snowy landscape with cabins

Winter Guide | Affordable Things To Do In Big Bear

Posted: 10/01/20 | By Hannah K

Your guide to an affordable winter vacation in Big Bear Lake!

When you think of a snow-filled winter vacation in Southern California, the activities that come to mind are skiing and snowboarding. The ski resorts are great, but I want you to know there is so much more to discover when the snow flies in Big Bear! Here are some affordable winter activities to help make your next vacation even more memorable.

Go Snowshoeing

Get outdoors and spend a day in the quiet solitude of nature. Snowshoeing is a wonderful winter activity for couples, friends or the entire family. Try out forest trails like Town Trail or Bristlecone where you can snowshoe at your own pace surrounded by the beauty of the forest in winter. It’s affordable winter fun at $15 per person, per day for snowshoe rentals and there is NO lift ticket! Rent snowshoes with poles at Goldsmith’s Sports or Bear Valley Bikes. Your rental company will point out the best trails and provide maps for your new adventure. Please Note: Snowshoeing is weather dependent.

Winter Hiking in the San Bernardino Mountains

There are four beautiful hiking trails on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake that are perfect for all ages in the winter.


Alpine Pedal Path (Very Easy, 5 miles, RT), Woodland Trail (Easy, 1.5 mile loop), Discovery Center Nature Walk (Very Easy, ½ mile loop) and Cougar Crest Trail ( Moderate – Difficult, 4 miles, RT). Wear layered clothing and good walking shoes, bring plenty of water, use sunscreen and always check the weather forecast if you are planning to be in the forest during winter months. Hiking is fun – Hiking is free.

Snowballs, Snowmen and Snow Forts

Get rowdy with a good old-fashioned snowball fight and help the kids build a snow fort to protect their territory! Build a snowman to stand guard over your fort. This is one of the best free activities for all ages! Snow is easy to find in picnic areas or city parks… especially after a storm hits the valley! One of the favorite free snow play areas is Aspen Glen Picnic Area off of Mill Creek Rd. just west of the Village. Make sure to purchase a $5 Adventure Pass for parking at Aspen Glen Picnic Area. Adventure Passes are available at the Big Bear Visitors Center.

Snow Tubing

Winter vacation memories are made tubing and sledding here! At Big Bear Snow Play and Alpine Slide a ‘magic carpet’ takes you, the kids and their tubes to the top of the snow-covered runs… a parent’s dream! An Unlimited Day Pass is only $35 per person and children 36" - 42” tall are $20 and must be accompanied by a paying adult. Enjoy hours of fun snow tubing, then take a break to warm up indoors with a hot cocoa and snacks. Or, pack a lunch and use one of the picnic tables in the viewing areas for a fun family outing. Alpine Slide and Big Bear Snow Play are the safest snow tubing areas and have plenty of snow all winter long!

Caution: Snow sledding in the forest may have hidden obstacles like fallen tree branches or rocks. Please be careful if you choose to sled in the forest.

For the more adventurous, grab a shovel to create a DIY sled hill in your backyard. Building your own sledding hill might be just what the kids need to stay entertained while you enjoy a cup of coffee by the fireplace. Just remember, Pay-n-Play areas are free of potentially dangerous street traffic.

Off-Peak Ski and Snowboard at Big Bear Mountain Resorts

Want a more affordable option for skiing and snowboarding this season? Check out the prices at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain for off-peak, half-day or night skiing. Off-peak is usually during the week and non-holiday periods and offers lower rates. Half-day starts at noon and goes until 4 p.m. daily. Night skiing is available only at Snow Summit. Night skiing hours are 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. Take a “snow” day and bring the kids up during the week. Shorter lines, less traffic and big savings! Vacation packages also help curb costs while bundling what you want most.

Take a stroll through Big Bear Lake Village

The Village is always a fun place for shopping and dining on a cold, wintry day. Let the scents of fresh brewed coffee and sweet cinnamon rolls surround you as you browse through quaint boutiques and shops. Maybe you’ll find a souvenir or two to take home or the perfect holiday gift for someone special. Outdoor fire pits attract visitors looking for a warm spot to take a break while others dart into one the local pubs for a bite to eat and a cold-weather cocktail.

Guided Nature Walks, Nature Crafts, Children’s Story Time and Animal Tracking

Most of these activities at the Big Bear Discovery Center (currently closed for renovations) are free or very low cost. In the winter, weather providing, they offer Eco-Snowshoe Tours for about $30 per person. An experienced guide will lead a tour group to one of our forest trails for a few hours of snowshoeing and a little bit of forest education. Snowshoes are provided by the Mountains Foundation. Check their calendar for upcoming tours and book early to reserve your spot.

Big Bear Alpine Zoo is the only zoo in the U.S. devoted to alpine animal rescue and rehabilitation. Big Bear Alpine Zoo offers wild animals a safe place to heal or permanently stay if they are unable to make it in on their own. See grizzly bears, black bear, snow leopards and cougars. Snowy owls, majestic bald eagles and playful raccoons are just a few of the other beautiful animals you can see during your visit. Admission is $12 per adult (11 yrs. and up), $9 per child (3 to 10 yrs.) or seniors (60+) and free for ages 2 and under.

Affordable Night Life

Are you a night owl? On Friday and Saturday nights you can listen to free country western music and kick up your boots with some line dancing at Wyatt’s Saloon or check out the weekend entertainment in The Village. Thursday nights you can go to The Pines Lakefront for cocktails, appetizers and free Jazz. If bars aren’t your thing, try glow bowling at the Bowling Barn.

Affordable Lodging

The most affordable lodging rates in Big Bear during the winter will be mid-week, non-peak days. Book early for weekends and holidays because everyone wants to be here once it snows! Hot Tip: Always check out the specials on our lodging page.

Click here for more winter activities in Big Bear.

Related Partners