I have written about both the downhill mountain biking and some of the cross country riding available at Big Bear Lake, but no mountain bike destination is truly complete without comfortable places to stay (or at least pitch a tent), unique restaurants to satisfy that post-ride hunger, and establishments to serve some delicious adult refreshments.
There are several campgrounds available in the Big Bear Lake area, including the Pine Knot campground located just to the east of the bottom of the Sky Chair (not near the Pine Knot trail as you might think, which is located several miles to the west). However, Big Bear is quite the destination during both the winter and the summer so there are a number of hotels and motels nearby, as well as cabin rentals and chalets.
Cal-Pine Chalets was kind enough to put us up for three nights in one of their comfortable cabins. They offer a number of different cabins and vacation rentals of various sizes, depending on the size of your party. We stayed in a one-bedroom cabin which, in addition to the one bedroom, had a living room with a fireplace, lazy boy, TV, and a pullout couch (our cabin could sleep four people). There was also a small, yet complete, kitchen with a full-size refrigerator/freezer, microwave, sink, table, and a small stove with both oven and range. One nice touch that we appreciated was that the unit was fully stocked with pots, pans, dishes, silverware, and other cooking utensils. Out front our cabin also had a picnic table and a charcoal grill so we could enjoy the beautiful high-altitude summer weather.
While eating out tends to coincide with traveling to a destination like Big Bear, if you want to do a trip on the cheap the cabins at Cal-Pine are perfect for saving money thanks to the full kitchen facilities, allowing you to easily cook your own meals (or just throw something in the microwave). And, with cabins such as the one we stayed in averaging about $89 per night, it’s also very reasonable, especially when compared to the cost of a hotel.
The living room in our cabin.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Cal-Pine, and if we ever come back to Big Bear we would love to stay here again!
If you do decide to eat out, Big Bear is chock-full of unique local restaurants! Since we were feeling a little adventurous, we decided to check out the Himalayan. Serving authentic Nepalese and Indian food, the door feels like a teleportation device, instantly transporting you to the high mountains of Nepal.
Image courtesy of himalayanbigbear.com.
If you are looking for a good burger, word on the street is that Get The Burger is the place to go. While I didn’t get a chance to visit it personally, I met several locals who vouched for it heartily.
Image courtesy of gettheburger.com.
The night before I went on my epic 33+ mile ride with Gavin Burke, he took my wife and I out for the “Big Bear Triathlon.” The Triathlon begins at Nottingham’s Tavern, which features a restaurant downstairs and a bar upstairs. This is one of the most upscale bars in Big Bear, and features what is probably the best selection of tasty craft beers in town.
Next up is Chad’s Place. Established in 1915, Chad’s Place is the most historic bar in town. While it hasn’t always existed in the exact same form as you see it today, Chad’s has earned a reputation as the place to hang out in Big Bear Lake. A little rougher around the edges than Nottinghams, Chad’s is still a pretty respectable establishment.
Finally, the Triathlon ends at Murray’s Saloon & Eatery (by that time, you may just call it Murrrraazz). With cheap beer, country music, and drunken karaoke seven nights a week, Murray’s is a true redneck bar that is guaranteed to be a fun time.
Since we hail from Georgia and were over 2,000 miles from our home, we found it pretty amusing that every other song that was sung had a reference to Georgia in it. The bouncer from Texas really provided some serious entertainment value when he grabbed the mic, singing horrible country songs from memory without so much as a single look at the lyric screens!
Big Bear Mountain Brewery, courtesy of mountainbrewery.com.
We had a fantastic time in Big Bear, and were sad we had to leave after only three short days. While I spent two long days on the bike and sampled many miles of fantastic singletrack, there were still many trails in the area that I didn’t get to ride, primarily the trails just over the mountains to the south in the Santa Ana Valley.
The bottom line is that Big Bear is a fantastic mountain bike destination with all sorts of trails for all different types of riders, ranging from beginner cross country riders to technically-proficient downhillers. With cooler temperatures and more shade than the nearby Los Angeles area, thanks to the abundance of pine trees, Big Bear reigns as the perfect next-door destination for thousands of So Cal mountain bikers. If Snow Summit (or one of the other resorts in the air) chooses to expand their purpose-built downhill trails, and once the Skyline Trail is constructed by Trail Solutions, Big Bear has the potential to gain even more traction as the premiere mountain bike destination in Southern California.
A big thanks to all of the people that made our time in Big Bear possible! First, thanks to Dan McKernan, Director of Marketing & Public Relations for the Big Bear Lake Resort Association, for coordinating our entire trip. Second, many thanks to Scott Durkin and Gavin Burke for sharing their local trails with me. And finally, thank you to Chuck Hulett, owner of Cal-Pine Chalets, for providing us with lodging. For more information on the Big Bear area, be sure to check out www.bigbear.com!