Everybody knows that Big Bear Lake is a wonderland in winter, perfect for skiing, snowboarding, memorable Alpine vistas and more. But as I recently learned, the mountain resort is equally fantastic in fall, when leaves change colors, fish are biting, mountains trails beckon, and beer flows from large Oktoberfest mugs.
I began a recent fall getaway to Big Bear at Honey Bear Lodge (www.honeybearlodge.com), located a short walk from “The Village,” Big Bear’s charming downtown community of shops, restaurants, art galleries and pubs. Here, a friend and I checked into a large, comfortable loft room.
Sleeping two to six people, the room came with a queen bed on the first floor and one in the upstairs loft. It also had a futon; television; work station with free Internet; microwave and refrigerator; and an old-styled wood burning fire stove. The room’s high vaulted ceilings gave things a spacious lodge feeling, and stunning views of Big Bear Lake and surrounding mountains completed the post card experience.
After acquainting ourselves with the room and the thin, 7,000-ft air, we drove to The Aspen Grove, one of the best places to experience Big Bear’s fall colors. From October to November, a variety of local trees, including the “glowing” aspen, transform from flourishing greens to spectacular hues of gold, ambers and yellows.
For dinner we found Sweet Basil Bistro (www.sweetbasilbistro.net), an intimate Italian eatery, known for home made pastas, sauces and creative creations. Led by Chef/owner Sally Hill, the bistro was packed with locals when we sat down. With helpful advice from our server, we enjoyed sautéed crab cakes, lobster ravioli, grilled salmon and local beer.
After dinner we stopped at Nottingham’s pub (www.nottinghamstavern.com) for shuffleboard, and closed the evening with karaoke at Murray’s bar. In the morning we drove along the lake to Lucky Bear Fishing Charters (www.luckybearfishing.com), where we boarded a modern pontoon boat, and motored into the lake with six fishing lines in the water.
As we trolled for trout, our guides told stories of Big Bear history and lore, and pointed out million-dollar mansions lining the banks. When we got to Trout Alley, a line began to shake and my friend reeled in ft-long fish. And shortly thereafter I reeled in one of my own. We had successfully caught dinner.
Back on land, we put the fish on ice and then drove up the mountain for one of the coolest attractions in Big Bear: zip lining with Action Zipline Tours (www.actionziplinetours.com/). This thrilling three-hour tour includes an off-road ride two miles into the forest in a safari jeep, and then nine high-speed zipline runs down the mountain, 100 ft in the air, past a beautiful suspension bridge, with stunning views of Johnson Valley.
We concluded the day at Oktoberfest, located at the Big Bear Convention Center. Running through Oct 26, this extravaganza features German bands, polka dancing, log sawing, beer drinking, a petting zoo and much more.
For more info on Big Bear and current activities, visit: www.bigbear.com or call (800) 4 – BIG-BEAR