We frequent the beach and mountains, but one major outdoor nature category has been missing in our lives… lakes! We loved staying by the lakes during our 2017 Olympic National Park trip, but hadn’t had a chance to explore the lakes in Southern California until recently. When an AirBnB that I’ve been saving on my “wanderlust wishlist” happened to be available at the end of the summer, I took the opportunity to plan a trip to Big Bear Lake.
Big Bear Lake is in the San Bernardino Mountains, about two hours from our home in Orange County. We’ve been there a few times during the winter to sled and ski, but this was our first time visiting Big Bear Lake in the summer. We headed there on a Thursday night after work, and stayed until Sunday morning. We enjoyed relaxing at our super cute cabin rental, hiking through the surrounding forest, and kayaking and fishing on the lake. I brought my parents along on this trip, so the following activities are fun for all ages and generations!
Where we stayed: The Big Bear Treehouse
My ideal vacation combines nature and design, outdoor activity and relaxation. Whenever possible, I try to book a vacation rental over a hotel room, since they tend to have a lot more space and amenities which come in handy when traveling with young kids. I love to cook when vacationing with my family, and it’s much easier to do when you have a kitchen! For this trip to Big Bear Lake, I booked us an AirBnB that was so thoughtfully and creatively designed that hanging out at the house was just as fun as exploring the outdoors! We enjoyed slow mornings, and all our meals al fresco on the expansive back deck surrounded by the forest.
There are many good hikes in the San Bernardino Mountains, but one of the perks of staying at the Big Bear Treehouse is that you can access the National forest and hiking trails from the backyard! We followed the signs to the “Lookout point”, and while I’m not entirely sure we actually made it to that point (we stopped at the top of a hill a little over a mile in), we enjoyed the fresh air and being outdoors together.
There are many other hikes we hope to do the next time we return. One that I’ve bookmarked is the Castle Rock Trail which is described as a moderate 2.6 mile out and back trail, with about 800 feet of elevation gain. Trailhead: 38420-38438 Big Bear Blvd, Fawnskin, CA 92333.
Kayaking: Get Boards
We knew we wanted to spend time on the lake, so I looked up kayak rentals in Big Bear and we decided to rent from Get Boards. Initially, the grandparents were planning to sit out kayaking. But when we learned that our boys are small enough to sit in the middle with two adults on each end of the tandem kayaks, grandma and grandpa jumped in and joined the fun! We paddled around the lake for about two hours which was perfect for Alex (6), and a little on the long side for Brian (4).
Trout Fishing: Big Bear Charter Fishing
This trout fishing trip was the highlight of our Big Bear vacation! When I was little, my parents used to take my brother and me fishing in New England. Unfortunately, after my brother accidentally hooked a friend while casting his line leading to a visit to the ER (don’t worry – the hook came out easily and everyone was fine) – our fishing trips came to an end. My brother now lives in Arizona and has a boat, so last year – after 30 or so years- we went fishing as a family again. My boys have been begging to go again ever since.
After reading a bunch of stellar reviews, I decided to book a trip with Big Bear Charting Fishing. I had read that sunrise and sunset tend to be the most active time for fishing, and I didn’t want to wrangle my sleepy boys out of bed at 5:30am, so we booked the evening session from 4:30-7:30pm. We met our guide Adam at Holloways Marina, and proceeded to enjoy a relaxing evening on the boat. The company provides everything necessary for the fishing trip, including fishing rods, bait, beverages, snacks, etc. Adam drove us to the part of lake where he explained we could find the most trout this time of year, since the water level was deeper there. He set up the poles, and we started trolling for trout. Adam helped us figure out when there was a fish on line – to us novices, every time the wind blew we thought it might be a bite. He also coached us to successfully reel in the trout (slow and steady). As the sun started to set, we started getting plenty of bites, and ended up catching a total of 8 trout! Adam cleaned and gutted the fish, which we brought home, and grilled and baked for dinner.
There are plenty of supermarkets in Big Bear Lake, and we found it very convenient to prepare and cook our meals at home. We’ve also cooked most of our meals when visiting in the winter for skiing. However, if you do want to eat out, we recommend the Grizzly Manor Cafe. It is considered by many to the best breakfast place in town, serving huge portions of classics including pancakes, bacon, hash browns, and grits. We ate there once before, and enjoyed it. There is often a wait because it’s small and very popular, but I just read that you can do a yelp check-in to save some time.
We hope you enjoyed this trip report for Big Bear Lake, California! This post is not sponsored. All of the opinions and recommendations are my own. I’ve embedded some links in the post to help with your planning. If you are new to AirBnB, here is a referral link for a discount off your first booking.