A three hour drive east from Los Angeles, in the middle of the San Bernardino National Forrest and nestled in the mountains, is the small city of Big Bear Lake, California. And between the breath-taking views, various hiking trails, local eateries, and seemingly endless options for cozy midcentury modern cabins to spend the night in—here’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Big Bear Lake.
So, we called in the cabin gurus: photographers Chris Daniele (@dirtandglass) and wife Pam (@heypamcakes) of thecabinpedia.com for some help. Planning to spend a few nights in California, or just want to vacation vicariously? Read on to get Chris and Pam’s quick guide for some off the beaten path fun in Big Bear Lake.
What're your favorite hiking spots?
Big Bear has plenty of hiking trails for all levels of experience. With the Pacific Crest Trail following the ridge just to the north, San Gorgonio Mountain (11,503 ft) peeking up from the south, and San Bernardino National Forest surrounding the town, there is a never ending supply of good hiking. If you’re visiting for a few days and want less of a commitment, these hikes are our top picks.
The Pebble Plains from the Rose Hill Drive Trailhead:
A short drive to Moonridge, tucked back away from the main route in a quiet neighborhood and trails through national forest. Covered in towering pines, blooming cacti (depending on the time of year), this trail system is the perfect spot to see the true beauty of the area. Used to educate locals and visitors about environmental stewardship, this hike is worth checking out.
Next door to the Knickerbocker Mansion is a small parking area with access to the town's local trails. On the steeper end of difficulty, it's a short trip up before you get your first view of the lake and it is gorgeous. A great short or long hike!
Favorite spots to eat?
You are greeted like an old friend in this killer spot that features poke bowls, jerk chicken, carnitas, and more. It feels like you’re stepping off the beach and possibly a different state altogether when you go to Local Tropicali. The decor is my personal dream lounge vibe — tiki bar meets hunting lodge. The drinks are super tasty and you will probably eat there twice.
Great spot for donuts, breakfast, and lunch. Vegan options!
Cute little roadside crêperie with options for vegans and gluten free. With classic French flavors and some wild but delicious choices for both sweet and savory.
The Copper Q:
A great spot for breakfast or lunch with absolutely amazing lattes! Vegan and gluten free goodies and snacks as well as hearty sandwiches and salads. Perfect place to grab some food after a long hike or morning on the slopes.
Favorite places to crash?
This is our favorite category because Big Bear is full of amazing places to stay! While there are plenty of hotels and roadside “cabin” rentals; the real bread and butter of Big Bear are the homes in the neighborhoods surrounding the town.
Big Bear Treehouse:
A mid century modern home on the edge of the national forest. Stunning floor to ceiling windows invite nature in.
Twin Pines Chalet:
A cute and stylish home a block away from national forest hikes.
The Black House:
Gorgeous home with a beautiful outdoor space. Very luxurious interior.
Stunning home with views of the ski slopes. Beautiful and warm interior for cozy winter nights.
Incredible mid century modern home. Funky interior that is fun and comfortable.
Whiskey Ridge Chalet:
Incredible a-frame in a quiet neighborhood close by to ski slopes.
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What's one thing you must-see or do while visiting?
The Miss Liberty Paddlewheel Tour Boat:
Part history lesson and part celebrity house tour, this hour and half cruise around the lake is the best way to see it all. The views are spectacular, and the narrators are hilarious. Grab some snacks and a bev or two and relax in the lake breeze.
What's one thing you should definitely pack?
Shorts for the winter and a jacket for the summer. The weather is so unpredictable!
What songs should you add to your playlist for this trip?
The drive up from LA is about three and half hours so a good playlist is key for the ride. We created a playlist for our first trip out to the West Coast and while there are some classic cheesy songs, we added a few that meant a little more to us.
Eagles of Death Metal album, Peace Love Death Metal, is killer driving tunes. Driving east on 18 towards the Lucerne Valley really ignites the desert vibes. (Song to set the mood - “San Berdoo Sunburn”)