Barging in on Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake

The San Bernardino mountains offer a multitude of recreational opportunities for the huge populace of the Los Angeles basin. A short drive up Hwy 330 transports you from dry, desert environs to a high alpine wonderland. Big Bear Lake, at 6,750 feet, is a popular place in winter, at the base of a small ski hill, and in summer, for all manner of floating craft.

IMG_1246Recently we spent an enjoyable day boating on the lake with our friends Jim and Julie, who have a pontoon “party barge”, along with Cindy and Gail. We hooked up the trailer in Running Springs and headed off to Big Bear Lake. Arriving at a public boat launch we were pleasantly surprised to see that parking and launching were free of charge and parking was readily available. There was the usual jockeying of vehicles and small water craft as various groups dropped their toys in the water and pushed off. Sailboats, ski boats, kayaks, canoes, a paddle wheeler and a pirate ship that had been a prop in a movie, all joined the multitude of party barges to ply the waters, enjoying the blue skies and warm weather, surrounded by forested mountain tops.  Police boats were out in force, blue lights flashing, to assure safe boating and to tow any distressed craft.

IMG_1259We motored to the other side of the lake where protected coves offered opportunities for exploration. We anchored in one such cove and enjoyed lunch and some brewed libations before setting off for a tour around the lake, admiring large lakefront homes, unusual rock formations at Boulder Bay, before pulling up to a lakefront bar and restaurant.

IMG_1268A game of volleyball was well attended, especially by a pack of dogs respectfully honoring the defined edges of the court. A band was setting up so we placed our drink order, hauled some chairs down to the beach and settled in to enjoy the music. Unfortunately, the angry, head banger music seemed at odds with the relaxed nature of the afternoon, so we drank up and pushed off to continue our tour, passing a glaring white globe of an observatory and open meadows framed by pine trees.

The next day we enjoyed a classic diner breakfast at the Old Country Coffee Shop in Running Springs, complete with homemade biscuits and gravy and large plates laden with eggs, pork products and blueberry pancakes of an astounding diameter. Given California’s proximity to Mexico it wasn’t surprising to see menudo and huevos rancheros with homemade, spicy salsa side by side with the traditional breakfast fare.

IMG_1302We hiked up a trail in the San Bernardino National Forest, intersecting with the popular Exploration Trail, ostensibly a children’s trail, but able to be enjoyed by people of any age. Built by kids, this 4.5 mile trail winds through beautiful alpine backcountry and is open to hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and in winter, snowshoers. We encountered unusual granite formations, cedar trees, creekbeds and at the top, a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains against the backdrop of a clear, blue sky and the hazy valley spread out below.

IMG_1304The varied terrain of California means that in many places a high alpine environment is accessible within a short drive from the coast, and Big Bear is such a place, offering a alpine playground to those in the surrounding flatlands, providing clear mountain air and a respite from the dry, desert heat below.


Information about lodging, activities and boat rentals, including pontoon barges, kayaks, canoes and other craft can be found at:

Big Bear Country

Old Country Coffee Shop
32019 Hilltop Blvd
Running Springs, CA  92382

Exploration Trail
National Children’s Forest

San Bernardino National Forest

See previous post about camping in the San Bernardino area: