Bear statute holding a sign that says Welcome to Big Bear Lake California

6-day Itinerary in Big Bear, CA

We spent 6-days in Big Bear, CA. Here is everything we did and the things we wish we had time for.

In this guide (jump to section):

Big Bear, CA Quick Stats

LocationBig Bear, California
Popular Things to DoHiking, biking, skiing, Big Bear Alpine Zoo, Boulder Bay Park, Bluff Lake Reserve, zip lining, horseback riding and more.
Official WebsiteCity of Big Bear Lake
Popular Day TripsJoshua Tree National Park (~1.5 hours), Palm Springs (~1.5 hours), Huntington Beach (~2 hours), Los Angeles (~2 hours) and more.
Rating3.0 Mooses

6-Day Itinerary for Big Bear, CA

Chances are, if you’re planning on visiting Big Bear, you’ll be doing a road trip to get there. Big Bear Lake isn’t something you’ll come across by accident and the nearest airport is 37 miles away in Palm Springs.

Day 1: Road trip from Las Vegas, arrival and exploring Ski Beach Park

We started in Las Vegas (4-hours away) and had two stops on our drive out.

Here’s a few other things to see on your way. We’ve been to all of them, though not on our trip to Big Bear.

After we arrived in Big Bear, we checked into our Airbnb and headed off to the nearby park.

Exploring Ski Beach Park (aka Meadow Park)

Meadows Park at sunset

Big Bear is home to several parks. Ski Beach Park (aka Meadow Park) is a large area located near the south eastern part of Big Bear Lake. It features a meadow area, views of the lake and over 16 acres to explore.

Official Website: Big Bear Parks

Location: Ski Beach Park

Cost: Free

Highlights: Lake access, tennis courts, volleyball court, picnic area, playground, meadow, and more.

Day 2: Hiking and a trip to the Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Hiking the Cougar Crest trail to the summit of Bertha Peak

Big Bear Lake at Cougar Crest Hiking Trail

Located on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake in California, the Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak hike boasts scenic views of Big Bear Lake, beautiful wildflowers, old growth forests and lots of lizards.

Fees: Adventure Pass Required for trailhead parking. $5 per day or $30 annually. (Prices subject to change).

Average Time: 3 to 4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Mileage: 7.5 miles round trip

Elevation: ~1,354 feet

Learn more about our hike on the Cougar Crest trail to Bertha Peak.

Visiting the Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Leopard behind a zoo enclosure

The Big Bear Alpine Zoo features an array of animals including, a bald eagle, black bears, flying squirrels, gray wolf, snowy owl, turkey vulture and many more. The zoo is a rehabilitation facility that strives to release the animals back into the wild.

Location: 747 Club View Drive, Big Bear, CA

Official website: Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Admission: $16 for adults / $11 for youths (Prices subject to change.)

Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (subject to change)

Highlights: Animal exhibits, playground area, gift shop

Day 3: More hiking, bike rentals and Boulder Bay Park

Hiking the Woodland Interpretive Trail.

We still had our adventure pass from the day before, so we decided to get in a short hike.

Western Junper Tree

The Woodland Interpretive trail is a 1.5-mile loop trail that takes hikers on a learning adventure. It’s an easy hike that takes around an hour to complete. After you’re finished, you can check out the nearby Big Bear Discovery Center (which was unfortunately closed when we visited.)

Fees: Adventure Pass Required for trailhead parking. $5 per day or $30 annually. (Prices subject to change).

Average Time: 45 min to a 1 hour

Distance: 1.5 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Learn more about our hike on the Woodland Interpretive trail.

Bike rentals for the Alpine Pedal Path

Bikes overlooking Big Bear Lake along the Alpine Pedal Path

We rented bikes from a local shop called “Paddles and Pedals” on the north side of the lake.

Official Website: Paddles and Pedals

Cost: Varies by time needed, $25 for 2 hours is common. (Prices subject to change).

