Travel Series – Big Bear, California

By Kiara Bean, Correspondent

On our next trip in the series, we will travel to the majestic forests of Big Bear Valley, California. Located in the heart of the San Bernardino Forest, about 93 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Big Bear Valley consists of the town of Big Bear Lake on the South shore of the lake itself, Fawnskin on the North shore of the lake, Big Bear City on the East shore of the lake, and several other small villages. 

My family visited Big Bear Lake and Big Bear City. Big Bear Lake has a population of just over 5,000 people and the neighboring Big Bear City has a little over 13,000 people. Big Bear Valley ranges from an elevation of 6,700 feet to mountains as high as 9,000 feet, which makes it an optimal place for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, and summer activities such as hiking, rock climbing, boating, and fishing. We decided to visit Big Bear during the summer, since we are not fans of winter sports, but we love hiking and nature. 

If you decide to visit, there is a large variety of places to stay, from first class lodges, B&Bs, and hotels to rental cabins where you can truly enjoy the mountain life and have a bit more privacy. For lovers of camping, there are also many campgrounds in the area. In the Big Bear Village, a shopping and restaurant center, you’ll find many different types of restaurants with American, Mexican, Italian, and Indian food, but our favorite was the German restaurant The Old German Deli. We had an excellent bratwurst on German bread served with potato salad, sauerkraut, pickles, and tomatoes. For dessert, we had a very tasty German pastry. We also found a very good ice cream store and a fudge store where we could satisfy our sweet tooth. There are also many candy stores and coffee shops at the Big Bear Village. 

Besides the restaurants, Big Bear Village offers a wide variety of shopping options. There are clothing, furniture, antique, souvenir, fine china, western, jewelry stores, and many others. There is even a Build-A-Bear Workshop where you can build your own special friend: a big bear! After a long shopping spree and good lunch, you can enjoy art galleries featuring the work of local artisans, wildlife paintings, oil paintings, and much more, or go see a movie at one of the four big screens in the Village Theater. When you are tired of walking, you can take a horse and carriage ride around Big Bear Village. Big Bear Village is also the site for different kinds of parades: the Classic Car Show parade, Do Dah Parade (a silly spin on drum corps and marching bands), Old Miners Parade, the Christmas Parade, and many others.

We spent most of our days hiking on the nearby trails in the mountains or around the lake. We saw some spectacular views like those on postcards or in books. My sister and mom also did some rock climbing so that they could see the valley with the lake from higher up. Big Bear Lake has 23 miles of shoreline. During the summer, besides hiking on the trail around the lake, you can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, jet skiing, power boating, sailing, rowing, water skiing, wakeboarding, and wake gating. There is also a swimmable beach for those who want to brave the cool temperature of the water. We also went to the Big Bear Solar Observatory located on the north shore of Big Bear Lake. The telescopes and instruments at this observatory, run by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, are all dedicated to studying the sun. 

There are many other activities you can enjoy in Big Bear which we did not have time to do in just a few days. It is worth mentioning that Big Bear is famous for its Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain Park, which features a water slide in the summer and an inner tube slide in the winter. Alpine Slide advertises that it offers California’s only authentic bobsled experience. There is also the Big Bear Alpine Zoo which is one of the few zoos in the US with a grizzly bear exhibit.

I mentioned mainly summer activities in this article, since we visited during the summer. However, there are plenty of slopes in the Big Bear area for you to enjoy during the snowy months, whether you like skiing, snowboarding, or casual sledding. So pick your favorite time of year, and go enjoy Big Bear Valley!

Welcome to Big Bear 

Cabins in Big Bear 

The Village – Shopping and Restaurant Center

A View of Big Bear Lake 

Big Bear Solar Observatory