Family Trip to Big Bear, CA – Active & Relaxing Weekend for Ages 5-75!


Sometimes it takes awhile to visit those destinations that are closest to home (and for reference I mean within a two to four hour drive). Being in California, we’ve tackled a few of them including Mammoth, Temecula, Palm Springs, LA, Santa Barbara, San Diego and a few jaunts up and down the PCH. This August we added Big Bear Lake to that list.

As with all my travels, I usually ask friends, browse Pinterest and consult travel books to formulate my plan. I also steer clear of many lists that include “child-friendly” activities as I often find them watered down… no I don’t want to go to a children’s museum on my weekend away and yes, my children can handle and should learn to hike. Once I’ve checked out my go-to sources I create a list of “must do’s,” “nice to do’s” and potential places to eat, as well as a rough schedule of when everything could happen. When traveling with a group it’s best to manage expectations and expect to get nothing crossed off your list or have additional activities handy in case you tear through town. But I guess I saved you the trouble this time 🙂

If you plan to leave on a Friday during the summer (and you’re driving from LA), be sure to leave before 12 or 1pm. We left a few minutes after 1pm and it took us nearly 4 HOURS to get there! Really wished we had that extra evening to enjoy the town and nature… and we didn’t love sitting in traffic either.

If you do get stuck in traffic and you have kids under the age of 10 – here are some fun car games we played: name every state and its’ capital, name a country for every letter of the alphabet, name a Disney character for every letter of the alphabet, name a sport for every letter of the alphabet – you get the idea!

What to PACK

I try not to go crazy, but I do make sure every member of the family has:

  • a bathing suit
  • long pants and long sleeves
  • something to read
  • a lovey/cuddle toy (for the 10 and under set)
  • workout clothes!
  • enough underwear for every day we are there 🙂
  • shoes with traction for hiking (and long socks!)
  • hats
  • bonus points for you if you have the fashion-appropriate plaid and denim cutoffs

Here’s a quick look at the ITINERARY

Arrive Friday PM:

Dinner @ Peppercorn Grille

Kids had pizza, we also ordered a lasagna, Halibut, and I chose a side of veggies with grilled chicken. The portions were generous. The outside seating was comfortable and the dinner nicely paced, which allowed us a few minutes jaunt up and down the main street in the area to stretch our legs after the long drive and get our bearings (i.e. scope out the local ice cream store). Was it amazing? Coming from NYC, not really, but a solid meal.

Quick grocery shop at local Vons for breakfast and other needed items.

Even when we travel for the weekend, we make our own coffee, eggs & toast most mornings. It’s easy enough to buy butter/jam or avocado, purchase bread at local bakery for something fresher and even spice things up with some bacon. Fruits are a must – we brought oranges from the market this time and also purchased some bananas.

Usually we cook chili one night so we can stay in (turkey, sweet potatoes, black beans, diced tomatoes and a few simple spices like chili, paprika, garlic, salt & pepper). You can find the recipe I use as a base in my previous post. It’s also smart to pick up a few snacks to have on hand – nuts, hummus, popcorn, baby carrots, etc. especially fruits and veggies, which are more difficult to get while you are out and about.

Check in for the night.

We VRBO’d an awesome townhouse near the golf course, which turned out to be a great location for us and was really roomy. Typically we check for great last minute deals or local boutique hotels because who doesn’t love a great deal?!

Saturday AM –

Fueled up with a home cooked breakfast. Filled up waters and set out for the day.

Castle Rock Hill Hike – make sure to get an early start for good lighting and cool weather. The hike was about 2 miles long, doable for the entire family although we did take frequent breaks with grandma and the kids for water since the first ½ mile is pretty much straight up hill.  Full disclosure, grandma is in great shape, but this was a challenging hike from a cardiovascular perspective. Also they (kids & grandma) did not climb all the way to the top of Castle Rock – grandma stopped about 10-15 minutes out. The kids came with us to the base of the actual rock.

