A great fall getaway destination for those who love the outdoors is Big Bear Lake, California. Less than four hours from the Las Vegas area you could be hiking or mountain biking one of the trails in the San Bernardino National Forest, or out on the lake fishing, paddle boarding or kayaking.
The town’s elevation is about 7,000 feet, so local weather is often ideal in late September and October, with average daily highs in the mid-60s.
For most visitors it is all about Big Bear Lake. The lake is roughly 8 miles long and 1 mile wide, with 23 miles of shoreline. You can rent just about any watercraft from one of the marinas. Be aware, though, with our ongoing drought the lake is not at full capacity at the moment.
You can even hire a fishing guide. Anglers flock here to hook a smallmouth or largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish or rainbow trout. If you are a serious fisherman you might want to enter the 12th Western Outdoor News Big Bear Lake Troutfest. The event takes place Oct. 1-2 and there are tens of thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. For information, contact www.wonews.com or 949-366-0248.
The Big Bear Discovery Center, on the north side of the lake in Fawnskin, is the best place to start any hiking, biking or back road adventure in the San Bernardino Mountains. They have biking, hiking and Forest Service maps and also offer naturalist-led tours and interpretive programs. It’s open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays at 40971 North Shore Drive, Fawnskin. For questions, contact www.mountainsfoundation.org or 909-382-2790.
One special opportunity in this area is hiking a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail. While the trail runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, and usually takes five to six months to complete, just hiking a short segment in this area is enjoyable and might even inspire you to hike the entire route someday.
If you ride a mountain bike, or aspire to, you can head over to Snow Summit ski area, the only Southern California bike park currently offering the great convenience of a ski lift that functions in the biking season. They have trails for all ages and abilities, offer bike rentals, guided tours and lessons. It’s open Friday to Sunday through October.
Even if you don’t want to bike, it is well worth it to take the Scenic Sky Chair to the summit. The 1-mile, 15-minute ride brings you up to an elevation of 8,200 feet. Once on top, the panoramic views are incredible.
After you get your fill of outdoor activities you might crave a cold beer, hearty food and some entertainment. You’ll find them easily on weekends through October, during the annual Oktoberfest celebration.
This is the event’s 46th year, and it’s packed with more music and beer than ever before. There are three oom-pah-pah bands that play Bavarian music, including polkas and sing-alongs, mixed with rock ’n’ roll classics. There are competitions, including log sawing, stein carrying and “shoot and yodel” (a game along the lines of beer pong.) Traditional German food is available, including bratwurst, knockwurst and other sausages, but you can simply opt for a hamburger or hot dog.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true Oktoberfest without a stein of beer and you can quench your thirst inside the convention center with two full-service bars or outdoors at any of three biergartens. Besides favorite imported European brews, there’s a special “Craft Haus” area offering American craft brews.
Oktoberfest times are noon to midnight Saturdays and noon to 5:30 p.m. Sundays. The center of activities is Big Bear Convention Center, 42900 Big Bear Blvd.
For more information, visit www.bigbearevents.com or call 909-585-3000.
For more information on other events, lodging, food and activities, contact the Big Bear Visitors Center, 630 Bartlett Road, Big Bear Lake, www.bigbear.com or 800-424-4232.
Many of Deborah Wall’s columns have been compiled in the book “Base Camp Las Vegas, Hiking the Southwestern States.” She is also the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide” and a co-author of the book “Access For All, Seeing the Southwest With Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.
From Las Vegas, take Interstate 15 south for about 155 miles to the Barstow Road exit. Go left onto California Route 247 and drive 32 miles. Go straight onto California Route 18 and continue for 24 miles to Big Bear Lake.