Casual Cycling at Big Bear Lake, CA

By Richard Fox Updated September 2021

Big Bear Lake sits about 7,000 feet above the urban valley floor in the spectacular San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. Long known as a year round recreation playground with winter ski resorts and summer lake activities, cycling has mostly been of the hard-core variety, with little to offer to the more casual cyclist… until now.

The long-established Alpine Pedal Path runs ~2.4 miles along the northeast shore of Big Bear Lake, connecting campgrounds to the Stanfield Cutoff that leads to town.  It’s not flat, but is easy enough, with plenty of gorgeous lake views and forest scenery. On warm days the pines emit a delightful aroma, and summer wildflowers can abound.  A beautiful but hilly 1-mile spur leads through the pretty forest to the Discovery Center.  In summer 2017 the main path was widened and re-paved making it much better for bikes and peds to coexist.  Still, weekdays are much preferred in that regard. Meanwhile, the City of Big Bear Lake has developed a system of bike routes through serene residential streets, leading to the quaint Village, the hub of dining and tourist shopping. A bike path runs parallel to Pine Knot Ave.

Projects are underway to make a better connection between Alpine Pedal Path and the rest of the city bike routes. A separated bike path across Stanfield Cutoff connecting to the Pedal Path was completed in 2020 along the west side of roadway, which is short but sweet and one of the most scenic stretches of path in SoCal with iconic views across the lake.  At time of writing that path is being extended (expect by late 2021) to Big Bear Blvd, and to the southwest adjacent to that main road, connecting to Sandalwood and pleasant in-town bike routes.  Future plans also include a bike path from the Bear Mountain ski area all the way down to the lake along the Rathbun Creek corridor, intersecting Sandalwood.  A very impressive 0.7-mile portion is already completed between Elm St near the new Zoo location and the Sizzler parking lot.  Several agencies, including the US Forest Service, CALTRANS, San Bernardino  County and the City of Big Bear Lake have been coordinating all of these projects.  Signed bike routes through neighborhoods also traverse Big Bear City. 

The other option for casual cyclists with fat tires is the Sky Chair lift at Snow Summit ski resort that leads to a choice of a fire road or the new Skyline Trail east down the mountain, as well as other options, depending on ability.  You can also ride up the mountain on Forest Service Road 2N10 from the Bear Mountain area, a trip that e-bikers will be more appreciative of.  A reward of a meal at the outdoor Skyline Taphouse BBQ (when open) can await you.  It’s a very scenic ride through the National Forest with some awesome vistas.   

We’ve spent one to two months RV camping near the lake’s northeast corner every summer since July 2017, and enjoyed near perfect weather (high 70’s – low 80’s, sunny, with an occasional fun monsoon thunderstorm) while the valley below was baking. We rarely needed our truck; we just hopped on our bikes to explore the paths and new routes, which I mapped out for enCYCLEpedia’s 2nd and 3rd Editions, with the latest maps available on the enCYCLEpedia website for book owners.  

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Re-paved and widened Alpine Pedal Path, north shore.

 

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Steve relaxing at the west end of the Alpine Pedal Path along the lake. The Solar Observatory in the background at times has offered free tours to small groups weekly in summer.

 

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Rich pausing along the bike routes on the south shore near town.

 

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Steve on Pine Knot, the main Village street, with horse and buggy going by.

 

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The Towne Trail is a fairly hilly forest path, an alternate route to taking the city streets from the Snow Summit lifts west to The Village.  It also serves as a feeder for MTB’ers who descended the west side of the mountain, returning to the lifts.  The Snow Summit website says e-bikes are not allowed on this trail, for what that’s worth. 
Spur trail off the Alpine Pedal Path to the Discovery Center.
Sunset from the Stanfield Cutoff (pre-bike trail).
New ultra scenic path along Stanfield Cutoff connects to Alpine Pedal Path.
Bumpy boardwalks above Stanfield Marsh and dirt paths create a safer
alternative to the busy main roads between Stanfield Cutoff and Division.
Signed bike routes through Big Bear City.
Short but sweet completed section of the Rathbun Creek Trail.
Cycling up FS 2N10 with views of Mt San Gorgonio.
View of Big Bear Lake from near the Snow Summit lift station.
Skyline Taphouse at Snow Summit near the lifts, accessible via FS 2N10D.
Cyclists arriving via the Snow Summit Sky Chair.

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