California’s Big Bear Lake is THE Place for Winter Fun

Judy Antell Avatar
Chair lift view at Big Bear
Photo credit: Big Bear Mountain Resort

Did you know that you can go skiing in Southern California? The land of beaches, convertibles and short shorts is also home to Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest. Trade palm trees for evergreens. There are two family-friendly ski resorts with all the winter activities you expect in a mountain town. Other fun things to do include horseback riding, bobsled and helicopter rides, a zipline tour and an authentic German Oktoberfest. Read about a surprising twist on a Southern California getaway and check out all the fun things to do in Big Bear in winter.

Learning to ski at Big Bear
Kids learn to ski in at Big Bear Mountain Resort. Photo credit: Big Bear Mountain Resort

Big Bear Mountain Resort

Big Bear Mountain Resort, with its terrain parks and beginner ski slopes, has plenty to offer for first time skiers and experienced snowboarders. The ski resort has the only halfpipes in Southern California and the biggest first time skier area.

Big Bear Mountain Resort has an Adventure Academy offering one-stop shopping for rentals, lift tickets, ski or snowboard lessons. Kids as young as five can take group lessons.

Big Bear Snow Play has snow tubing, with a magic carpet back to the top so you don’t have to trudge uphill to ride again. You can even go snow tubing after a day on the slopes. Glow tubing has red, blue, green and black light snow tubing sessions Fridays, Saturdays and holidays.

Year round, Big Bear Snow Play has a two-story ropes course. The 2-level ropes course, 12 to 35 feet in the air, uses state-of-the-art safety harnesses to provide thrill seekers with a safe aerial adventure. You balance on ropes, cross bridges and climb through obstacles.

Snow Summit Ski Resort

Snow Summit Ski Resort, a sister ski resort to Big Bear Mountain Resort, concentrates more on traditional ski and snowboard trails, though there is also a small terrain park here.

Snow Summit highlights:

  • Snow Summit also has over 60 miles of cross-country trails. Those cross-country trails are used for mountain biking in summer.
  • Grizzly Ridge Tube Park has a magic carpet to take you back up the giant tubing hill.
  • Elevated lunch: Snow Summit’s Skyline Taphouse, at the top of Chair 1, offers lunch dining at over 8,000 feet
snow tubing in Big Bear
Snow tubing at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain Recreation Area. Photo credit: Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain

Magic Mountain Recreation Area

The Alpine Slide has a year round bobsled ride. You ride the scenic chairlift and then zip down the mountain on a bobsled. You can control how fast (or slow) you go.

Other activities at Magic Mountain:

  • The 80-foot zipline operates year round. The Soaring Eagle zipline has side-by-side bucket-style seats hanging below the zipline, offering lake and treetop views.
  • Go-karts are open all year. You have to be at least 18 years old to drive a go-kart, but you can take a younger passenger in the double seater go-karts.

SheBuysTravel Tip: For the Alpine Slide and Go-Karts, riders must be at least three feet tall. The minimum height for the Zipine is 42″ tall.


Big Bear Lake’s National Forest trails has snowshoeing trails. You can find snowshoe rentals in Big Bear Village.

Big Bear Discovery Center

The Big Bear Discovery Center offers guided snowshoeing tours and other outdoor activities.

View from Helicopter Big Bear
See the snow from the sky with Helicopter Big Bear. Photo credit: Helicopter Big Bear

Helicopter Big Bear

See the Big Bear Valley winter wonderland from above with Helicopter Big Bear.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Helicopter Big Bear has small helicopters that can only take up to three passengers per ride. But there are flights as short as seven minutes, so a large family or group can split up.

Horseback Riding in Big Bear
Go horseback riding through the snow at Baldwin Lake Stables. Photo credit: Baldwin Lake Stables

Baldwin Lake Stables

You can go horseback riding year round at Baldwin Lake Stables. There is also a petting zoo with goats, pigs, rabbits and alpacas. For little children there are pony rides.

Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a rehabilitation facility that rescues injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals, with the goal of releasing them into the wild. Animals that cannot survive on their own stay permanently. You can visit the healing animals year round.

Big Bear Off Road Experience

Take a Jeep Off Road ride any time of year. There is a two-hour family friendly Holcomb Valley Mining Tour.

SheBuysTravel Tip: I did a Jeep Off Road drive in Michigan and felt really badass. If you want to be increase your supermom cred, take the wheel.

Explore Big Bear Village

Any time of year, you can do a scavenger hunt around Big Bear Lake and Big Bear Village. On the two-hour tour, you use your smartphone to see the sights and hunt for clues.

Getting to Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake is just 110 miles, or about two hours, from Los Angeles (warning: the drive can actually take up to four hours if you are unlucky). From San Diego, you can make the drive in under three hours. Big Bear Valley is also 80 miles from Palm Springs, which means you can be in the desert and atop the San Bernardino Mountains in the same day.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Make sure the car you drive has a snow shovel. Rental cars in Los Angeles rarely come with these, or with ice scrapers, both of which you could need in snowy conditions

Free Trolley

If you’ve endured an epic traffic jam going to Big Bear Lake, you can park the car and get around for free. Big Bear Trolley provides year round rides around the area, including to the ski resorts, Boulder Bay, The Village and supermarkets. If you fly your private plane into Big Bear, you can even get to and from the airport for free. Though really, if you have a private plane, you can probably afford the Uber.

In winter, there are dedicated trolleys between Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, and from distant parking lots to the resorts.

Summer at Big Bear Lake

You can visit Big Bear any time of year and find fun things to do. In summer, Big Bear Lake has tons of outdoor activities include hiking trails, mountain biking, a golf course and boating.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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