We kind of have a saying in Big Bear, “No matter which direction, it takes about an hour from the bottom of the mountain to get up the hill.”
In essence, this is true. There are only 3 roads that lead to Big Bear Lake. Just remember, the 18, the 38, and the 330. These are Big Bear’s access numbers. Each is the route number, from different directions, that will take you to our mountain paradise.
Most drivers coming from the Los Angeles area, tend to use the 330 through Running Springs. You’ll notice the “Mountain Resorts” sign as you prepare to exit from the 10 freeway. This particular road will get you up the mountain rapidly. There are many curves and pullouts and at times, many vehicles. Local drivers, from Lake Arrowhead to Big Bear Lake, use this route daily.
The 330 can also be the road that gets clobbered during snowstorms. Night fog, falling snow and putting on chains, can really test your driving skills.
Plan accordingly. You can continue a few exits past the 330 and exit on Orange to the 38 through Mentone. Many locals prefer this route because it rises rapidly, then goes through a lovely area in the trees, before rising to almost 9000 feet over Onyx Summit to Big Bear City. You should be aware the summit is 2500 feet above the altitude of Big Bear. Snowstorm driving on the 38 can get pretty heavy in the higher elevations. When the weather is clear, the 38 offers stunning views all the way up and over the top.
Coming from Los Angeles, Route 18 from Lucerne Valley adds about 30 minutes to your travel time. You’ll need to merge from the 10 or 210 highway onto the 15 or 215 going north up the Cajon Pass. Exit on Bear Valley Road. The caveat is, when you get to the bottom of the mountain, you only have about a 20 minute drive to rise to Big Bear. That road has some extreme hairpin turns and rises rapidly. Many times, the 18 is the last road for chain requirements during snowy weather.
Caltrans keeps an active update of road conditions. It is well worth it to visit their website before driving up the mountain from any of the routes. Visit their website at: https://www.dot.ca.gov/ The lookup is right on the front page. Just enter those three route numbers. You can also call 1-800-427-7623 for Caltrans highway conditions.
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