Travel: Big Bear, CA in Autumn

Travel: Big Bear, CA in Autumn

Hiking beautiful trails, eating great food, and sleeping in a cozy cottage: my recent weekend trip to Big Bear in Southern California was the perfect quick autumn getaway. Here are my favorite kid-friendly highlights from the weekend.

Kid-Friendly Things to Do

Big Bear Discovery Center museum exhibits

Big Bear Discovery Center

40971 North Shore Drive/Hwy 38, Fawnskin, CA 92333

On the north side of Big Bear Lake sits Big Bear Discovery Center - a mini-museum, information hub, and outdoor event space all in one, run by the Southern California Mountains Foundation non-profit.

Inside their main building, which is free to enter, you’ll find pamphlets and maps for local hiking trails and activity spots, and you can also purchase an Adventure Pass here for accessing certain hiking trails and recreation areas.

The Discovery Center features an educational gallery of mini-exhibits highlighting animals and plants that call the San Bernardino Mountains home, from taxidermy specimens to pawprint casts to real furs that can be touched. You’ll even see the preserved coat of the last grizzly bear that ever lived in Big Bear, which was sadly hunted over a hundred years ago.

A small kids’ area features a craft station when a break is needed, and friendly staff happily share stories about the wildlife in Big Bear with visitors of all ages.

Public restrooms are available here and cold drinks are sold.

Alpine Pedal Path Trail signage with a map of the trail

Alpine Pedal Path Trail

740 Stanfield Cutoff, Big Bear, CA 92314

Just down the road from the Discovery Center is a small parking area on the side of the road with access to the Alpine Pedal Path Trail, a paved trail meant for bikers, strollers, wheelchairs, joggers, or walkers along the north shore of the lake. It extends just over half a mile, ending at the Solar Observatory.

Through the parking lot at the boat ramp at the Stanfield Cutoff end of the trail, lake access is also possible, depending on the water level at the time of your visit. When I visited in October, the lake was incredibly low and the boat ramp was closed to boaters, so I was able to walk down it onto the exposed shore of the lake to view the water.
This trail is known as an excellent area to view bald eagles when they visit in the winter months, typically from late November through early April.

Two picnic areas can be found along the trail with public restrooms.

The author and her partner and dog in front of Boulder Bay Park

Boulder Bay Park

39080 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

On the south shore of the lake, you’ll find Boulder Bay Park, a gorgeous, grassy picnic area with spectacular views of the lake and the huge boulders that sit within it. Paved walkways and some covered areas are available here, making it a great place to plan to bring lunch.

If you’re leaving Big Bear on State Route 18 to the west, you’ll pass by this beautiful spot, and it's definitely worth a quick stop for photos.

There is easy parking on site, as well as picnic tables and public restrooms.


Cathy’s Cottages

600 W Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

I live in Los Angeles, so the trip east into the mountains took about 3 hours on a heavy-traffic Friday night. I arrived at the cottage (Cathy’s Cottages, a hotel), which was easy to find off the main road through town, and was happy to find very cozy furnishings in the studio room. The cottages are detached and the king room I stayed in featured a large jetted bathtub, easy-to-use heater, and gas-powered fireplace (no need to stop for firewood). This made for a very warm and comfortable couple of nights as a rainstorm passed over the mountains.


Amangela’s Sandwich & Bagel House

40729 Village Dr, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

On my first full day of the trip, I started my morning with a lox and cream cheese bagel and a smoothie from Amangela’s, which I highly recommend.

Cafe Crepe

41003 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

I stopped for a snack at Cafe Crepe Inc, where their simple cinnamon crepe and Big Bear Fog Latte won me over.

Country Kitchen Restaurant

39904 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

For dinner, I ordered delivery from Country Kitchen straight to my cottage through DoorDash, and enjoyed a warm meal of baked potato soup, crispy green beans, and a chicken wrap. The comfort food-filled menu features breakfast, lunch and dinner options on the kids’ menu, too.
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