Although referred to as a year-round Southern California getaway, there’s always someone who will enjoy the ski slopes in winter more than they would daydreaming by the lake in the spring scenery.
One isn’t better than the other — it all comes down to learning the best time to visit Big Bear based on your travel preferences and what you’re keen to get out of your Californian holiday.
Even though Big Bear is a small town, there’s so much to do and see, but as always, our guide has the answers you’re looking for.
The Best Time to Visit Big Bear
The best time to visit Big Bear is either during the city’s busiest season in summer (June–August) or the second busiest season in spring (March–May).
March, April, and May see temperatures between 25°F and 68°F. Spring is perfect for enjoying plenty of recreational activities without breaking a sweat, such as off-roading, hiking, mountain biking, and fishing.
April marks the opening of the marinas, so renting boats is on the table. If you wish for a more easygoing approach to enjoying the water, joining a lake tour might just be the right addition to your Big Bear itinerary.
Ready to splash your way through Big Bear’s Cold waters? If yes, the annual Polar Plunge may be the right event for you.
Anthophiles should head to Big Bear in spring when the famous Pebble Plains blossom in the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve (tip: they hit peak bloom sometime in May).
Speaking of which, May visitors should be on the lookout for Memorial Day events. Starting at the end of May and lasting through June, the Bluff Lake Reserve draws in visitors with Indian Paintbrush, Columbine, and Yarrow.
Summer in Big Bear sees water-based activities running full steam, with kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and jet skiing taking the lead. Certain marinas even provide wakeboarding and waterskiing lessons.
With a myriad of cross-country trails, biking is pretty popular at this time too. Those wishing to step up their cycling game should consider joining the Tour de Big Bear event.
If you happen to visit in July, get ready for local Independence Day celebrations, too.
Finally, if you’re looking to escape the warm summer months, spend a day picnicking in: Boulder Bay Park, Happy Hills Trail Picnic Area, Aspen Glen Picnic Area, or Meadow’s Edge Picnic Area.
Summer visitors should expect average temperatures between 41°F and 81°F.
Cheapest Time to Visit Big Bear
The cheapest time to visit Big Bear is in November. If you hope to take advantage of affordable hotel rates and airfare deals, this month has your back.
Being fall’s last month, November has average temperatures between 26°F and 54°F. The air is crisp — perfect for those wishing to attend the opening of Big Bear Mountain Ski Resorts. Those visiting toward the end of November should plan their Thanksgiving celebration.
What better way to celebrate it than by opting for a Big Bear escape in the mountains?
If you hope to burn your turkey calories, you should join Big Bear’s annual Turkey Trot and choose among a three-mile, six-mile, or nine-mile race.
If you can’t make it for the Thanksgiving weekend, opt for some of the weekly November events in Big Bear, such as Wyatt’s Country Wednesdays, goat yoga on Saturdays, and regular yoga classes provided by Mountain Yoga Center.
Least Busy Time to Visit Big Bear
The least busy time to visit Big Bear is in the fall (September–November). Fall temperatures vary between lows of 26°F and highs of 74°F.
While temperatures take a nosedive, the sun is still out, allowing for many plenty of activities without the vast number of summer vacationers and high temperatures.
Fall foliage seekers can enjoy maples and oaks boasting their yellows and oranges at this time — enjoying them is as simple as wandering the neighborhood you’re staying at. For a more exciting approach, we recommend opting for an iconic helicopter tour.
For the latter, we suggest the Helicopter Big Bear tour (a custom tour is also possible!) and enjoy watching the Mojave Desert, Big Bear Valley, and San Gorgonio from above.
If you want a fun experience during your Big Bear Stay, join one of the guided Segway tours in October, where you can also get insights into local wildlife and how they get ready for the upcoming winter.
Fall in Big Bear (or anywhere really) isn’t memorable enough without Halloween’s pumpkins — the bravest can show off by zipping their way through the National Forest. Zipliners also get to throw pumpkins at specific targets, with prizes being awarded at the end.
Frequently ranked as one of the best Southern Californian festivals, Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest is a must for all beer lovers. If you can’t make it for Oktoberfest, then get ready for a spooktacular Halloween night!
Last but not least, if you wish to avoid Big Bear crowds at all costs, avoid traveling around any major public holidays, such as the Fourth of July, as the population can easily grow by 2000% at that time due to the visitors.
Worst Time to Visit Big Bear
The worst time to head to Big Bear is in winter (December–February). Temperatures take a plunge — you can expect lows of 21°F and highs of 47°F.
January is the rainiest month, whereas February is the snowiest.
Still, visiting in winter doesn’t have to be that bad, let alone worse. Some year-round activities, such as off-roading, horseback riding, or ziplining, are very much available if the cold conditions don’t bother you.
Winter travelers can also get immersed in some of the seasonal activities, especially if you’re up for snowshoeing, snow tubing, or skiing. For snow tubing, we recommend two locations — Big Bear Snow Play and the Alpine Slide.
That said, if you’re not a big fan of winter sports, you can always enjoy your winter stay in a much more peaceful way — by building snowmen with your kids, sledding down the hills, or simply taking a stroll downtown and soaking in the winter scenery.
Festival enthusiasts will enjoy Big Bear’s cheerful atmosphere.
Whether it’s a shopping spree for the holidays or enjoying The Village at Big Bear Lake with holiday decorations, winters at Big Bear are always enchanting for travelers who appreciate winter magic. That said, New Year’s Eve events in Big Bear are the highlight of this period.
