California is one of the best states to live in or visit on vacation, as it simply has so much to offer. If you’re looking for sun-drenched beaches and amazing ocean waters for surfing and sunbathing, California has them. If you’re in need of big city locations for dining, shopping, family attractions, and live entertainment, you only need to head to San Francisco or Los Angeles. If you’re looking for amazing natural locations, you can choose from places like Redwood National Park or Yosemite.

More ideas: Best Weekend Getaways, Best Day Trips

Clearly, there’s a lot to be seen and enjoyed all around California. Those up in the north can admire the pristine beaches, amazing Wine Country vineyards, and redwood forests, while those down south can enjoy super surfing locations, sunny weather, and unique touristic hotspots like San Diego Zoo or Hollywood. Another amazing location to enjoy down in SoCal is Big Bear Lake.

Situated in San Bernardino County, right by the San Bernardino Mountains. Big Bear Lake is the name of a large reservoir and small city. The lake is snow-fed, and the whole place is surrounded by the stunning beauty of the San Bernardino National Forest. About 5,000 permanent residents live at Big Bear Lake, but the area's population can surge into six figures during the summer months as so many California residents and travelers head to this location for some recreation and relaxation.

Big Bear Lake is the biggest recreation lake in all of SoCal. It's an amazing place for fishing, horseriding, hiking, and biking, with a couple of great ski resorts like Bear Mountain and Snow Summit just nearby. There's even an international film festival at Big Bear Lake, which has been running since the late 90s. In short, there’s plenty to do at this location, and it’s a great place to visit on a day trip from nearby cities.

Getting to Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake is about 150 miles from San Diego and just 100 miles away from Los Angeles, and these are the two main big cities that offer easy and direct access to this popular recreation reservoir. Getting to Big Bear Lake will depend on where you start from and how you’d like to travel, but here are a couple of different options you might choose:

- Driving to Big Bear Lake from Los Angeles - The drive from Los Angeles to Big Bear Lake will vary in length depending on where exactly in LA you're starting out. If you're coming from Downtown LA, you can get to Big Bear Lake in about two hours, but the journey will take a little longer if you're starting off somewhere like Long Beach or Santa Monica. To get to Big Bear, simply follow the CA-10 out of the city and then connect with the CA-210, and then eventually the 330 as you follow the signs for Big Bear Lake and travel up through the mountains.

- Driving to Big Bear Lake from San Diego - If you're coming from San Diego for a Big Bear day trip, you'll need to set out early as the journey will typically take about three hours. It's wise to set off around 6-7am in order to arrive at the lake with plenty of time ahead of you for a full day of fun. You can follow the I-15 out of San Diego and then connect with the I-215, following the signs for Big Bear Lake as you approach the mountains.

Important Information and Things to Do at Big Bear

- Getting Around - Getting around at Big Bear Lake is simple when you have your own car. Since it's more or less impossible to get to this location by public transport for the means of a day trip, you'll almost definitely have a vehicle with you, so can drive around with ease and you should find plenty of parking, as long as you're not visiting on an extremely busy weekend. The city does have its own MARTA bus system too. Visitors should note that parking within the city limits of Big Bear Lake is not a problem, but you'll need an Adventure Pass if you want to park outside the city in the San Bernardino National Forest.

- Visitor Center - The Big Bear Visitor Center is located at 630 Bartlett Road. It's open daily from 9am to 5pm and is a good place to start your Big Bear Lake day trip. You can buy Adventure Passes at the center in order to access the forest, and you can also learn more about what to do during your day.

- Best Time to Visit - The best time to visit Big Bear Lake will depend on what you want to do. If you visit in the summer months, you'll get lots of warm weather and sunny days, with minimal rainfall and lots of tourists too. If you visit in winter, you'll have access to the ski resorts and snow-based activities offered at Big Bear Lake. Many people say that the best times to visit, however, are in late spring and early fall, as the temperatures are still warm but the tourist crowds have thinned out.

- Things to Do at Big Bear - If you visit Big Bear when the weather is warm, there are many different activities you can enjoy from hiking along the countless trails of the San Bernardino National Forest to heading out on the lake itself for boating and fishing. You can take horseback rides or head off on mountain bike excursions as well. If you visit in the winter, you might like to head out to the nearby ski resorts for some skiing and snowboarding.