California’s Big Bear Lake
A multisport (and ski) vacation in Southern California.
Surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest, the area is a paradise for active types who want to do a lot on a budget. The water’s a bit cold for swimming, but fishers can troll for trout and bass. There’s also boating, hiking, an alpine slide, and even a “chateau” in this Pacific Northwest doppelganger in Southern California.
Big Bear Discovery Center
Operated by the National Forest Association, this visitors’ center is housed in a lodge-like building just north of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest. Inside, the staff sells adventure passes and provides insider knowledge about hiking, biking, camping, and picnicking in the forest. The center also has plenty of maps available, along with a nature-themed gift shop. Experienced guides lead snowshoe excursions during the winter, as well as free nature tours on most weekends. During the summer, live concerts are held in an on-site amphitheatre.
Bear Mountain Resort
Southern California’s most popular ski and snowboarding resort resides in San Bernardino National Forest, southwest of Big Bear Lake. All four peaks—accessible via 12 lifts—rise above 8,000 feet elevation, and Geronimo offers the most challenging runs (near chair #8). Snowboarders flock to the mountain for the freestyle park's rails, boxes, walls, and pipes. The 748-acre Bear Mountain is open at night on Fridays and Saturdays from the end of November through the beginning of March. In summer, the mountain becomes home to biking, hiking, and golf. Resort dining includes the golf course’s Club House Grill, which focuses on sandwiches.
Old Country Inn
This long-standing Big Bear spot is known for its breakfast, which includes everything from egg-and-meat scrambles to waffles, even omelettes. Lunch and dinner are also served, with menus listing casual standards like burgers, wraps, and salads. German dishes like wiener schnitzel (lightly breaded and grilled veal) and a handful of Mexican dishes are also available, nods to the ancestries of the former and current owners. Inside, a mountain motif is present that includes lighting affixed to deer antlers and a vaulted, wood-beam ceiling.
Best Western Big Bear Chateau
Popular with outdoor adventurists, this Best Western branch is within a five-minute drive of the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski areas. The 80 guest rooms are slightly outdated, but all include a fireplace, large windows, and marble bathrooms with heated towel racks. Select rooms also include a Jacuzzi tub and balcony. In addition to nearby activities, which range from hiking to horseback riding, the hotel has an on-site game room and a heated outdoor pool surrounded by towering pine trees. Le Bistro hosts a free daily breakfast buffet, while Tiffany’s Lounge serves weekend cocktails beneath a century-old Tiffany dome.