15 Fun things to do with your dog in Big Bear CA

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Baxter Martin the toy australian shephered dog, posing a photo in big bear ca Photo by an Instrgarm User:blueeyedbaxter

Wherever you are in Southern California, you are not far from Big Bear Lake and a variety of fun and adventurous activities. There are three forests, including San Bernadino, Los Padres, and Angeles, with lakes, mountains, campgrounds, and canyons as well as waterfalls, parks, and trails. 

You will also find dozens of dog parks where your pup can play with other fur babies off their leash, and you can enjoy watching him run. 

This is a list of 15 fun things to do in Big Bear, but there are many more. One important thing to note is that you will need an Adventure Pass for many of the activities mentioned here. You can get them online or at one of the parks, campgrounds, or visitor centers. At this time, they are only $5 per day, but if you plan to visit often, it is better to pay $30 for a yearly pass. 

Get Fido in shape: Bark Park Big Bear Lake

Located in Ski Beach Park, which is right on the lake next to the Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District, this Bark Park features several pieces of agility equipment for your pooch to play on. One of these is the tunnel made out of an old barrel on metal legs. It even has little windows your pooch can look out of. The Bark Park Jump Over is a pole jump held by two metal dog silhouettes that both small and large pups enjoy. 

Speaking of small and large dogs, the park is separated with a space for small breeds and puppies as well as a larger space for the big fur buddies. Each side has several benches for pup parents, and they are both completely fenced in so your pooch can run and play off the leash. Ski Beach Park is also dog-friendly, but they need to be leashed. The 16.3-acre park has picnic areas, ball fields, tennis courts, and a volleyball court. Don’t forget to bring doggie waste bags and extra water. 

Go fishing: Big Bear Marina

Big Bear Marina is a dog-friendly attraction in Big Bear Lake. Besides being the largest and most popular marina on Big Bear Lake, this marina is also a great place to take your pooch for the day. They offer so many different activities, from tubing to paddle boarding, as well as fishing, lake tours, and of course, swimming. The tours are a blast. Choose from a two-hour ride on the Big Bear Queen or 90 minutes on the Big Bear Cruzer. Both are narrated by local historians. 

Your pup must be kept on a leash of less than eight feet long at all times, and they have to wear personal floatation devices when they are on the water. Most rentals do not include life vests for dogs, so you should bring your own. The fishing is great here, and you can let your dog tag along in the boat or on the dock. Pontoon boats also allow pups as long as they are well-behaved. 

Go biking: Alpine Pedal Path

Take your dog on a bike ride or a hike from the Stanfield Cutoff to the Big Bear Discovery Center. You will walk through the San Bernadino National Forest along Highway 38, past the North Shore Lookout Point, Minnelusa Canyon, and Juniper Point Lookout Area. Then the trail goes under the highway through a pedestrian tunnel to the Cougar Crest Trailhead at the discovery center. This is about three miles in total, but you can extend your trip if you want to keep going.

Continue on the North Shore Biking and Walking Trail past the Serrano Campground, Big Bear Shores Resort, Polique Canyon, and Big Bear Solar Observatory. You and your pup will love the incredible scenery and fresh air while exploring some of the various paths that go down to the lake. You can end your trip at the North Shore Recreation Area or on one of the beautiful beaches. 

Go for a swim: Big Bear Lake Beaches

During the summer, you and your fur baby can take a dip in the lake. Big Bear Lake is seven miles long, 2.5 miles wide, and has almost 3,000 acres in surface area. The average depth is about 34 feet, with a maximum depth of 71 feet. All the beaches along Highway 38 are dog-friendly and can be reached from the Alpine Pedal Path or the North Shore Recreation Area. If you are not sure, just check with a lifeguard or park personnel. 

The best dog beach, according to locals, is the Boathouse Dog Beach on Alden Road. It is mostly grass and rocks, and your pup can play in the water here too. There are concessions here as well that boast live music on most weekends. For families with kids, Meadow Park is the favorite because of the soft sand, lifeguard, restrooms, floating dock, and water toys. They even have a snack bar so you can satisfy the hunger you worked up hiking on the Alpine Path.

Play in the snow: Big Bear Snow Play 

From the beach to the snow. You have to have something to do when it gets cold, right? Those who are not from here are probably surprised that southern California gets cold. And snow? Well, it does not get that cold, and they make their own snow. Who cares where it comes from? It is a lot of fun! The beautiful white stuff is fluffy and clean with perfect hills and some great trails too. From the middle of November until the middle of April, the slopes and hills are open. 

