Travel Thursday: Exploring the Gay Outdoors in Big Bear

It’s now one year since the pandemic first began taking a toll on workplaces, schools, restaurants, and businesses around the world. If you’re anything like us at Instinct, you miss travel and being able to explore new places. For me, road trips and local food adventures have become the new normal. There’s nothing we enjoy more lately than getting in my car and driving to a beach I’ve never been to before or trying out a new food spot that the dreaded TikTok has recommended.

Being in Southern California certainly has its perks. While California had some of the worst COVID-19 numbers in the world until fairly recently, it does offer the opportunity to escape at a moment’s notice where you can be in the desert one moment and with your feet in the ocean less than an hour later.

Now, as over 13 million vaccines have been administered in California, cases and hospitalizations are reaching less alarming levels. So much so that it recently gave me boost of energy and optimism to #quarantineoutdoors in Big Bear Lake.

For those of us in So Cal, Big Bear is a road trip destination year around, but during the winter months it is especially popular because it is a fun-filled adventure waiting to happen.

Surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest and its mountain trails, Big Bear Lake is a small city in Southern California about 100 miles from Los Angeles. It sits on the banks of the fish-filled Big Bear Lake and is known for the Bear Mountain ski resort and family-friendly Snow Summit. The Big Bear Lake Village is their iconic commercial district with boutiques, gift shops, restaurants, and local art that is perfect for relaxing after a long day of hiking or exploring.

Making the trek to Big Bear was an easy choice. We’ve been fortunate to have some heavy rain in the Southland over the last couple of months. Most of the year we are in a drought, so we like any day that it rains. Staying distanced and indoors has gotten the best of many and after being cooped up for months, we needed a late Winter refresh to play in the snow.


  • Even if you have nothing planned in Big Bear, there are so many opportunities to go for scenic hikes or to stop and take in the surroundings. All of the activities mentioned here can also be booked same day, so if you just need to get out. Head to Big Bear! You’ll find something to do easily!
  • Big Bear is not a culinary hotspot. You won’t find amazing places to eat and it can be very expensive just to have a burger or salad. Whether you’re staying in a hotel, cabin, or Airbnb, consider picking up some groceries and packing snacks that will get you through your trip.


There is no better way of getting a glimpse of the snowy landscape of Big Bear than to do an outdoor excursion like ziplining. When you’re flying through the forest at 35 mph it really puts this whole pandemic thing into perspective. It reminds you how much it means to be in nature and to be able to stand on solid ground without potentially plummeting to the ground.

In all seriousness–When visiting Big Bear, I recommend Action Tours, the premier destination for adventure in Southern California. Action Tours offers activities year-round, and caters each experience specifically to you. Their certified tour guides are knowledgeable and know how to give you an unforgettable experience. During the snow season, Action Tours offers snowshoe tours that take you deep into unpaved trails that are caked in snow. But for us, booking the zipline tour was the only way to experience the last of the winter snow in Southern California.

Once we rode on the open air Jeep and reached our first of nine launch stations, the butterflies set in. It’s easy to forget your nerves as you look out over Mt. San Gorgonio. It took some core strength to try not to lose control while zipping down the line. By the sixth station, I mustered up enough courage to let go of the straps and go hands free–but just for a second. Needless to say, I was sore for about three days after this excursion. Time to lose some of the quarantine pounds!

The entire tour from check-in to return to the tour office is approximately 3 hours.


  • Don’t be scared! As much as you feel like you will fall, you won’t! The calmer you are the easier it is to land.
  • If you want to capture your zipline excursion, Action Tours provides GoPro camera rentals.

One thing we have always wanted to try in Big Bear are the Alpine Slide and Mineshaft Coaster, located at the Magic Mountain Recreation Area just before reaching the Big Bear camping areas. A release must be signed for all attractions in which you wish to participate.

Alpine Slide

The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain is open all year and is Southern California’s only authentic bobsled experience, according to their site. We began with a scenic chairlift ride to the top where we got a look at the snow capped mountains and lake. Once at the top, we got on our bobsleds and navigated down the quarter-mile long cement tracks filled with high-banked turns and long straightways. The bobsleds are rider-controlled so you can choose from a fast track or a slow track.


♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz



  • If you want to take photos or record on your way down, I recommend taking the slow track so you have a chance to capture the moment. Otherwise, the fastrack is NO STOPPING.
  • This attraction is CASH ONLY. ATM is on site, but you will be subject to fees.

Mineshaft Coaster

The Mineshaft Coaster is a thrilling coaster that is controlled and propelled by you. While you are on the coaster, you can enjoy mountain scenery on your way up and then drop at high speeds on the way down. The coaster is a mile long and features steep descents, dips, twists, hairpin turns, tunnels, and 360-degree corkscrews. It’s the first and only mountain coaster in California. Larger bears may have to ride alone, but two twinks can ride tandem.


  • There are signs indicating no cameras or cell phones. This must be because they need you to control the speed while on the track. The speed is fast so I would be careful if you try to sneak a pic!
  • They do sell videos of your experience at the end of the ride, so if you have to have it documented, really ham it up during the ride so you can purchase the video at the end.
  • This attraction is CASH ONLY. ATM is on site, but you will be subject to fees.

Snow Play

Big Bear has numerous places for you to enjoy the snow. Whether you like skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, building snow people, making snow angels, frolicking–you’ll find places around Big Bear Lake that will keep you busy.


On this trip to Big Bear, we got our snow fix by snow tubing at the Magic Mountain Recreation Area. Snow Play is open during the snow season and is a fun way to get the snow experience you’re looking for. After we picked up our inner tube, we took the standing lift uphill. A good 45 minutes-1 hour is good for snow tubing. Tickets are good for all day activities so you can leave to grab a bite to eat or have a drink and come back as many times as you’d like.


♬ The JUICE by MR FINGERS – Haaniyah



  • Pictures and videos are totally possible and worth it here so live your best Instagram model life.
  • If possible, try to visit after a recent snowfall. The snow, while mixed with man-made snow, will be more abundant and soft.
  • This is a family-friendly place. There will be children so if that impedes on your fun, try to visit during the week–chances are there won’t be as many families.
  • This attraction is CASH ONLY. ATM is on site, but you will be subject to fees.

For more info on day trips or extended adventures, visit 

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