rough-rocky terrain. But you can start enjoying great views of the lake and the snow-covered mountains around the 2-mile marker.
The Cougar Crest trail joins the Pacific Crest Trail at the 2.5-mile point and takes you the rest of the way to Bertha Peak.
At the Peak, you have an unobstructed view of the mountains, valley, and lake below. Take a picnic, relax and enjoy the view.
Pine Knot Trail
For another great view of Big Bear Lake, take this 7.5-mile trail to Grand View Point. With an elevation gain of over 1000 feet, it is not an easy hike – but very rewarding.
Along the way, enjoy the wildflowers, oaks, and pines and an occasional view of the lake. At the top, you can see the San Gorgonio wilderness and Catalina Island.
For quick gratification, you can skip most of the hike and find directions to Grand View Point via Skyline Drive.
Other summer activities
If you are not into hiking, you can still have fun in the summer with activities like ziplining, bobsledding or just taking a scenic chairlift ride.
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
During the summer months take a ride on the chairlift to the top then come down on the bobsleds or a water slide. If you prefer you can try the go-karts and the miniature golf.
In the winter months slide down the snow-covered slopes on an innertube.
Winter is here and the kids are screaming for you to take them to the snow. Where would you take them?
You can stop along the way to Big Bear and find a good spot for sliding. But be warned, those spots are rare and parking places are almost impossible to find. Many popular spots are actually off-limits – but people use them anyway. Bring your own inner tube or slid.
You can try one of the official snow play areas. In my opinion, they are the safest places to have fun in the snow, but they are usually expensive.
Expect to pay around $35 per person. Everyone in your group has to pay – whether they are sliding or not.
Alpine Slide snow play has the advantage of offering an escalator to the top – so you can avoid the long and exhausting climb. Inner tubes are provided.
Alternatively, you can go to Big Bear Lake and find a more peaceful and safe area – for free. Try any picnic area or campground. My favorite is next to Serrano Campground (this is also close to the Discovery Center). This place doesn’t have steep hills, but it has lots of snow. It also overlooks the frozen lake - offering great views of the lake and the mountains.
Although Big Bear is a mountain resort city, it is big enough to have many dining options from Fast Food chains to fancy restaurants. Over the years we tried many of those establishments. Here are my favorites:
The Pines Lakefront
This restaurant made it my list primarily for the view overlooking the lake. The food is ok, and the service is excellent.
On the last visit, we started with Tempora fantail shrimp and Jalapeno Poppers. For the main course, we tried the Tilapia dinner on mashed potatoes and the St. Louis Ribs. The fish was excellent, but the ribs were just OK.
The wine list is extensive with great selections. The open bar can make any drink you desire.
All in all, it was a very pleasant experience.
Teddy Bear Restaurant
An excellent place for breakfast. The portions are large and tasty. We ordered the Veggie and Cheddar omelet and the Teddy Bear Benedict. Both were extra delicious and satisfying. We had leftovers for the next day.
The place gets very crowded in the morning so expect to wait for your table. They also only accept cash.
For classic Indian cuisine, go to the Himalayan. You can’t go wrong with traditional dishes like Curry, Tandoori, or Masala. For something unique, try their butter chicken and the mellow momo appetizers (dumplings). Vegetarians will be pleased with the large selection of veggie-only dishes.
Laguna Grill Restaurant
To satisfy your Mexican food cravings, visit this restaurant on the lake. They offer traditional Mexican dishes plus a daily happy hour and $1 Taco Tuesdays. If you have someone in your group that does not like Mexican food, they can find a few items like a club sandwich and a French dip sandwich.
Oakside restaurant serves American dishes with beers and cocktails – with nice outdoor seating. Some outdoor tables have a fire pit. The menu has items to satisfy any taste. From appetizers to share to sandwiches to full entrée items.
While visiting for lunch, we tried the fish and chips with roasted Brussel sprouts and the Lobster pizza. There basil and berry cocktail is a must.
Fast food and chains
If you are in a hurry or want to visit something familiar, you can find places like Burger King, Taco Bell, and McDonald's or casual dining places like Sizzler.
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
Snow play, Alpine Slide, Go-carts, Waterslide800 Wildrose Lane Big Bear Lake, Ca 92315
Boat rentals, boat tours, Jet Skiis, Parasailing439 Pine Knot Blvd Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 (909) 866-7766
Scenic Sky Chair Rides – at snow summit
Take the sky chair to the top of the mountain. Enjoy the views, hike or bike down to the base. Enjoy a BBQ at the top. This is not available during Ski season.880 Summit Blvd Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 909-866-5766
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