Big Bear Lake, California: Outdoorsy Resort Community in the Foothills of the Sierra Nevada
Big Bear Lake is situated nearly 7,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest and the snowy peaks of the San Bernardino Mountains. Los Angeles is less than 100 miles to the west, which is probably why Big Bear Valley has served as a backdrop for so many films and TV shows, including The Parent Trap, Doctor Dolittle, and Bonanza.
The lake is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and swimming during the warm months. You’ll find miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails in the surrounding forest. The 2-mile Castle Rock Trail weaves through groves of pine and cedar trees and past a waterfall before rewarding trekkers with a panoramic view of the water. But Big Bear isn’t entirely rustic—head to the village, located on the south shore, for restaurants, shopping, an arcade, a bowling alley, and a visitors' center.
True to its name, the area once supported a thriving grizzly bear population. Though that’s no longer the case, you still might see bald eagles, mule deer, coyotes, gray foxes, and even the occasional bobcat or black bear. For a guaranteed glimpse of wildlife, visit the Big Bear Alpine Zoo at Moonridge, a rehabilitation facility for injured and orphaned mountain lions, grizzly bears, wolves, and other animals.