Big Bear is a beautiful and beloved vacation spot for SoCal residents looking to get away from it all. The Bear’s “keepers” want to keep it that way.

Yogi, America’s favorite cartoon bear, is “smarter than the average bear.” He says so himself. So “hey, hey, hey,” it has to be true, right? Unfortunately, his human friends are not always so smart — at least when it comes to the “leave no trace” ethos that should be deeply engrained in every traveler’s mindset.

 “We’ve Got a Bear Disturbance Here.” – Ranger Smith (Yogi’s pal)

Lately, there’s been a disturbing trend at popular nature-centered vacation spots, including iconic Big Bear. It appears that “Leave No Trace” has been supplanted by “Trash This Place” —marking a new low in responsible environmentalism. Call it a fallout from COVID-19, where restless urbanites seeking relief from their cloistered, masked existence have been descending in even greater numbers upon Big Bear. And who can blame them? A 6-feet-apart-while-wearing-a-mask mandate, job and business losses, and a feeling of constant uncertainty is no way to live months on end.

We all feel that urge. We need space. We need a place away from the cloud of COVID hanging over us. We need nature to nurture our numbed souls. Unfortunately, when everyone has the same urge … at the same time … it creates a greater potential impact on the environment — not to mention traffic jams. 

This fall and winter, Big Bear will continue to welcome restless Southern Californians. While COVID-19 has limited some of the regular event offerings, there’s no limit to all the other fun that friends and families can enjoy. (Just be sure to wear a mask when visiting local businesses.) Leave the big-city zip code and zip line your way to that unfettered feeling of freedom. Afterwards, admire the fall foliage by way of a hike or jeep ride. Then later in the year, when Jack Frost nips the air and Mother Nature blankets the ground, enjoy Big Bear, the Winter Wonderland. The need to escape the confines of the concrete jungle — or any place where COVID has left an uncomfortable imprint — makes getting away even more vital for our emotional and physical health.  

Critters Love Litter

It’s comforting to know you have a beautiful place to escape — one that’s just a relatively quick car ride away. In return for sharing their outdoor space, Big Bear’s year-round residents are making a simple request: Treat our home as if it were your own.

Your fellow vacationers are asking for your consideration as well. No weary traveler wants to find a pile of trash — and the wild animals it draws — awaiting them at their campsite. Yogi is friendly, but it’s safe to say his bear bros have other things on their minds besides making new friends. Same goes with the rest of Big Bear’s animal world. Critters love litter.

When in Rome, Roam Responsibly …

Then there are those dreaded traffic jams—especially on weekends. At Big Bear, it’s a problem easily solved by simply rerouting. There are three different routes to Big Bear, yet most travelers default to one: Highway 210 to 330 to 18 — which may or may not save you time. On particularly busy days, a better route could be Highway 38 (through Redlands). Sometimes it’s faster and more scenic, with charming Mayberry-style towns to “whistle stop” your way through. The third alternative route will take you up through Lucerne Valley. For the best route to take from your point of origin, while also evaluating current conditions, visit:

Tire Straits

Big Bear doesn’t mind a big turnout of vacationers. But it does mind travelers using highway turnouts for anything other than what they’re intended for. Save the “snow play” for after you arrive. Stopping at a turnout to slide and jump in the white stuff is just unsafe. And please, don’t forget your chains! Even better, know how to use them. It’s best to put chains on before you hit the wintery conditions; otherwise, you could find yourself out in the cold … helpless and in “tire straits.” (Also make sure you pack a survival kit in your trunk.)

Fire, Fire, Plants on Fire

It should go without saying that here in California, fires are also a big concern. Statistically, most fires are caused by humans. This is where Yogi’s friend, Smokey the Bear, steps in to say, “Remember — only YOU can prevent forest fires.” When it comes to fire safety, you know what to do … and not to do. If you don’t, please be informed beforehand.

Big Bear is always there to give you a Big Bear hug — beckoning you to the familiar, yet far away. That’s Big Bear’s vibe — comforting and close, but wild and free. In today’s uncertain world, that makes it the best getaway from the grind you can find. Just don’t trash the place.

For more info, visit:

For the latest updates on traveling during COVID-19, visit:

Responsible Camper Tips (Including During COVID-19)

  • Don’t be trashy. Pick up your litter, AND others’ litter if you see it. Whatever you carry in, you carry out.
  • Avoid being bear bait. Don’t leave food around. Otherwise, bears and other critters will do your clean up. That could be dangerous — for obvious reasons.
  • Get your butt off the ground. If you smoke, be a responsible bloke and extinguish your butts! Then pick them up.
  • Use a camp stove, not a campfire. They’re safer and leave less of a carbon footprint. If you do make a campfire, use fire rings.
  • Cool down after being fired up. When putting out your fire, separate the wood, soak the logs down with water, and then soak the coals. Turn logs over and repeat. Repeat until you can no longer feel heat radiating out of the fire pit.
  • Keep Fido fettered. It’s for his safety and others.
  • Be a survivor. Bring survival gear. Because anything can happen — and sometimes does.
  • Keep the noise down. Let the sound of birds, the chatter of squirrels and the wind whipping through the trees serenade the shared space … not your blaring music.

Mask yourself … but only sometimes. Always carry a mask and be prepared to put it in on while visiting local stores and restaurants. For the latest updates on traveling during COVID-19, visit

By Jenni Keast