This site uses affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you use my links and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.
If you’re looking for your next great escape or weekend getaway with beautiful scenery that the whole family will love, look no further than Lake Arrowhead, California. Perched in the San Bernardino mountain area just north of Los Angeles, Lake Arrowhead is the quintessential mountain town, where an Alpine-style village overlooks the crystal-blue water. There are so many amazing things to do in Lake Arrowhead that it can be hard to narrow down your travel plans!
Activities in Lake Arrowhead range from boating, water skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. And for you non-outdoorsy types, there are tons of great restaurants in Lake Arrowhead, along with wine tasting, and even spotting celebrity homes. (You might be in the mountains but you’re STILL in California.)
Whether you’re visiting Lake Arrowhead in winter, spring, summer or fall, be prepared for an incredibly memorable trip!
- Lake Arrowhead Travel Tips
- The Best Activities and Things to Do in Lake Arrowhead
- Things to Do in Lake Arrowhead in Summer
- Things to Do in Lake Arrowhead in Winter
- Best Places to Stay in Lake Arrowhead
- Special Events in Lake Arrowhead
- PACKING LISTS + PLANNERS
- Map of The Best Things to do in Lake Arrowhead
- Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting Lake Arrowhead
Lake Arrowhead Travel Tips
Before diving in to the best activities in Lake Arrowhead, I’ll start with a few important things to know before visiting. These are all the things I wish I’d known in advance!
Lake Arrowhead is a Private Lake
What many people don’t realize about Lake Arrowhead is that it is a privately-owned lake. Use of the lake, including boating, swimming, and water sports, is restricted to local homeowners and their guests.
Sometimes, use of the lake ( “lake access” as you might see it called) is transferred to guests who visit certain rental properties, but this is uncommon, as homeowners are supposed to be present when guests access the lake.
That said, even if you’re not traveling as a guest of a home owner, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the lake, which I will go through in detail as part of this guide. Read on for all of the details!
Expect Winding Roads
Known as the Alps of Southern California, the mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest are home to several small communities including Lake Arrowhead, Lake Gregory and Big Bear.
Since Lake Arrowhead is nestled in the peaks of the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California, the mountain road leading up to the area takes quite a few twists and turns as you climb to over 5,000 feet above sea level.
In addition, most of the roads in between sights and activities are quite windy as well. And that’s “windy” as in “the opposite of straight”. Not as in gale-force winds (although those can happen too).
So the bottom line is that if you or anyone in your group is prone to motion sickness like I am, make sure to prepare in advance!
Avoid Holiday Weekends if Possible
Lake Arrowhead is a very popular destination to add on to 2 days in Los Angeles and the same goes for San Diego. You could easily add it on as an additional day to this 3 day San Diego itinerary! There’s a reason that Lake Arrowhead is one of the best road trips from San Diego!
If you can, try to plan your visit to the area either during the week, or on an off-peak weekend in the spring or fall.
Prices and crowds skyrocket on holiday weekends like July 4th, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, and also over the holiday season at the end of the year. If you can avoid traveling during those times, you’ll save on costs and will also avoid crowds. Win-win.
The Best Activities and Things to Do in Lake Arrowhead
If you’re a first time visitor, or are just looking for the top things to do in Lake Arrowhead, you’re in luck! There are so many fun things to do in the area that it’s hard to choose. I’ve rounded up the area’s best activities below to help you decide how to plan your visit to this mountain escape.
The activities below are open year-round (or nearly year-round), but be sure to check directly before your visit in case any conditions change.
Explore Lake Arrowhead Village
The heart of Lake Arrowhead is Lake Arrowhead Village. In the Village, you’ll find lots of shops, restaurants, bars, and sometimes even live music in the area’s center stage. The heart of the village is where most of the area’s special events take place, too (more on that below)!
Give yourself plenty of time to explore the village during your visit and check out some of the village highlights.
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, don’t miss Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, a candy store in the heart of the village.
From chocolate to bon bons and other goodies, it’s a great place to stop for a snack or for dessert at the end of an evening.
Mountain Arts Network
I first heard of the Mountain Arts Network when I saw their gallery while walking through the Village.
Turns out that this adorable gallery featuring local artists is much more than just that! The Mountain Arts Network is a non-profit organization that fosters art education and opportunities for the local community.
Pop in to take a look at the gallery and also check out their Art Shop, where paintings and sculptures by local residents in the area are on display and for sale.
Belgian Waffle Works
Visit on a weekend morning and you’ll see the crowds waiting to eat breakfast and lunch at Belgian Waffle Works.
This family-owned restaurant has been in business for over 40 years! Once you catch the smell of the waffles as you walk by, you’ll understand why. It’s also situated just opposite the Lake, so you can take in the beautiful views while you enjoy one (or two) of the 17 different kinds of waffles that they serve.
17 kinds of waffles times 40 years is a whole lot of waffles.
Take a Boat Ride on the Lake Arrowhead Queen Steamboat
Since Lake Arrowhead is private, one of the best ways to get out on the water is to take a boat tour on the Lake Arrowhead Queen steamboat.
The Lake Arrowhead Queen boat tours take about 50 minutes and depart every hour, on the hour. You’ll get to cruise around the water and hear all about the history of the area, along with the movie stars who have homes on Lake Arrowhead.
