I can tell summer is drawing to a close due to the fact that I just concluded my last summer trip. Visiting Big Bear is becoming an end-of-summer tradition for us just before school begins. We love that it’s close, only a few hours away, but allows us to escape the city.
Since this was our second time in Big Bear, we had some knowledge of the activities we enjoyed from last year, some new ones we wanted to try, and could easily navigate our way around town.
Big Bear is in the San Bernardino mountain range approximately 145 miles south east of the Los Angeles area. Most people traveling from the LA area take the southern route up the mountain. However, from our experience, the traffic traveling east through the Pasadena-Monrovia area can be a nightmare. Highway 18 is also incredibly windy on the southern side of the mountain. Its nickname is the “Rim of the World.” I don’t really mind windy highways, but this one takes the cake.
So this year, we decided to approach Big Bear from the northern route driving up and around coming in off highway 18 from the northern side. There’s less mountain driving from this direction and highway 18 isn’t quite as windy the entire way up. We added on a few extra miles taking this route, but in the end it was less stressful and took about the same amount of time.
Day 1: We arrive
Big Bear isn’t a very large town physically. Most of the restaurants and hotels/cabins are on the south side of the lake in the town of Big Bear Lake. It’s easy to get from one end to the other (and around the lake) using the main highway 18 (also known as Big Bear Blvd. through town) However, this year the road was under construction near the town making the drive through town a little slower than usual. We also arrived on a Sunday and the weekends in Big Bear are quite crowded. I was able to navigate around the construction using a side street (Fox Farm) that allowed me to circumvent much of the congestion.
We ate lunch at a local dive (Murray’s, which has awesome food and is reasonably priced), checked into our cabin and rode our bikes to a restaurant with a patio for a few drinks. Big Bear is fairly bike friendly, but the main road is very busy and a little stressful to ride. Again, using a free map that was available at our cabin, I was able to get us around using side streets with hardly any traffic on them.
That evening we enjoyed sitting on our deck star gazing and just enjoying the mountain air.
Day 2: Shore Fishing
Our plan was to rent a fishing boat and fish on Big Bear Lake. However, the day we went to rent the boat, it was a bit windy making the water choppy and it made me a little nervous. So, we decided to shore fish instead. The lake this year is quite low since we didn’t get that El Nino we were promised this past winter and it’s also warmer than usual. That means the trout are way at the bottom of the lake trying to find cooler water. We headed to the northern side of the lake near the dam where it’s deeper.
Fishing is a great way to practice patience. After two hours of casting and waiting and not catching anything, we decided to pack it in and go eat some lunch. We headed back to the cabin, cleaned up the sand from the shore, and rode our bikes into the village for some grub. The village has lots of restaurants to choose from. However, since this is more of a tourist area, the prices are a little higher.
That evening we made friends with some fellow cabin-mates and hung out until dark talking and drinking. People in mountain towns (towns folk and visitors) are always so friendly.
Day 3: Boating, Fishing, Bike Riding
We woke up to a bright, sunny day void of any wind. That made me feel a little more confident renting a fishing boat. We headed to Pine Knot harbor, which was pretty quiet. One of the employees walked us down the ramp to the dock to check out the boat. The first few fishing boats he tried to start wouldn’t start. (Side note: That should have been a big, red flag!) On the fourth boat, he got one of the engines to start and we headed out to the middle of the lake. We fished for half an hour, not catching anything, then decided to move to a new spot.
Whoops! The engine wouldn’t start, wouldn’t ya know. Casey tried multiple times to start the engine, but it just wasn’t happening. So, we decided to continue to fish and float for a while. We rented the boat for two hours, so we didn’t want to disrupt our fishing and boating experience by calling it in to lake patrol. Was I nervous? A little. But, this is the thing about a lake; eventually you’ll end up on the shore if there’s a breeze. We called lake patrol at the end of our two hours and they towed us back to the harbor. Why wouldn’t the boat start? Apparently the key-thingy wasn’t in all the way. We were going to ask for our money back, but Casey sort of felt like he should have known about the key.
We ate fish tacos (again, we didn’t catch anything fishing!) at a restaurant, and then headed back to the cabin to rest and cleanup. Later that day, we headed to the Alpine Bike path on the northern side of the lake. It’s a paved biking/walking path that’s a little over 3 miles long. The scenery is quite pretty with the lake and mountains surrounding the area. The only downside to the bike path is that there are some cracks every few feet making for a bumpy ride.
The day ended with a thunder shower and drinks on our deck. We were exhausted from our full day of activities and ready to head home the next morning.
I look forward to visiting Big Bear again next year and possibly throwing in a hike or two. They have a few hikes around the area that are popular. We also haven’t camped in Big Bear. Up to this point, we’ve rented cabins. However, as soon-to-be new homeowners, camping might be on the agenda to save a few bucks next time around.
Have you visited Big Bear Lake? Anything you’d add?