About Big Bear Lake, history, facts and more Big Bear Lake at sunrise with multi colored clouds in the sky and reflection on the lake.

Our little town of Big Bear Lake, located in Southern California, is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure-seekers alike. Known for its ski resorts in the winter and its seven-mile lake and golfing in the summer, Big Bear serves as a year-round Southern California escape.


Big Bear Lake is located in the San Bernardino Mountains in the middle of the San Bernardino National Forest. The town covers an area of approximately 6.5 square miles and the lake is at an altitude of 6,759 feet. The lake itself is only about 7 miles long and a 1/2 mile wide, making it the perfect spot for outdoor activities like fishing, kayaking, and swimming. Big Bear Lake is also popular for its winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. Not to mention the fact that its stunning mountain views make it an attractive destination for photographers and nature lovers.


Big Bear Lake is a four-season resort town with cold, snowy winters and warm, sunny summers. The average temperature in the summer is around 80F, while the winter temperature can drop to 20F. Big Bear Mountain Resort gets approx. 99″ of snow per year.

The spring and fall months experience moderate temperatures, making them ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking and biking.

For those seeking a more extreme hiking adventure, Mount San Gorgonio is located just 15 miles from Big Bear Lake. The Vivian Creek Trail (17.6-mile roundtrip) will take you to the top of San G. At 11,503 feet above sea level, it is the highest peak in southern California – with ever-changing weather conditions that range from snowstorms to summer thunderstorms. If you’re interested in learning more about hiking Mount San Gorgonia, check out Meg Hikes detailed guide.


According to the 2020 United States Census, the population of Big Bear Lake is approximately 5,200 people. The town has a median household income of $54,442 and a median age of 45.5 years.


Big Bear Lake is governed by a five-member city council, with a mayor elected from among the council members. The town has its own law enforcement (the city contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for criminal law and traffic enforcement). Bear Lake also has it’s own fire department, as well as a public works department, and other municipal services.

History of Big Bear Lake

Nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake has been a haven for adventure seekers since its incorporation as a ranching town during the mid-1800s. With the discovery of gold came an influx of settlers to this picturesque Ponderosa pine paradise and soon after it became one of California’s most popular hot spots – attracting outdoor adventurers from near and far.

Big Bear Valley was the epicenter of a gold rush during which thousands of dreamers from around the world poured in to seek their fortunes among its rugged mining camps. Unfortunately, lawlessness and little infrastructure often made it difficult for these prospectors to make an honest living; however, few could have known that this remote corner of California would become famous as one day being home to Southern California’s largest gold rush.

Once a hub of activity during the gold rush, Big Bear Valley has transformed into an idyllic travel destination. Its crystal-clear lake and picturesque mountain backdrop now draw in tourists from near and far to enjoy its plentiful year-round recreational opportunities. After being incorporated as a town in 1980, this gem tucked away among lush pines continues to captivate adventurers seeking respite amid stunning natural beauty that can’t be found anywhere else on Earth.

Amid the beautiful mountainous landscape, one can still detect subtle hints of an industrious past. Scattered across the region are remnants of long-forgotten mining communities – rusted pieces of equipment that serve as clues to a previous era now left in silence and solitude.

How the Lake was Made

Big Bear Lake is a stunning human-made lake, forged by the might of human ingenuity in 1912. A feat unprecedented for its time, it was created when an ambitious dam project transformed the idyllic valley and provided much-needed water to California’s swelling population. Then — as now– Big Bear Valley stands out proudly among other lakes around the world.

Nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, this vibrant and picturesque lake offers a wealth of outdoor pursuits to enjoy. The lake’s expanse measures 7 miles east to west and the width averages 1⁄2 mi north to south giving it 22 miles of shoreline. Big Bear Lake depths reach up to 72ft in some areas near the dam and, when full, holds 73,320 acre-feet of water (1 acre-foot of water is 326,000 gallons). It’s a dream destination for all avid water sports enthusiasts, come witness this stunning panorama for yourself.

Big Bear Lake, nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains and providing a vital source of water to Southern California, has become an international tourist destination. Its iconic natural beauty serves as the backdrop for year-round recreational activities that draw adventurers from all corners of the globe.

How Cold and Dangerous is the Water?

Big Bear Lake’s frigid depths make it an ideal summertime destination for fun-seekers. The chill of the water, which averages between 40 and 50F—a stark contrast to the warm air temperature—makes this lake a great spot for outdoor activities like swimming and paddleboarding.

Situated atop the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake is a stunning alpine retreat where visitors can enjoy swimming in its chilly waters. The lake’s cool temperatures come from both snowmelt and runoff originating high within the rugged mountain range, as well as natural springs bubbling up to feed it year-round. Even during summertime, this pristine California gem remains refreshingly chilled.

While taking a dip in cold waters can be invigorating, it is imperative to ensure your safety by doing so responsibly. Be sure to never venture out alone and don an appropriate wetsuit for added protection against the coolness of the water. Keep an eye on your body temperature and take breaks frequently if needed – no adventure is worth putting yourself at risk.

Big Bear Lake is a majestic and inviting destination for aquatic activities, but its visitors must remain aware of the risks that come with swimming in cold waters. From sudden alterations to weather patterns to utilizing proper safety precautions – it’s important to maintain vigilance when visiting this picturesque setting. By taking all these factors into consideration you can enjoy your time at Big Bear while maintaining peace of mind knowing that you are safe and secure!

Attractions and Activities

Big Bear Lake is a popular destination for outdoor activities and adventure. Visitors can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fishing, boating, and skiing, among other activities. Some of the top attractions and activities in Big Bear Lake.

Check out our Things to Do section for recommendations straight from us.

Movies shot in Big Bear Valley

Big Bear Lake is no stranger to the silver screen. It has been featured in classic movie productions, including:

1. Heidi (1937)
2. Gone with the Wind (1939)
3. The Great Outdoors (1988)
4. The Parent Trap (1998)
5. Forces of Nature (1999)
6. Not Another Teen Movie (2001)
7. Out Cold (2001)
8. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
9. The Aviator (2004)
10. The Ring Two (2005)
11. Mr. Brooks (2007)
12. The Hills Have Eyes II (2007)
13. Superbad (2007)
14. Iron Man (2008)
15. Red Riding Hood (2011)
16. The Lone Ranger (2013)
17. Into the Storm (2014)
18. Point Break (2015)
19. Wish Upon (2017)
20. Ad Astra (2019)

Escape to the Mountains in Southern California

The San Bernardino Mountains offer a cool, pine-scented escape from the heat and crowds of Southern California. Visitors can explore the area’s natural beauty, enjoy outdoor activities, and experience the laid-back mountain lifestyle.

Big Bear Lake is a must-visit destination for those looking to experience the beauty of Southern California’s mountains. With its stunning lake, top ski resorts, and abundance of outdoor activities, Big Bear offers something for everyone. Visitors can enjoy a range of attractions, from hiking and mountain biking to boating and fishing. The town’s rich history, including its gold mining past and Hollywood connections, adds to its charm.

While Big Bear is a year-round destination, the town truly shines in the winter, when its ski resorts come alive with skiers and snowboarders. However, the town’s summer attractions, including its stunning lake and outdoor recreation opportunities, are not to be missed.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an adventure-packed vacation, Big Bear Lake has something to offer. From its breathtaking natural beauty to its rich history and abundance of attractions, this mountain town is a true gem in Southern California.

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