If your pooch loves the snow, head out to Big Bear Snow Play, and you can go snow tubing during the day and glow tubing at night. Either way, you will both have a blast! If you cannot make it during the winter, that’s okay too. There is still plenty to do. But you may not be able to bring your pup for all the attractions like the speedway go-karts, but the ropes course is dog-friendly if your pooch is small enough to sit on your lap. 

Explore the woods: Pine Knot Trail to Grand View Point

There are a lot of trails in the small city of Big Bear Lake, and many of them are dog friendly. Most of them are in the middle of the San Bernadino National Forest, making these great hikes stunningly beautiful and full of opportunities to see some wildlife. The Pine Knot Trail is about seven miles long and is of moderate difficulty with an elevation gain of 1,160 feet and usually takes about three hours.

Starting at the Aspen Glen Picnic Area and ending at Grand View Point, you and your pooch can expect to see quite a few people on the hike because this is one of the most popular hikes in the area. You may even see some horses and bikers. 

The picnic area has tables, grills, and bathrooms you can use before or after your walk. You will be under the forest canopy for the most part, but you can take some breaks along the way at places like the Deer Group Camp, where they have pit toilets and benches. 

Have a picnic: Big Bear Pop-Up Picnic

Speaking of picnics, why not enjoy a picnic with your pup and some others who will provide the food as well as the secret location? The activity is held by Amber or one of her team, who is an Airbnb member known to be the picnic queen. You do not have to hike, though. You get a nice and comfy ride in an SUV with the group. Your pup is most welcome as long as he is leashed and friendly. 

The forest area you will be picnicking at is in the woods with a spectacular view of the San Bernadino Mountains and surrounding area. Your guide will be taking as many photos of you and your fur buddy to provide to you afterward. The picnic food varies with items like cheese, salami, muffins, and fruit with beverages and water. If you ask in advance, they can provide a special menu for those with allergies. Don’t forget to bring something for your pup. 

Go SUP with your PUP: Get Boards Ride Shop

Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) has become a popular water sport all over the world, and Big Bear Lake is the perfect place for it. Get Boards Ride Shop has two locations on the lake to choose from. The one in Boulder Bay at 39166 Big Bear Boulevard is next to Boulder Bay Park, and the other one is at 40905 Big Bear Boulevard next to Veterans Park. The Boulder Bay site has a beach with a launch, and the other location has a private dock. 

Both of the locations offer multiple sports equipment for rent or purchase. Some of these include paddle boards, kayaks, and bikes, as well as skis and snowboards during the winter months. Summer months are from May through October, and winter runs from November to April, and they are open from 9 AM until 7 PM. Your pup is welcome on paddle boards and kayaks as long as he is leashed and well-behaved.

Pick some apples or berries: Los Rios Ranchos Apple Farm

Located in the dog-friendly Oak Glem Preserve on Oak Glen Road just south of Big Bear Lake in Oak Glen. This is the largest apple farm in southern California, and although your pup cannot go into the orchards, you can both enjoy the parkland and the nature trails. You can have someone hold your pup while you pick some apples or berries or just buy some freshly picked from the orchard. Over 100 years old, the farm is one of the oldest in the state. 

From August until the end of October, the park has a Farm Fair with various fun activities like a hayride, corn maze, and crafts. Oak Glen Preserve has just over 900 acres in a glen at the food of Wilshire Peak and features some excellent trails to explore. There is also a botanic garden and outdoor discovery center. Buy some fresh produce and a homemade apple pie and have a picnic in the park or just stroll through the gardens. 

Take a hike: Castle Rock Trail

Another fun trail that your pup will enjoy is this Castle Rock Trail, which has 2.7 miles of easy-to-moderate hiking. What is so special about this trail is that you can let your fur baby run free off the leash at some of the places along the way. You will start at the Castle Rock Trailhead on the western end of the lake of Big Bear Boulevard, about a mile from the dam. It is not a long hike, but it has a steep incline of more than 800 feet of elevation gain.

It is a popular trail and can get crowded on the weekends during the spring and summer. Make sure your pup is leashed on the trail unless you are at one of the off-leash areas. If you do let your pup off the leash, be careful of the steep slopes and dropoffs. Near the top of the hike, you will get some sensational views of the lake, and surrounding mountains, so bring a camera. You will want plenty of snaps to share on your social media pages. 

