Big Bear LakeBig Bear Lake anaheimer
Big Bear Valley is well known for its winter sports fun. But a new adventure awaits you after the snow melts and the skiers flee the area.
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.
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 wanted 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 of the “Cougar Crest Trail” and then turn left towards the lake.
The trail is paved asphalt, making it popular with bikers. 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).
Nature Trail Loop
This short half-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)
Take this trail to Bertha Peak for a more strenuous hike 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. Alternatively, 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 to Bertha Peak.
You have an unobstructed view of the mountains, valley, and lake below at the Peak. Take a picnic, relax, and enjoy the view.
Pine Knot Trail
Along the way, enjoy the wildflowers, oaks, pines, and an occasional view of the lake. At the top, you can see the San Gorgonio wilderness and Catalina Island.
You can skip most of the hike and find directions to Grand View Point via Skyline Drive for quick gratification.
Other summer activities
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
During summer, 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.
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 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
On the last visit, we started with Tempora fantail shrimp and Jalapeno Poppers. We tried the Tilapia dinner on mashed potatoes and the St. Louis Ribs for the main course. 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. Try their butter chicken and mellow momo appetizers (dumplings) for something unique. 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, a daily happy hour, and $1 Taco Tuesdays. If you have someone in your group who 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 Brussels sprouts and the Lobster pizza. Their 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.
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
Castle Rock Trail, Big Bear, CACastle Rock Trail, Big Bear, CA anaheimer
Hiking up the Castle Rock Trail to the viewpoint is tough but rewarding. Once you get to Castle Rock, you'll have sweeping views of Big Bear Lake and the mountains surrounding it.
Since the whole hike is under two miles, I've included an easy extension to a hidden mountain lake, Bluff Lake, which also features ruins from an 1890s mountain resort. There's a lot to see packed into this short hike, and it's worth the effort.
For the average hiker, this trail can take about 1.5 to 2.5 hours to complete, depending on one's pace and the amount of time spent at the viewpoint. It's important to note that the trail has a moderate to steep incline so the duration might vary based on individual fitness levels and hiking experience. Always ensure you have adequate water and are prepared for the conditions.
- Starting Point: The trailhead is well-marked. Check out the notice board for any updates before you start your hike.
- Initial Climb: Right from the beginning, the hike is steep and climbs up the left bank of a (usually dry) stream.
- Trail Markers: Look out for wire bins filled with rock. You will follow These trail markers on the way up to Castle Rock. You should never be more than a few minutes away from one. If you are, you've gone the wrong way.
- Mid-section Views: This middle section, where you first start getting views of Big Bear Lake, has many little side trails. Again, look for the stone markers and follow them.
- Reaching Castle Rock: As you approach Castle Rock, the trail winds around to the left of the rock. Continue around to the far side of Castle Rock. Another old-school sign tells you that you've arrived.
- Scramble to the Top: If you want to scramble to the top of Castle Rock, look for the notch behind the viewpoint area. There's a rope to help you up the first part, and there's another challenging boulder right after that. If you're not comfortable with this scramble, don't do it. Just enjoy the views below.
- Extension to Bluff Lake: If you want to hike another mile to Bluff Lake, continue onto Bluff Lake after Castle Rock. The beginning of this section is steep, but it eventually levels out. The Castle Rock Trail ends at Kidd Creek Rd. (2N86). Make the right onto the dirt Forest Service road. The road dead-ends at a small cabin. Hike toward the cabin and through the gate into Bluff Lake Reserve. You'll pass the remains of John Healy Williams's cabin, which dates back to the 1890s.
The Castle Rock Trail is especially popular in the fall due to the changing colors of the leaves and the cooler temperatures. The scenic views and fall foliage make it a favorite among hikers this season.
The Castle Rock Trail is located on the south side of Big Bear Lake.
Address:Castle Rock Trail 1W03, Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315.
Parking can be challenging due to the trail's popularity. A small parking lot is just east of the trailhead, and a few other turnouts are nearby. It's recommended to park head-in and be cautious when walking along the road to the trailhead.
Cougar Crest Trail, Big Bear LakeCougar Crest Trail, Big Bear Lake anaheimer
Cougar Crest Trail is also known as Bertha Peak Trail. This is a challenging trail in the Big Bear Lake area with commanding lake views.
The hike is about seven miles round trip and may take up to 4 hours to finish. It is considered moderate difficulty with a 720-foot elevation gain.
It starts from Cougar Crest trailhead near the Discovery Center. If you park at the trailhead, you will need an adventure pass. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the free parking at the center and walk to the trailhead. This will add 1-mile to your hike.
Tip: It is a rocky trail with some steep inclines. Make sure to wear hiking shoes and bring your hiking poles.
The Cougar Crest trail joins the Pacific Crest Trail at the 2.5-mile point and takes you to Bertha Peak.
Tip: In the summer it can get hot up in the mountains. Bring lots of water with you.
The trail is mostly shady at the beginning, with good tree cover, but the trees thin out towards the top. About halfway up, there is a conveniently located bench with a splendid view - a great place to rest and enjoy the sights.
Tip: In colder months, even without snow, the peak can get very cold and blustery. You will need a jacket. If add snow to the equation, the trail become treacherous.
When you reach the peak, you will have an unobstructed view of the mountains, valley, and lake below the Peak. Take a picnic, relax, and enjoy the view.
The trail is popular with mountain bikers, so watch out for runaway bikes.
The Cougar Crest Trail is a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of the San Bernardino Mountains. It is a challenging hike, but the views are worth it.