When we think of fall foliage, we rarely expect to see any in Southern California.
We’ve all seen pictures of East Coast states covered in colorful trees in various hues of reds, oranges, and yellows. As every fall season passes in Southern California I let out a long “sigh” and dream of seeing these colors one day myself.
But what if I told you that there is a place in Southern California that is full of fall colors and just 2 hours north of Los Angeles? You probably wouldn’t believe me…
When I planned my trip to Big Bear Lake this fall I didn’t know what to expect. At the most, I was hoping to spend a few evenings cuddled in a cabin with a pumpkin spice latte (Starbucks seasonal menu is how we Southern California peeps usually know that fall has come around).
As it turns out, not only Big Bear is one of the best places to enjoy fall foliage in Southern California, but also the Big Bear community puts together a ton of amazing events in the fall to celebrate this season.
If you are planning a trip to Big Bear Lake this fall, here are 9 incredible activities that will show you that fall in California is A THING and that Big Bear kind of rocks at it:
- Hike The Castle Rock Trail
- Take A Stroll In The Village
- Head Down To The Octoberfest
- Get Cozy In A Cabin
- Go To A Pumpkin Patch
- Smash Pumpkins While Ziplining
- Visit The Big Bear Zoo
- Get Lost In A Scary Maze
- Watch Sunset By The Lake
Hike The Castle Rock Trail
The Castle Rock trail is a popular 2.5 mile-long hike to do in Big Bear that offers incredible panoramic views overlooking the lake and unique rock formations.
The Castle Rock Trail is especially stunning in fall when trees along this trail start changing colors into various hues of yellows and oranges.
This trail is perfect for those who are looking for a short trail to do in Big Bear that offers incredible views, fall foliage and doesn’t take too long to complete.
The trail starts at the Castle Rock Trailhead located on the Big Bear Blvd. There is a small parking lot across the trailhead but it can only fit a handful of cars and it fills up quickly. If this parking lot is full you can also park along the Big Bear Blvd but be careful of the blind corners and oncoming traffic when you park and cross the street.
Due to parking limitations, I highly recommend hiking this trail super early in the morning. We arrived here at around 8 am and there was plenty of parking but by 9 am the trail was getting a lot busier and more crowded.
The trail is quite steep and gains over 800 feet in elevation but it is very short. We only hiked for about 1 mile before we reached the top where it flattened out a bit and we could see gorgeous panoramic views overlooking the lake and giant scattered boulders.
Although this trail is pretty steep, overall it’s kid and family-friendly. This trail also allows dogs (as most trails in Big Bear do).
Portions of this trail can be quite slippery so make sure to wear comfy hiking shoes with good traction so you don’t slip and fall.
Although the trail is pretty straight forward going up, coming back down we got a bit lost as there are tons of small side trails going in all directions and very few trail signs. I recommend downloading MAPS.ME app ahead of time on your phone so you can easily find the right trail coming back down.
Location: Castle Rock Trailhead
Length: 2.5 miles round trip
Elevation: 830 feet
Time Needed: 2 hours
Trail Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Take A Stroll In The Village
There are a lot of places to see fall foliage around the Big Bear Lake but by far the most colorful location to see the changing fall colors in Big Bear is at The Village.
The Village is Big Bear’s downtown area full of shops, restaurants, bars, dessert spots, movie theater and more. The Village is the epicenter of Big Bear where people head out to eat, walk around, grab a coffee, ice cream and just hang out.
There are tons of amazing restaurants in The Village that are especially popular for lunch and dinner. Note that dinner time on the weekends can get super crowded and some restaurants can have long wait times up to an hour or more.
Some of our favorite food spots in The Village are:
- 572 Social Kitchen & Lounge – a fun dinner spot with cute patio seating and live music.
- Fire Rock Burgers & Brews – great beer choices, delicious burgers and huge sharable plates.
- The Bone Yard Bar & Grill – delicious spot popular for grilled meats, ribs and wide selection of beers.
- Ann Ran Ju Tea House – yummy ice cream and boba tea shop.
