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BY ALISSA MILLER
Go big with your family in Big Bear.
Big Bear Lake is an Alpine paradise — a hidden gem in the San Bernardino National Forest nearly 7,000 feet above sea level. It’s just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles through the wilderness of SoCal, but you’ll feel lightyears away from the city when you arrive.
It’s a four-season hot spot, offering visitors the chance to experience nature’s beauty at all times of the year. The lake is blue, the forest is green, and in the winter the slopes are white — it’s the perfect spot for some good old-fashioned family fun. Big Bear Village bestows its small-town vibes and laid back attitude on all who visit, for a down-to-earth vacation experience the whole family will enjoy.
The lovely lakeside.
Big Bear Lake itself is the main draw. It’s 7 miles long and 1 mile wide at its widest point, and its 22 miles of pristine Alpine shoreline will fill you with all the awe Mother Nature can inspire. There are six marinas scattered along the shore, all of which are open spring through fall for a variety of water activities. Boating, kayaking, fishing, paddleboarding, Jet Skiing, and even parasailing are just a few of the options to choose from.
The great outdoors.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love the area’s mountains and hiking trails. The San Bernardino National Forest is more than 800,000 acres, and its high elevation is home to a diverse range of unique flora and fauna. The area offers a variety of recreational activities, from hiking and backpacking to trail riding by horse, mountain bike, or ORV — not to mention the plethora of winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowtubing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
Visit the Deep Creek Hot Springs and watch for an endangered species of toad that lives in the sandy banks of the creek. Hike Castle Rock Trail, a short but challenging hike, only 1.3 miles long with an 800-foot elevation climb — you’ll be rewarded by stunning views of the lake and surrounding national forest at the pinnacle. Walk the Alpine Pedal Path, a 3.2-mile paved trail along the lakeshore. It’s flat with lots of benches along the way, making it perfect for people of all fitness and mobility levels. The beautiful scenery and lakeside position make it a great spot for birdwatching.
The thrill of adventure.
Once you’ve spent some time in the great outdoors, your family will probably be ready for a new thrill (or two or three). The Big Bear Speedway and Ropes Course is a multi-featured attraction, offering single or double go karts on a real racing speedway, and a 6,400 square-foot ropes course with 37 obstacles on two levels.
Action Zipline Tours is a course of nine high-speed ziplines that get longer, faster, and higher as you progress, offering amazing views of the valley and of the area’s highest peak, Mt. Gorgonio. The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain bills itself as Southern California’s only authentic bobsled experience, and is a unique adventure for the whole family. The Alpine Slide itself is open year-round, and the park includes water slides in the summer and snow tubing in the winter.
Once you’ve had your fill of thrills, there are still many family-fun activities to enjoy, starting with the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. The zoo is more of a sanctuary, offering a home to wounded or orphaned animals or animals that can no longer survive in the wild for any reason. With more than 180 animals across 85 species, you’ll see foxes, bears, wolves, mountain lions, golden eagles, and a whole lot more.
For a serene experience on the water, consider a lake tour. There are many traditional options to choose from, but the kids will definitely love the Time Bandit, a replica pirate ship captained and crewed by buccaneers, or Miss Liberty, a 64-foot long authentic paddlewheel boat that cruises the lake with southern charm.
Santaland is a year-round Christmas-themed attraction that will get you excited for the holidays, even in the heat of summer. Featuring a play area for kids, gift shop, snack bar, and selfie stations, Santaland allows you to take an immersive, self-led tour of Santa Claus in history and pop culture, in the tradition of all things Christmas.
The quaint village.
You’ll want to make sure to spend time in the village itself, as there’s lots to see and even more to buy. It’s the local hub for shopping, dining, and nightlife, so make sure to dip your own candles, paint some stained glass, buy a souvenir for your fur baby, and sample local goodies while you browse. Hit the Gold Rush Mining Co. for a historically-authentic adventure in panning for gold and gemstones, digging for fossils, and even cracking a geode.
Make sure to visit the ghost town of Glitter Gulch for a unique photo opportunity while you’re there. You’ll naturally need to eat (and perhaps consume an adult beverage or two) while you’re in the village, and there’s no better spot than the Big Bear Brewing Company. A family-friendly brewery and restaurant, they’ve been serving Big Bear Lake since the 90s. Their beer is brewed in-house, and is made fresh daily using the finest ingredients in a high-quality process. You won’t taste fresher beer anywhere else.
The cozy accommodations.
Big Bear Lake has something for everyone, and you’ll need someplace to stay while you’re there. WorldMark Big Bear offers studio, one-, two, and three-bedroom suites, so there is plenty of room for the whole family. Kids will love the playground, basketball court, arcade, and swimming pools, and you’ll enjoy the amazing scenery while you’re grilling up some steaks for dinner at the resort’s outdoor barbecue area. Don’t wait — book your Big Bear adventure now.