Big Bear, California: a reprieve from the hot summer weather in the surrounding desert and a quick day trip for LA dwellers to get some runs in at the mountain. At 7,000 feet above sea level, it's climate and change of scenery from other parts of SoCal make it a perfect destination.
And boy do the tourists flood in. Big Bear sees millions of tourists every year as every season has it's own attractions, from skiing and snowboarding in the winter to boating and biking in the summer. For someone who is not into crowds, that notion is incredibly overwhelming. So why did we have the town almost completely to ourselves in beautiful 70 degree weather? Off-season baby!
The off-seaso in Big Bear is in the spring from April to June and in the fall in September and October. It’s the best time to visit Big Bear Lake in my opinion, and here’s why.
What we did
There’s no lack of things to do in the off-season in Big Bear. With beautiful crisp 70 degree weather, it was the perfect temperature to hike. The go-to hike around Big Bear (and for good reason) is Castle Rock, just a short drive from Big Bear Frontier. It’s a 2.5 mile out and back hike with a 900 foot elevation gain. The hike features cool rock formations and the best vantage point in Big Bear.
Check out awesome rock formations like this on the hike up to Castle Rock. You see us up there?
A must-see and must visit park in Big Bear is Boulder Bay Park. And while in the summer you can swim, in the off-season you can picnic in peace and quite. We brought our lunch one day and had a picnic with beautiful views while our son scooted around the park.
Me and Jamie: "Smile!"
Zay: *shoots laser beams*
Another place to check out, especially with kids, is the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. I should preface this by telling you that I hate zoos. Walking around seeing animals kept in captivity against their will is not my idea of fun. So why am I recommending this one? Well, they should take the word “zoo” out and replace it with “rehabiliatation center”. Big Bear Alpine Zoo gives injured and imprinted wild animals a place to live. Ninety percent of the animals brought to the facility are released back into their native environment after they have been nurtured and rehabilitated, and the ones on display are there permanently as they are unable to survive on their own or have been imprinted by humans.
The facility they are in now is quite small (and a little sad in my opinion), but they are currently building a new facility that will give the animals larger spaces to live, better health and welfare facilities, and improve their rehabilitation and release capabilities. I think it will also be a game changer for visitor experience as well, so definitely check it out.
Where we stayed
When we arrived at Big Bear, it felt like we stepped back in time. We were greeted by the friendly staff at Big Bear Frontier where they told us about our cabin, amenities, and showed us the wide array of VHS videos that we could borrow since our rooms were equipped with a VCR. The nostalgia instantly set in. I don’t want to admit how many old school Disney movies we watched in the few days we stayed, but let’s just say our son is up-to-speed on all our favorite childhood movies.
Our cabin was right on the lake. Every morning and every sunset we walked out on the dock and fished. Did we catch anything? No. But there’s nothing quite like hanging out on the dock with your family, hearing the fish jump out of the water and the ducks quack by. Zay loved it. It was also convenient that a tackle shop[ was right next door where we could buy bait and a fishing license.
Fishing off the dock right out our back door at Big Bear Frontier
Big Bear Frontier was also a short walk from Big Bear Lake Village, a cute area with cool boutiques, candy and ice cream shops, and restaurants. Picture a cute mountain town’s downtown and that’s Big Bear Village with no disappointments.In the evenings, we would take a walk from our cabin and roam the streets, stop in for an ice cream and people watch all the Pacific Crest Trail through hikers that were coming through the town.
Another perk of staying at Big Bear Frontier was that it had a heated pool. For our 3 year old, this was a big win. Since he kept begging to swim in the lake, and since that lake was freezing cold, we were grateful to have the option to swim in the pool. Heated to a nice 90 degrees and surrounded by towering pine trees, it was a great way to spend some time and burn some toddler energy.
Why you should go in the off-season
I get it. I’m from a touristy mountain town that reminds me a lot of Big Bear—just with some New England flare. We always complained about the tourists even though the locals’ livelihood depended on it. In the off-season though, we were happy to see the stragglers and appreciated their business. With Big Bear, I imagine it's very similar, and you see that with customer service at restaurants and around The Village.
So why visit Big Bear in the off-season? It’s pretty simple: perfect weather, no crowds, cheaper rates. What’s not to love? There’s no lack of things to do either: from visiting the zoo with no crowds to hiking in cool crisp air,. If you’re looking for a peaceful, beautiful chill getaway, Big Bear is your place.