Big Bear Lake is a lake town in Southern California, nestled within the San Bernardino Mountains and located about two hours east of Los Angeles. In addition to some great skiing, Big Bear Lake has a laid-back, cabin-in-the-woods feel that you don’t get in many other cities. Just minutes from world-class hiking and fishing at Big Bear Lake, and it all comes with breathtaking mountain views. The small city is home to roughly 5,000 residents, and actually encompasses several smaller communities like Fawnskin and Sugarloaf.

If you’re looking for what to do at Big Bear Lake, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll explore the top 10 reasons why you’ll absolutely love vacationing at this alpine gem.

1. Beautiful Cabins, Resorts & Homes for Rent

Whether you choose a private home near Big Bear Lake, a lodge, a resort, or one of the many other local lodgings, such as Big Bear cabins, you won’t be disappointed. There’s truly something for everyone, whether you’re looking for pet-friendly housing, first-class amenities, homes within walking distance of major attractions, or lakefront vacation rentals that offer beautiful views of the water and scenery.

2. Amazing Food

Close-up shot of sushi chef in kitchen.

There’s no shortage of good food in Big Bear Lake, no matter what you’re in the mood for, what your budget is, or whether you want fancy or casual. The lake, of course, provides plenty of fresh seafood, but you can also choose from steakhouses, pizza, baked goods, and international cuisine. Personal chefs are also available to come to your Big Bear vacation rentals.

3. Fun Shopping Adventures

Woman holding credit card POS at a rustic-looking shop.

Of course, you’ll need to work up an appetite. There’s no better way to do that on your Big Bear vacation than by checking out the local shops. There are plenty of charming boutiques and gift shops to choose from, as well as antique stores for those looking for a little something from the past. No shopping malls here.

4. Unspoiled Natural Beauty

Sunset over Big Bear Lake.

Big Bear Lake is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, boasting pristine forests, majestic mountains, and, of course, the sparkling lake itself. The area is a paradise for nature lovers, with abundant wildlife and vibrant flora.

5. Outdoor Recreation

Couple kayaking on lake, back view/

If you’re an adventure seeker, Big Bear Lake is your playground. From hiking and mountain biking to fishing and boating, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to keep you entertained. The lake offers excellent opportunities for water sports like paddleboarding, kayaking, and jet skiing.

6. Skiing and Snowboarding

Ski lift over snowy mountain with snowy forest in background.

During the winter months, Big Bear Lake transforms into a winter wonderland, attracting skiers and snowboarders from near and far. With its world-class ski resorts, such as Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, you can hit the slopes and experience exhilarating downhill runs.

7. Hiking Trails for All Levels

Hiking in Big Bear Lake.

Big Bear Lake boasts an extensive network of hiking trails suitable for all skill levels. Whether you’re a novice hiker or an experienced trekker, you’ll find trails that cater to your abilities. Explore the breathtaking beauty of the San Bernardino National Forest as you hike through lush forests and discover hidden waterfalls.

8. Festivals and Events

People skiing and snowboarding at Big Bear.

No matter what time of year you visit Big Bear Lake, there’s always something going on. Concerts, movies, ecology tours, festivals, fireworks, polar plunges, and other events are always keeping visitors entertained. Be sure to check the calendar because some events are seasonal, while others happen every month of the year.

9. Scenic Drives

Quick stop to view the sunset after a long day of off roading high up in the mountains.

The roads around Big Bear Lake provide breathtaking views at every turn. Take a leisurely drive along the Rim of the World Highway or the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway for panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Don’t forget your camera, as there will be plenty of photo opportunities along the way.

10. Great Vacation for Any Season

Woman standing on paddleboard on Big Bear Lake.

Although Big Bear is commonly known for its local ski resort, winter isn’t the only time to enjoy Big Bear. The best time to visit Big Bear depends on what you’re interested in doing. Summer is perfect for swimming and other water sports on the lake. Spring is gorgeous as the snow melts and flowers bloom. It’s ideal for a hike or bike ride to a favorite fishing spot. And you’ll absolutely enjoy the gorgeous fall scenery and numerous festivals and events that celebrate the season.

Spring Activities: Unparalleled Fishing

Every April, when the season begins, fishermen from all over the world descend on Big Bear Lake for some of the best fishing in California. Trout and bass are abundant, but you can also hook a catfish, sunfish, blue gill, or crappie. There are several fishing charters to choose from, or you can rent a boat and go it alone.

Summer Activities: Family Fun

If you’re looking for what to do in Big Bear in the summer, look no further. Big Bear in the summertime is the perfect place for families looking to relax and unwind, while also offering plenty of activities. Beyond the lake, there’s zip-lining, go-kart racing, an arcade, and even a zoo. Big Bear Alpine Zoo is home to over 180 animals and offers special events throughout the year.

Fall Activities: Relax and Be Pampered

Anyone coming to Big Bear for downtime will find plenty of ways to sit back, relax and enjoy a little pampering. With several spas in the area, you can start the day with a massage, refresh with a facial, or try a little acupuncture. You can even have a professional come to your Big Bear rental home if you prefer extra privacy.

Winter Activities: Skiing and Snowboarding

Many people think of Big Bear as a winter destination, and for that reason, they come to snowboard, ski, and enjoy other winter sports. Between the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit resorts, there are over 436 developed acres, 26 lifts, and over 200 other features for those who come out to ski.

Get Ready for Your Big Bear Family Vacation

Big Bear Lake offers a delightful blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and tranquility. Whether you’re seeking a thrilling ski trip, a peaceful retreat, or a fun-filled family vacation, Big Bear Lake will exceed your expectations. Embrace the charm of this picturesque town and create lifelong memories amidst the serenity of nature.