If you’re hunting for fall foliage, The Village is one of the best places to enjoy an abundance of fall colors in Big Bear. In September & October Action Tours even offers a daily Fall Segway Tour dedicated to showcasing the most colorful spots around Big Bear Lake for fall colors.
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Head Down To The Octoberfest
Big Bear is home to one of the highest-rated Oktoberfest’s in Southern California. The Big Bear Octoberfest has been taking place in Big Bear Lake every fall for the past 49+ years and is one of the top events in Big Bear around September & October.
The Big Bear Octoberfest is open on the weekends starting September 7th all the way through November 2nd. The Big Bear Octoberfest is getting more elaborate with every passing year now offering 4 live German bands, tons of food choices, beer, dress up, dancing, drinking contests, and other fun activities.
If you are planning a trip to Big Bear on a weekend in the fall, the Big Bear Octoberfest is the one activity that you shouldn’t miss. BUT note that this festival does get super busy and we highly recommend buying tickets online well ahead of time or you could end up standing in entrance lines for hours.
(NW Corner of Big Bear Blvd. & Division)
Saturdays – $26.99
Sundays – $12.00
Saturdays – Noon to midnight
Sundays – Noon to 6 pm
Ticket Website: Bigbearevents.com
Get Cozy In A Cabin
Fall is a magical time in Big Bear. The days are still sunny yet you can feel the air turning a bit crisp and the whole town is experiencing a change in the season.
I’ve been to Big Bear through various different seasons but this was my first time visiting in fall. Without a doubt, it quickly became one of my favorites.
There are a ton of activities to do in the area but one of my favorites was just getting back to the cabin and getting cozy next to a fireplace with a hot chocolate in hand. In other words, fall is the perfect “snuggle season” in Big Bear.
On this Big Bear trip, I stayed in a cute cabin rental from Airbnb called The Honey Bear Cabin. It was recommended to me by a friend and it was very stylish, modern and newly renovated.
The Honey Bear Cabin is located less than a 15-minute drive from The Village so it’s close to all the main downtown shops and activities yet it’s not in a busy location so it feels a lot more peaceful and quiet.
What I enjoyed the most from my stay was just hanging out by the fireplace. This cabin comes equipped with 3 different fireplaces so you can snuggle on the couch watching a movie, outside while roasting marshmallows or get cozy in your room.
It’s the perfect place to escape our busy city lives in LA, relax and reset in a beautiful setting surrounded by forest and nature.
If you are looking for a cute place to stay in the Big Bear Lake, you can read more about the Honey Bear Cabin here on Airbnb.
Go To A Pumpkin Patch
One of the cutest activities that you can do in Big Bear in fall is to go to the Pumpkin Patch at Bear Valley Farms.
Bear Valley Farms is located on the east side of the Big Bear Lake. Through the year this farm is used for horse camps and riding lessons but in fall they also set up a pumpkin patch for the Big Bear Lake community.
The Bear Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch is open on Saturdays from 11 am to 3 pm and costs $10 to enter. The entrance ticket includes a variety of activities from a petting zoo and hayrides to a haunted house and plenty of cute photo-op spots with pumpkins and haystacks.
For $5 extra you can also pick up and bring home a pumpkin to carve but note that all the best pumpkins often get snatched up in early October so the longer you wait, the more limited your pumpkin options might be.
At this pumpkin patch, you can hop on a hayride that leaves every hour with the last one departing at 2:30 pm. Overall, this is a lovely farm with fun fall activities that the whole family can enjoy.
$10 to enter
$5 extra for a pumpkin
Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm in October
Smash Pumpkins While Ziplining
If you want to do something pumpkin related, but maybe take it up a notch, a fun way to celebrate the fall season in Big Bear is to go pumpkin smashing from an adrenaline-pumping zipline.
Every Saturday in October the Action Tours Company in Big Bear sets up a Pumpkin Smash Tour where you can zipline through the forest while throwing pumpkins from the zipline at different targets. If you hit a target, you can even win a prize!
The Pumpkin Smash Tour costs $129 and included with this tour are 9 different ziplines that get progressively higher and faster, reaching speeds up to 35 miles per hour.
If smashing pumpkins from a zipline sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon in Big Bear, you can call Action Tours at (909)-866-0390 to check on this tour’s availability and to reserve a spot.
