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, many are available and 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 Arrowhead Village. Kids enjoy a chance to visit with wildlife at Wildhaven Ranch, a sanctuary for endangered and indigenous species. Winter often means snow at Lake Arrowhead, 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.
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.
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