Ride Report: Big Bear in the Summer

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For Labor Day weekend this year, our crew of 9 people (on a total of 8 motorcycles) had planned to ride up from San Diego to the Sequoia National Forest for a few days of scenic rides, swimming in waterfalls, and relaxing with friends. Just a few hours before we were scheduled to leave, however, we got notice that there was a massive wildfire raging through the area just a few miles east of Springville, where our rented cabin was located. Several roads were closed off, there was an air quality warning issued because of the smoke, and temperatures were expected to hover around 108 degrees all weekend. Not really ideal riding conditions.

So, on the Friday of a 3-day weekend, with a group of 9 people, we had to scramble to come up with a plan B. Luckily, we were able to get our money back from the Airbnb in Springville, but where would we go? Going south was not an option – there was a tropical storm heading north through Baja. East was too hot. North was on fire. And you can’t really go west of San Diego on a motorcycle.

Then someone suggested Big Bear, and within minutes we had rented a big cabin with enough beds right on the lake. Phew!

Day 1 was spent mostly on the road. Since the actual ride is half the point with these trips, at least for us, we took the most scenic/least freeway route we could think of, through Anza and Idyllwild, both on the way there and back. We stopped for lunch at Plant Food Supper Club in Idyllwild, a tiny organic vegan café that I would 100% recommend to anyone who’s not afraid of rabbit food (5 out of 9 people in our group are either vegan or vegetarian).

We made it to our new home away from home just in time for some pre-dinner grocery shopping. It’s always interesting buying groceries and beer for an entire weekend for this many people without a car, but I think we’ve almost perfected the art of it at this point.

Heading back from the store, there was an amazing sunset happening right in front of us, so we rolled the bikes down as close to the lake as we could get to take some photos.

Hello, beautiful(s)!

Day 2 everyone was off to a slow start, but we still decided to go on an adventure. Big Bear was absolutely packed with people for the long weekend (it was a cool 83 degrees or so in the mountains, compared to everywhere else in SoCal where it was in the 100s), so we skipped lunch in town and headed straight for the lake instead.

Garstin Island, also called Treasure Island, is a granite boulder island in the western corner of Big Bear Lake. It takes some finagling to get here without a boat, but it’s well worth it. We went swimming and jumped off the cliffs (the water is plenty deep), and then got out just as some heavy rain clouds were rolling in.

Luckily, being from Sweden, I’m always prepared for bad weather. So when it suddenly started pouring, I had this cheap old rain suit ready to keep me dry. The rest of our group were not so lucky (though Katie did have a rain jacket with her).

Back at the cabin, after drying up from the rain, some people opted for beer and board games…

…while another group sat on the floor and synced up their Sena helmet Bluetooths. Then we ended the evening with wine, pasta salad, and R Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet. As you do.

The next day it was time to head back home, but not before getting a solid group photo.

Before this weekend, I’d only ever been to Big Bear in the winter – I come up here every year to go snowboarding. But it’s pretty awesome in the summer too, and there are some seriously amazing twisty roads on both sides of the mountain (Edy got this GoPro capture of Katie and me going through Idyllwild). My recommendation would be to not come during a busy 3-day weekend though, since the roads are packed with slow drivers who refuse to use turnouts.

Sanna likes motorcycles, kittens, and punk rock. You’re most likely to find her riding twisties in the mountains or camping in the desert with her moto squad. She has a 2015 Harley-Davidson Street Bob, a H-D Shovelhead chopper, a 2021 Royal Enfield Himalayan, and a Honda CRF230F.

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