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It’s such a joy to be writing this post about our fall getaway in Big Bear Lake, California! For my birthday and our last trip before our daughter’s birth, Andrew promised to take me on a weekend getaway where I could run through leaves, wear a scarf and my fall boots. (Side note: We live in the desert, so these are not things we can do at home.) Andrew’s instructions the night before leaving were to “pack for fall,” and off we went. Little did I know I would absolutely love the destination!
Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake, California is a beautiful destination if you seek outdoor adventure. With hundreds of miles of trails, 22 miles of lake shoreline and over 1,000 acres of skiable area, you’re sure to find an adventure you enjoy. Skiing, snowboarding, fishing, mountain biking, hiking… There’s something for everyone. And if you don’t like being outside and are just along for the ride, you’re lucky because there are plenty of breweries in town.
If you LOVE fall, you will LOVE Big Bear.
When to Visit Big Bear
If you’re a snowboarder or skiier, the obvious time to visit Big Bear Lake is in the winter. However, if you love hiking, fishing or mountain biking, visit during the off-season. It will be less busy, and your accommodations will likely be cheaper! We visited Big Bear Lake in the fall which was a perfect time for us to admire the fall foliage that doesn’t exist where we live in the desert.
How To Get There
Located high in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California, prepare to take your motion sickness medication if you’re driving inland from LA or Orange County. You’re going to need it driving the curves on Hwy 330 (although the views are worth the nausea). If you are traveling in the winter, check out some suggestions on some faster (and probably safer) routes.
Where to Stay
Like any mountainous village, there are a fair share of cabins and lodges to rent for a small or large group. Check out Big Bear Cool Cabins for some pet-friendly options. There are also your typical chain hotels there as well, such as the Best Western Big Bear Chateau.
We stayed in an Airbnb that backed up to the San Bernardino Forest which was perfect since we brought our canine companion with us. We were able to let him play and walk along the trails each morning and night. (Travel tip: When looking at Airbnb’s or lodges, check out their proximity to trails.)
Where to Eat
Grizzly Manor Cafe
As a huge foodie, I do my research as to where I *need* to eat in a new place. My research led us to the Grizzly Manor Cafe. The restaurant is small, but the portions are huge! As a breakfast fan, the pancakes do not disappoint. Beware– you’ll have to wait. We waited about an hour and a half after joining the waitlist on Yelp, and honestly, it was worth the wait. If you have a long day of outdoor activities planned, we highly suggest you load up on the “Blob (two biscuits and gravy topped with cheese, hash browns, bacon and two eggs).” Also, get a pancake! It will be larger than the plate.
Teddy Bear Restaurant
Although we wanted to visit Grizzly Bear Manor the second day for breakfast, we took one look at that line and decided on another highly rated breakfast spot. Teddy Bear Restaurant is a larger casual restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, located right in the heart of Big Bear Lake Village. Warning: you’ll still have to wait for breakfast seating. If you have a large group, you’ll want to check out Teddy Bear before Grizzly Bear Manor as well.
Moonridge Coffee Company
Because I am a lover of cozy coffee shops, we stopped by Moonridge Coffee Company which happened to be right down the street from our Airbnb. Filled with locals and visitors, this coffee shop had the usual (and seasonal!) drinks, plus a few pastries. Andrew and I sipped our drinks and played checkers in the loft upstairs, while some really talented folks played the piano. After all of the activities we packed into the weekend, Moonridge was a perfect place to take a few moments and relax.
Located in the village of Big Bear, Himalayan Restaurant serves (you guessed it) Himalayan and Indian food. Others had actually recommended Himalayan Restaurant to us, and it was absolutely delicious. Where we live, there aren’t any Indian options, so when we’re out of town, we take full advantage. At Himalayan Restaurant, we ate the classics: naan bread, chicken tikka masala and tandoori chicken. Although we weren’t very adventurous with our choices, we didn’t regret them at all. I highly suggest making this a stop for lunch or dinner, especially while visiting Big Bear Lake Village.
What to Do:
Alpine Pedal Path
Alpine Pedal Path is a paved 5.4 mile flat and easy trail located on Big Bear Lake. This trail is great for walkers, runners, bikers and families with benches placed every so often. Dogs are allowed on-leash. This was our favorite activity in Big Bear because of the changing fall leaves and beautiful mountain views.
While visiting Big Bear Lake, we noticed a “more than normal” amount of ducks on the water. Take a stop at the Carol Morrison East Public Launch Ramp, and you should be able to see them! You can also get a pretty beautiful photo of your family with the mountains in the background.
You should easily be able to find the Alpine Pedal Path through your GPS. Park on Stanfield Cutoff near North Shore Elementary School, and you’ll be right there.
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
Because I was 36 weeks pregnant at the time, I was unable to ride the Alpine Slide (I‘ll be back!), but my husband channeled Disney’s Cool Runnings and absolutely loved this “bobsled experience.”
In his words: “You ride up the mountain on a chairlift. The higher and higher you go, the better the views get of the surrounding area, to include Big Bear Lake.
Once you get up to the top of the slide, they are two lines, one for each lane. Grab a cart and wait in line, soaking in the impressive views. Once it’s your turn to go, you’ll sit in your cart, get instructions from the employee, and you’re off! You control your speed the entire duration of the ride. Therefore, you can go as fast, or as slow as you’d like. I probably went a little faster than I should’ve, being an expectant Dad at the time, but it was thrilling. If time permits, ride it more than once.”
The Alpine Slide (open all seasons) is $7.00/ride or $30.00/5 rides. Riders must be a minimum of 36″ tall. Children 36″ – 48″ must ride with an adult 18 years or older.
In addition to the Alpine Slide, there are go-karts, an 18 hole miniature golf course and a cable attraction called the Soaring Eagle which lifts and catapults you 28 MPH. I imagine the views are incredible! In the summer, there is also a double water slide that dumps you into a heated pool. If you visit in winter, you can also take advantage of the large hill for tubing.
Boulder Bay Park
Boulder Bay Park is a picturesque place to visit for a picnic or to read a book (with a coffee from Moonridge Coffee Company). It’s also the perfect stop to take some beautiful photos. Andrew was able to throw the drone up and get some shots. Dogs are allowed on-leash. Visitors are welcome to canoe, kayak and fish off the dock (Note: You’ll need a license to fish. Get one here.)
Explore Big Bear Lake Village
With over 120 local vendors, Big Bear Lake Village offers dining, shopping and entertainment. This is such a picturesque town for a little village in the mountains. As you walk through the town, you might even find some locals playing street music. There’s upscale dining, casual dining, breweries and wine bars. There are also charming local shops and boutiques. Our favorite was Camp Crib which had the cutest baby clothing and accessories.
The village is also known for its Halloween and Christmas events. We were there so close to Halloween and wish we’d been there for the actual event! Parking for the village was no problem during the fall, as there is free parking in lots and along the side streets of the village.
Big Bear Lake may be known for its slopes and snow, but the region has so much to offer in its off season. For my fall-loving friends, Big Bear is a beautiful destination in the fall, especially if you’re wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of its neighboring cities. With hundreds of miles of trails, fishing and hiking, there is so much to do outside of the winter season. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you’ll do anything to drink some cider and hop in a pile of leaves. A fall getaway in Big Bear, California has you covered.
If you’re interested in more weekend getaways in California, check out The Best Things To Do in San Luis Obispo!
Book For The Trip
Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover, is an account of her struggles to overcome her Mormon survivalist family and attend college. This memoir has been named #1 on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe Bestseller lists.