Big Bear Lake, a stunning oasis on the crest of the San Bernadino National Forest, has so much to offer no matter the season. The contrasting desert landscape in the surrounding foothills of these lush, cool mountains truly makes this a desirable haven for desert dwellers. Situated 1 hour from San Bernardino, CA, it’s an easy family getaway for those in big cities nearby. Here’s our list of the best things to do while visiting Big Bear Lake in summer.
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Where to Stay in Big Bear Lake:
I didn’t have high expectations when we booked at the Best Western, it was really just the most affordable option when we were using credit card points. But when we arrived I was happily surprised! It’s a chateau, which is basically a castle. It was the fanciest Best Western I have ever seen! The foyer had chandeliers, a grand piano, and a pretty wooden staircase leading up to some of the rooms.
The breakfast was amazing! You order a fresh meal every morning in addition to the normal continental breakfast options like bagels, cereal, pancakes, and oatmeal. I ordered a meat and veggie omelet both days which was SO GOOD and kept me full until midday. I was impressed with their service, again, for a Best Western hotel.
You can get a great deal on your stay at the Best Western Big Bear Chateau by booking through Expedia. They always have the best rates on stays! Check the price on Expedia by clicking here:
Top Activities for Big Bear Lake in Summer
This was the main reason we went up to Big Bear in June. We were celebrating my husband’s birthday and he is obsessed with mountain biking. Amanda and I are still beginner-level mountain bikers, but we knew Jordan would go down some of the harder trials with Levi. It was opening weekend for the mountain bike park which was fun. The energy of the event was buzzing, and having the Red Bull truck there with a live DJ helped too.
It turned out that even the easiest trail, Going Green, was a bit difficult compared to what Amanda & I are used to riding in AZ… by the 4th time down we were *overly* confident in our abilities & ended up crashing. But if you’re an experienced biker, this is a really fun park with tons of trails. It’s definitely a downhill park, with no real cross-country trails, so come prepared with protective gear. If we plan to go back, I am getting at least knee and elbow pads in addition to my helmet.
Get your lift tickets for the mountain biking park here:
There are also plenty of fun activities at base camp if mountain biking isn’t your thing. Get day passes or single-use passes for ziplining, rock climbing, tubing, and more. Even just riding the lift up to the top and eating lunch with an awesome view is a fun experience.
During the winter, Snow Summit is a fantastic place to ski and snowboard as well! The opening date varies each year, dependent on snowfall and general weather conditions, so visit their website to see when tickets are available for purchase. https://www.bigbearmountainresort.com/ski-and-snowboard/lift-tickets
Paddleboard Big Bear Lake:
Entering from Boulder Bay Park, you can paddle board the glistening blue lake with unique rock formations and beautiful green trees surrounding you. We rented from Big Bear Lake Kayaks http://bigbearlakekayaks.com/, and it turned out to be a perfect plan because you get a free rental on your birthday! So we only had to pay for my board since we went on my husband’s actual birthday.
Because it was a windy day, it was a little more difficult to paddle out onto the water, but the views were just amazing. It was rejuvinating being on the blue lake surrounded by lush green trees and mountains. It was just what this desert girl needed.
You are technically supposed to also have a permit to be on the lake, but as long as you stay behind the buoys, I don’t think the lake patrol will actually come after you. (at least that’s what a local told us) If you are planning to spend all day on the water or want to paddle around a lot, be safe and pick one up at the visitors center. They cost $25 for 1 day, per non-motorized vessel. The rates are different if you are planning to be on the water more than one day, check out the rates here:
Hike Castle Rock:
Get one of the best views of Big Bear Lake by hiking to Castle Rock. This popular trail is a short 1.5 mile climb (3 miles round trip). It is well worth the steep climb because of the gorgeous views you get at the top. We ended up walking longer than we needed to (which our husbands were not thrilled about) because the trail is poorly marked. You think you are on track because you are on the Castle Rock trail and there are cairns all along the path, but the sign pointing to the Castle Rock lookout is hidden in the trees.
Watch your All Trails or Trail Forks closely as you are walking so you don’t miss the turnoff. If you keep walking on Castle Rock Trail, you eventually get to Kidd Creek Rd which is not the peak with a view. Rather, this road leads to many campsites, other trailheads, and Bluff Lake Reserve.
This was our view at the top of Castle Rock. We did have to scale some 10-foot rocks at the very end to get to this elevation. There were other hikes around us who were nervous about the height, so just know there are other good spots along the way with good views if you don’t like bouldering. We were ready to boulder after our trip to Joshua Tree National Park! Read about that awesome trip here.
Walk Downtown Big Bear Lake
See the cutest mountain town downtown area with lots of souvenir shops, restaurants, and more. Since it’s California, and a tourist town, eating out is a little more pricey.
On our first night, we got pizza and wings at Village Pizza which was decent, but nothing to call home about. We wished we would have tried Saucy Mama’s Pizzeria because it smelled amazing when we were walking by. On our second day, we ate at 572 Social Kitchen & Lounge because there was live music outside. The weather was so perfect, we all enjoyed hanging out and listening to a couple of local musicians while eating. The patio is dog friendly too if your family brings the family pet along!
Alpine Pedal Path Trail:
A great spot to casually ride your bike, walk, or sit and admire the lake. If you walk or bike the entire trail, it is about 5.2 miles long with almost 300 ft of elevation. The trail is paved and a casual ride along the shore of the lake. There are several spots where you can take a break and access the water. There were benches you use to sit and watch the sunset.
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain:
Looking for a fun-packed day for the family? Enjoy the beautiful mountain weather by riding an alpine slide, a mineshaft coaster, go-karts, and so much more at the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain Big Bear! With year-round attractions, this is a great place to have some fun with the kids if you have a day free. You can bobsled or snow tube here during the winter months.
Escape the summer heat or get out of the cold snow by visiting the Bowling Barn for some bowling, ice skating, laser tag, and mini golf. This is a HUGE facility right in town next to the main strip of restaurants and goody shops.