bear paw icon


How Big Bear got its name…

A little Big Bear History factoid: If someone told you they had just spent a fun-filled weekend at a popular southern California resort called Yuhaviat, you probably wouldn't know what they were talking about. Yuhaviat is a Serrano Native American word meaning "Pine Place," and it has been the name in our lake history books for more than a thousand years.

Big Bear is no longer called Yuhaviat. Big Bear history reflects that back in 1845, Benjamin Davis Wilson rode into Yuhaviat Valley with a posse of 20 men. They were chasing Native Americans who had been raiding their ranches in Riverside. As they entered the valley, they found it swarming with grizzly bear. That’s not a misprint, it was indeed grizzly bear!

Wilson divided his men into two-man teams. Each team went out, roped a bear and brought it back to camp. They had eleven bear at the camp, all at the same time. This prompted Wilson to come up with the name Big Bear Lake. However, it should be noted that Big Bear Lake is a man-made lake that didn't exist in 1845. The lake Wilson named Big Bear was actually the natural lake at the east end of the valley, now known as Baldwin Lake. The rest is Big Bear history.


Big Bear Lake was once a gold mining mecca before it became a popular four season resort. Lake history records that in 1860, a bear hunter named William Holcomb discovered gold in the backcountry after tracking a bear’s blood trail to a creek filled with flakes of gold. He tried to keep it a secret, but soon enough word spread, and Southern California’s largest gold rush was on! From 1860 to about 1875 the area was swarming with prospectors.

All that remains today are some relics and structures from the Lake history days of yore. Big Bear Off Road Adventures offers gold mining tours all year round. Big Bear Discovery Center offers tours in the summer and provides a self guided brochure for folks who want to venture out on their own to relive the gold rush. Visitors will see actual remnants of the gold mining days and learn about certain points of Big Bear history facts of interest such as Metzger Mine, Lucky Baldwin Mine, Two Gun Bill’s Saloon, Hangman’s Tree, and Wilbur’s Grave.





Any Season is 4 Wheel Drive season


Your “Gateway to Adventure and Discovery in the Great Outdoors!”
40971 North Shore Dr.

Travel Tools
  • Visitor Guide
  • Newsletter
  • Photo Gallery
  • Video Gallery
  • Interactive Map
  • Directions
  • Coupons
  • Events Calendar