Drive time: About 2.5 Hours
Miles from the South Bay: About 100 miles
Lake Arrowhead, or “The Alps of Southern California” is a small mountain escape in the San Bernardino Mountains that is as scenic as it is fun. We had planned to meet up with some friends from San Diego and it worked out well because it was equidistant (about a 2 hour drive for all). There’s tons to do. According to their website, it has “hiking, backpacking, camping, bicycling, lake tours, water and snow skiing, ice skating, fishing, horseback riding, and much more.” There are all kinds of accommodations from cabins to 5 star resorts. And restaurants dot the resort area, most concentrated in Lake Arrowhead Village.
We left at noon – it was such a beautiful day – I’ll admit, we hesitated to leave the South Bay! The first thing you do of course if get your playlist going. We went with a chill trip hop kind of vibe. One of the songs caught my ear, “It’s always better when we’re together…” Hopefully you’ll be traveling with someone special too!
We started up the 110 North and as we merged on to the 91 East, it wasn’t long before we could see glimpses of the mountains with bright snow on top against the blue sky. Talk about anticipation!
I’ve noticed with a trip like this the first half of your travel time is usually thinking about what (and who) you’ve left behind – toothbrushes, kids, work stress. But at around the midpoint your thoughts turn more towards the journey ahead. Where will we stay? What will we eat? Are there any wild animals roaming around? Mostly just couldn’t wait to see the cabin my San Diego friends had picked out for us.
I’ve also noticed that when you take a trip like this, you can’t help but start a mental list of the places you pass that you’d like to visit next. As the mountains got bigger and closer, we saw signs for Mount Baldy, Big Bear, Lake Gregory, etc. (Spoiler alert: stay tuned for more Staycations!)
Now I’ll say right here and now I’m not a big fan of the twisting, turning, hanging off the side of a mountain type of roads. (If that sounds like you, you might want to flip over to another one of our more sea-level Staycations right now). But I decided to give it a go and we made it up the mountain and when I was able to look, the views were spectacular! Of course we stopped at the obligatory vista points perched high above the city to grab a few shots.
Finally we arrived at the cabin! It was roomy and had a charming antler-chandelier theme going on. The inside was warm and inviting. Our friends already had fires going in the fireplaces. There were two big decks – one upstairs and one downstairs with a jacuzzi that we made good use of later in the day. It also had a great big game room complete with bar, pool table, poker table and classic arcade games! Did I mention the antlers? You really couldn’t miss them.
It so happens that we chose the most popular weekend to be in Lake Arrowhead. So I can’t really report on the restaurant first hand. But we did go into the main town area, and walked around the pretty lake from whence the town got its name. We did stock up at Stater Brothers market, and grilled steaks (and in my case veggie burgers) back at the house. Nothing says vacation with friends like Cards Against Humanity around fire place followed by a dip in the hot tub laughing at the steam rising off the tub in the chilly night air.
The next day we used the All Trails App to find a hike just a short drive away. We chose Rim of the World Lookout – a 5-star 1.2-mile, “easy” hike with pretty forest trail and epic mountain views. The hike took about an hour with a leisurely stop at the peak. Wandering back we stopped to admire ancient gnarled trees and chat with passing dog walkers.
Second night we ordered pizza and sequestered ourselves in the game room for Pool, PAC man and various classic board games we discovered behind the bar. As we sat talking politics i the hot tub a tick fog rolled in – it was pretty magical.
At midnight it started raining and we woke up to a couple inches of rapidly melting snow on the ground. It was fleeting but very pretty. We had to rush out quick to get to Las Vegas for work (another Staycation for you!). The car was coated with snow and ice. We hadn’t thought to bring an ice scraper so my friend used her boot! A bit rough but it worked. This made for slow going down the mountain – lots of tentative California drivers getting their footing including us.
We took the Lake Gregory Drive past our hiking trail admiring the beautiful clouds. We passed through Lake Gregory – a cute town and I made another mental note to visit some day. (I hear rumors there are catfish to be caught in that lake.)
As we wound our way back down the mountain, steam rising off the frozen pavement in the hot sun, we knew we’d remember this trip for a long time. Lake Arrowhead is definitely worth it, South Bay Staycationers! See you on the next one!
Those of us who live at sea level may forget that food cooks differently (and some say it even tastes different) at altitude, so plan accordingly.
Bring plenty of bottled water since you are at an elevation of 5,174′
Depending on the time of year, you might need warm stuff, chains/cables for your tires – and as it turned out we wished we had brought a scraper for the windshield!
Bathing suit for hot tub
Waze https://www.waze.com/ or Google Maps https://www.google.com/maps
All Trails – a great app to find local hiking trails https://www.alltrails.com/
We used Airbnb to find a great place to stay
Places We went:
Stater Bros. Market
Other Staycations Close By: