Not many visitors to Los Angeles know about the stunningly beautiful mountain resort of Lake Arrowhead, only 80 miles away from the city. Sitting at an elevation of almost 6,000 feet, this place is a countless resource of recreational activities. In this post I’ll share with you the best things to do in Lake Arrowhead, as well as the best places to stay and eat.
A Brief History of the Lake
The history of this lake began in the 1890’s, when a group of entrepreneurs chose the Little Bear Gorge to built a reservoir that would supply water to the valley. When the dam was completed and the lake formed, they named it Little Bear Lake. But the idea of diverting the water from the area did not sit well with the ranchers on the upper desert. People on this side of the mountain relied on that water for their own domestic use.
The State ruled in the favor of the ranches, so in 1920 Arrowhead Lake Company bought Little Bear Lake and the surrounding land and began developing the area into a resort community.
The name was changed into Lake Arrowhead, deriving from a rock formation in the shape of an arrowhead that sits on the face of the San Bernardino Mountains.
The developers build three hotels, a golf course and a club house. The land around the lake was subdivided and sold for private homes. Many Hollywood stars purchased land in Lake Arrowhead building gorgeous estates around the north shore area.
What to Expect When Visiting Lake Arrowhead
Because of its high altitude location, Lake Arrowhead enjoys four distinct seasons which allow a great variety of activities year round. The climate up here is very different from the one in the valley. The summer temperature is about 20 degrees cooler while in winter it regularly drops below freezing.
The average snowfall is 80 inches a year. Snow may start as early as November and last till the end of March. This makes Lake Arrowhead a great escape from the heat and smog of L.A. in summer. The lake also makes a beautiful white retreat in winter.
Things to Do in Lake Arrowhead
The area around the lake is a countless resource of recreational activities. From hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, to swimming, water skiing and lake tours and fishing you can do just about anything. For those who come here off season, there are many options for great dining and shopping.
• Skiing and snowboarding
There are no ski slopes in Lake Arrowhead, but just 20 minutes away there is a nice ski area called Snow Valley that almost always gets some snow. And if you are up for more serious skiing, you can drive a little farther to Big Bear Lake (just 50 minutes away) for the beautiful Snow Summit and Bear Mountain ski resorts.
• Boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, water skiing and swimming
Most boat owners in Lake Arrowhead also own docks on the lake where they keep their boats during the summer months. The docks have piers where people usually party or barbecue with friends. The lake waters are exceptionally clear and warm. The swimming season may start as early as June and sometimes extends well into the first two weeks of October.
It’s important to know that this is a private lake and can only be used by the homeowners in Arrowhead Woods, a tract of land that extends about 1 mile perimeter around the lake.
Because it’s private, the lake is never crowded. Visitors may use the lake if they are guests of the property owners in Arrowhead Woods. Also, if you are the guest of one of the hotels on the lake shore, you can also use the lake.
There are some water activities which can be enjoyed by the general public as well. Visitors can tour the lake by boat on The Arrowhead Queen, or water ski through the local Ski School. They can also stroll along the water promenade in the Village area.
• Stroll Through the Village
The Village is a really nice place to stroll thorough if you’re in the area. You can hang out and relax, grab a bite in one of the good restaurants, shop in the small boutiques, or just feed the ducks.
In summer they have jazz and classical music concerts here, as well as art and wine festivals or different craft fairs. Lake Arrowhead is a dog friendly area and sometimes they have dog competitions in the Village.
• Watch the 4th of July Fireworks
The most popular event in town is the spectacular 4th of July fireworks show. Boats start gathering on the lake since early afternoon trying to get as close as possible to the platform from where the fireworks will be launched.
Live music is being played while hundreds of people bring their boats so close to each other that they almost touch. When the fireworks explode in a shower of lights that gets reflected in the water, the air fills up with ahhhs and ohhhs.
Lake Arrowhead is a paradise for fishing. There is a lot of trout, bass and carp in this lake and if you know what you are doing, you can catch a lot of fish, but the limit is 5 pieces/person with a fishing permit.
Every year at the beginning or April there is a fishing competition that takes place in the marina area.
The best way to experience Lake Arrowhead is by hiking the beautiful trails around, which present different levels of difficulty. Most trails can be accessed year round. The scenery is spectacular, with a wide range of plants that vary from desert flowers to mountain pines.
When hiking in the San Bernardino you’ll have to remember that these are very wild and dangerous mountains. Before you start your hike, always read about the area, consider the length of the trail, your available time, and the weather conditions. Also, always carry water with you. People often get lost in these mountains and get caught unprepared.
Best Time to Visit
Lake Arrowhead is beautiful year round, so no matter when you visit you’ll always have something fun to do here. Most of the activities take place around the lake and in the Village.
Week-ends are particularly busy, especially in summer. But if you come here during the week, you’ll discover a quiet and peaceful oasis. That’s because 60% of the properties are vacation homes. Out of the 40% permanent residents, 20% are retirees.
Where to Stay
There are numerous inns, hotels and bed and breakfasts throughout this town. The most famous is Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, a 4-star accommodation ideally located right on the lakeshore.
Another nice place to stay is the Lake Arrowhead Challets, a complex of family sized condos with fully equipped kitchen, wood burning fireplace and deck with a BBQ.
In addition to that, there are many vacation homes are being rented by their owners through VRBO.
So if you happen to be in Southern California, don’t miss Lake Arrowhead. It’s one of the easiest and most relaxing weekend getaways from Los Angeles.
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