Rim of the World Scenic Byway
Chon Kit Leong/Alamy

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World
Drive this picturesque route through the Inland Empire

A short drive from the surf and sand of Southern California, an entirely different landscape emerges: the mountains, lakes, and scenery of the Inland Empire. Head east from San Diego, Orange County, or Los Angeles, and take a California road trip along the 110-mile-long Rim of the World Scenic Byway, nicknamed for its stunning views along the cliffs of the San Bernardino Mountains. Here are five great stops to make along the way, culminating at Big Bear Lake.

Embark on the Rim of the World

The Inland Empire byway begins at Cajon Pass, on State Highway 138 between the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains. You can take this California road trip year-round: You’ll want tire chains during the snowy winter, but that’s also when you can make snow angels in the Snow Play Area. Make the most of photo-op-ready turnouts, like Silverwood Lake Overlook off State Highway 138, which offers a view of the sparkling lake.

Recharge at Lake Arrowhead

Take a detour on State Route 173 to relax at this deep-blue mountain lake and the quaint town that neighbours it. Stay the night at Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa, just outside the village, where you can kayak across the lake, roast s’mores on the shore, or get a massage. While you’re here, hike a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail—about seven miles from the lake—or take a steamboat ride on the Arrowhead Queen to ogle lakefront homes and learn about the movies filmed here over the years. Stop at Shop Road Trip and pick up some hand-crafted pottery, sun-catchers, vintage rugs, and native-tribe-made sweaters.

Play at Big Bear Lake

Get on State Route 18 and head toward Big Bear Lake Village. Embrace the Alpine scenery on the western side of the Rim by staying in a modern version of a mountain cabin. The cottages of Noon Lodge, which first opened in the 1950s, have been renovated with cedar detailing, kitchens, fireplaces, and cheeky-cabin decor (as well as TVs and WiFi). For a great breakfast or lunch, stop at Big Bear Local, owned by pro surfer Sanoe Lake Eaton and her husband, where they serve California-meets-Hawaii cuisine like teriyaki, poke, and açai bowls, along with marshmallow-laced lattes.

Zipline Between the Trees

Skis, snowboards, and hiking boots may be the classic ways to enjoy Big Bear, but they’re not the only way to get a head rush around here. Action Tours offers outings with snow shoes, Segways, and even tree-rope-climbing gear. Or, take one of their zipline tours, a three-hour adventure with nine runs amid the trees and mountain scenery.

Hike Castle Rock Trail

Get one more awesome view in the Big Bear area on the popular Castle Rock Trail, a sometimes-steep three-mile hike. The forest-lined walk takes you past huge granite boulders as you ascend through Ponderosa pines, white firs, and incense cedars to get a panoramic view of Big Bear Lake. Come in spring or summer to see a waterfall, and keep an eye out for herons, hawks, and even bald eagles.  

 

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World InlandEmpire_biking_1280x642_sized

Southern California

Discover the Inland Empire

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World vca_maps_inlandempire
12
December
Average (°C)
Dec - Feb
20°
High
3°
Low
Mar - May
26°
High
6°
Low
June - Aug
34°
High
12°
Low
Sept - Nov
32°
High
6°
Low

With its inviting destinations and uncrowded wilderness, this region feels like an insider’s secret amid the bustling excitement of Southern California.

Mount San Gorgonio—nicknamed “Old Grayback”—is the tallest peak in Southern California, at 11,502 feet/3,506 meters.

Surprising alpine scenery around Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear beckons, with pine-scented trails in summer and winter sports when the snow flies. If you’re into action, get the adrenaline rush of seeing the world’s best NASCAR racers compete at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. For a dreamier escape, float in a hot-air balloon above rolling Temecula Valley wine country. 

SPECIAL FEATURE
There are tons of reasons why you might plan a winter trip to Big Bear. Here are some you might not have thought of

With plenty of groomed runs and terrain parks at Big Bear Lake’s two alpine resorts, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, it’s easy to see why skiers and boarders head here when the snow flies. But this...

Big Bear Lake in Winter
Courtesy of Big Bear Mountain Resorts
Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VCW_D_IE_T2-IE_TemeculaValley_KG_1280x642
Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa in Corona is home to Club Mud, California’s only therapeutic red clay mud bath.
SPECIAL FEATURE
Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for child-friendly fun zones that...

