Big Bear’s big outdoors appeal
The Big Bear Gran Fondo almost destroyed Ed Korb. The 47-year-old machinery salesman from Tustin suffered cramped muscles and dehydration and became delusional during the beautiful but grueling 45-mile mountain-bike race in Big Bear Lake last September.
After getting so beat up by the ride, which included more than 6,000 feet of climbs and descents through the deep forests and rivers of the San Bernardino Mountains, Korb warned his girlfriend off coming along when he tries it again this year. “You’ll be sitting around all day waiting for me,” he told her.
“No I won’t,” replied Laura Leong, a chemist, also 47, who’s made her own Big Bear to-do list. “In the morning, I’ll be doing … yoga with goats! Then I’ll go ziplining. After that, stand-up paddleboarding on the lake with a group called Babes on Boards. You might even see me up on Skyline.”
Skyline refers to the stunning new hiker-biker trail framing the length of the lake from the towering ridge south of town. Part of the Gran Fondo course, the trail connects with Snow Summit’s mountain bike park and has helped spur new features that are turning Big Bear Lake into a year-round recreational hub.
Big Bear Lake used to hibernate when the snow melted, but not anymore. With free daily training runs and rides, loads of paddling and power-boating opportunities, a full schedule of world-class running and cycling races, and trendy goat yoga, the little ski town east of L.A. is becoming a go-to summer destination for outdoors lovers. It attracts everyone from weekend warriors seeking killer challenges to bird-watchers interested in the bald eagles at the lake (the birth of eagle chicks caused an internet stir earlier this year).
For runners, Big Bear Lake’s marquee events such as the Kodiak 100- and 50-mile ultramarathons and Conquer the Wall, a crazy 1-mile sprint up the ski resort’s steepest run, serve as a prequel to the Big Bear Half and Full Marathon in early November.
For water sports lovers, the 7-mile-long lake allows waterskiing, wakeboarding and other powerboating activities, with many shops renting kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
Cyclists get the best ride of all, with nationally known events such as the off-road Gran Fondo, the on-road Tour de Big Bear and a radically upgraded network of biker-hiker paved and dirt trails. “We’ve had a wild spate of cycling infrastructure development in the last five years, and it’s just the beginning,” Mayor Randall Putz said. “Our new paved Happy Hills Trail will link to north shore trails and eventually circumnavigate the lake. And a half-dozen new dirt trails link to Big Bear’s crown jewel, the Skyline Trail.”
Skyline, cobbled together by influential locals, a new Forest Service leader and grant money, is the area’s first new trail in 25 years, and it’s a wonder: 15.5 miles of groomed single-track that gently dips and rises on the 8,000-foot ridgeline far above the lake. It allows bikers and hikers a fun, challenging adventure that weaves though forest, flower-filled meadows and rock formations and offers gorgeous views of Mt. San Gorgonio.
Accessed by feeder trails from the valley or from the top of the ski lift at the Snow Summit Mountain Bike Park, Skyline was designed to be beginner- and family-friendly but satisfying for hard-core bikers such as Korb.
And there’s more to come.
“Big Bear was always a great place to get away from L.A. and run and ride and paddle,” says Derek Hermon, owner of Bear Valley Bikes and founder of the Gran Fondo. “But with Skyline and all these other new trails coming in, it’s at a whole new level.”
Here are some events and resources that can help you make the most of Big Bear Lake.
Kodiak Ultramarathons, Aug.16-18. 50K, 50-mile and 100-mile courses that circle the lake and climb to a top elevation of 10,000 feet. $165 to $300. Info: kodiak100.com
Ryan Hall’s Conquer the Wall, 9 a.m. Aug. 10. Starting at 7,000 feet, you make a one-mile, 1,200-foot ascent up the steepest double black diamond ski run at Snow Summit ski resort. (It’s a fundraiser for the local high school track team.) $35 and $50, T-shirt included. Info: (909) 543-9159, conquerthewall.org
Big Bear Marathon, Nov 9. Super-fast downhill race, often used to set personal records, that descends 5,000 feet from Big Bear to the foothills of Redlands. Average runner times are 30 to 60 minutes faster than other races. $119-139. Info: runrevel.com/rbb
Tour de Big Bear Glow Ride, 8 to 11 p.m. Aug. 1. Casual ride in which cyclists usually wear costumes and carry glow sticks. Free. Info: bigbearcycling.com
Tour de Big Bear, 7 a.m. Aug. 3. 10K plus 25-, 50-, 70-, 106- and 109-mile road courses around the Big Bear area. Also seven-mile, 2,500-foot-gain timed king/queen of the mountain climb to Onyx Summit (record is 26 minutes). Aid stations serve bacon, Popsicles, cheese crackers, watermelon, ribs, smoothies. $74 to $104. Info: bigbearcycling.com.
Fox U.S. Open of Mountain Biking, Sept. 12-15. Downhill racing for pros and amateurs on new downhill 1.5-mile course with 1,200-foot descent at Big Bear ski resort. Info: Fox U.S. Open, bit.ly/2UXHU7m
Grizzly 100/75k and Big Bear Gran Fondo, Sept. 28. 20K to 100K mountain bike and gravel-grinder races traveling over the summit down to the Santa Ana River Trail, up the grueling Radford Climb to Skyline Trail, then home. Serves as the National Ultra Endurance championship, with top ultra riders on hand. $85-$155. Info: BBVRace.com
Snow Summit Mountain Bike Park, all summer. Lifts take you up the mountain to access many trails in the 240-acre ski resort turned bike park. Connects with the Skyline Trail and includes flow trails for beginners. $44 with advance reservation; $50 on-site. Bike rentals available at various prices, including $115 for a Trek Remedy dual-suspension bike and helmet. Info: Snow Summit Bike Park, bit.ly/snowsummitbikepark
Road and mountain bike rides, beginner to advanced, now through October. Free. 8:30-10:30 a.m. Mondays, Java Morning Intermediate Road Ride; 5-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, intermediate and advanced training; 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Evening Recovery Road (all levels); 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, Evening Mountain Ride (beginner and intermediate); 9 to 11 a.m. Saturdays, Community bike rides, all levels. Info: bigbearcycling.com
Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation provides maps and guides to trails in the area, including the Skyline Trail, at bit.ly/bigbeartrails
Goat yoga, 6-7 p.m. Wednesdays and 9:30-10:30 a.m. Saturdays. Baby goats walk on your back and shoulders as you strike poses. $20. Info: bearvalleyfarms.com
Bird-watching walk, 8-10 a.m. Two miles, first Saturdays in August, September and October. Free. Info: Chirp Nature Center, chirpforbirds.com
Action Tours of Big Bear, $119 during the week, $129 weekends. Info: actionziplinetours.com
Babes on Boards Stand-Up Paddleboard, 5 p.m. Thursdays. Paddleboard on Big Bear Lake with 25 to 30 women (men are welcome to join). $5. Info: Captain John’s, Fawnskin, (909) 866-6478, bit.ly/captjohns
Get The Wild newsletter.
The essential weekly guide to enjoying the outdoors in Southern California. Insider tips on the best of our beaches, trails, parks, deserts, forests and mountains.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.