Big Bear is a town in Southern California that offers visitors a chance to escape the busyness of city life and enjoy the great outdoors. The town is nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains and is known for its beautiful scenery, hiking trails, ski resorts, and lakes. So whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend getaway or an adrenaline-filled vacation, this mountain town has something for you. In this post, I’ll share The 12 Top Things To Do In Big Bear that will make your trip unforgettable.
1. Big Bear Lake
If there’s one place that you absolutely have to visit while you’re in town, it’s Big Bear Lake. This beautiful lake is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery. You can go fishing, swimming, boating, or just sit on the shore and enjoy the view.
There are also plenty of great hiking trails in the area if you’re looking to explore. One of my favorites was the famous Alpine Pedal Path, which takes you on a scenic 5.1-mile journey around the lake. The path is relatively flat, making it perfect for all skill levels.
There are several marinas around the lake where you can rent boats, kayaks, and paddleboards. Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even go fishing. There are several charter fishing expeditions that operate on the lake, and you’re sure to catch some big fish.
I had an absolute blast spending a day at the lake and exploring all it had to offer. It’s definitely one of the top tourist attractions in Big Bear that you have to see for yourself.
2. Explore the Big Bear Discovery Center
The Big Bear Discovery Center serves as the gateway to the San Bernardino National Forest and is one of the top places to visit in Big Bear. Located on the north shore of Big Bear Lake, the center is a great place to learn about the area’s history and get information about things to do in the area.
This center is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and features exhibits on the area’s flora and fauna, as well as a topographical map of the region. The center also offers a variety of ranger-led programs, including guided hikes, nature walks, and Junior Ranger programs.
There is a large outdoor amphitheater where presentations are held every evening. In addition, this center has a new Nature Discovery Zone where kids between the age of two and seven can play and learn.
So if you’re looking for the best things to do in Big Bear, the Discovery Center is a great place to start. It’s one of the top tourist attractions in the area, and it’s a great resource for learning about the area’s ecosystem and wildlife.
3. Big Bear Alpine Zoo
No trip to Big Bear would be complete without a visit to the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. This zoo is a rehabilitation center for injured, orphaned, or abandoned animals native to the San Bernardino Mountains.
The zoo’s animal residents include bears, bobcats, coyotes, eagles, owls, mountain lions, and wolves. The animal enclosures resemble the animals’ natural habitats as much as possible. You can get close to the animals and learn about their lives and how they came to the zoo.
In addition, the zoo offers educational presentations every day around noon at the amphitheater. The presentations are geared towards children but are interesting for adults as well. However, note that human interaction with the animals is not allowed, except for the trained keepers.
4. Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
Inexpensive thrills await at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain, one of the top tourist attractions in Big Bear for families. And being the only bobsledding experience location in southern California, this place is definitely worth a visit.
The Alpine Slide is just what it sounds like, a bobsledding slide that sends you sliding down a concrete track with plenty of twists and turns. You control your speed with a handbrake, so it’s pretty easy to go as fast or as slow as you want. I will say that it’s a bit more fun to go fast, but if you’re not comfortable with that, there’s no shame in taking it slow.
In addition to the Alpine Slide, there are plenty of other kid-friendly attractions. These include a kiddie coaster, a water slide, and a bungee trampoline. Admission to the park is pretty reasonable, especially considering all that’s included. And if you purchase your tickets online, you can save even more.
5. Ski or Snowboard at Big Bear Mountain Resort
One of the best things to do in Big Bear in winter is to hit the slopes at one of the area’s ski resorts. And with Big Bear Mountain Resort, you have two top-notch options: Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.
Snow Summit is the more family-friendly of the two areas, with 35% beginner trails, 40% intermediate, and 25% advanced/expert. Bear Mountain is geared more towards advanced and expert skiers and riders, with 60% of its trails falling into those categories. And if you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, the resort offers group and private lessons.
Both resorts offer a great selection of amenities, including equipment rentals, ski and snowboard lessons, terrain parks, and on-mountain dining. You can also purchase a lift ticket that gives you access to both resorts, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds. And when you’re ready to refuel, the resort has plenty of dining options ranging from casual to fine dining.
After a long day on the slopes, relax at one of Big Bear Mountain Resort’s lodging options. Choose from hotels, cabins, and condo rentals.
6. The Cave
Do you love live music? How about top-notch sound quality in an intimate setting? Then you’ll definitely want to check out The Cave.
This top entertainment spot in Big Bear Lake has been around for over ten years. It’s known for its top-notch acoustics, as well as its eclectic range of musical genres. You can hear everything from country to classic rock to today’s hottest pop hits. And if you’re a fan of stand-up comedy, you’ll be happy to know that nationally touring comedians often make The Cave a stop on their tours.
Check the website in advance to see who’s playing during your stay. You might just catch a top-40 band, a country crooner, or a classic rock legend. No matter what genre you prefer, you’re sure to find a show that you’ll enjoy.
The Cave also has a full bar, so you can enjoy a drink while you listen to the music. And if you get hungry, they have a menu of delicious food items, including burgers, sandwiches, salads, and appetizers. And when the weather is nice, take advantage of The Cave’s outdoor patio. This is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail and people-watch.
All in All, this is one of the best places to visit in Big Bear if you’re looking for a fun night out. I definitely recommend checking it out.
