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Fall Colors


Southern California is well known for its climate and weather. One thing for certain is there are only a few select places to experience a real autumn season in Southern California. From mid October to early November, Mother Nature transforms Big Bear Lake into a sea of gold, crimson, amber and yellow. Big Bear's fall season is ideal for those who want to escape for a day or take a mini-vacation to experience the splendor of Big Bear's autumn hues. A hike in the woods in October and November is magical in a sense. The colors combined with the crisp air bring out something special in everyone.

Thousands of evergreen trees help bring out the brilliance of fall colors of other trees like aspens, cottonwoods, and oaks. The ground is covered with rust-colored ferns, and Big Bear Village is brilliant with vibrant red maples. Some of the best spots include, Mill Creek Road, The Pine Knot Trail and Castle Rock Trail. Amateur and professional photographers alike visit Big Bear Lake to capture these spectacular autumn hues. These remarkable fall colors appear only once a year and expected to peak the second week of October.

The location that stands out the most for amazing fall foliage is The Aspen Grove. This area is Big Bear's all-star for fall colors! It's a splendid display, and is the only one of its kind in the San Bernardino National Forest. It is undoubtedly one of the best places to see fall colors in all of Southern California.

The quaking aspens display brilliant gold leaves that typically peak the first or second week of October. The remarkable fall colors appear only once a year, and last about three weeks before Mother Nature drops her temperatures and blows the leaves away. The Aspen Grove (currently closed) is ideal for those who want to escape for a day and experience the natural splendor of quaking aspens. It is east of Big Bear Lake, off Highway 38 at the Heart Bar Campground on Forest Service Road 1N02. Visitors follow 1N02 to 1N05 to the Aspen Grove Trail parking area (2.6 miles from Highway 38). From there take the Aspen Grove Trail, which leads directly to the trees, about 1.5 miles from the parking area. There are plenty of vantage points where photographers can capture different angles of the spectacular autumn hues. Also, there are some nearby ridges that are great for tripods.

The Aspen Grove Trail leads to Fish Creek Trail, where visitors continue to enjoy a hike into the San Gorgonio Wilderness. The trail offers opportunities to see other types of trees that display fall colors like cottonwoods and black oaks.

Wilderness permits are required for all hikes into the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Permits are free, and may be requested in person, by mail or by fax from Mill Creek Ranger Station, 34701 Millcreek Road (Hwy 38 at the base of the forest boundary) or at Big Bear Discovery Center, 40971 Northshore Drive (Hwy. 38). For more information contact the Mill Creek Ranger Station at 909-382-2881 or the Big Bear Discovery Center at 909-866-3437. All visitors parking a vehicle on San Bernardino National Forest must display an Adventure Pass in their vehicles. Adventure Passes may be purchased at Mill Creek Ranger Station, Big Bear Discovery Center, Big Bear Visitor Center and various shops throughout Big Bear Valley.

Big Bear is only a two hour drive from most Southland communities and three hours from Las Vegas, making it easy access to see the mountain resort's autumn spectacular. The refreshing, clean air adds true pleasure to brisk walks along the lake. Mountain breezes help the oak trees shed their red and golden leaves. For the romantics, it is a great time to snuggle up with a warm blanket next to a fireplace, and wake the next morning to a fresh alpine landscape. For the more adventurous-at-heart, autumn is ideal for hiking and mountain biking on the alpine trails.

Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest

October in Big Bear is a time for celebration, too. Most notable is the annual Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest, the highest-altitude Oktoberfest celebration in the United States. For 43 years, this event has attracted thousands of visitors to enjoy German food, imported brews, Bavarian bands, traditional dances and competitions, such as, Queen Stein Carrying Contest. 

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