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VCW_SI_T5_John_preview_686x885
John/ Flickr
Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VCW_D_IE_T2-IE_TemeculaValley_KG_1280x642
Temecula Valley is known for its variety, growing and producing over 50 different varietals of wine; from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot to Mourvedre, Viognier to Chardonnay.
Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VC_HiddenGems_BigBearLake_VCA_STILLS_BIGBEAR_01_1280x640_0
Courtesy of Big Bear Mountain Resort

Big Bear Lake

Escape to Southern California’s mountain wonderland

Just two hours from Los Angeles, the San Bernardino Mountains offer a cool, pine-scented escape. At an altitude of 2,060 metres, Big Bear Lake is...

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VCW_D_IE_T3_DE_Route66_Mural_Lauridsen-sized_1
Dave Lauridsen

Route 66

Get your kicks on America’s legendary highway

Back in its glory days, Route 66 began in Chicago and ended along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific, a 2,451 mile journey through farmlands,...

Trip 3-4 days 10 stops

Route 66 - The Mother Road

Legendary Highway, California Dream
Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World SantaMonica_BikePath_JoakimLloydRaboff_1280x642_0

Start your trip in this idyllic oceanfront city, surrounded by a 3.5 mile long beach, and feeling more like a weekend getaway spot than a city just a few minutes west of downtown Los Angeles. Car free options, including a shuttle to Los Angeles International Airport (8 miles south) make it a...

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VCW_D_DE_T5_Anza-Borrego_Manley-1280x642

On your way to this park, you’ll pass through the little community of Borrego Springs. Stop in at the town’s visitor centre to get driving maps to an astounding collection of enormous prehistoric animals, metal sculptures made by artist Ricardo Breceda, that dot the surrounding desert landscape...

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World TemeculaHotAirBalloon_1280x642
The first Balloon and Wine Festival was launched in the spring of 1984 and was a monumental success for a town of only 9,000 residents. More than 4,000 people attended, as 35 balloons were launched from the Rancho California Plaza.
Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VCW_D_IE_T5_shopping_Manley-sized
Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Inland Empire Outlets

Find bargains on brand names at major outlet centres

The only thing better than scoring the perfect outfit or designer shoes is to get them for a bargain price. That’s why shopping in the Inland...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you are in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you will find it here. Want to sample fresh fruits and...

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World Shopping_SpecialFeature_preview_686x885_0
Prayitno/Flickr
SPECIAL FEATURE
Where to save on Gucci, Versace, and other big name brands

With fabulous shopping places like Rodeo Drive and Union Square, California has undeniable star power when it comes to shopping. But all those fashion finds and gifts for everyone back home don’t...

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VCW_SI_OutletMalls_RobertSheie_preview_686x885
Robert Sheie/Flickr
Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VCW_D_IE_T7_SanBernardinoMuseum_Stevens_1280x642
Brian Stevens

San Bernardino Museums

Discover local and natural history and see art from around the world at area museums

Two local museums let you experience everything from the natural side of the Inland Empire to the treasures of ancient Egypt.

The San...

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VCW_D_IE_T8-IE_IdyllAwhileBistro_Stevens-sized
Brian Stevens

Idyllwild

Nature and the arts find a perfect balance in this quaint mountain hamlet

Backed by mountain wilderness and filled with galleries, Idyllwild is a haven for both outdoor recreation and the arts.

Steep forested...

Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World FF_Hero_IE_BigBear_ChinaIsland_Stevens
San Bernardino National Forest is the largest urban forest in the United States.
Road Trip: Inland Empire’s Rim of the World VCW_D_IE_T9-IE_Arrowhead_Farnum-sized_2
Alex Farnum

Lake Arrowhead

Escape to an exclusive mountain haven

The drive from San Bernardino to Lake Arrowhead is a quick one, just 23 miles. But as you twist and climb from the busy valley and into the San...

Riverside
John Bilous/Alamy

Riverside

Visit this Inland Empire city to learn about its citrus past, stay in a world-famous inn, and tour gardens and galleries

Sixty miles east of Los Angeles, Riverside boasts a number of firsts, including...