Saw this quick little write up in the “Weekend Escape” of the LA Times this past weekend. Written by Rosemary McClure.
Chill Out at Big Bear Lake
When the air-conditioning unit in my home goes on vacation every summer — it breaks down annually during the hottest days of the year — I hit the road in search of a place where I can chill with my two sweltering pups. This year’s respite was less than 100 miles from Los Angeles: Big Bear Lake. This (usually) snow-fed reservoir, surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest, offered trails to hike, a dog-friendly boat tour and, best of all, temperatures so cool I was forced to wear a jacket at night. The tab: This year’s forced three-day home retreat took place at the end of July and cost less than $350, including $141 per night at Big Bear Chateau.
Big Bear has plenty of dog-friendly cabins and other accommodations. (For a list, call  424-4232 or go to www.bigbear.com. Also ask about the $25 free gas deal.) I wanted to stay near the Big Bear Alpine Zoo in Moonridge, so I tried a nicely landscaped lodge in the area, the Best Western Big Bear Chateau, where beds of flowers brightened the grounds and the words “free breakfast” beckoned (42200 Moonridge Road, Big Bear Lake;  866-6666, www.lat.ms/1DxdOsy). The hotel is more faux Versailles than faux Alps, but I appreciated the pool and my dogs, Darby and Piper, liked the grassy grounds.
It’s not hard to find dog-friendly patios in this pup-loving town. One, in fact, is about a block from the hotel. Grizzly’s Bear Belly Deli & Cafe [42530 Moonridge Road, Big Bear Lake; (909) 585-4266] seems to be everyone’s favorite lunch stop, with sandwiches piled high with pastrami and other meats. My favorite meal, though, was at Evergreen Restaurant, overlooking the lake (40771 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake;  878-5588, www.evergreenbigbear.com). The menu features an interesting mix of entrees, such as beef Wellington and black tiger shrimp. One of my faves was the artistically presented roasted tomato bisque.
Big Bear Lake is still blue and beautiful, more than two miles wide at one point, even though the drought has reduced its size. What better way to explore it than aboard Miss Liberty, a 64-foot-long paddle-wheel boat that allows well-mannered dogs (439 Pine Knot Ave.;  866-8129, www.pineknotmarina.com). We cruised the lake for 90 minutes while the captain recounted the lake’s history and clued us in on the celebrities who have homes along the shoreline. No damage was evident from the Lake fire, which earlier this summer burned more than 30,000 acres in the wilderness 22 miles southeast of Big Bear.
The lesson learned
At the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, I found that the community’s effort to expand the 21/2-acre facility may pay off soon. Curator Bob Cisneros said the animal rehab center is about to go to bid for the construction of a 7-acre zoo nearby. I visited some of my favorite pals: three grizzlies; Hucklebeary, the three-legged black bear (the center thinks it was hit by a car); a pack of white wolves and the newest addition, two snow leopards. The zoo, a rescue and rehabilitation center, returns 80% of the animals rescued to the wild annually. “Those that can’t be returned end up here as our ambassadors,” Cisneros said (43285 Goldmine Drive, Big Bear Lake;  584-1299, www.bigbearzoo.org).