Big Bear Lake is one of the most popular mountain towns in California. It is within a comfortable driving distance from San Diego, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Riverside, and San Bernardino, as well as the beach cities between San Diego and Los Angeles. Spending at least two days at Big Bear Lake is a year-round, four-season option.
But is two days at Big Bear Lake enough to relax and explore a few sights? Yes, most definitely! I recently spent part of three days (just two nights) there with friends, and we had plenty of time to explore and enjoy Big Bear Lake. Keep reading for tips with lodging and planning two days worth of attractions and activities…
Why two days at Big Bear Lake?
Depending on where you are coming from, you may have a 2- or 3-hour drive to get to Big Bear Lake. On the scenic mountain road that takes you up to Big Bear, you may also want to stop at several of the turnouts and take photos. So, once you arrive at Big Bear Lake, you’re going to want more than just a few hours before returning.
While staying at least one night is a given, two nights is better because it allows you to explore at a leisurely pace and have a place to hang out whenever you want a break. Most cabins, B & B’s, and even some hotels require a 2-night minimum stay, especially during peak season.
Choosing where to stay at Big Bear Lake
Of course, where you stay will probably depend on a few variables. For example…
- Who is going? (couple, family, or friends)
- Which services do you prefer?
- Do you want a “home away from home?”
- What is your budget?
Overall, for most Big Bear Lake stays, a rental cabin or Airbnb is going to be your best option. It allows you to cook your own meals (especially important if you have young children who are picky eaters). Even if you don’t want to cook, having access to a full-size refrigerator and freezer comes in handy. A cabin also gives you a common gathering place (livingroom/kitchen area or family room) that hotels don’t have.
Many Big Bear Lake cabins have fireplaces — great to have in the winter. Nothing better than lounging in front of a cozy fireplace after a day on the slopes! Renting a cabin also gives you more privacy. You’ll find more amenities, too, like games to play, outdoor firepits, decks with picnic tables, and multiple bathrooms.
If budget accommodations are a requirement for your stay, you still might consider renting a cabin. Although it is common to have additional cleaning/booking fees, you’ll save more than enough to justify renting the cabin by preparing your own meals. Even moreso if you are splitting the cost with other family members or friends.
My cabin rental review
I had the opportunity to stay at the Corner Hideaway cabin with three bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It is pretty new on the Airbnb scene so it didn’t have many reviews yet, but the photos and descriptions were very helpful and clear. It was perfect for our ladies’ getaway because we could each have our own bedroom, but it is also ideal for families or two couples.
The Corner Hideaway cabin is very comfortable and beautiful. It was also cozy — easy to control the heating! Furniture and bedding is high quality, and the kitchen is very well outfitted — with much more than just the basics. I would say this cabin is more luxurious than most hotels I have stayed in — and certainly nicer than most Airbnbs. The owner (Shana) was quick to respond to questions and very clear with check-in and check-out instructions. She also provided a guest guide book with suggested activities, restaurant reviews, and more!
Extras included plush blankets to wrap up in, designer art, toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, toiletries, ziploc bags for food storage, even firewood for the wood stove. There are lots of games, books, colored pencils and paper for the kids. The internet worked great, too! Check out these photos for more details…
The Corner Hideaway cabin is located close to the lake and only a short 9-minute drive from Big Bear Lake Village or the Big Bear Mountain Ski Resort. The neighborhood is very quiet and peaceful. Would I stay there again? Absolutely!
Arrival at Big Bear Lake
(Our visit was during the fall. If you’re interested in ideas for a summer visit, see Big Bear Lake Getaway Tips)
- Arrive and check-in at cabin and unpack
- Take some photos of the beautiful lake from the nearby Alpine Pedal Path Trail
- Find a restaurant for dinner or prepare your own dinner. (We ate dinner at Hacienda Grill)
- Back to the cabin for evening fun: games, movies, or story-telling!
First full day at Big Bear Lake
- Leisurely wake-up and breakfast at cabin
- Hike the Castle Rock Trail to Castle Rock, 2.7 miles RT for beautiful views of the lake and forest
- Visit Boulder Bay Park on the lakeshore, take more photos (in the summer you can launch paddle boards from here)
- Walk the Stanfield Marsh Boardwalk and watch for birds, 1.6 miles out and back
- Lunch at Jersey Mikes for great sandwiches
- Stop and visit one of the many wood-carving businesses, like Woodland Chainsaw Carvings
- Back to the cabin to shower and change
- Shopping in Big Bear Lake Village (Brown Bear Gift Shop, North Pole Fudge & Ice Cream Co., A Christmas Store & More, Bearly Used Books, and many others!)
- Visit the Big Bear Lake Visitor Center and get some Big Bear “swag” (free maps, postcards, hand sanitizer, stickers, and more)
- Dinner at the Boneyard Bar and Grill, known for its amazing BBQ
- Take sunset photos at the lake
- Back to cabin for movie and popcorn night (watching movies from a comfortable couch is much better than watching from a hotel bed!)
Departure from Big Bear Lake
- Leisurely wake-up and breakfast at cabin (yogurt and granola is easy!)
- Pack up and load car
- Check-out of cabin
- Visit Magic Mountain to ride the Alpine Slide and Soaring Eagle before returning home
Want to see my video recap?
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do at Big Bear Lake — and you can fit in many of them during a two-day stay. But after doing so, it may only whet your appetite for a longer stay. After all, the clean mountain air and beautiful outdoor surroundings are very inviting and invigorating. Whether you come for two days at Big Bear Lake in the spring, summer, fall, or winter, you’ll be sad when it’s time to return home!
Disclosure: as is common in the travel industry, I was invited to stay at the Corner Hideaway cabin at a discounted price in order to check it out and provide a review. My photos are not doctored, my review is honest, and this article was not edited by the owners. I would gladly pay full price to return.