The drive from San Bernardino to Lake Arrowhead is a quick one—just 23 miles/37 km. But as you twist and climb from the busy valley and into the San Bernardino Mountains, then arrive at this picturesque town set on a deep-blue mountain lake, you’ll feel like you’ve escaped to a different world. This lake has long been the favored escape for those seeking exclusive alpine luxury, and the lake and much of its shoreline are privately owned—with gated lakeside vacation homes to prove it.
But you don’t have to have the keys to a gated estate to visit. In summer, pitch a tent at a pair of campgrounds, and head out on a network of trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail, that lace through surrounding forestlands. Relax in a rustic rental cabin—there are many of them, and some include dock and lake privileges. Board the Arrowhead Queen paddlewheel boat for a guided tour and an exclusive peek at lakefront homes. Stop in at shops in relaxed Lake Arrowhead Village, and pay a visit to Belgian Waffle Works, a cozy spot situated in a Tudor Revival–style chalet overlooking Lake Arrowhead, for one of their sweet or savory house specialties. Kids will enjoy a chance to visit with wildlife at Wildhaven Ranch, a sanctuary for endangered and indigenous species. Winter often means snow at Lake Arrowhead, which makes it the perfect time to spoil yourself in all this luxury with a stay at the Lake Arrowhead Resort—maybe a treatment at the lodge’s Spa of the Pines.