Often only thought of as Southern California’s place to play in the snow, there are a ton of great things to do in Big Bear throughout the year. As the heat of the summer sets in, Big Bear is the perfect escape. Nestled high in the mountains on the banks of a lake, Big Bear offers cooler temperatures during summer. From water activities to exploring the beautiful scenery, Big Bear is an outdoor lovers dream. I recently had the opportunity to visit Big Bear to learn more about the summer offerings, and I have to say that I was pretty excited with everything there is to do, especially for families. It really is the perfect family vacation destination.
Located less than two hours from Los Angeles, Big Bear offers a multitude of outdoor activities, water sports, mountain biking and more for the perfect summer vacation.
10 Amazing Things to Do in Big Bear in Summer
Big Bear Discovery Center
The Big Bear Discovery Center is the perfect afternoon retreat for families looking to learn more about the local area. With indoor and outdoor exhibits, families will enjoy checking out the stuffed animal exhibits inside as well as the hands on play area outside in the Nature Discovery Zone. The new outdoor adventure space is designed for children 2-7 years old and their families to explore and reconnect to nature. The Discovery Center is also where you can purchase your Adventure Passes allowing easy parking access throughout the mountains. Pick up trail guides and chat with volunteer docents about the area’s local plants and animals before heading out.
Captain John’s Boat Tour
One of the best ways to enjoy Big Bear during the summer season is to get out on the water. There are a variety of activities available for active families, but one of the best ways to passively take in the surroundings is through a boat tour. Captain John is a legend in Big Bear. He is one of those people that you can sit and listen to for hours. He has been conducting tours of the lake since the lat 1970s, witnessing famous people come and go through the different homes surrounding the lake. And he has all the gossip ready to share! Tours are about an hour and a half, costing only $20 per person. Tours leave most days at 12 pm, 2 pm, and 4 pm. Call ahead ((909) 366-5109) to make sure a boat will be heading out. This is a great way to get acquainted with the lake, the different areas surrounding it as well as the history of the people and animals who call Big Bear home. If you like live music, ask him where he is playing that night. He’s a pretty amazing ukulele player!
Hiking is One of the Best Big Bear Summer Activities
There are a lot of great family friendly hikes in the Big Bear mountains, but one of our favorites is Castle Rock Hike. The 2 mile trail offers incredible views of Big Bear Lake from the top, as well as plenty of opportunities for the littles to practice their rock scrambling skills! The climb isn’t for the faint of heart though as some of the trail is very steep. The steep section so very short though, so don’t worry! The western side of the trail at the top offers the least challenging way in getting all the way to the top. This is a beautiful hike, only minutes off of Hwy 18, making it super accessible.
If you need something a bit more mellow, head for the Woodland Trail, which is an easy 1.5 mile stroll.
Another great path for visitors is the Alpine Pedal Path, which is an asphalt path that goes along the north shore of Big Bear Lake. It’s accessible for hikers, skaters, joggers and even strollers! Park at Juniper Point or Meadows Edge.
Big Bear Alpine Zoo
Another great family friendly activity in Big Bear is the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. I had heard of this zoo on my previous visits but wasn’t sure it was worth the time to devote to it. Now I know, that it definitely is! We had such a great time exploring the small zoo that is filled with rescued animals. Primarily, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo operates as a rehabilitation facility for injured or orphaned wild animals. More than 90% of the animals they treat are returned to the wild, with those who are unable to survive on their own staying permanently at the zoo. It’s a fantastic experience for all ages.
Where else do you get the opportunity to see real mountain lions, snow leopards or wolves up close? We wholeheartedly recommend taking the time to visit. Adults and the kids will love it, I promise!
Kayak at Boulder Bay Park
Boulder Bay Park in Big Bear Lake is a great park with lots of attractions a huge dock for fishing or gazing and the view is spectacular. This is also a great place to get out the kayak or canoe to check out the various islands made entirely of boulders. In the winter the Park is a popular place for snow play.
Scenic Sky Chair at Snow Summit
I’m a total chicken when it comes to heights, but the ride up the scenic chair lift at Snow Summit was worth the butterflies going crazy in my stomach! During the summer, the chair lift takes visitors up to the top of the mountain through peaceful sounds and smells of the forest. It was our real life version of California Adventure’s Soarin Over California ride!
The ride up takes about 10 minutes, which is perfect for families with small kids. There is a restaurant at the top where you can grab lunch or a drink while soaking up the view. You can potter around at the top for a while or check out the Mountain Top Trail Loop. You can then take the chair lift back down or hike down on one of the trails. I prefer walking down as you really get the chance to take in all of the beauty of the lake and town below. A few of the ski resorts in town offer great summer activities on the mountains worth exploring.
Camping in Big Bear in Summer is Amazing
Summer camping is often hard to find in Southern California, but due to the altitude, Big Bear offers great camping from April to September. There are a multitude of sites like Hanna Flats and Serrano Campground. For more on camping in and near Big Bear, check out our post on all the best camping in southern California.
If camping isn’t your thing, there are a ton of adorable vacation rentals scattered throughout the mountain offering the opportunity for a nature escape but with the creature comforts of home.
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
We haven’t been yet, but have heard great things about Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain for an exhilarating ride down the side of the hill. This looks like it would be amazing for kids and adults looking to be kids for a few minutes! If you go, let us know how it is!
Big Bear Funplex
If you are looking for some indoor fun, check out Big Bear Funplex for bowling, miniature golf and laser tag. This is perfect for a rare rainy day or during the middle of the day when it’s too hot out to be hiking around.
Get an Adrenaline Rush in Big Bear Valley
There are a variety of great activities from horseback riding to zip lines for a vacation in Big Bear. For those of you looking for a serious adrenaline rush, zip lining is calling you. In Big Bear the place to check out for ziplines and adventure is Action Tours. They offer zipline tours, tree rope climbs and so much more.
For those of you wishing for a quieter way to explore the mountains, Baldwin Lake Stables offers wonderful horseback riding tours throughout the area that are great for the whole family.
Regardless of what you end up doing, a holiday in Big Bear will leave your family rejuvenated, relaxed and most importantly cooled down in the hot summer months!
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