Average Time: 2 hours

Highlights: Ride the Alpine Pedal Path, enjoy a picnic lunch near the East Public Boat Launch area, take in scenic lake views.

Exploring Boulder Bay Park

Boulder Bay Park at sunset

Boulder Bay Park is a small area located just off the main road through Big Bear. It features a walking path, beach area, and unique rock formations rising out of the lake.

Location: Boulder Bay Park, Big Bear, CA

Cost: Free

Average Time: 1 hour

Highlights: Picnic area, swimming (no lifeguard), dock, scenic views, walking path, and more.

Day 4: Snow Summit, the Bobsled hiking trail, Mini Golf.

Snow Summit Resort

Snow summit building to purchase lift tickets

Snow Summit, part of the Big Bear Mountain Resort, is an action-packed summer destination in Big Bear.

They feature an array of summertime activities to choose from, including hiking, downhill mountain biking, a scenic sky chair, food & beverage, basecamp activities, a retail store and more.

Official Website: Big Bear Mountain Resort

Cost: Varies based on activity

Hiking up the Bobsled Trail

Hikers seen walking on Bobsled hiking trail

The Bobsled hiking trail leaves from the base of Snow Summit and features gorgeous views of Big Bear Lake, seasonal wildflowers and the chance to watch mountain bikers zoom down the slopes.

Distance: ~4.0 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderate

Average time: 1.5 – 3 hours

Seasonal Access: ~June – October (depending on snow)

Learn more about our experience hiking the Bobsled Trail.

Playing a round of mini golf at Hot Shot

Man walks along hole on mini golf course

Hot Shot Miniature Golf is an 18-hole novelty golf course including fun obstacles, corners and quirky signs located in the heart of Big Bear Lake, CA.

Website: Hot Shot Mini Golf

Cost: $

Location: 42143 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

Learn more about our experience at Hot Shot Mini Golf.

Day 5: Kayaking, Mine Shaft Coaster, Downtown Big Bear

Kayaking on Big Bear Lake

Brightly colored kayaks on Big Bear Lake

There are several places to rent watercraft on Big Bear Lake. We chose the Big Bear Marina. In addition to kayaks, they also have pontoon boats, wave runners and stand-up paddle boats. We opted for a 1-hour double kayak rental. We felt an hour was plenty on the lake as there wasn’t much close by to explore.

Official Website: Big Bear Marina

Cost: $$

Average Time: 1 – 2 hours

2. Fun at the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain

Mine Shaft Coaster Sign with Large Bear

The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain is a recreation area in Big Bear that boasts an Alpine Slide, water slide, go-carts, mini-golf course and more.

We only sampled the mine shaft coaster ride, which was surprisingly fun.

The coaster is a 1-mile-long track that lets you control your speed as you race down the mountain and around corners / loops. They even take a video of your experience that you can purchase afterwards. It was pricey for one trip and the video was even more expensive.

We did feel the ride was worth it, but did not purchase the video.

Official Website: Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain

Cost: $$

Average Time: 1 – 2 hours

Day 6: Castle Rock hike, shopping at the Big Bear Village & dinner

Hiking the Castle Rock trail to Outlook Point

The Castle Rock trail is one of Big Bear’s most popular hikes. If you keep going to Outlook Point, you’ll have the trail mostly to yourself as most visitors stop at Castle Rock. You’ll pass by Bluff Lake, the famous Champion Lodgepole Pine and end up at a beautiful overlook.

Fees: Adventure Pass Required for trailhead parking. $5 per day or $30 annually. (Prices subject to change).

Distance: ~8.3 miles (Castle Rock to Outlook Point)

Difficult: Moderate

Exploring the Big Bear Village and dinner at Fire Rock Burgers & Brews

Bacon Cheeseburger and french fries in a wire basket

We took a spin in the village area of Big Bear, enjoying the local shops and a burger at Fire Rock Burgers & Brews.

