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Although known as a popular Southern California ski resort, Big Bear Lake California is also a lot of fun to visit in summer. Nestled high in the San Bernardino National Forest, the Big Bear mountain town has a sparkling lake ideal for boating, fishing, and an array of water sports. From leisure to high energy activities, here are the best things to do in Big Bear in summer. In addition, Big Bear is very pet friendly, so feel free to bring the entire family.
No matter how many times we’ve visited Big Bear Lake, each trip is memorable. Summer is especially enjoyable with a range of activities to suit everyone’s interests.
Because we bring our dog, we opt for a pet-friendly lakeside vacation rental over a hotel. We usually book through Big Bear Vacations for both winter cabins and summer lakeside houses. But we also like the Black Forest Lodge for its proximity to the village.
Barring traffic, Big Bear is only about a two-hour drive from anywhere in Southern California. If possible, avoid driving up on a Friday afternoon. These are my family’s 8 favorite things to do in Big Bear Lake in summer.
Read More: Winter Fun at Big Bear Lake
Dive Into Big Bear Water Sports
Icy blue in winter and sparkling in summer, Big Bear Lake is lovely year-round. But in the warm summer months, we love getting on the water. At the top of our list of favorite lake activities is cruising on a canopy-covered pontoon that we rent from Holloway’s Marina. We pack snacks, bring our dog and skipper our own boat at our pace.
The lake is also where we tried jet-skiing for the first time at North Shore Landing. That was a blast! My daughter Megan took to it like a pro.
Big Bear also offers narrated boat tours, which are a good way to learn about local history dating to the 1845 gold rush. On 90-minute Miss Liberty paddlewheel boat tours, passengers cruise the lake in comfort. Departing from the Pine Knot Marina, Miss Liberty has a shaded upper deck, seating areas, and restrooms. The tour is a relaxing way for families to take a spin around the lake in comfort.
Active water sports include SUP (stand-up paddleboarding), kayaking, canoeing, and wake-boarding. In addition, there’s the Tarzan Boat, a floating, jungle-themed waterpark with platforms, trampolines, a slide and swing at Capt. John’s Fawn Harbor Marina.
Hike the Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. You can catch a portion of the trail in Big Bear. In fact, it’s one of our favorite hikes. At certain points you can see the shimmering blue lake through the trees.
Read More: How to Get Kids off the Couch and Hiking in the Woods
We also love the family-friendly, 1.5 loop Woodland Trail in Fawnskin on the North Shore. This interpretive trail meanders through pines, and has peek-a-boo lake views. Also situated on the North Shore is the paved Alpine Pedal Path that cruises alongside the lake. It’s conducive for walks, jogs, bikes and strollers.
In addition, Big Bear has more than 100 miles of hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking trails. In spring and summer, hiking trails bloom with colorful endemic wildflowers. Though Big Bear is home to black bears, bobcats and deer, you probably won’t see them. Unless you visit the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, a rehabilitation facility for injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Read these tips from a SheBuysTravel who fights wildfires before visiting California during wildfire season.
Tour Big Bear on a Segway
Action Tours offers several adventure tours to see Big Bear from different angles. Segways are a cool way to explore the town. Friendly guides share fun facts and point out landmarks, such as Big Bear’s first post office. The log house is where President Richard Nixon and his family stayed on vacation. Action tours also offers zip lining, fly boarding and tree rope climbing.
Family Fun at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain
The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain offers family fun year-round. Summer activities include user-operated bobsleds, a double water slide, an 18-hole miniature golf course, and go-karts. In fact, the bobsleds alone are reason to visit. A chairlift brings riders to the top of the hill. From there, each rider controls his or her own bobsled down tracks with banks and straightaways. Control your speed with the handbrake.
Ride the Scenic Chairlift & Bike Down
For amazing views of Big Bear Lake, ride the Scenic Chair Lift to the top of Snow Summit. Walk around, admire forest and lake views, and have lunch at the Skyline Taphouse (check hours in advance). You can ride the chair lift back down. Or hike or mountain bike to the bottom. Mountain bikers can rent bikes in Big Bear Lake Village. Although my kids did fine riding down, I was white-knuckling it. But I made it without any falls.
Fish in Big Bear Lake
Whether from shore or on a boat, Big Bear Lake is a great place for fishing.
And while rainbow trout are most common, you might catch bass, channel catfish and other species. Cantrell Guide Service offers fishing excursions for those who need a little help in catching the big one. In addition, Big Bear hosts fishing tournaments and derbies.
Read More: Best Beaches in Southern California
Visit the Big Bear Visitors Center
Located in the village, the Big Bear California Visitors Center is a one-stop shop for information about activities and events. You can buy an Adventure Pass, and lift tickets, and rent skis and bikes. In addition, a calendar events kiosk provides info about local festivals, concerts, and other happenings.
Note that while the Big Bear Discovery Center on the North Shore is closed for renovation, the visitors center fills in the gap with information about nature hikes and area history.
Take a Stroll Around Big Bear
After a day of summer activities on the water or on trails, we like to take a stroll through the village. It’s a casual gathering place with sitting areas, locally-owned shops and a good selection of restaurants. These include international cuisine as well as comfort food, and sweet shops. The North Pole Fudge & Ice Cream shop is among our favorites. The village is also a good place to find locally made crafts and unique gifts. They make perfect souvenirs of our Big Bear Lake family vacation.
Where to Stay at Big Bear Lake
Big Bear is one of the best camping spots in California. But there are plenty of other options too. Whether you’re passing through or looking to spend some time at Big Bear Lake, you can use this interactive map to find local hotels and available Airbnbs.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Big Bear in the summer? Tell us about it in the comments and we might add it to our list!
Camilla Hamilton says
Thanks so much for this article. It’s really helped me with my holiday research.
Christine Tibbetts says
Nice you balance all the active ideas with a “stroll” in the village! The Tarzan boat sounds like fun, and a new feature for anywhere. I haven’t seen one yet.
Thank you for all the detail. As a mom who has been busy working and trying to plan a last minute trip before the kids head to college and grade school it’s been EXTREMELY helpful! Thank you!