Big Bear Lake is a reservoir and recreation area situated in San Bernardino County, California. Set amongst the San Bernardino Mountains, the lake is surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest. Originally populated and named by the indigenous Serrano Tribe, the area is now used for outdoor activities such as boating, water skiing, and fishing.

Measuring 7 miles long, the lake is patrolled by the BBMWD Lake Patrol and is also home to a visitor center, 21,000 local residents, various condos and cabins, an alpine solar observatory, a public zoo, a 9-hole golf course, the Big Bear Village complex, a skiing area, and seven public campgrounds. Also located here is the famous village of Fawnskin. Additionally, the Big Bear Municipal District uses the reservoir to supply water to the west and east end of the North Shore.

Things to do and attractions

With Big Bear Lake receiving over 300 days of sunshine per year, there are many recreational activities that take place throughout the seasons. In summer, hiking, horse riding, and cycling are popular activities for visitors, with the mountain panorama, pine and oak trees, and picnic area all providing a scenic view. There are ten walking trails, which are marked according to difficulty and vary from 1.5 miles to 15 miles in length.

For exploring the water and landscapes, many opt to kayak or canoe in the water. Visitors can go to Bear Marina to rent pontoon boats or outboard fishing boats, or choose water ski rental, tubing, or knee-boarding as well as other options. North Shore Landing has two marinas, which provide water skiing, pirate ship rides, wakeboards, lake tours, kayaks, and canoes as well as fishing and pontoon boats. Visitors can also attend Designated Watersports and Holloway’s Marina & RV Park for similar rentals. For visitors who are water sports beginners, there is Big Bear Watersport School. During good weather, visitors can also experience the Scenic Sky Chair at the summit. Further activities are camping, helicopter rides, sailing, tennis, and indoor laser tag, while fishing takes place on the water, as the lake is full of trout, catfish, and bass.

In the fall, photographers go to Big Bear Lake to capture the shift in colors. Fishing is particularly popular then, whereby bait such as mealworms and nightcrawlers tend to work well. In winter, snow sports take place at Big Bear Lake, and this is also a time to spot squirrels, foxes, deer, and racoons. Skiing and snowboarding is possible on the powder trails and a chairlift is also available. Visitors can use the snow play areas, zip line, and rent a cabin or condo. In spring, new plant and animal life show their faces and visitors have a change to go on a guided off-road Jeep tour.

Big Bear Lake also hosts the Big Bear Village, which has an alpine-style design and architecture that provides visitors with shopping facilities, entertainment, and dining options. Within the village are a range of restaurants, such as the Himalayan Restaurant and Nottingham’s Restaurant, as well as the Brown Bear Gift Shop and the indoor play center Big Bear Funplex, amongst other attractions.

Big Bear Lake Historical Museum is run by the Big Bear Valley Historical Society and showcases historical artifacts and exhibits from the indigenous Serrano Indians as well as exhibits on cattle ranching, fox farming, early winter sports, cowboys, and the gold mining era. The museum is open May–October and relies on donations, volunteers, and the membership scheme to keep running. Historical tours and a series of featured speakers occur at the museum.

Big Bear Discovery Center allows visitors to freely enter the center and experience the Nature Discovery Zone, where they can learn about the stewardship of the forest through the interpretive displays and play in the outdoor adventure space. The center also offers information about what to do at Big Bear as well as maps, trail suggestions, adventure passes, weather reports, road conditions and tickets, making the visitor center the first stop for visitors looking for information about their visit.

Ongoing programs

The Big Bear Visitor Center runs a variety of musical performances, creative events, festivals, and historic events throughout the year. In addition to car shows, competitions, and concerts in the summer, the area has a lively program of events. A coupon scheme is in place that covers shopping, recreation, and dining, amongst other categories. The Big Bear Young Eagles Program is hosted at the airport on the second Saturday of each month, whereby children are taken on flights for free by pilots who are members of the Pilots Association. A further program is the Kiwanis Hope of America Program, which is run by the Kiwanis District Foundation.

630 Bartlett Road, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, website, Phone: 909-866-7000

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