We’ve all become experts at enjoying outside activities this past year. And Big Bear Lake has no shortage of incredible family adventures to be had in the great outdoors. From camping to hiking, biking to kayaking, families can easily find their niche in this beautiful Southern California mountain lake escape. Located in the San Bernardino National Forest, this four-season recreation hub is a must-visit spot for SoCal families (or anyone who is looking for a rejuvenating getaway out west!). Here’s why:
1. It’s a Quick Trip from LA, But Feels Worlds Away
Peace out, traffic. Buh-bye, schedules. Big Bear Lake’s breathtaking mountains are a much-needed escape from the hustle and bustle of city and suburban life. In just 2-3 hours, you’ll be far from the LA metropolis. Whether you’re here for a weekend or a longer stay, there’s nothing better than packing up the car in the morning and officially being on vacation by lunchtime. Parents and kids will feel connected to nature and totally disconnected from the daily grind.
2. There’s Snow in the Winter
Southern California residents love an occasional snow experience. At Big Bear, winter brings all the things you definitely don’t see every day—snowfall, skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and plenty more cold-weather fun. Get your lift tickets and hit the slopes all day. Explore the valley’s stunning landscape via a snowshoe tour with Action Tours or the Big Bear Discovery Center. Check out Big Bear Snow Play for fun family tubing (day or night!). And as Anna always asks, “Do you want to build a snowman?” Of course, your beach baby does!
3. You Can Truly Experience Lake Life with Watersports
Days spent on the lake are a must in summertime. Big Bear has six full-service marinas—perfect spots to head out on a pontoon boat, kayak, jet ski or stand-up paddleboard. Thrill-seekers will love the adrenaline rush of wakeboarding or tubing around the lake. And for fishing adventures, book a charter to reel in a variety of local fish. Stop at Big Bear Sporting Goods for everything you need to set out on the lake. And for a different viewpoint, discover the scene from ziplines or segways.
4. There’s One of the Only Alpine Zoos in the U.S.
The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is an incredible place to meet some of the area’s “wild” residents. This rehab facility brings injured, imprinted and orphaned animals into a safe haven to heal or stay permanently if they aren’t able to survive in their natural habitat. (FYI: 90% of the animals brought to the Zoo are successfully released!) Book a guided tour and be sure to catch an "Animal of the Day" or Behavioral Enrichment presentation. Kids and grownups alike will be fascinated by watching the zoo’s animal keepers encourage these resilient animals to thrive.
5. It’s a Hiker’s Happy Place
From paved turf to rocky terrain—and everything in between—there are tons of hiking trails throughout the area. Get the lay of the land from the staff at the Big Bear Visitors Center. They’ll provide a map and great recommendations on choosing a trail. Take in all the surrounding beauty—rocks, towering trees, wildlife, and of course, the majestic mountain views. Hiking with littles? This is a great blog post on must-see spots from a local mom. For those who enjoy camping, there are awesome spots to pitch a tent and make s’mores, too. (And who can pass up a toasty marshmallow under the stars?)