A surprisingly delightful attraction in the city of Big Bear Lake is the Moonridge Animal Park and Wildlife Center. Located at the base of Bear Mountain Ski Resort in the San Bernardino Mountains, this rare alpine zoo is only a two-and-a-half hour drive from Los Angeles. Unlike many animal parks, the Moonridge Zoo exhibits animals in their natural habitat—surrounded by towering pines and snow-capped peaks, at an elevation of just under 7,000 feet.
Since its founding in 1959, The Moonridge Animal Park has rehabilitated and released injured, native animals and provided lifetime sanctuary for non-releasable wildlife. More than 190 orphaned and injured animals representing 80 species call it home.
After passing through the rustic visitors’ center, you’re greeted with crisp, clean mountain air intermingled with the earthy smells of wildlife. The park’s star residents are Tutu, a “three strikes” grizzly bear, and Hucklebeary, a three-legged black bear. The menagerie also features a pack of timber wolves, coyotes, and red and grey foxes. The big cats in residence include an endangered snow leopard, bobcats, a lynx, and a family of cougars. The zoo also houses several species of non-predatory animals like mule deer, raccoons, beavers, badgers, and a pair of gargantuan wood bison. A flight aviary is home to golden- and bald eagles, turkey vultures, and snowy owls, among others. Finally, there’s a reptile room and a walk-through darkroom exhibit of nocturnal creatures. It’s remarkable how close you can get to these magnificent beasts. You’re actually within ten feet of mountain lions, and wolves, and bears (oh my!)
If you happen to be in the Big Bear area for a skiing or snowboarding retreat, the Moonridge Zoo is definitely worthy of a visit… for animal lovers of all ages.
Admission is $9 for ages 11 to adult; Children 3-10 and seniors 60+ are $6; Children under 3 are free.
Where: 43285 Goldmine Drive Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 (909) 584-1299
When: Summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day) – Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with daily animal feedings at 3:00 p.m. Winter (weather permitting) – Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Feeding tours are on weekends at 3:00 p.m.
For More Information: check out their website at www.moonridgezoo.org.