Southern California is most famous for its singular season. It’s a place where sunny days abound and golden-sand beaches are punctuated by surfers taking on the epic waves. Hiding just two hours inland from Los Angeles, travelers will find Big Bear Lake, a spectacular mountain oasis that delivers springtime wildflowers, summer hikes, fall foliage, and snow-filled fun all winter long.
“When you live in LA, it’s only natural that you need an escape from all the hustle and bustle, and Big Bear is just that,” Sara Simon, owner of Noble+Proper in Big Bear, shared with Travel + Leisure. “It’s peaceful, offers a slower pace of life, and is a great place to escape to reconnect with yourself, nature, or a special someone.”
Indeed, it’s a destination where Angelenos (and travelers from farther away) can come to chill out — both metaphorically and literally. “Here, it is usually about 20 degrees cooler than the cities below,” Liz Blake, who hosts sound healing and yoga sessions in Big Bear, added. “I encourage travelers to come to shift their perspective to relax the body, explore the senses in nature, and reflect on the stillness of nature to calm the monkey mind.”
Ready to explore all that Big Bear Lake has to offer? Here’s how to plan a perfect mountain escape.
Big Bear Lake
- Stay at Noble+Proper, a mountain resort that mixes luxurious amenities with a cozy feel.
- Hike Pine Knot Trail, a 6.8-mile moderate trail that offers gorgeous 360-degree views from the top.
- Visit Big Bear Mountain Resort, a ski mountain welcoming all levels with terrain spread across 800 skiable acres.
- Get breakfast at Amangela’s, a bagel and sandwich shop offering everything from light vegetarian bites to classics like lox with cream cheese.
- Have a date night at 572 Social, a Big Bear restaurant that offers a seafood-forward menu, which can be enjoyed on the outdoor patio.
Best Hotels and Resorts
Noble+Proper offers travelers the chance to indulge in all their mountain lodge fantasies while still getting every ounce of luxury they desire. The hotel’s cabins come decked out with colorful wallpaper, high-end furnishings, and full kitchens, so guests can totally settle in.
Big Bear Lake Front Lodge
Big Bear Lake Front Lodge delivers exactly what its name describes — lakefront access. The old-school lodge offers several rooms with full kitchens and spacious living rooms, making it an ideal spot for families or large groups who want to spend as much time together as possible.
Midnight Moon Cabins
Want to bring your four-legged friend along for your trip to Big Bear? Book a stay at Midnight Moon Cabins, where dogs are always welcome. The three cabins are equipped with full kitchens, high-end linens, and plenty of chic style thanks to its black and gold aesthetic that makes for an excellent Instagram backdrop.
Best Things to Do
Shop Big Bear Village.
Didn’t pack enough cold-weather clothing? Head to Big Bear’s downtown area to shop in some of its charming boutiques. We say “downtown” loosely, as Big Bear Village is really a short road lined with just a few shops, but it gets the job done all the same. Stop into places like O Koo Ran for women’s wear or Bear Essentials for just about everything.
Take a hike.
Big Bear is an outdoor paradise with miles upon miles of fantastic hiking, but to get the best view, try making your way up Pine Knot Trail, rated the number one route in the area on All Trails. The 6.8-mile hike is rated as moderate, so make sure to take your time. But if you do go all the way, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic 360-degree views.
Find peace with a sound healing session.
Looking for something a little less strenuous? Hang out with Blake for a sound healing session. The session includes 30 minutes of guided yoga followed by a 15-minute sound bath, which will leave you feeling totally renewed.
Hit the Alpine Slide.
Laugh and scream to your heart’s content with a ride down the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. Guests take a calm chairlift up the mountain before getting onto a sled to zip down the hill as fast as they can on the closed track. (Yes, it does come with a break, just in case you feel like you need to slow down).
Shred the slopes.
Visiting Big Bear in the winter means getting the chance to ski down its impressive slopes. Big Bear Mountain Resort is ideal for all levels, with terrain spread across 800 skiable acres. Tickets are available in half, full, and multi-day options.
Where to Eat and Drink
Breakfast at Amangela’s
Start your day in Big Bear by getting exactly what you want at Amangela’s Sandwich and Bagel House. Here, guests can choose a creation from its lengthy menu, including veggie bagels stacked high and classics like lox and cream cheese. Or, guests can make their own creations that include all the ingredients they want, and nothing more.
Lunch at The Old German Deli
Before heading out for a hike, a day on the slopes, or an adventure on the lake, stop in at The Old German Deli. It’s a quaint little spot that offers fantastic to-go sandwiches that will fuel all your adventures. You can’t go wrong with the smoked turkey club with Swiss cheese.
Dinner at 572 Social
There aren’t many fine dining options in Big Bear, but 572 Social is really all you need. The menu includes plenty of sharable plates, which you can enjoy on the outdoor patio when the weather is right, and mains like charred salmon with caramelized onions and grilled vegetables and seared ahi tuna steak.
Happy Hour at Fire Rock
Toast one more time to your vacation in Big Bear with a beer at Fire Rock. While it also serves some tasty burgers, the star here is the craft beer menu. Go for the Free Bird Blonde Ale for something lighter or Purple Haze Raspberry Lager for a fruity refresher.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Big Bear depends on what you’re after for a vacation. If you’re looking for a snow-filled ski trip, make your way to the mountain from late December through March. For wildflowers, head to Big Bear in spring, from late April to early June. For warm days filled with lakeside dips, go in July through September, and for fall foliage, try the end of September to early November. Big Bear really is a year-round destination that has something for every kind of traveler.
How to Get There
The easiest way to get to Big Bear from Los Angeles is by driving on the 101 South to the 210 East for about two hours (depending on traffic). Just make sure to check the weather and road conditions before you leave, especially in the winter.
If you’re coming from far away, you can also fly into Ontario International Airport, which sits halfway between Los Angeles and Big Bear, and drive the remaining one hour in a rental car from there.
How to Get Around
Having a car makes it easy to get from one end of the lake to the other, to and from the mountain, and everywhere in between. But if you really want to avoid driving, you can also hop on the Mountain Transit Bus System, which offers rides around town for $1.50. There’s also the Big Bear Weekend Trolley that makes stops at Bear Mountain Mountain Resort and a few other must-see attractions for $1.50 per ride.