Big Bear Lake, California, is an easy drive from Boulder City, less than four hours away in the San Bernardino Mountains. This resort town is at an elevation of 7,000 feet, making it a fine place to escape the blistering summers of the surrounding deserts. Summer average daily high temperatures are in the high 70s, with nights dipping down into the 40s.
Trail options range from a family-friendly nature hike to a hardcore hike along a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail. This trail travels a 2,650-mile path from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington.
Whatever off-the-pavement adventure you choose, a smart place to start it is the Big Bear Discovery Center in Fawnskin on the north side of the lake at 40971 North Shore Drive. The center has nature exhibits, area maps, camping information and permit information and also offers naturalist-led eco-tours and other interpretive programs. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Call 909-382-2790 or visit http://www.mountainsfoundation.org for more information.
While the surrounding forestland is a haven for mountain off-road adventures, hiking and mountain biking, the lake itself really takes center stage. Big Bear Lake is about 8 miles long and 1 mile wide, and boasts 23 miles of shoreline. It is a world-renowned lake for fishing and anglers can enjoy catching smallmouth or largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish and rainbow trout.
The lake is also a prime destination for kayakers, paddleboarders, water skiers, jet skiers, wakeboarders and parasailers. The local marinas offer rentals, lessons and tours for these activities for visitors young and old.
Even if you don’t want to take part in watersports, it’s well worth a trip out on the lake aboard Miss Liberty, a 64-foot paddlewheel tour boat. A narrated 90-minute cruise around the lake features Big Bear Lake’s history as well as highlights you’ll find around the lake. The boat offers a galley to purchase refreshments and light snacks. There are also shaded decks and an indoor heated salon for those cool mountain days.
Whether you took it easy all day sightseeing or hit the trails or lake hard, you can wind down every evening in The Village. The Village is home to shops, bars and a variety of restaurants to suit anyone’s preference. You’ll find everything from homestyle and seafood to vegetarian and gourmet food.
Standard lake attire is comfortable casual clothes with a fleece jacket, windbreaker and hat for the cool evenings and mornings. Bring clothing, footwear and basic gear appropriate for the outdoor activity you will be doing such as a backpack, hiking shoes, bathing suit, towel or bike gloves and shoes.
The Big Bear Visitor Center is the place to plan your visit, whether before you leave home or once you arrive. The center keeps track of information on not only on lodging, food and tours, but also on special events and activities. Contact the Big Bear Visitors Center, 630 Bartlett Road, Big Bear Lake, at http://www.bigbear.com or 800-424-4232.
With so much to do, you will want to plan to stay two nights or longer at area lodging or camping.
Many of Deborah Wall’s columns have been compiled into books about hiking in the Southwest. 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 Boulder City, take U.S. Highway 93/95 to the 215 Beltway; go west. At Interstate 15, head south for about 155 miles to the Barstow Road exit. Go left onto California State Route 247 and drive 32 miles. Go straight onto California State Route 18 and continue for 24 miles to Big Bear Lake.