Alpine escapes offer relief from desert heat

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Lydia Kremer

If fresh, cool mountain air is beckoning, think Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead for a quick change of scenery. A short one-and-a-half-hour drive from the desert will reward you with alpine views and cooler temps at these picturesque San Bernardino Mountain resorts.

Beautiful Big Bear

A pontoon boat is a popular choice for fishing, swimming, picnicking and simply cruising around Big Bear Lake.
Photo courtesy of Big Bear Visitors Bureau

Summertime is a great time to visit Big Bear and enjoy a variety of summertime fun. With a full schedule of events, you’ll have plenty to look forward to during your getaway. The mountain resort is anchored by spectacular Big Bear Lake, ideal for water skiing, fishing, boating, or just gazing at from your favorite vantage point.

During your Big Bear visit, be sure to add a ride up the Scenic Sky Chair at Snow Summit on your list of things to do. While it was built primarily for the winter ski season, the Sky Chair offers summer visitors the opportunity to experience it off season as well. The gondola ride takes you directly to the top of the mountain for drop-dead views of Big Bear Lake and the natural beauty of the surrounding area.

The Scenic Sky Chair is open to all ages and takes about 15 minutes to transport guests from the base elevation of 7,000 feet to a summit elevation of 8,200 feet. Once at the top, you can enjoy a refreshment or a BBQ lunch at the View Haus. The schedule for the Sky Chair may vary, so check in with the Big Bear Visitors Bureau for days/hours of operation.

Beer aficionados can now say cheers to Big Bear’s own beer brand. The Big Bear Lake Brewing Company, which just opened in April, serves six different craft beers on tap such as honey blonde ale, brown ale, Hefeweizen-style beer, porter, Indian pale ale, orange wheat and seasonal ales. The brew master is Ron VandenBroeke, an award-winning seasoned brewer with more than 25 years of experience, who is continuing the tradition of quality beer making in Big Bear. This new addition to the Big Bear experience will no doubt add even more festivity to this year’s annual Oktoberfest.

To help you plan your alpine escape, here’s a brief listing of some summer doings in Big Bear. For a complete schedule of events, visit

June 20-22: JazzTrax Summer Music Festival

July 4: Fireworks Spectacular

July 12: Big Bear Chili Cook-off

Aug 2-3, 9-10, 16-17: Annual Renaissance Fair

Luxuriate in Lake Arrowhead

Visitors to Lake Arrowhead resort properties can make full use of this private lake, where summer activities include swimming, water skiing, boating, dock parties, fishing, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and more.
Image by John Hummel,

A short distance from Big Bear you’ll find Lake Arrowhead, which has a decidedly different vibe from Big Bear. While Big Bear has more rustic charm, Lake Arrowhead is a much smaller town and has a more refined ambiance.

At an elevation of 5,100 feet, Lake Arrowhead has been the site of healing hot springs since the Serrano Indians inhabited the region. Today, the crystalline waters of Lake Arrowhead and the Village provide visitors many year-round recreational activities, including hiking, backpacking, camping, bicycling, lake tours, water and snow skiing, ice skating, fishing, horseback riding, and much more. Lake Arrowhead’s scenery and wildlife have attracted people for decades.

Lake Arrowhead has a glamorous history as a playground for Hollywood celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor who honeymooned there with her first husband, Conrad Hilton, in the 1950s.

The Swiss-inspired architecture of the Lake Arrowhead Village adds to the town’s charm. The Village serves as the main commercial area for both locals and tourists and includes a number of factory outlets, boutiques, restaurants, post office and a supermarket.

Each Friday from 2 to 7 p.m. you can head over to Arrowhead Village, the cultural center of the town, for the Farmer’s Market and Craft Fair featuring fresh fruits, vegetables and hand-crafted local wares.

During May through September visitors will delight in the free summer concerts held in the Village along the lakeside. Each weekend you can enjoy live music performances from the Center Stage while you gaze at scenic lake views.

Lake Arrowhead also has a summer of fun events planned:

June 21 & 22: Rotary Art & Wine Festival

July 27: Le Grande Picnic and Vintage Circus

Aug. 9: 5th annual BrewFest

Sept. 19 & 20: 40th Annual Home Tour

If you go

Tourist information: