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Why Big Bear, CA, is the perfect weekend escape
If you're desperately looking to escape the city (aren't we all right now?), there are plenty of places in SoCal to do it. Just under a 2.5 hour drive from LA, Big Bear, in the San Bernardino mountains, is one of our favorites, with camping options that are actually open and make an ideal vacation in the age of so many travel restrictions. From scenic spots to pitch your tent to breathtaking hikes and standout alfresco restaurants, here's my list of what to see and do.
- Serrano Campgrounds64 reviewsAny camping ground that has showers is a win for me, which is why Serrano Campground serves as a great home base in Big Bear. The family friendly site has picnic tables, a few real toilets, and a variety of activities, including hiking, fishing, biking, and boating. Many of the region’s major sites are near Serrano, including the popular Cougar Crescent Trail, where you'll hike through fields of wildflowers and pine forest while taking in the views of Big Bear Lake.
- Pineknot Campground22 reviewsAt the base of Snow Summit Ski Resort at an elevation of 6,900 feet, Pineknot Family Campground delivers on amenities and knockout views. There are 47 campsites for tents, trailers and RVs, with toilets and fresh drinking water available onsite. When hiking isn’t on your agenda, you can rent bikes at the nearby Team Bear Mountain Bike Center, which also holds competitive races for amateur and professional mountain bikers.
- Heart Bar Family Campground6 reviewsHeart Bar Family Campground is an ideal spot for anyone looking for space and some privacy. Hidden among towering pines at 68,000 feet, it has 89 campsites complete with tables and campfire rings, so you'll have plenty of room to spread out. Spend your days biking or hiking the nearby trails or just relaxing by the Santa Ana River. Either way, you can't go wrong.
- San Bernardino National Forest123 reviewsWhat’s not to love about gorgeous campgrounds and access to clean bathrooms? The San Gorgonio Family Campground in San Bernardino National Forest is home to 20 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, with 54 sites for tents, trailers, RVs, vans and truck campers. My favorite go-to activities: fishing in nearby mountain streams and bird and wildlife viewing (there are over 440 species in the area, with more than 30 of them endangered).
- The Bone Yard32 reviewsAfter a long day of hiking, you've earned the right to pig out. Family style plates of tri-tip steak, flatbreads and BBQ chicken are the specialty at the Boneyard. Grab a table on the patio and pair your meal with a cocktail or beer (there are more than 200 spirits on offer and 44 beers on tap).
- Oakside Restaurant & Bar119 reviewsIn the Village of Big Bear Lake, this rustic, tavern-style restaurant turns out a diverse range of hearty California fare. Crowdpleasers include the jerk spiced filet of Alaskan salmon and strawberry and avocado salad.
- Snow Summit456 reviewsWhen you want to have some old-school fun (I mean, who doesn’t love a Bungee trampoline?) head to the base camp at Snow Summit. There are tons of activities here, including a 30-foot climbing wall, zip line, and the Summit Mining Co. and Grizzly Ridge Tube Parks.
- Big Bear Mountain Resort8 reviewsGo for a ride in the sky on the Scenic Sky Chair at Big Bear Mountain resort. While cruising at 8,200 feet, you'll take in some incredible views including Southern California’s highest peak, San Gorgonio mountain.
- Big Bear RegionIt’s no secret that Big Bear is home to some great hiking trails-- 60 in total at varying skill levels that are free and open to the public. Castle Rock and Pine Knot are two of the most popular treks and have drop-dead gorgeous views over the lake and forest.
- Himalayan Restaurant323 reviewsWhen you’re craving more than American comfort cuisine, The Himilayan is the place to go. The restaurant menu includes mouthwatering Indian and Nepalese dishes like tandoori lamb, curry chicken, and a smoky dal tadka (lentils served with herbs). Don't miss the selection of naan bread, as well as the house made lemonade with ginger -- a perfect summer quencher after a day at the lake.
- FawnskinOff the beaten path from larger Big Bear campsites, Holcomb is a low-key camping ground--no reservations required-with 19 single-family campsites. Each site has a fire pit and benches, perfect for nighttime hang outs, and there are plenty of easy-to-navigate trails within walking distance for daytime excursions.