"Quick Alpine Escape from San Diego" Top 5 Page for this destination Big Bear Lake by surferob

Big Bear Lake Travel Guide: 79 reviews and 199 photos

We're so blessed here in Southern California. Within a few hours of my house I have the following options for amusing myself on any given day (this is of course assuming the surf is no good): touring the city of San Diego, heading east into our local mountains for a hike, further east into the Anza-Borrego Desert, down south into Mexico, up north for a tour of Los Angeles, further north for the Central California Coast, or northeast into the San Bernadino mountain range, with its alpine lakes and ski slopes. Not many places in the world have such diversity, I'm sure of it.

The other day my two friends and I decided on a whim to head up to Big Bear. It was a nice sunny January day here at the beach and we all had the day off, so getting out of town just felt like the thing to do. A quick check of the weather channel website told us bringing warm clothes would be a good idea, so we brought the works - heavy coat, boots, scarves, gloves and hats. It felt odd to throw all this winter gear into the trunk of the car while standing in the driveway in a pair of surf trunks and a t-shirt, yet at the same time it made sense in a way.

Sure enough, a little less than three hours later we we at the top of the mountain, making our way into the village of Big Bear Lake watching snow flurries waft through the air and kiss the windshield of the car, giddy with excitement.

We checked into our hotel on the lake just as it was getting dark. After switching to the winter wardrobe we headed out the door towards town, which was just two blocks away. It was pretty quiet up there so we just walked the streets and checked things out. Before long we needed a little warm up, so we popped into a little restaurant for a round of hot chocolate. We sat there a while amidst the locals who nearly filled the place, sipping our hot chocolate and playing cards. Then back out the door we went to take in the rest of the town and the lakefront. We even managed to sneak onto a makeshift sled run for a little late night slide down the slopes, although our attempts at sliding were more comic than successful. After an hour or so we found a little restaurant called Teddy's, a town mainstay for over 50 years, for a nice homestyle dinner. And then, to finish off the evening it was across the street to a pub called "The Pub". No, I'm not making that up. There we were greeted by a cast of local characters which I won't even try to describe here, but suffice it to say it wasn't a dull evening. While we staked out a place in the fireside lounge, sipping our beers, we noticed more snow falling outside, lit by the streetlights. Too cool, once again, for us "flatlanders". After a time, we walked back to the motel through the falling snow, where we built a little fire of our own with our $6 bundle of firewood, watched some tv and fell asleep.

The next morning, we awoke to a true winter wonderland. During the night a good six inches of snow fell, surprising everyone, visitors and locals alike. I hadn't been in snow this deep since leaving Krakow exactly two years ago. I was glad I wore my winter boots, they made stomping through the fields of white simple and painless. We went out for coffee, and then soon as that was gone, began a fantastic snowball fight. It was such a blast! I can't imagine anything bringing you back to your childhood so easily and quickly - nevermind whether you grew up with snow or not, that's not the point. It was just too fun.

So after a return trip to Teddy's for breakfast, followed by Round II of the snowball fight, it was time to head back down the mountain and home. My friends both had to be at work at 4 pm, so we had to leave by noon to start the 3-hour drive back. After an unexpected delay which involved us nearly sliding off the icy road to our deaths, followed by another delay of stopping to buy and install life-saving tire chains (a comic event of its own), we finally managed to get under way. The rest of the drive was, thank God, uneventful.

All in all, a great, spontaneous little getaway.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Unspoiled nature, good skiing
  • Cons:Icy roads pose a danger to idiot out-of-towners!
  • In a nutshell:Is this really Southern California??
  • Last visit to Big Bear Lake: Jan 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (9)

Comments (6)

  • gregoryr1m's Profile Photo
    Nov 28, 2004 at 12:30 PM

    Excellent snow pictures.

  • aussiedoug's Profile Photo
    Sep 4, 2004 at 6:34 PM

    Sounds like my sort of liefstyle, a surf in the morning & a ski/board in the arvo. See my wife has already told you about the guy we ran into who did just that. Drop by & check my Falls Creek page for Oz skiing, but a long way from the surf. lol!

  • littlesam1's Profile Photo
    Jul 28, 2004 at 8:37 AM

    Fantastic snow photo's. Interesting page.

  • truus_s's Profile Photo
    Jan 25, 2004 at 9:43 AM

    Wow super page!!and snow great!!

  • surferob's Profile Photo
    Jan 23, 2004 at 3:13 PM

    Saw lots of fire damage on the drive up, but Big Bear itself seemed unscathed, so far as I could see.

  • GeminiKerry's Profile Photo
    Jan 23, 2004 at 3:11 PM

    Gr8 photos Rob! We talked to a guy who said he & his son could surf in the morning &ski in the afternoon or vice versa, if they wanted to. Think they skiied Big Bear.


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