7. Hike to Castle Rock
One of the top things to do in Big Bear, especially if you love the outdoors, is to take a hike. Many visitors to the state are surprised to learn that California has some of the best hiking trails in the country. And one of the most popular hiking destinations in San Bernardino National Forest, where you’ll find the Castle Rock Trail.
The Castle Rock Trail is a moderate 1-mile out-and-back hike that begins at Boulder Bay Park. The trailhead is clearly marked, and the first part of the trail is relatively easy to follow. But as you get closer to Castle Rock, the trail becomes a bit difficult as the trail gains more than 800 feet in elevation.
At Castle Rock, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a California condor soaring overhead.
Be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring plenty of water, as there is no water available along the trail. And because the trail is located in a remote area, it’s always best to hike with a partner.
8. Enjoy local Delicacies
Do you love trying new foods? Then you’ll definitely want to sample some of the local delicacies while you’re in town. Big Bear is home to some incredible restaurants, many of which serve up mouthwatering dishes made with fresh, local ingredients.
You can start your culinary adventure at one of Big Bear’s many breakfast spots. I highly recommend the Grizzly Manor Cafe, where you can enjoy classic breakfast dishes like pancakes, eggs, and bacon.
When it’s time for lunch or dinner, there are plenty of great options to choose from. For a truly unique dining experience, head to the Himalayan Restaurant for Tibetan and Nepalese cuisine. Or enjoy some good old-fashioned American comfort food at Big Bear Lake Brewing Company.
If you’re looking for something sweet, Big Bear has you covered there too. Be sure to check out The Sweet Shoppe for some delicious ice cream, fudge, and candy. And if you’re a fan of cupcakes, you’ll definitely want to try the ones from Sister My Sister Bake Shop.
I absolutely love trying new foods, so sampling the local cuisine was one of my best things to do in Big Bear.
9. Cycling on the Alpine Pedal Path
The Alpine Pedal Path is a must-do for any cyclist visiting Big Bear. This scenic path takes you on a 3.5-mile that meanders along the north shore of Big Bear Lake. The path is relatively flat, making it perfect for all levels of cyclists.
The views along the way are stunning, and there are several places to stop and take in the scenery. One of my favorite things about this path is that it takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the Big Bear Lake into the peacefulness of nature. The path is also open to pedestrians, so it’s perfect for a family outing.
There are several places to rent bikes in Big Bear, including Paddles and Pedals on the north shore of the lake. They have a great selection of bikes for all levels of cyclists, and the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful. This is also a great spot to grab a bite to eat or drink after your ride.
So, if you’re looking for fun and free things to do in Big Bear, hop on a bike and pedal your way along the Alpine Pedal Path. It’s a great way to see the lake and get some exercise at the same time.
10. Stay the Night at a Cabin
After a long day exploring all the top tourist attractions in Big Bear, you’re going to want a cozy place to rest your head. And there’s no better place to do that than spending the night at a cabin.
There are plenty of rental cabins available in and around Big Bear, but I recommend checking out Big Bear Cool Cabins. This particular rental company has a wide selection of cabins to choose from, including everything from budget-friendly options to luxurious rentals. Many of the cabins come with top-notch amenities like hot tubs, game rooms, and full kitchens.
Other popular cabin rental companies include Big Bear Vacations, Lakefront Chalet on Boulder Bay, Cabins4Less, and Destination Big Bear.
No matter which rental company you choose, you’re sure to find the perfect cabin for your needs. And because Big Bear is such a popular destination, I recommend making your reservations well in advance to ensure that you get the cabin you want.
11. Enjoy the Big Bear Jeep Experience
If you’re looking for more excitement, consider the Jeep Experience. This is one of the top things to do in Big Bear if you love off-roading.
One of the best agencies to book a Jeep Experience with is Big Bear Jeep Experience. They have a wide variety of jeeps to choose from as well as a knowledgeable and experienced guide and off-roader. During your jeep experience, you’ll get to explore some of the most beautiful terrains that Big Bear has to offer and also learn new driving skills.
The best thing about the Jeep Experience is that you can choose from a range of difficulty levels, thus suitable for all skill levels. Smoother and easier trails are available for those who want a more relaxed experience, while tougher and rockier trails are available for the more adventurous. Regardless of which option you choose, the Jeep Experience is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.
12. Big Bear Valley Historical Museum
A trip to Big Bear would not be complete without learning about the area’s rich history. And the best place to do this is at the Big Bear Valley Historical Museum.
This museum offers an interesting collection of artifacts and displays that tell the story of the area from the days of the very first human inhabitants up to the present. You’ll learn about the days of gold rush, miners, ranchers, and the winter sports fans who flock to Big Bear each year.
I especially enjoyed the displays on the area’s Native American heritage. These exhibits include items like arrowheads, beads, and pottery. The museum also has an excellent collection of old photographs that help bring the area’s history to life.
I suggest setting aside at least an hour or two to explore this museum and learn more about Big Bear’s history. Admission to the museum is very reasonable, and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
Big Bear is a beautiful place to visit all year round, with plenty of activities and attractions to keep you busy. Whether you’re looking to enjoy the outdoors, sample some delicious food, or just relax and take in the stunning scenery, you’ll find everything in this beautiful mountain town. So be sure to add some of these top things to do in Big Bear (if not all) to your list when you visit.