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Getaway Guide: One-Tank Trip to Big Bear Lake

While snowboarding and skiing take the cake at Big Bear Lake in the winter, boating, hiking and lakeside cabin-cations reign the rest of the year. Just 99 miles northeast of Los Angeles, surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest and smog-free, fresh air, Big Bear Lake bliss unfolds. As polar opposite to the typical palm tree trotted, ocean peeking retreats found on the coastlines from Los Angeles to San Diego, Big Bear Lake offers a cozy wilderness mountain refuge laden with looming, thick pine trees and fresh water galore.

Getting there

From Los Angeles, head east to the CA-210 and cruise for approximately 40 miles. Take exit 81 for California 330 north toward Mountain Resorts. Merge onto CA-330 north and continue on CA-18. Turn right to stay on CA-18 north and then make a left to stay on this road. Turn left onto Big Bear Boulevard, and you will arrive to the heart of town. The average is distance is 99 miles, about two hours, varying slightly upon starting point.

What to do
Big Bear Marina
500 Paine Court
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 866–3218

For the best $20 spent in Big Bear Lake, head to the Big Bear Marina and rent a stand up paddleboard (SUP) or canoe for the hour. For a dose of romance or for an alternative dining option, pack a picnic and choose to float and dine. You'll find quiet isolation amongst a forest of hearty pine trees. Take note, there is a $50 dollar refundable security deposit for rentals.

Bear Valley Bikes
40298 Big Bear Blvd.
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 866–8000

Perfect for both novices and pros alike, there's no better way to get active while immersing in nature than through a bike ride. Whether you prefer mountain biking or comfort style cycling, Big Bear Lake offers trails for all levels and preferences. Rent your ideal ride at Bear Valley Bikes for just $10 dollars an hour (or $30 for four hours) and bike straight from the shop to the Alpine Pedal Path. Enjoy the three-mile round trip cruise near the lake or divert to Woodland Trail––a 1.5-mile scenic ride designed for all-level mountain bikers. For a more adventurous journey, head to the ski lift at Snow Summit and incline to a trail that winds across the picturesque ridge line.

Related: Best Hiking Trails Near Orange County

Where to stay
Serrano Campgrounds
40650 North Shore Lane
Fawnskin, CA 92333
(909) 866-8550

Big Bear Lake has some of the best mountain camping in the Southern California region, due to its high elevation and abundant forest groves. Reminiscent of a small ski town in the Northeastern U.S., Big Bear Lake offers both cozy cabins and campgrounds immersed in a mountain setting. If you like the idea of primitive camping but still favor a hot shower, try Serrano Campgrounds tucked in the San Bernardino Forest. Bring the pooch, enjoy a campfire, and don't miss easy access to a plethora of hiking trails, mountain biking, boating, swimming -- and unique children's interpretive programs. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance.

Related: Best Places for a Doggie Trip Near Los Angeles

The Inn at Fawnskin
880 Canyon Road
Fawnskin, CA 92333
(909) 866–3200

The best place to catch cabin fever is 7,000 feet above sea level amidst a woodland frontier. While Big Bear Lake offers many cabin options, only few offer well-appointed amenities reflective of carefully thought design. For an extra dose of cabin comfort, check out a unique bed and breakfast––The Inn at Fawnskin. Choose "The Garden" suite for a private deck overlooking the lake and gardens, a gas log fireplace, an extra large private bath, i-Pod dock, piano, and of course, gourmet breakfast primed upon rising.

Where to eat
Sweet Basil Bistro
40629 Big Bear Lake Blvd.
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 866–9212

After a day of boating, biking or hiking, there's no better way to dine than through the feast of homemade bread, garlic and fresh marinara. As the newest Italian bistro in Big Bear Lake, find relaxation while feasting on the best of comfort food. Family owned, chef Sally Hill serves up satisfaction catering to all types of eaters, including both vegetarians and picky appetites. Made with love, be sure to try the Portobello mushroom and artichoke heart salad and the creamy basil pesto sauce with pine nuts.

Jessica Blotter has 10 years experience in the advertising industry and is founder of Publicly Loved - at the heart of brands, causes and events. As an author of two regional travel blogs and, she has produced more than 30 published articles covering regional getaway destinations and charitable events. Follow her on Twitter @publiclyloved.

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