When you’re itching to get out of the city and into nature for a while, there’s one destination in LA’s backyard that will make you feel like you’re worlds away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear is a Los Angeles nature lover’s weekend escape. Thankfully, Angelenos can reach this mountain getaway in just a few hours. Below, we’ll give you the ultimate road trip guide from Los Angeles to Big Bear.

car driving into big bear

Couples can satisfy their wanderlust in Big Bear, a mountain town nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains that evokes the feeling of being in a Swiss Alps ski village.

A roughly two-hour drive from Los Angeles and a two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Diego, Big Bear is just a road trip away. You won’t find a more perfect place to explore, connect, and recharge with your better half this Valentine’s Day! Below, we’ll share planning tips and some of the top things to see, do, and experience on your romantic Valentine’s Day getaway in Big Bear.


Where the destination
IS the journey

How far is Big Bear from Los Angeles, and how long will the road trip take?

The distance from the heart of LA to Big Bear is just over 100 miles, and a non-stop trip with ordinary traffic will take around 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete. This drive is a quick day trip away, but with so many points of interest to see along the way, it can easily be stretched into a multi-day affair.

To get to Big Bear, start on US-101 before taking Interstate 10 east until you exit at 31B and follow I-605 north. Then take I-210 and continue east through the mountains until you reach Big Bear!

Where should I stop on my road trip?

Kick off your road trip by exploring the stunning Southern California landscape at one of LA’s closest state parks.

  • Chino Hills State Park: Famed for its springtime wildflower blooms and network of trails totaling over 90 miles, this state park is just a short drive outside of LA. Spend a few hours exploring the rolling foothills or enjoy a picnic at one of the many designated areas in the park. The entry fee is $10 per day per vehicle.

Rancho Cucamonga

A vibrant city located just south of the San Bernardino Foothills, Rancho Cucamonga is a great place to spend a few hours exploring on the first leg of your road trip.

  • Cucamonga Service Station: Get your kicks at this Route 66 museum that once served as a service station. Stop by this quaint landmark to stretch your legs and take in a bit of Route 66 history while you’re at it.
  • Etiwanda Falls Trail: This moderate 3.4-mile trail takes you through the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains and deposits you at the beautiful Etiwanda Falls. These falls are extremely popular, so be ready to share the trails!
  • Orange Show Speedway: If you haven’t seen enough high-speed car action on the highway, stop by Orange Show Speedway to get your fix. The Speedway hosts numerous car shows and racing events throughout the year that draw car lovers and thrill-seekers alike.
  • Duck Donuts: At this point in the road trip, you may be ready for a snack. And no snack is worthier than the iconic Duck Donuts, founded in the Outer Banks and spread to the rest of the US due to its overwhelming popularity. Pick up a warm, made-to-order donut for the car ride, or grab a box to last you and your group the weekend in Big Bear.


Take a short detour off your route to Big Bear to explore the highest-populated city in the Inland Empire region of California.

  1. California Citrus State Historic Park: This 248-acre open-air museum celebrates the citrus industry’s impact on the development of Southern California. You’ll feel like you stepped into a vintage postcard as you walk through fields of over 70 varieties of citrus trees, stop for a citrus tasting, and take photos at this charming park!
  2. March Field Air Museum: Airplane fans and military buffs will love this museum with over 70 historic military aircraft on display. Admission is $15 for adults and $6 for children 5-11; children under 4 are free.
  3. Van Buren Drive-In: Catch a film in your car sixties style at this historic drive-in theater, or visit before 2 pm any day except Mondays and Fridays to peruse the wares at Van Buren’s eclectic swap meets.
  4. Mission Inn Museum: The Mission Inn Museum is a stunning historic inn built in the early 1900s in the mission revival style. Today, this picturesque building is a functioning hotel and museum showcasing local art and history.  San Bernardino

One of the last big cities you pass through before you draw close to Big Bear, San Bernardino is the gateway to the San Bernardino National Forest.

    1. Original McDonald’s site and museum: Devoted to the golden arches? Stop by to see the original site and free museum to learn how this tiny burger joint became a fast food behemoth.
    2. Rim of the World Scenic Byway: Start this route just a short distance north of San Bernardino on Hwy 18. This scenic byway welcomes you to the mountains with stunning views along the cliffs of the San Bernardino Mountains and will lead you right into Big Bear. Catch a picturesque sunset on one of the many pull-offs along the route as you make the last leg of your route into Big Bear.

Lake Arrowhead

Check out this quaint, residential lake community nestled in the mountains if you have time to spare before your check-in in Big Bear!

  1. Arrowhead Springs Hotel: Rising out of the base of the mountains, the iconic Arrowhead Springs Hotel looked like something out of a Wes Anderson movie in its heyday. Though now defunct, this hotel was a pinnacle of Hollywood glamor, welcoming guests like Judy Garland and Charlie Chaplin. Stop by to witness a piece of old Hollywood tucked in the San Bernardino Mountains.
  2. Heaps Peak Arboretum: Take a stroll and admire the native flora at this haven for trees, shrubs, flowers, and wildlife. One highlight is the one-mile Sequoia Path, which leads you to the largest grove of Giant Sequoias in Southern California.
  3. Sycamore Ranch Vineyard & Winery: One of the few wineries in the San Bernardino Mountains, this small craft winery/cidery offers tastings in a quaint tasting room or picnic-style on their lawn. Wine tastings are $25, and for ciders, anticipate paying $15 for a flight.

Once you reach Big Bear, you’ll find no shortage of things to do. But if you need inspiration, check out 15 Things to do In Big Bear This January for a list of winter activities or Big Bear’s Best Winter Hiking Trails for hiking recommendations.

Best time to go on a road trip from Los Angeles to Big Bear

You’ll find many things to do on a road trip from Los Angeles to Big Bear year-round, but the trip will vary slightly by season.

Winter and Summer are peak seasons in Big Bear. Big Bear becomes a true wonderland in the winter, drawing many people with its Hallmark Christmas Village-esque allure. From December to March, visitors flock to Big Bear’s two ski resorts owned by Big Bear Mountain Resort to ski and snowboard. Big Bear is beautiful in the winter, however, ice and snow can cause road conditions in the mountains to become dangerous, so any road trip at this time should be made very carefully!

In the summer, visitors beat the heat on Big Bear Lake or hit one of many of Big Bear’s hiking trails. Road conditions are better this season, so you can rest easy driving on Big Bear’s mountain roads. If you want to avoid crowds, head to Big Bear in the Spring or Fall, where you’ll find spring and autumn colors and plenty to do.

Where should I stay in Big Bear?

Sessions Retreat & Hotel and Hotel is your sanctuary for rejuvenation in Big Bear. Our boutique hotel in Big Bear Lake provides the perfect reprieve from your daily adventures and a place to rest for a long weekend trip. Far from the hustle and bustle of LA’s city life, we offer the perfect opportunity to relax and renew amidst the majestic nature that is Big Bear.

Located off Big Bear Blvd., our hotel is near Big Bear Lake and under a 10-minute drive from both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain ski resorts.

Under new ownership and management, we’re actively working to create a more expansive facility, centered around art and wellness, with socially oriented amenities for patrons to foster new connections. While our renovation efforts are underway, our current room selection offers excellent value for your Big Bear getaway, whether traveling alone or with family. Visit us here to learn more about our accommodations perfect for groups of all sizes and trips of all purposes.