15 Best Things to Do in San Bernardino County, CA

San Bernardino County, CA
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Known across the county as the largest county in America, San Bernardino County is a place of outdoor surprises.

This Southern California county sits within the Inland Empire Region.

It is home to 24 cities and offers vast ecological formations and terrain changes.

From desert-like habitats like the Mojave Desert and snow-capped tips like the San Bernardino Mountains, you've got lots of large spaces to explore.

This makes it an ideal county for countless outdoor recreation throughout the seasons, including water sports in the summer and snowboarding in the winter.

Created in 1853, this county also got its name from the patron saint of mountain peaks and passes, Saint Bernard.

Its county seat, San Bernardino, is also famous for its multicultural attractions and the historic Route 66.

Start your backpacking journey to this county with the 15 best things to do in San Bernardino County, California:

See the Beauty of Nature at the Deep Creek Hot Springs

Beautiful view of the Deep Creek Hot Springs
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San Bernardino County shines with its vast cluster of natural areas, including land and water habitats.

One of these is the Deep Creek Hot Springs, which is just outside Apple Valley.

This attraction is unique within the southern California setting.

Its thermal hot springs offer the best vegetation diversity in the area, including juniper woodlands and mixed conifers.

A woman enjoying her day at Deep Creek Hot Springs
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The spot is also worth checking out if you're spotting wildlife within the San Bernardino National Forest.

The place is home to the Southwestern Arroyo Toad, which is recognizable by its warty skin and dark spots.

The Deep Creek Hot Springs is along the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and is easily accessible from Bowen Ranch Road.

Clear water at Deep Creek Hot Springs
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Wander the Limestone Formations at the Mitchell Caverns

In the community of Essex, the Mitchell Caverns is one of the eye-catching attractions you should try exploring at least once.

This set of limestone caves comes in three, but only two are open to the public eye.

These are best known for being the only ones of their kind in the California Parks system.

With an elevation of over 4,000 feet, these man-made caves have become a state park recreational spot since 1956.

But before that, these were the Chemehuevi Indians' sacred places and the homes of many wildlife.

Now, you can marvel at the collection of stalagmites and stalactites cascading down the cave walls like dripping water.

The Mitchell Caverns is within the Mojave Desert accessible via Essex Road.

Travel Back to the Victorian Era at Kimberly Crest House & Gardens

Exterior view of the Kimberly Crest House & Gardens
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Kimberly Crest House & Gardens is your gateway to Redlands' underrated historic spots.

This landmark is the greatest example of Victorian-style chateaus and Italian Renaissance gardens.

In 1905, it served as the home to John Alfred and Helen Cheney Kimberly before becoming Kimberly-Shirk Association property.

Now, the property accepts both private and public tours to get to know more about the lifestyle of lavish families back in the day.

Stairs at Kimberly Crest House & Gardens
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Explore the multiple rooms of the chateau and take a closer look at its furnishings and decor.

Check out the statues and fountains all over the gardens while taking in the roses, wisterias, and other flowers in bloom.

Kimberly Crest House & Gardens—and its 6 1/4 acre property—is also open for events of every kind.

Get to this outstanding architectural paragon on Prospect Drive.

Check Out the Mountain-View Vistas at Sierra Lakes Golf Club

Get the golfing adventure of your dreams at Sierra Lakes Golf Club.

Located right below the breathtaking San Bernardino Mountains, this golf course stands out with its mountain-view vistas.

Its broad array of golf courses is ideal for all sorts of players, ranging from newbies to competitive golfers.

Its course layout is the creative masterpiece of Ted Robinson and has served many players since 2000.

If you're new to golfing, learn the basics of the sport with a golf lesson at the site's practice facilities.

And after a torturous day out on the golf course, cool down with a heavy meal at the facility's bar and grill.

You can find Sierra Lakes Golf Club on Clubhouse Drive, which is in the city of Fontana.

View the California Fan Palms at the Oasis of Mara

Palm trees at Oasis of Mara
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In San Bernardino County, there's always an opportunity to hike and spend time with nature.

The Oasis of Mara has the landscapes perfect for this very activity.

This 0.5-mile trail is a part of the Joshua Tree National Park Headquarters.

It boasts alkaline conditions and a variety of honey mesquite, playas, and other plants unique to this area in California.

The name Mara came from the Serrano people, who consider this place their first home.

And though much has changed since then, you can still see remnants of this historical era through the unique plants of the property.

Some of these include the California fan palm, deergrass, and the Beavertail cactus.

Aiding you on your educational trek are signs and markers along your route.

The Oasis of Mara is on National Park Drive in the city of Twentynine Palms.

Dare to Go Down the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain

Looking for an all-around attraction for family fun and entertainment?

You can never go wrong with a visit to the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain.

This Big Bear Lake facility takes pride in its authentic bobsled attractions you won't find anywhere else within the state.

Some of its other attractions include mini-golf, soaring eagle zip lines, and even go-karts.

It also has perfect-for-the-season amenities, including water slides during summer and snow play for the winter season.

Come by with your loved ones and get ready to have fun!

The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain is on Wildrose Lane.

Discover More About McDonald’s History at the First Original McDonald's Museum

Exterior view of the First Original McDonald's Museum
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Are you a fan of fast-food chains?

Then, you might like the First Original McDonald's Museum in San Bernardino.

Originally opened in 1940, this McDonald's branch has transformed into a compact museum several years later.

