Activities Abound At California’s Big Bear Lake Area

The Big Bear Lake area about 100 miles east of Los Angeles has lots to offer the warm weather adventurer. Many only know Big Bear for its winter skiing, but visitors won’t get bored trying out the many other activities during the “off-season.”

Big Bear gets its name from the long-gone grizzly, which once made its home in the valley. Explorer Benjamin Wilson came to the area in 1845 and saw grizzlies in a meadow where the Big Bear Lake waterway is now located. His men had wrestling matches with bears by tying ropes around them. The grizzly bears eventually were hunted to extinction there. The only place grizzlies can be seen in that area now is at Moonridge Animal Park. Black bears later were introduced to the area and still live in the hills.

Guests at Big Bear Lake can take a guided boat ride around the lake. The water stays about 72 degrees in summer — great for both swimming and fishing.

In the early 1900s, the meadows were filled in to create Big Bear Lake and provide water for the citrus groves in the San Bernardino and Redlands regions. With the building of the dam came better roads and better cars, which all meant more visitors coming to enjoy Big Bear.

There is plenty to do there. Guests can take a guided boat ride around the lake. The water is 72 feet deep at the dam and the average lake depth is about 25 feet. Movie trivia fans would be interested to know that the watchtower at the dam was used in the filming of the original Frankenstein movie. The water stays about 72 degrees in summer — great for both swimming and fishing. The lake doesn’t freeze enough in winter to allow skating or ice fishing, but lake water is used for snowmaking at the ski resorts.

Anglers can hook into a variety of species in Big Bear Lake including largemouth and smallmouth bass, trout, crappie, catfish and sunfish. There also are fishing guides and charters, and marinas to dock your boat.

You can see George and Gracie, the area’s bald eagles, by using the telescopes at the Discovery Center on the north side of the lake. They return to roost each year. The Center also offers exhibits and off-site nature tours.

Try A Jeep Tour
For the more adventurous, try a Jeep tour through the mountains and view 360-degree vistas of the area. Many of the rides go to Clarke’s Summit. The roads can be very narrow, windy, rocky and bumpy — so make sure to hold on. Along these rocky trails you’ll see granite rock formations, tall lodgepole and Coulter pine trees, and a few local animals including coyotes and bears.

At the highest points of 7,800 feet, you can view the Santa Ana River Canyon, San Gorgonia (the highest peak in Southern California at 11,500 feet), Sugarloaf and Lake Perris.

The Snow Summit ski area is used for biking in warmer weather. You can bring your own or rent a bike. Mountain bikers will find a variety of terrain suitable for any level of rider. With over 40 miles of roads and trails accessible from the top of the Sky Chair, nearly anything from easy, wide-open Forest Service roads to challenging singletrack trails are available.

For novice riders, the Bristlecone Trail east of the base area, and Towne Trail to the west offer gentle, rolling terrain that is a perfect introduction to mountain biking. Intermediates will find slightly more challenging paths from the top of the Sky Chair including Skyline Drive, which rolls across the top of the ridge with great views of Big Bear Lake. Or for a longer ride, there’s Skyline Drive to the Champion Lodgepole Pine to the loop back — 16 miles in all. Snow Summit also hosts many races from the top pro racers of the NORBA National Championship Series.

The area also is used for biking in warmer weather. With over 40 miles of trails, mountain bikers will find a variety of terrain suitable for any level of rider.

If you don’t want to bike down, visitors can just ride the ski lift to the top for the view or for hiking. Lift ticket prices vary with activity.

Other activities in and around the area include hiking any of the San Bernardino National Forest trails. Horseback riding is available on the open slopes of Baldwin Lake or the mountain trails. There’s also golfing and parasailing. Plus, there are numerous hotels, motels, Bed & Breakfasts, and campsites scattered throughout Big Bear Lake to meet all types of tastes.

Getting There
Big Bear Lake is located about two hours (100 miles) east of Los Angeles, and north of Interstate-10.

For more information on the area, contact:

Big Bear Lake Resort Association, 1-800-4-BIGBEAR, www.bigbearinfo.com

Discovery Center, 909-866-3437, www.bigbeardiscoverycenter.com

Snow Summit, 909-866-5766, www.snowsummit.com

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