Things to Consider
What else should you keep an eye out for when planning your Big Bear getaway? Here are some helpful travel tips:
If you visit Big Bear Lake, keep in mind the following:
- Respect all wildlife you may come across — don’t feed or approach them.
- If you wish to build a campfire, a CA Campfire Permit is required.
- Non-holiday periods and weekdays see the least crowds.
- Check the weather before you head to Big Bear for any potential hazards or emergency situations.
- Carrying snow chains in your car during the November–April period is advisable, together with a shovel.
- Stick to existing trails — don’t wander.
- Don’t leave any trash — if you find some, pick it up, and dispose of it when you get the chance to do so.
- Swimming in Big Bear Lake is allowed at your own risk. While most algae are non-toxic, others may be a cause for concern. Also, there are no lifeguards, and swimmers can’t go further than 50 feet away from the shore.
- Get acquainted with local laws. For instance, California’s life vest law states that all children under the age of 13 have to wear a coast-guard approved life jacket on moving recreational vessels. Lake Patrol is quite diligent in making sure such laws are followed.
You need an Adventure Pass to park in the US Forest Service trailheads and the recreational premises. You can buy day passes from the Big Bear Visitor Center.
Holders of America the Beautiful Pass can use it instead. Tip: make sure to leave the pass on the dashboard before hitting the trails.
Consider purchasing some of the Big Bear Mountain Resort passes — Ski & Snowboard Season Passes, Bike Park Season Passes, and Bear Mountain Golf Course Season Passes. Each pass offers unique seasonal and/or year-round perks and benefits worth taking advantage of.
Extra tip: pass or no pass, always inquire about family discounts and special offers.
If you have your own boat, buy a lake permit and start your sailing from a public launch ramp. To learn more about this, head to the official Big Bear Municipal Water District site.
The city promotes sustainable tourism by urging travelers to use public transportation (check out Free Big Bear Trolley and download the app) and/or walk.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some fun facts about Big Bear?
Here are some fun facts about Big Bear:
1. Big Bear Lake is a manmade lake, with the initial dam being designed in 1885.
2. Big Bear’s first school opened in 1919. Today, there are two elementary schools, one middle school, and a high school. There’s also a new K-12 charter school for the youngest Big Bear locals.
3. Famous films, such as Gone with the Wind, Old Yeller, North to Alaska, and War Games, have been filmed in Big Bear.
4. Big Bear got its name thanks to the myriad of grizzly bears that used to roam the area. While they became extinct sometime in the 20th century, today, there are plenty of black bears in Big Bear Valley.
5. Famous athletes such as Fernando Vargas, Oscar de la Hoya, and Mike Tyson have trained in Big Bear thanks to its high elevation of more than 7,000 feet.
How much does it cost to go to Big Bear Lake?
Your Big Bear Lake holiday is going to cost you around $175 per day. On average, you’ll need $45 for meals and $30 for local transportation purposes. Also, hotel prices in Big Bear Lake will cost about $230 on average (for a couple).
Those on a tight budget should set aside $150 per day per person; mid-range spenders will need around $175 per day per person.
If you’re on a top-dollar budget, you should plan $215 per day per person. Keep in mind that the above-mentioned travel price suggestions are taken from previous travelers and may undergo changes in the future.
What kind of animals live in Big Bear?
Big Bear is home to chipmunks, raccoons, coyotes, squirrels, black bears, birds as well as mountain lions, and bobcats (although these two are much more rarely seen).
How many days do you need in Big Bear?
Although it’s a fairly small city, we recommend staying in Big Bear for at least three days. This will allow you to enjoy Big Bear Lake and spend some time outdoors but also take advantage of the plenty of dynamic activities Big Bear offers, regardless of the season.
What are the top ten restaurants in Big Bear?
Our top ten restaurants in Big Bear include:
1. Grizzly Manor Cafe
2. Peppercorn Grille
3. Teddy Bear Restaurant
4. Himalayan Restaurant
5. Big Bear Lake Brewing Company
6. Saucy Mama’s Pizzeria
7. 572 Social Kitchen and Lounge
8. Murray’s Saloon & Eatery
9. Azteca Grill Restaurant
10. Fire Rock Burgers & Brews
Over to You — Book Your Trip Today!
|👍 Best Time to Visit||June-August or March-May|
|💲 Cheapest Time to Visit||November|
|🗓️ Least Busy Time to Visit||September-November|
|👎 Worst Time to Visit||December-February|
To sum up, the best time to visit Big Bear is either in summer (June–August) or in spring (March–May). Both seasons allow for many recreational activities, such as kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, and mountain biking, to name a few.
The wide range of spring/summer festivals also makes visitors flock to this Californian jewel. The cheapest time to visit Big Bear is in November.
If you’re on a budget, November is your chance to secure affordable hotel rates and flight deals. The least busy time to visit Big Bear is in the fall (September–November).
Temperatures take a nosedive, but the fall foliage alone and dispersed crowds make visiting Big Bear absolutely worth it. Fun fall festivals and events, such as Oktoberfest and Halloween, make Big Bear much more dynamic in fall than it is.
The worst time to head to Big Bear is in winter (December–February). It’s cold, and the snow and frequent rain are the icing on the cake. However, if you love winter pastimes and festivities, you won’t be disappointed.
With the added myriad of seasonal activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing, Big Bear can keep everyone entertained, even when the weather is at its harshest.
As you can see, Big Bear is a four-season city and, as such, it draws in visitors year-round. So pick your preferred season and take on this Californian city in the best way you know!
Happy Californian travels!