Cost: $129 USD
1 pm – 4 pm on Saturdays in October
Time Needed: 3 hours
Visit The Big Bear Zoo
One of the best places to visit in Big Bear, especially if you have kids, is the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. The Big Bear Zoo is a great place to visit all year round, but in October they also set up special fall events to celebrate Halloween.
The Big Bear Alpine Zoo serves as a rehabilitation center and safe haven for injured wild animals in the Big Bear Lake area. The goal of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo is to rehabilitate injured animals and to release them back into the wild. If the animals can no longer take care of themselves, they can also find a permanent home in this zoo.
Here you can visit and see California native animals like bears, mountain lions, eagles, foxes, coyotes plus other more exotic animals like snow leopard, wolfs and arctic fox.
Compared to other major zoos in Southern California, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo is actually quite small but it is expanding in the near future.
The Big Bear Zoo has a few different animal presentations that you can see during the day where you can learn more about the animals that live in the zoo and the different programs that the zoo manages.
Currently, visitors can view the following presentations:
- 12 pm – raccoons
- 1 pm – snow leopard
- 2 pm – bald eagle
- 3 pm – bobcats
On October 26th the zoo also hosts an event “Boo at the Zoo” where visitors are encouraged to dress up in Halloween costumes and go trick-or-treating in the zoo from 10 am to 3 pm – a fun activity for kids and families.
(Next to the Bear Mountain Ski Resort)
Adults – $12
Kids – $9
Summer – 10 am to 5 pm
Winter – 10 am to 4 pm
Time Needed: 1 hour
Get Lost In A Scary Maze
If you love Halloween and scary things, get your scare-on at one of Big Bear’s newest fall activities – the Mystery Maze.
The Mystery Maze has been set up in Big Bear around Halloween for the past two years and will continue as an annual Halloween tradition in the upcoming years.
The Mystery Maze costs $5 and is usually set up next to the Moose Lodge in Fawnskin. The maze consists of dark labyrinths where visitors can walk through looking for the exit while exploring different scary rooms, mystic fog, strobe lights and characters that jump out at the most unexpected times.
At this event, you can also enjoy a nice fire pit set up outside and a local bake sale. Plus, all profits from this event go towards supporting local charities in the Big Bear community.
Cost: $5 USD
Select Fridays & Saturdays in October
4 pm to 9 pm
Time Needed: 30 min
Watch Sunset By The Lake
There is a theory that the most colorful sunsets usually happen in the colder seasons. As leaves start changing color in fall, the sunsets typically become more and more colorful too.
One of the most picturesque places to relax and watch the sunset in Big Bear is at the Boulder Bay Park. This park has a small parking lot for visitors, a few scenic walkways overlooking nearby cabins, giant boulder rocks, and lake access.
If you’re looking for a more low-key place to have a picnic and watch a colorful sunset, I recommend stopping by the Juniper Point on the other side of the lake. Juniper Point also has a small parking lot, lots of walking trails, picnic tables and beach access to watch the sunset right on the waterfront – plus very few people.
Looking for other awesome things and hikes to do in California? Make sure to check out our other California posts below:
- The Complete Guide To Hiking The Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail
- Backpacking The Trans-Catalina Trail: All You Need To Know
- 6 Incredible Day Hikes At Kings Canyon National Park
- How To Backpack The Eagle Peak Trail In Yosemite
- 7 Best Beaches To Visit In Southern California
Interested in how I capture photos on my trips? Here is my suggested camera gear that I use to create my images:
- Main camera: Sony a7II Camera With 28-70 mm Standard Lens
- Polarizer Filter for the standard lens (helps eliminate reflection and enhance color especially on super bright days): Amazon Basics 55 mm
- Wide Lens (great for landscape shots): Sony 16-35 mm F4
- Polarizer Filter for the wide lens: Amazon Basics 72 mm
- Small Tripod (to stabilize photos and eliminate blur): JOBY Gorrilapod
- Memory Cards: SanDisk 32 GB
- Batteries: Wasabi Power battery charger and extra battery pack
- Camera Bag: Lowepro weather-resistant bag
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