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Big Bear Lake California

Updated on September 14, 2019

There are not many places on earth I can think of other than Southern California where you can play in the snow all morning, then hop in your car, take a short drive up the freeway, prepare a nice comfortable lounge chair by the pool, apply your favorite moisturizing lotion to perfect that bronze tan, and bask in the warm sun for the remainder of the afternoon.

This is the splendor and convenience of extreme climactic changes you experience in many regions of Southern California. Within the same day and literally within a matter of hours, a person can snow ski the many different winding slopes at Big Bear, then cruise over to the Coachella Valley, fire up the barbecue, and enjoy a flame broiled dinner while soaking up the sun poolside in swim attire.

The Region I'm referring to is a unique place where San Bernardino County meets Riverside County, where the high mountains meet the low desert, one of many geographical points in California where unusual and abrupt climactic changes in temperature and scenery occur within an hours drive. This is where you'll discover Big Bear Lake, located within the mountainous terrain of San Bernardino, and it's also where you'll find the Coachella Valley, home to Palm Springs, the premier golfers paradise. A seamless geographical transition which presents a beautiful yet somewhat surreal trip between the two destinations. From snow skiing down a mountain as you endure an ice cold chill turning your cheeks a rosy red tint, to playing a set or two of tennis in a warm dry desert climate almost within the blink of an eye.

Photo Courtesy of Kyle L.
Photo Courtesy of Kyle L.
  • Big Bear Lake - Brief History

Located in San Bernardino County with a modest population of roughly 6,000, incorporated in 1980 and documented as the largest recreational lake in Southern California, Big Bear is without a doubt one of the most popular year round resort destinations not only for state residents, but also people from all over the world. In winter, the city plays host to high octane dare devils seeking a thrill ride down any number of ski slopes designed for the beginner up to the consummate pro, and when summer arrives with its first sparkling hot sun rays, that's the queue for boaters, fisherman, campers and all other warm weather activity enthusiasts to flock here in droves to enjoy spring and summer recreation.

Big Bear was always an attraction for nature lovers, a place where you could walk or jog along rustic trails while breathing in a refreshing combined scent of pine trees and the purest mountain air on earth. But it wasn't until 1921 when the first resort was built, the Pan Hot Springs Hotel, that it began to attract attention from the more prominent notables including the Hollywood elite.

Just prior to the construction of this trailblazing hotel, a natural hot spring was discovered. This bubbling fountain of refreshing water presented the perfect opportunity for the owner to promote the new resort as a place not only for outdoor and indoor recreation, but also a rejuvenating spa to provide soothing physical relaxation for those who needed to unwind and dismiss the everyday stresses. This of course was achieved via a hot and steamy natural mineral bath at the Pan Hot Springs Hotel.

 Photo Courtesy of CJeppson
Photo Courtesy of CJeppson

Shortly after the opening of this landmark hotel, Big Bear experienced a significant growth spurt which resulted in the construction of an additional 40 plus new resort style establishments mainly to facilitate the ever increasing number of overnight vacationers and day trip visitors.

With its wide open spaces, majestic mountain ranges, and very close proximity to Hollywood, it's no surprise many top prime time television shows and big screen motion pictures were, and still are filmed here on location. In addition to the celebrity crowd, Big Bear is a prime training location for some of the greatest boxers in the world who seek thinner oxygen conditions at higher altitudes to help develop increased stamina and energy for optimum preparation when they enter the ring for competition.

  • Boating - Fishing - Swimming - Hiking

Needless to say, when the warm weather arrives at Big Bear Lake the transformation from skiing and snowboading winter wonderland, to a water sports enthusiasts haven is seamless. When the snow finally melts away to reveal the lush green landscape, seasonal flora, and crystal clear sparkling lake, it's time to ring in spring & summer with an invigorating boat ride, a relaxing day of fishing, a complete overall body workout by taking a nice swim in the lake, or any other physically exhilarating warm weather recreational activity you can think of.

Hiking is a very popular activity at Big Bear, the trails range from flat and easily maneuverable, all the way up to near vertical steep inclines designed for the more experienced. A good quality walking or hiking shoe which absorbs high impacts to avoid potential injury might be something to consider if you are a novice to this activity, a slight twist or even sprain is not uncommon in this type of uneven mountainous terrain.

Photo Courtesy of emmyboop
Photo Courtesy of emmyboop
Photo Courtesy of favouritethings
Photo Courtesy of favouritethings
  • Wildlife

Big Bear lake is located in a wilderness area surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest, so you will be sharing the same lands with all indigenous wildlife.

That's not to say you will cross paths with anything other than the more commonly found docile squirrel, fox, or various types of birds, but as a precaution, it's always a good idea to be prepared just in case you do encounter a potentially more harmful species. Animals in their natural habitat will usually just ignore you and prefer to just go on their merry way, but it's always a good idea to educate yourself in regard to predominant indigenous species before visiting any wilderness area. Check with local rangers or authorities prior to your visit so you'll be well educated and properly prepared for the adventure.

  • Skiing - Snowboarding - Winter Activities

Some of the best skiing and snowboarding in California can be found right here at Big Bear, consisting of a wide range of slopes for every style and challenge, from the beginner to the pro.

Significant snowfall is recorded annually so the skiing season can be a long fulfilling ride here, unless out of the ordinary weather conditions result in lesser than usual snow pack. There are ski shops for needed supplies at reasonable prices, so if you forget or misplace essential equipment, you shouldn't have a problem finding what you need.

 Photo Courtesy of yourcoco
Photo Courtesy of yourcoco
Photo Courtesy of planetlight
Photo Courtesy of planetlight
Photo Courtesy of tkksummers
Photo Courtesy of tkksummers
  • Lodging & Shops

Lodging in Big Bear primarily consists of cabin rentals or corporate owned hotel or motel properties. It's just a matter of location preference and type of modern amenities or lack there of, you're looking for. Some of the private cabins which rent on a weekly basis provide the most spectacular lakefront and mountain views you'll find anywhere. Most come with at least one fireplace so if you plan to visit during winter, the soothing warmth emanating from the fireplace as it buffers your body from the freezing cold chill can be one of the most cozy and romantic experiences of your visit. What could be more relaxing than reading a book or embracing a significant other while sitting next to a warm, crackling, conglomerate of heated embers. Other accommodations include some of the more popular name brand hotel and motel chains which provide a variety of amenities and locations to choose from.

Shopping is quaint and mementos can be found throughout the different boutiques within the market place. Big Bear is a mountainous and wooded region, so many of the products for sale will reflect the outdoor motif, even hand made pieces by local residents can be found for sale which adds a very personal touch to many souvenirs and gifts. If you are searching for something a little more elaborate, there is no shortage of luxurious items for that special purchase.

**** Lodging Ideas & Map For Directions Below ****

Photo Courtesy of mojosaurus
Photo Courtesy of mojosaurus

Directions to Big Bear Lake:

Big Bear Lake Ca:
Big Bear Lake, CA, USA

get directions

Los Angeles Ca:
Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Palm Springs Ca:
Palm Springs, CA, USA

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San Diego Ca:
San Diego, CA, USA

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John Wayne Airport:
John Wayne Airport (SNA), Santa Ana, CA 92707, USA

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Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Los Angeles, CA 90045, USA

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Palm Springs International Airport:
Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), 3400 E Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262, USA

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