I love finding places that make me want to visit over and over again.
I’ve visited plenty of destinations around the world that I’ve felt this way about, but it’s especially nice to find these special places closer to home (so visiting over and over again is actully possible).
For me, the San Bernardino Mountains are one of these easy-to-visit-again-and-again places. At about 2.5 hours from LA (give or take depending on traffic and where in the mountains you’re going) and easily accessible from Orange Country and San Diego, these towering, pine tree-covered mountains are a refreshing and unexpected escape from the palm trees and beaches of Southern California. And with elevations just shy of 6,000 feet, the San Bernardino Mountains experience all four seasons, including changing leaves in fall and snow in winter — something that can’t be said about the rest of the almost always sunny region.
The San Bernardino Mountains make for a perfect weekend escape if you live in or are visiting Southern California — and it’s a place I recommend to all my SoCal friends. In fact, I’m starting to make a weekend visit here in October a yearly tradition, having just visited for my second October in a row.
I wrote all about my first visit last fall (be sure to read about it here) and enjoyed that trip so much that I visited lots of the same places this time around. But on this trip, I ventured a little further east in the San Bernardino Mountains to also check out Big Bear Lake (more on that below).
Below, you’ll find my photos and highlights from my recent visit. Hopefully they’ll help inspire you to plan a visit of your own.
Things To Do In The San Bernardino Mountains
Stay At Arrowhead Pine Rose Cabins
My cabin during this year’s weekend stay at Pine Rose. See my article from last year for more info on my favorite cabins.
This is the cabin I stayed in on my last visit (October 2016)
Arrowhead Pine Rose Cabins is a collection of 16 storybook cottages ranging from studios to three bedrooms in size, plus four larger, private lodges. All of the cabins are well maintained, appointed and equipped (all feature a small kitchen and most feature a wood-burning fireplace). The smaller cabins are, as you can imagine, pretty romantic, and the larger two and three-bedrooms cottages are great for groups of friends (although still cozy and romantic in their own right).
As mentioned above, I stayed here last year in October and am planning to make a weekend visit here a yearly, fall tradition (pro tip: fall arrives a little late in these parts, so for peak autumn vibes, visit from late October to early November). The cabins’ location, about a 10-minute drive above Lake Arrowhead at 5,777 feet elevation in the small community of Twin Peaks, means the temperature can drop considerably at night. On nights like these, nothing beats putting on a fire and getting cozy in your cabin (there’s free WiFi so I recommend bringing a tablet to watch a movie in bed) and simply relaxing.
Visit The Tiny Town Of Skyforest
Skyforest’s little post office among towering pine trees
Eat Breakfast at The Hungry Bear Deli
Located about a 10-minute drive from Pine Rose Cabins, Hungry Bear Deli is my favorite places in the area for breakfast. While they have a great menu, their bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel is where it’s at! And to drink, try the “Volcano,” which is sort of like a thick and sweet cappuccino of steroids (almost like a hot cappuccino milkshake). I got this exact same order on my visit last year and enjoyed every bite just as much.
You never know what you’ll find
10 feet to the left of Hungry Bear Deli, you’ll find At The Cabin, and diagonally behind Hungry Bear, you’ll find Bella’s Antiques. Both shops are well curated and have a surprisingly impressive selection of antique and vintage goods (which, if you bought them at a flea market in Los Angeles, would cost 50% more than they do here).
Even if you don’t need anything, or don’t end up taking something home, they’re still fun to peruse.
More Skyforest: While I wasn’t able to visit on this trip, Skyforst is also home to Lou Eddie’s, an incredible little pizza restaurant, bar and microbrewery located diagonally across the street from Hungry Bear Deli. It’s the best spot around for a casual lunch or dinner (they close by 8pm on Sunday-Thursday and 8:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays, so plan on an early dinner if you go).
Driving through the San Bernardino Mountains from Skyforest to Big Bear Lake
Horseback Riding At Baldwin Lake Stables
Not far outside of downtown Big Bear Lake (known for its ski resorts in the winter and namesake lake in the summer), the towering and rugged San Bernardino Mountains slowly begin to level out and eventually blend into the surrounding desert. Baldwin Lake Stables and the photos above showcase this beautiful ‘in-between’ zone. If you enjoy horseback riding, I recommend the two-hour sunset ride as it’ll get you to a higher elevation and beautiful spot to watch the sunset from.
Hike Grays Peak Trail Bear Near Big Bear Lake
I hiked Grays Peak Trail, the trailhead for which is right near the northern shore of Big Bear Lake. The trail is well maintained, easy to access and moderate in level, making it one of the more popular trails in the area. Plus, with its big boulders, views of the lake, pine trees and fall colors (as you can tell in the photos above) it’s one of area’s most scenic hikes.
More Big Bear: After a day of adventure, head into Big Bear Village, a walkable downtown area filled with bars and restaurants. You can’t got wrong with dinner at 572 Social Kitchen and Lounge.
For more information and photos on the San Bernardino Mountains, be sure to read: