Planning Your Winter Getaway

How to plan for safe winter driving and navigating Big Bear parking, transportation, and more.

As we head into the snowy season in Big Bear Lake, it is important for visitors to prioritize safe travel, respectful visitation, and thorough planning. Taking the time to plan helps you avoid peak crowding time, long waits, and other frustrations that can take away from an enjoyable vacation. Read below on how to plan and be prepared for common winter conditions.

Travel Checklist

Check Weather Conditions

Any time you travel into mountain regions, you must consider weather conditions:

  • Check the weather forecast for the Big Bear Lake area before you leave home and be prepared to handle storm conditions if they are forecasted.
  • We never recommend travelling during storm conditions. If possible, plan to travel in favorable weather.
  • Stormy conditions can create icy or snowy roads and low visibility. Be sure your vehicle is equipped to manage these unfavorable conditions if you must travel during a storm.
  • Stormy weather conditions may cause roads in mountain regions to close. Make sure you check road conditions before you head into mountain regions.
  • Weather condition resources: BensWeather, AccuWeather, WeatherChannel
  • make it impossible to drive back down the hill, and winter lodging is often sold out on weekends and holidays. Check weather and make plans for where to stay should you not be able to return home.

Check Road Conditions

Don't Get Stuck!

From Dec 1 through Apr 1, you MUST carry tire chains in your vehicle when driving in mountain regions. This is mandatory even if you aren't required to install chains on your tires. When CalTrans calls for chain requirements, checkpoints are set up and cars will be screened for tire chains before being allowed to pass.

Know when tire chain conditions are in effect. Download the CalTrans Quickmaps app to your phone to keep track on road condition changes.


Check Tire Chains

The time to buy chains is before you need them! It is recommended to purchase tire chains off the mountain as auto retail stores in Big Bear have a limited supply. To select the correct chains, make sure to:

  • Check your vehicle manual to determine what chain types work best for your car
  • Check what size wheels you need to buy chains for.
  • Tire chains are installed on your vehicle's drive wheels. Know which wheels are your drive wheels.
  • Be sure to follow the instructions included in your tire chain kit.
  • Ask the auto retail staff for guidance in purchasing chains.
  • NOTE: Many rental car agencies may not allow chains to be installed. This is not an excuse to not use chains when mandated by CalTrans to do so. It is recommended that you rent a 4-wheel or All-wheel drive vehicle as most chain mandates pertain to 2-wheel drive cars. Regardless of your vehicle however, you do need to carry chains.

Tire Chain Resources:

Tire Chain FAQs

Winter Driving Safety

Have a Backup Plan

As mentioned above, severe storms and road conditions can close roads in mountain regions. Lodging facilities are often sold out in winter months and if you aren't able to drive down the mountain due to a closure, you may need a back-up plan ready if you can't return home.

When planning your Big Bear vacation, be sure you know what weather to expect before you drive to and from mountain regions. If a storm is predicted, try to travel a day before or a couple of days after to ensure that roads have been safely cleared.

You may also consider booking an extra lodging night if you're unsure if you'll be able to return home during a storm.

More Travel Resources