I have to rave about this hike for another minute…. This was truly a FUN hike for everyone. Most hikes have beautiful scenery and a trail that winds up/down and some interesting flora & fauna, but THIS hike has climbing and scaling over rocks, balancing over fallen trees, hiking up, hiking down, you name it – it was so varied it made for an exciting experience. Check the Big Bear website for other hikes and activities and make sure you are well prepared with appropriate water & apparel.


Grabbed lunch at Grizzly Bear Belly Deli – sandwiches and chips – yum! Your standard deli with decent bread – I believe we ordered chicken, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and sprouts with a little mustard. The kids devoured their turkey, cheese and cucumber and of course a few chips to share. We did not try their hot sandwiches due to the long wait.

Snow Summit

After lunch, on the way to the lake we saw the sign for Snow Summit so we took a (somewhat planned) detour and rode the scenic sky chair up. Be sure to check for deals in advance – if you are a mountain pass holder you can ride for free or the mountain offers package deals for lunch and lift tickets. Once you get to the top of the Summit,  there’s a nice looping walk around the top (about 1 mile). If your kids are old enough you can go mountain biking, and there’s a whole adventure center – climbing walls, live music and more at the base.


Lake Fun at Boulder Bay Park

After riding the chairlift (we believe this was grandmas’ first time!) we stopped to get SUP at GetBoardsRideShop and headed to the lake for a quick swim. The kids took a dip while we took turns SUPing on the lake and grandma stretched and rested.

Ice Cream Before Dinner, because why not?

Of course we could not leave town without the obligatory ice cream stop. We were headed to the North Pole Fudge & Ice Cream Co (which we scoped out the night before) when we saw an open parking spot next to Village Sweets and pulled in there for some ice cream. Delicious!!!

That evening after a very full day we cooked chili at home and worked on a puzzle…. I really wanted to catch a sunset at the lake, but it will need to wait until next time!

Sunday AM – 

Cougar Crest Hike

Sunday morning we wanted to take full advantage of the day AND get back to LA at a reasonable time so we left the kids and grandma behind that morning ate early and hit the Cougar Crest Hike, which goes up to the Pacific Crest Trail – so fun!! This hike was about 4 miles. It was a perfect morning jaunt with many serene and scenic lookouts/meditation spots. We hiked up and ran all the way back down.

Parking – this trail was marked as needing an Adventure Pass for parking.

Lunch @Copper Q

Although we were tempted to go back to the Deli (convenient and we knew what to expect) we decided to go into town for something tastier. We picked up kids and grandma at the house, stopped to get lunch at Copper Q – tasty food, huge line, but worth the wait. There were pesto sandwiches and Monte Cristos and I ordered a quinoa salad, as well as a chicken salad while the girls also drooled over a pistachio cupcake (why pistachio you ask? I have no idea….). We grabbed our lunches and headed to Miss Liberty Paddle Cruises.

Miss Liberty Paddle Cruises

I did NOT picture myself on one of these…. BUT we figured the experience would be enjoyable for all ages, a relaxing lake cruise with (our Copper Q) lunch, an informative captain with a wealth of knowledge, lots of history and fun facts, as well as numerous jokes. The kids even got to steer the boat! It was much nicer than I expected. *Make sure everyone brings a sweatshirt. For more information look here.


Afterwards we hit the road and drove back in the early afternoon so as not to be stuck for 4 hours again – super quick ride home. Totally worth it.

Some notes for next time:

  • If anyone gets car sick be sure to travel prepared – Big Bear is quite windy compared to Mammoth and it took us by surprise
  • Sweatshirts are a must on the lake cruise and they are helpful on the early morning hikes (although not necessary)
  • If you appreciate fruits and vegetables, stock up on a few options – otherwise you won’t be seeing them much

Be prepared with lots of water, you are at altitude and it’s summer, so drink up!

Stay active! and please share your summer experiences at Big Bear.



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