Why Big Bear?

What to do in this four-seasons getaway, a 2.5-hour drive north.

Quiet time on Big Bear Lake.
  • Quiet time on Big Bear Lake.

I've got a few days off and not a lot of cash... what can I do? I know – I'll go to Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains.

I've taken my family there for years now. This odd little mountain community has bright blue sky, tall pines, cedars and a gorgeous lake. It makes you feel like the city is a million miles away.

Slow drive down a dirt mountain road, Big Bear.

Slow drive down a dirt mountain road, Big Bear.

In the vicinity, just outside the town of Big Bear Lake, is a great wilderness area for adventure seekers. There are zip lines, wilderness camping and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Many of the back roads are even accessible by the average car, provided it doesn’t sit low to the ground. I know it can be done because we’ve take everything from a minivan filled with teens to a Subaru Outback with only the family on those roads. You just have to take it slow and use common sense.

What happens if you're not paying attention while driving on said road.

What happens if you're not paying attention while driving on said road.

Even then, accidents can still happen (left). How about a rock through the oil pan? Thank goodness it was a nice day and my seven-year-old daughter and I laughed and giggled the entire walk back into town to call a tow truck. Hey, it’s a memory.

Adventure isn’t for everyone; lots of people just take the guided tours, then visit the cute shops and restaurants. There’s a lot to see in town! Personally, I enjoy just getting away. It's the beauty of the lake, the simple day hikes in the summer and skiing in the winter that make me smile.

Years ago, hubby and I bought an old, nearly condemned house in Big Bear for a bargain price. (Yeah right.) Yes, it is our money pit and it’s just starting to look "kinda" ok after all these years. Probably would have been a lot cheaper to rent one of the many vacation homes or cabins each time we came – but no, we bought a little 400-square-foot house. The plan was to enjoy it, then sell it to pay for the kids college tuition.

Well that plan didn't work! My kids decided they would pay for college themselves so that we could keep the little house in the family.

The hike to Castle Rock is one of Big Bear's most popular trails.

The hike to Castle Rock is one of Big Bear's most popular trails.

Big Bear Lake is a great place to have fun, relax, test your outdoor skills and make memories.

Just last week, we left our house in San Diego right after work on a Friday and arrived a little after sunset. Saturday morning we were up bright and early while it was still cool. We ventured to the north side of the lake to walk and bike the six-mile round-trip path. Then, when the weather warmed up, we took the kayaks and canoe out on the lake for a couple hours.

The view from the center of the lake is awesome. Birds and fish abound, and in late spring sometimes there's still snow on the mountains. All this makes it a great paddle. Don't forget the camera; there are so many pictures to take.

(The little voice in my head is telling me to remind you about getting a little float device for the camera. Last thing you want to do is hear PLUNK! Then see your son dive in for the camera that you dropped. Amazingly he got the camera. It never worked again, but the memory card was fine.) Once again... ahh, the memories.

The Village.

The Village.

The trick in Big Bear is to not get too tired the first day. You see, us sea-level people tend to tucker out pretty easy, since this mountain resort is at the 7,000-foot level. Save some energy – after a full day of hiking, biking and kayaking, it's time to go into town.

There are souvenir shops, ice cream and fudge shops, restaurants, music and a movie theater. With its awesome air conditioning, the theater's a real treat when I'm tired and sunburned.

A destination for all seasons.

A destination for all seasons.

This summer, “the Village,” as they call it, is under renovation, but all the shops are open. By winter the Village will have beautiful new walking paths, along with heated seating and fire pits for those cold snowy nights. That means the day-after-Thanksgiving holiday parade and festivities should be better than ever.

I just love the parade – all the entertainment and hot chocolate. A great way to start the holidays.

One of the best things about Big Bear Lake is that everything you need they have right there: from bikes to zip lines in the summer, inner tubes to skis in the winter. Just bring yourself.

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Great story! My son 's very first time in snow was at Big Bear. It is a fun place to go at any season. The only thing you might need to have is a good, reliable car that can make the trip up and down the mountain.

For $9 a day you can sometimes get a Fiat rental at Enterprise in Kearny Mesa. Cruise up the hill in Luigi!

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