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Cougar Crest Summit in Big Bear, California

California

Big Bear Lake: Escape to the Mountains in Southern California

By: Idoia Gkikas

Dennis Bentson
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  • States:
    California

With a variety of outdoor activities and year-round events, Big Bear is a scenic and relaxing getaway from the crowds.

From the vibrant cities of Southern California, you’re within just a few hours’ drive to one of the most accessible mountain destinations: Big Bear Lake. Check out this three-day itinerary to hit Big Bear Lake’s must-see attractions. Extend your stay with the variety of lodging options available locally.

Day One: Hiking and Off-Roading

Begin your day at Big Bear Discovery Center, full of information about the area: trail maps, camping reservations, educational displays and much more.

From here, walk .8 kilometers on Highway 38 to the Cougar Crest Trail. This moderate, 7.7-kilometer hike (round trip) affords beautiful views of Big Bear Lake and connects to the Pacific Crest Trail, a dramatic pathway from Mexico to Canada.

Next, trade in your hiking boots for a big ole badge of courage because you’re going to try the Big Bear Jeep Experience. You’ll explore mountain terrain, from kid-friendly to Black Diamond, in an off-road Jeep with you as the driver!

End your day at the newly renovated Big Bear Village. Browse the shops and relax with a hot meal and a cold beer from Big Bear Lake Brewing Company.

Big Bear Jeep Experience tours operate rain or shine. Make sure to grab your camera as rainfall often brings rainbows.

Big Bear Jeep Experience tours operate rain or shine. Make sure to grab your camera as rainfall often brings rainbows.
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Big Bear Jeep Experience

Day Two: Fishing, Zip Lining and Nightlife

The fishing at Big Bear Lake is phenomenal: catfish, blue gill, bass and especially rainbow trout. Get straight to the catch by booking a half-day fishing charter for the morning. They will provide everything you need for care-free fun on the water.

For the second half of your day, you’re going zip lining! Action Zipline Tours takes you into the San Bernardino Mountains for a high-speed adventure on nine zip lines.

There’s always something fun going on in the evenings: Live music, theater, sports and family events fill the calendar.

Big Bear Lake: 3 Ways to Explore Southern California’s Mountain Lake Escape

Big Bear Lake: 3 Ways to Explore Southern California’s Mountain Lake Escape
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Day Three: On the Mountain, in the Lake

Take the Scenic Sky Chair at Snow Summit, a 1.6-kilometer lift up to 2500 meters altitude. If you’re a mountain biker, aspiring or experienced, spend a few hours at the Snow Summit Bike Park. The park offers lessons, a training park, cross-country and downhill biking. Refuel with lunch at Skyline Taphouse.

Cool off in the afternoon with water sports at the lake. Canoeing and kayaking, paddleboarding, Jet skiing, wake boarding or parasailing will round out your Big Bear adventure. Choose from many professional outfitters offering equipment and lessons for anything you choose.

For your final evening, catch a colorful sunset at Stanfield Cutoff at the lake. Don’t forget your camera!

The winding trails, varied terrain and small obstacles at Snow Summit Bike Park will thrill riders of all skill levels.

The winding trails, varied terrain and small obstacles at Snow Summit Bike Park will thrill riders of all skill levels.
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Big Bear Mountain Resort
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Getting There

Ontario (ONT), Los Angeles (LAX) and Palm Springs (PSP) are the closest international gateways to Big Bear Lake, California. Airports in these cities are within a 1.5- to 2.5-hour drive from Big Bear and offer numerous direct flights from international destinations. 

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