We quite enjoyed our food, though it can be tough to get seated during busy times. They also occasionally have live music.

Website: Fire Rock Burgers & Brews

Cuisine: Burgers and more!

Cost: $$

Is visiting Big Bear, CA worth it?

Rating: 3.0 Mooses

3 Mooses Rating

What we liked:

  • Big Bear Lake was pretty, though given the water challenges in California, it wasn’t as full as it could be. You can see the historic water levels here.
  • We enjoyed the hiking trails we sampled, with Castle Rock and the Bobsled trail being our favorite.
  • One nice thing about Big Bear is the high elevation. The lake sits at 6,752′ leading to cooler temperatures than the nearby desert areas. Average high temperatures in the summer are 80 degrees.
  • Big Bear is centrally located. It’s only 4 hours from Las Vegas, 2 hours from Los Angeles, and 3 hours from San Diego.

What we didn’t like:

  • There aren’t as many activities in the area as we expected there to be. The population of Big Bear is just over 5,000. It really is a small town and the infrastructure isn’t built for the hordes of visitors that come through.
  • Parking around the village is nearly impossible. We gave up after driving around for a while and ended up walking from our Airbnb to avoid the hassle.
  • Actually, parking around the entire town can be difficult. If you want to hike, you’ll need to arrive at the trailheads early. They fill up and the roads are constructed in a way there aren’t any alternatives to the small lots. We’ve heard many trailheads have trouble with car break-ins, but thankfully didn’t experience any issues.
  • It’s a popular getaway for many in California, which means things are on the pricey side. Expect meals, hotels, and events to be expensive.
  • Big Bear has an odd quirk, in that many homeowners do not pay for trash service to come to the house. This meant, as an Airbnb guest, we were required to drive our trash a mile away to a central drop off point. If we failed to do this, we would be charged a hefty fee for non-compliance. We would have liked to have known this before we visited.

Verdict: If you’re planning a summer trip, we recommend no more than 3-4 days. It’s plenty of time to see the highlights. We actually had one more night booked, but ended up bailing rather than stay the 7th day. There’s no place like home, right?

We’ve included the few other items we had on our list below.

Things we wish we had time for

  • Hiking up San Gorgonio Mountain. Also, known as Old Grayback, Mount San Gorgonio is the tallest mountain in Southern California. Clocking in at 11,503′ and around 18 miles round trip, this class 1 hike sees over 4,000 feet in elevation gain and offers majestic views from the summit. We did procure a permit to make the hike, but ultimately decided we weren’t conditioned enough to try for the summit. Another time!
San Gorginio aka Old Grayback
Mount San Gorgonio seen from Woodland Interpretive trail
  • Bluff Lake Reserve – Located around 30 miles from Big Bear, this preserve features a serene lake with a diverse ecosystem of wildlife. Activities at the reserve include hiking, birdwatching, wildlife viewing and seasonal wildflowers. The area is also famous for being the filming site of the Parent Trap in 1961. Admission is free and the area is typically open from May 1 to November 1 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The area closes for snow, so be sure to check out their website before you attempt to visit.
  • Bowling at The Bowling Barn – We can’t resist a quick stop at the local bowling alley on most of our vacations. Unfortunately, when we visited, they didn’t answer their phone to confirm if open bowling was going on. They do have 16 lanes, an arcade, a restaurant and a laser maze. You can read reviews on yelp here.

That was pretty much it. Big Bear, while a fun destination for a few days, didn’t end up having as many activities as we expected. There are more hiking trails to explore, but many required a 4WD vehicle to get to or didn’t seem worth the effort.

We wouldn’t mind heading up in the winter to check out the ski slopes.

More information for your trip to Big Bear, CA

Bobsled hiking trail in Big Bear California
Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak the Ultimate Hiking Guide
Woodland Interpretive Trail in Big Bear Lake
Hot Shot Mini Golf - playing a quick round