How to Spend a Day in the Beautiful San Bernardino National Forest

The San Bernardino National Forest holds deserts and rugged mountain peaks within its boundaries. Unique flora and fauna populate its wilderness, and there are endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Take a look at some of the best ways to explore the gorgeous national forest below!

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Things to Do in San Bernardino National Forest

graphic with text "big bear lake vacation guide"The San Bernardino National Forest has been designated and protected as a national forest for over a century. This beautiful region of mountainous wildlands is filled with all kinds of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Many are available year-round, but some seasons offer different experiences than others.

Take a look below for a sample of how you can spend your day in the San Bernardino National Forest!

Fall & Winter

1. Hiking

While there are plenty of things to do in the San Bernardino National Forest, hiking is one of the most popular and varied attractions. Traversing the many trails here is something that you can do year-round, but autumn and winter can offer different experiences than spring and summer.

Finding colorful fall foliage in California can be a challenge, but at higher elevations in the San Bernardino Mountains, you can find some vivid colors. During the winter, snowfall and cold air make for spectacular scenery that you can see a bit clearer.

2. Ride a Snowmobile

Skim along atop snowy routes on the designated snowmobile routes for an exhilarating journey through the forest!

3. Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

As with snowmobiling, there are designated cross-country ski and snowshoe trails where you can trek through the snowy wilderness of the San Bernardino National Forest.

You can also go downhill skiing and snowboarding at Big Bear Mountain Resort, and enjoy snow tubing or an alpine slide at Big Bear Snow Play and Magic Mountain, respectively.

4. Deep Creek Hot Springs

Enjoy the unique experience of warming up in a natural spring at Deep Creek Hot Springs. It may be better to visit during the fall or as winter is on its way out so your trek in isn’t too cold.

If you park at Bowen Ranch, you can shorten the number of miles you’ll have to hike to get to the springs. Be mindful that this is a natural spring—it is not treated, so it is not advised that you drink the water or put your head under the surface.  

Spring & Summer

1. Take a Scenic Drive

Follow the Rim of the World Scenic Byway and Palms to Pines Scenic Byways, and you’ll wind through several areas of the San Bernardino National Forest. Along the way, there are a number of scenic overlooks where you can stop and enjoy the spectacular vistas.

2. Explore via Horseback

You can go horseback riding on all National Forest roads and trails (excepting nature trails).

3. Cast a Line

There are miles of streams and reservoirs in the San Bernardino National Forest stocked with trout, bluegill, bass, and catfish. You’ll need a fishing license unless you go on one of the two annual free days.

4. Hiking

There are tons of great trails to hike in the spring and summer in the San Bernardino National Forest. In between the trees, it gets cooler, and as you walk along, you’ll pass by colorful wildflowers.

The San Bernardino National Forest is filled with fantastic trails, and some of the most popular, like the Cougar Crest Trail and Castle Rock Trail, are by Big Bear Lake. They offer a combination of physical challenge, spectacular viewpoints, and proximity to the lake and the Village for when you’ve had your fill of hiking.  

Stay Close By

Big Bear is surrounded by the expanse of the San Bernardino National Forest. Deep blue skies, fresh mountain air, and emerald green forest stretch out around the lake. You’ll have no shortage of things to do during your stay, whether you spend the day relaxing on the lake or exploring the town.

Big Bear Lakefront Cabins are in all the best locations throughout Big Bear, whether you want to be close to the lake or close to the ski slopes. Be sure to take a look at all of our beautiful cabins and book your stay with us in Big Bear today!