Let your pup get social: Redlands Dog Park

Just a short ride from the lake, Redlands Dog Park is located in Ford Park, which is about 30 acres and features quite a few dog-friendly areas. The RUFF (Redlands Unleashed Fidos & Friends) park is a large fenced enclosure with two sections. One of them is specifically for small or shy dogs that do not benefit from being around larger and more sociable dogs. Off-leash activity is encouraged, but your pup must be leashed outside the fenced areas.

You will find benches, shade, and plenty of toys to play with at Redlands Dog Park, and there are poop bag dispensers. However, you should bring your own in case they are empty. Although there are restrooms and access to drinking water, bring your dog some water and a vessel to drink from. Do not bring any toys unless your dog does not mind other dogs playing with them. And your pooch will need to have his shots and a rabies tag on his collar. 

Get in touch with nature: Wildwood Canyon State Park

Wildwood Canyon State Park is about an hour from Big Bear Lake, but it is worth the drive if you enjoy hiking because there is 900+ acres to explore here in Yucaipa. Located in the hills at the base of the San Bernadino Mountains, the park boasts some of the most scenic areas in California. With wide grasslands and giant oaks about 200 years old, the canyon is a place to see both flora and fauna, some that may be rare or endangered. 

Keep your pooch on the leash here to prevent him from damaging any of the flora or annoying any of the wildlife. You may be able to see mule deer, cottontail rabbits, and voles but watch out for black bears, foxes, skunks, and bobcats. There are eight trails to explore and enjoy here from the easy half-mile Cottonwood Trail to the longer 1.25-mile Water Canyon Trail. Wildwood Canyon is open every day of the week from 7:30 AM to sunset.

See the lake from the air: Helicopter Big Bear

One of the best ways to see the gorgeous area around Big Bear Lake is from the sky. Helicopter Big Bear offers 10 different helicopter tours that you and Fido can enjoy as long as he is small and well-behaved. If you have a larger dog, they have dog-sitters who will take care of him for you. The tours range from seven to 45 minutes long each. One of the most popular is the 25-minute Bravo Tour, where you can see a secret waterfall. 

For those who want a quick trip, take the 7-minute Romeo Tour where you will get stellar views of Big Bear Lake including the snow summit and Bear Mountain. Or try the 15-minute Kilo Tour, also known as the Big Bear Adventure Ride. You will dip into the canyon before climbing the steep mountains over Bluff Lake to see Castle Rock, the Big Bear Ski areas, and Cedar Lake. For the longest tour, Echo Tour flies you over the Santa Ana Canyon to San Gorgonio Peak. 

Play games: Board Games and TRPGs on the Mountain

If you and your dog enjoy board games and tabletop role-playing games (TRPGs), you will want to check out this Airbnb apartment with almost 100 board games. The fully-furnished cozy space has one bedroom that sleeps four and a kitchen, dining area, and bathroom. The backyard is fully fenced so your furry family member can play outside when he gets sick of watching you play Monopoly.

Besides board games, you can find a Wii with another 500+ games to play. And the kitchen has a microwave, toaster oven, Foreman grill, and crockpot to make some grub for you and your pup. There is also plenty of room to kick back on the couch or loveseat to watch a movie or spend some quality time with your dog. Free Wi-Fi and cable are included as well as bed linens, blankets, pillows, shampoo, conditioner, and a hair dryer. Just minutes from a variety of shops and restaurants, you will not be bored here. 

Dine out: Various restaurants at Big Bear Lake

You do not have to leave your fur buddy at home when you are dining out in Big Bear Lake. Because of the sensational climate, there are many eateries with outdoor seating that allow your pup to tag along. Some of them even serve special doggy treats and snacks. Others do not mind if you share. Teddy Bear Restaurant on Pine Knot is one of the favorites with the locals so it has to be good. Their top 10 items include an Angus pastrami burger, chicken pot pie, pot roast, and turkey avocado melt. 

Nottingham’s Tavern and Grill on Big Bear Boulevard is another place you can bring your pup. They have two levels with three bars serving everything you can think of, from duck wings to vegan pizza. The Patio is open from May until November, and your pooch is welcome to hang out and enjoy the lake view and live music. They even have a doggy menu. Or you can enjoy the patio at The Boneyard Grill, El Jacalito Grill, and The Cookshack. 

The Final Woof

Big Bear Lake is a tourist attraction/resort town around the 2,971-acre Big Bear Lake in southern California. You will not run out of things to do no matter how long you and your pup are there or even if you live there. 

The lake and its vendors are constantly adding new attractions, from boat tours to beaches and fishing and food. Although you can swim here, the water is cold, and there are a lot of underwater dangers near the shore. But you and your fur buddy will find all sorts of fun things to do in Big Bear Lake. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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