When you visit the site, you can find a large collection of pre-Ray Kroc McDonald's mementos, including a copy of the chain's menu and even cups and straws.

View the original McDonald's mascot and logo, which look nothing like the ones you see today.

The fun doesn't stop there!

Outside, the museum contains old signs, plaques, and statues.

Head over to North East Street to reach the First Original McDonald's Museum.

Browse through Glass Art at the Historical Glass Museum

You don't have to have a keen eye for artistic design to go on an art adventure in San Bernardino County.

And RedlandsHistorical Glass Museum is proof of this.

Founded in 1976 and opened in 1985, this museum is both a historical landmark and a gallery of American-made glass art collections.

It holds a variety of glass artifacts from factories that have long shut down and other unique pieces from still operating ones.

This museum sits inside an unassuming Victorian-style home and features a gift shop adjoining it.

The Historical Glass Museum sits along North Orange Street, distinct for its blue exterior.

Traverse the Unique Vegetation at Heaps Peak Arboretum

Signage of the Heaps Peak Arboretum
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Heaps Peak Arboretum is one of the free attractions in the county.

This public arboretum comes with a multitude of botanical gardens in the village of Skyforest.

But before becoming the floral sanctuary it is today, it was once a dumping ground before the 1980s.

Hiking trail at Heaps Peak Arboretum
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Officially opened in 1984, this arboretum now features multiple trails, including the wildflower-abundant Sequoia Trail.

Other attractions you can anticipate include demonstration gardens with its 30 recorded plant species, picnic areas under shades, and an information kiosk.

Situated on US Highway 18, Heaps Peak Arboretum offers an oasis of natural charm and allure that you should see for yourself.

Browse through Cultural Art at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art

A world of art and culture awaits you at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art.

Opened in 1996, this museum is home to about 1,500 artworks from ceramics to contemporary art.

A huge part of its collection is mainly focused on Egyptian culture.

The museum is also open as a large events space and offers educational opportunities and programs for students.

And the best part is admission is free!

Learn about cultural art at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art on University Parkway.

This one-of-a-kind museum is in the city of San Bernardino.

View the Aircraft Models and Exhibits at the Planes of Fame Air Museum

An aeroplane kept for display at Planes of Fame Air Museum
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In the city of Chino, the Planes of Fame Air Museum proves its worth as a good stop.

This aircraft-centered museum came to be because of one man named Ed Maloney.

He opened the museum in 1957 with only ten aircraft models to display.

Air show organized by the Planes of Fame Air Museum
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Now, several years later, the place has expanded to accommodate more engines and other aircraft memorabilia vital to your visit.

Browse through rare warbirds and replicas of aircraft spanning decades ago.

Some of its living exhibits also include flying events or airshows, where most of the repaired and restored aircraft move on to serve different purposes.

The Planes of Fame Air Museum is on Cal Aero Drive.

View of the Planes of Fame Air Museum
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Visit Several Wildlife Species at Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Several Alpine animals await you at Big Bear Alpine Zoo.

This Big Bear Lake attraction takes modern zoos to the next level with a special focus on local Alpine wildlife for their rehab and release.

Since 1959, this rehabilitation center specializes in the care of injured and unhealthy animals.

From wild species like wolves and grizzly bears to reptiles and fowl, you can find all sorts of animals undergoing some sort of treatment.

And you can even see them during one of their sessions with the center's daily programs.

Watch as animals undergo training, exhibit designs, and other preparations for their survival in the wild.

Big Bear Alpine Zoo is on Moonridge Road.

Learn More About Astronomy at Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center

Ready for an astronomy lesson?

Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center can help you reach for the stars.

This observatory offers hands-on astronomical programs and a variety of amenities, including a Meditation Garden and a Nature Trail.

There's more for you to explore, whether in space or even on Earth.

Come by during its once-a-month public viewing of the sky, the stars, and everything in space.

You can get to Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center via the Utah Trail in the city of Twentynine Palms.

Go for a Swim at Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area

Beach at Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area
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For the ultimate summertime getaway, Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area has your back.

This state park is home to the largest reservoir of the same name within San Bernardino County.

Some of the activities you can do while at the park include swimming, fishing, and even hiking.

Picturesque view of the Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area
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With multiple trails zigzagging around the area, you can expect about 13 miles of trekking spots.

The state park also comes with well-rounded campgrounds that are open year-round.

Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area is on Highway 138 near the city of Hesperia.

Picnic area at Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area
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Interact with the Desert Exhibits at Hi-Desert Nature Museum

Wary about exploring the desert terrains of San Bernardino County and its surrounding areas?

That's not a problem in the town of Yucca Valley!

Hi-Desert Nature Museum, started in 1964, brings you the culture and relevance of the High Desert area of the community without actually taking you there.

Its permanent exhibits include dioramas, paleontology specimens, and cultural shelves dedicated to desert life.

There are even zoo exhibits with living animals that you can interact with on your visit.

Find botanical serigraphs and even native gems and minerals while browsing the exhibitions.

Hi-Desert Nature Museum is on Twentynine Palms Highway.

Final Thoughts

San Bernardino County calls out to the explorers and nature adventurers at heart.

With its distinct open-area preserves and cultural museums and galleries, there's much to see and learn in this Southern California county.

If the list above hasn't convinced you of its recreational possibilities, travel to this spot and find out for yourself.

Just be sure to keep your copy of the best things to do in San Bernardino County, California in case you might need it!

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