I’d been to Big Bear with some girlfriends a few years ago, and we booked a cabin through one of the local vacation rental companies. It was fine—it was a cabin, it was near the mountain, but it was pretty run-down and dirty. So let’s say my expectations of “a cabin in Big Bear” were not very high when my friend Mike Rotman offered up his place, Milo Bear Cabin, for a weekend getaway.
The big selling point for me was that I knew Mike had spent a lot of time making Milo Bear Cabin dog-friendly; he’s a passionate advocate for rescue animals, and it was important to him that pets enjoy their stay as much as their people. Also--you can't beat crisp mountain air.
(Sidebar: This is probably not the cheapest option in Big Bear--it currently runs $125-$550/night based on the time of year, plus a $100 cleaning fee. I'm profiling it here because it becomes quite the deal if you go with a few other people--maybe two couples, or a group of friends. If you DO book Milo Bear, though, please do it through this link to VRBO, because then I get a wee commission!)
So I packed a few bags, buckled Chance into the backseat with his Clickit harness (safety first!), and we hit the open road.
And by “open road” I mean “the 210 East that is inexplicably jammed on a Saturday morning from Pasadena most of the way to the 330 North exit to Big Bear.” Be warned—you’ll probably be stuck in traffic on this stretch of freeway unless you’re a freeway-whisperer and you time it just right. There is a carpool lane, though, so avail yourself of that if possible. It took us an hour from Pasadena to the 330N exit.
Once you get off the freeway, you almost immediately are in the San Bernardino National Forest, and it’s really easy to think you’re almost there.
You are not. Oh no. You are not.
It took us ANOTHER hour to go what looked like it should take 30 minutes. It’s a mountain road, my friends—twisty and turny the wholllllle way. Plan to have at least 2 ½ hours of music or podcasts or whatever keeps you sane on long car rides (maybe try Audible.com for free?).
You’ll go through several small towns and each time you’ll think “oh, is this it??” It isn’t. Just keep going.
Finally, you’ll drive through Big Bear itself, and find Moonridge Road. NOW you’re almost there.
When you turn on to the street itself, just drive very slowly—it sneaks up on you. Most of the cabins in Big Bear are prominent and practically open onto the street; not Milo Bear Cabin. There’s a large stand of vegetation next to the driveway that actually prevents people on the road from really seeing the place, which is quite nice. But the address is clearly visible on multiple signs, and suddenly you’ll see the driveway.
And you’ve arrived!!
I was blown away the minute I pulled into the driveway. This place is GORGEOUS. It looks brand-new, and everything about it was so inviting.
- The parking deck fits up to four vehicles, which was perfect for unloading the car.
- The piece de resistance of the whole place is the big, beautiful wraparound deck. It’s got excellent fencing so your dog can roam free (if you keep the gate to the backyard shut). I even left Chance to his own devices while I went back and forth from the car to the cabin.
- The security system for the cabin is passcode-operated, so you don’t need to worry about picking up keys from anyone. It was also nice to not have to worry about forgetting a set of keys I’m not used to carrying
- There is a full-size grill and a big picnic table for an al fresco barbeque!
- The deck wraps around the back of the house and overlooks the backyard, which is perfectly suited for some games of fetch.
Inside is just as impressive as the outside. It’s a small cabin but really well laid-out:
- The living area takes up the most space, with two big comfy couches and armchair—plenty of room for everyone to relax. The TV has DirecTV, Netflix, and Roku.
- There’s a full-size dining table in the corner; while there’s not a ton of room, it’s plenty big enough for a sit-down dinner.
- The kitchen is honestly better than my own—brand-new appliances, lots of counter space, a rolling island for prep and extra room. Mike’s thought of pretty much everything you might need.
- The bathroom and laundry room are on the first level, as is one of the bedrooms (with a queen bed).
- Up a steep small stairway are the other two bedrooms. One room has a bunk bed (with plenty of floor space for probably two more air mattresses if you had a lot of kids with you).
- The master bedroom is INCREDIBLE—the California king bed is so comfy! There’s plenty of closet space and, honestly, even more room to fit more air mattresses (you’d probably have to check with Mike if you are bringing more than six people though).
And everything is SO CLEAN—you’d never know that he encourages pets!! There wasn’t a perma-layer of dirt everywhere like my first Big Bear cabin experience… I really wished I was staying for an entire week.
After running around like a little kid exploring the whole place, I headed outside to get the hot tub heating. I’d been warned it can take 2-3 hours to heat up, so I wanted to get that cooking.
I had stopped at Trader Joe’s on the way up and picked up a Spanish cheese sampler, a bottle of chardonnay, peanut butter pretzels, cinnamon rolls, and milk for coffee. I unpacked it all and made myself a little cheese plate, cracked open the wine, grabbed the welcome binder that was on the coffee table, and headed back out to the deck.
While I was outside, I let Chance roam around the deck and backyard area. It was still broad daylight so I felt comfortable doing this—Mike is quick to caution his guests to be on the lookout for coyotes. Also, while I’m sure no area is completely escape-proof, Mike has done a really fantastic job of getting there. Maybe the best part of the trip for me was the ability to let my dog go exploring without me hovering over him—it was nice to be slightly off-duty for a second.
I sat down at the deck picnic table with the welcome binder to see what goodies Mike had assembled. This guy has thought of every question you might have about the cabin and answered it in this binder.
I still had plenty of time before dinner and the tub was still heating up, so Chance and I went for a walk in the neighborhood. This nice thing about this neighborhood in Big Bear is that it’s quite populated—you’re not in an isolated cabin among the trees, so I felt really safe staying there by myself and walking my dog alone.
When we got back, I poured myself another glass of wine, fed Chance his dinner, and slipped into the hot tub. Oh, the hot tub. THE. HOT. TUB.
It’s heaven. It’s big and clean (SO SO CLEAN), and the views are just terrific and the air was crisp and the sunset was sublime. Sigh. I’m seriously wishing I was back there RIGHT THIS SECOND.
In fact, the evening was so perfect I decided not to leave for dinner. Good thing to remember about Big Bear is that not a ton of restaurants deliver--fortunately, the Himalayan (Indian/Nepalese food) did. (If you're into food reviews: I ordered the lamb saag and the chicken salad. The salad was good for a refreshing option, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the saag—the meat was pretty tough. I should have stuck with something like chicken tikka masala, perhaps. But overall, I enjoyed it.)
During dinner, I availed myself of the cabin’s provided Netflix and watched some “House of Cards” with Chanceypants snuggled up next to me. It was honestly one of the best Saturday nights I’ve had in a very long time.
I had to leave by 10am, so I didn’t really get to DO anything while I was there--Mike had recommended a coffee shop and a sandwich place that were a fifteen-minute walk from the cabin (and dog-friendly!) that I really wanted to try out, but seriously nothing could have dragged me away from my wine-and-hot-tub night. They are definitely on my to-do list for next time, as are the other things Big Bear has to offer, like hiking, kayaking, shopping, and playing in the snow.
But if you’re looking for a place to stay in the area, especially if you’ve got a pup, you can’t do better than Milo Bear Cabin. It's not the cheapest option in the area, but you get a lot of bang for your buck--especially if accomodations are important to you when you're on vacation. And really all you might want to do is watch the sunset from the hot tub.