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Big Bear, California 72-Hour Vacation

Mountains, Snow and Lots of Sunshine
A Year-Round Alpine Playground

There's never a shortage of scenery
There's never a shortage of scenery


Serious off-roading
Serious off-roading

Today's agenda requires that you make appointments in advance: Call ahead and reserve a spot for a morning excursion with Big Bear Off-Road Adventures and sign up for a sunset ride with Baldwin Lake Stables. 

First, have breakfast at or nearby your hotel—don't forget to grab your camera for today's activities—before Big Bear Off-Road’s friendly driver picks you up in a giant chartered four-wheel-drive vehicle.  You can let him lead you on an unforgettable ride through the mountains of Big Bear to see the hidden parts of the San Bernardino National Forest that you’d miss if you stuck to the beaten path.  For a really great ride leading to some incredible views, ask the driver to steer the truck up to the top of Clark's Summit. You'll pass granite rock formations, towering lodgepole pines and log homes built in the 1920s. You may even see a wild animal or two. The summit provides amazing views of the Inland Empire, Lake Perris, San Gorgonio (Southern California's highest peak at 11,502 feet) and, in the valley below, the headwaters of the Santa Ana River and Sugarloaf Mountain.

Keep an eye out for the wildlife
Keep an eye out for the wildlife

If you strike out on your own to explore instead, stick to marked paths unless you’re an experienced hiker or horseback rider.  The regular trails are challenging enough and promise an exhilarating wilderness experience.  If you want to drive to some of the more hidden roads, you’ll need to use your Adventure Pass, which grants you greater access to the mountain. After your adventure ends, lunch at Hacienda Grill and Bar on Big Bear Boulevard or Evergreen International Restaurant on Lakeview Drive. In the afternoon, visit Moonridge Animal Park, a unique zoo that’s home to 180 orphaned and injured creatures brought here because they could not survive alone in the wild. These days, this is the only place around Big Bear where you can catch a glimpse of a grizzly bear family, the first to grace the valley since the early 1900s.  (The grizzly that’s the town's mascot was all but wiped out in the early 20th century.) Plans are afoot to move Moonridge next door to the Big Bear Discovery Center, but it remains open at its current location.

Continuing your animal theme, take yet another ride. One of the best ways to see the beautiful views of the region is on horseback. Baldwin Lake Stables offers rides ranging from an hour or two to half-day outings. The stables also house a petting zoo with llamas, rabbits, goats, pigs and other animals. We recommend the truly memorable sunset ride or the one and a half-hour tours, offered only at certain times of the year. Your faithful steed will carry you down a trail to a perfect view of the descending sun and the surrounding color-washed mountain range.

The best way to explore the area
The best way to explore the area

On your way back to town, enjoy a dinner of steak, seafood and other delicacies at Captains Anchorage on Moonridge Way. This wonderfully rustic restaurant has a colorful past. It has been owned by film star Andy Devine, perhaps best known as Roy Rogers’ sidekick. It’s also supposedly home to a ghost named George, who now and then raises trouble for the staff. If you don't have the stomach for ghost stories, Paoli's Italian Country Kitchen on Village Drive is a good choice. For your final evening in Big Bear, you’ll probably need to relax after all the activity.  Unwind over a bucket of popcorn and the latest box office release at the Village Theaters or Village Theaters North.

Family fun in every season
Family fun in every season

Now that you've had a taste of Big Bear, we urge you to make the trek up the hill again during the next season. Summer activities are equally as exciting as those in winter, and you can enjoy a relative lull in tourism and discover Big Bear in full green splendor.  Big Bear is also home to Magic Mountain (same name as the theme park near Los Angeles but with a less raucous atmosphere), which draws kids to its Alpine Slide attraction every season. The serenity of Big Bear’s lake can also be enjoyed on a cruise aboard the Big Bear Queen, which features sunset cruises in summer.

If fishing is your game, the rainbow trout always seem to be biting. Just rent a boat or hire a guide from Big Bear Marina or Captain John's Fawn Harbor and Marina. In summer, Snow Summit allows mountain bikers to use its lifts to be taken to the top of its mountain and then to enjoy a thrilling downhill ride—not an experience for the faint of heart.  Seasonal Big Bear events include California’s fifth-largest Fourth of July fireworks display, Snow Summit’s annual New Year’s Eve torchlight parade with over 250 skiers descending the mountain carrying lighted torches, and the annual Oktoberfest.  These six celebratory weeks draw thousands with events and activities that include dining, beer drinking, dancing, and entering the log sawing and stein holding contests.

However you decide to spend your time, this not-so-sleepy mountain town is a great escape from the land of freeways and cell phones not far away. It's been there all along—just up the hill.

For more information, visit the Big Bear Convention & Visitors Bureau.


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*Images from Big Bear Mountain Resorts, Big Bear Off-Road Adventures and Baldwin Lake Stables. Eagle, Cabin & Boat images by Tim Wolcott

P080806 (Updated: 11/09/09 CT)

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