You can purchase tickets at Leroy’s, which is directly opposite the boat dock (you can’t miss it).
Wildhaven Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
Nature lovers will adore visiting the Wildhaven Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary in Lake Arrowhead. Operated by the San Bernardino Mountains Wildlife Society, Wildhaven Ranch is a sanctuary and education center for endangered animals, and indigenous animals such as black bears and other wild animals native to the area.
Reservations are required to visit the wildlife sanctuary, so make sure to book ahead of time.
Skypark at Santa’s Village
Almost everyone who visits Lake Arrowhead for the first time wants to check out Skypark. It’s understandable – the park is one of the best things to do in Lake Arrowhead!
If you plan to visit Skypark while you’re in Lake Arrowhead, make sure to set aside an entire day. There really is that much to do, and spending a whole day will make the most of your admission fee.
Part amusement park and part outdoor adventure center, Skypark truly has activities for the whole family. Between all of the activities, shops, restaurants and special events, you can easily spend the whole day enjoying the park.
Lake Gregory Regional Park
Take the short drive from Lake Arrowhead to Crestline, home of Lake Arrowhead’s little sister lake, Lake Gregory and surrounding Lake Gregory Regional Park.
Unlike Lake Arrowhead, Lake Gregory is not privately-owned, so visitors can access the lake throughout its entire circumference.
Grab a coffee in Crestline, and take the easy, flat 2.5 mile hike around the lake itself, where you’ll see beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
Lake Gregory is also a popular fishing spot, so it’s a great place to go if you’re looking to put your bait and tackle to work.
Wine Tasting at Sycamore Ranch Winery
If you’re in the mood to do some wine tasting while you’re in Lake Arrowhead, check out Sycamore Ranch Winery.
A family-owned and operated vineyard, Sycamore Ranch welcomes visitors to the Lake Arrowhead area to enjoy their wines by the glass, bottle, or a flight of 5 different wines.
I recommend the tasting flight because I loved their GSM and Primitivo varietals. Don’t be surprised if you leave with a bottle or two to enjoy later.
Tastings at the winery are by appointment only, and take place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Most of the tasting experience is set outdoors, so make sure to bring warm layers if the weather will be chilly.
Want to do more wine tasting in Southern California? You’ll love these cute wineries close to Los Angeles.
Mountain History Museum
If you’re a history buff, or are just interested in learning more about the history of Lake Arrowhead and surrounding mountain communities, check out the Mountain History Museum which is open on the weekends.
The Mountain History Museum is directed by the Rim of the World Historical Society and features exhibits and education programs about the San Bernardino Mountains, its local towns, and the context of these communities in the broader history of California.
See a Show at The Tudor House
Built in 1923, the Tudor House is an iconic part of Lake Arrowhead and has a rich history that involves casinos, the mob, and Bugsy Siegel. You know, just casually.
Today, you won’t find any casinos or mobsters at the Tudor House. Instead, it is a unique venue that’s now home to a restaurant, lodging, and evening entertainment.
Check out the event calendar for the Tudor House to see what shows are on during your Lake Arrowhead visit. From cover bands to plays, to variety shows, to champagne breakfasts, there is always something happening at the Tudor House that you couldn’t find anywhere else in SoCal, which makes it one of the most unique activities in Lake Arrowhead.
Big Bear Lake
If you’re interested in exploring the broader Lake Arrowhead area, take a day trip to Big Bear. Located only a 20 minute drive from Lake Arrowhead, most people know Big Bear for its skiing trails, but there are so many more things to do in Big Bear.
Explore the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, a rehabilitation center for animals that have been injured or orphaned.
Or if you’re feeling active, hike Castle Rock Trail, or rent bikes and ride around the Alpine Pedal Path, a 3.2 mile paved pathway with beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area
If you drive northwest from Lake Arrowhead, you’ll find the Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area. Silverwood Lake is far less commercialized and crowded than either Lake Gregory or Lake Arrowhead, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for somewhere a bit more remote.
It’s also a very popular place for camping, fishing, boating, swimming and water skiing, particularly with locals.
The rec area also has a number of scenic hikes including a part of the Pacific Crest Trail which passes through the park.
Drive The Rim of the World Scenic Drive
California’s State Route 18 (SR-18) runs roughly 50 miles along the crest of the San Bernardino Mountains. The drive offers incredible panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, as well as the valley down below.
You’ll likely drive a small section of this route as you navigate in between the small towns of Crestline, Blue Jay, Twin Peaks, Running Springs, Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake. Even if you don’t traverse the entire 50 miles, there are several pullouts where you can admire the view.
During the winter months, make sure to check road conditions before you set out, wear chains on your tires, and also give yourself plenty of time for the drive.
Enjoy a Spa Day
For some rest and relaxation, it doesn’t get any better than enjoying a spa day in the mountains. If you’re in the mood to indulge in some self care while traveling, check out Spa of the Pines at the Lake Arrowhead Resort.
In addition to traditional spa offerings such as massage and facials, Spa of the Pines also offers classes like yoga, pilates, Sound Healing & Meditation, and traditional group fitness classes.
Visit a Fire Lookout Tower
For a quirky and cool Lake Arrowhead activity, check out a Fire Lookout Tower. There are seven fire lookouts in the San Bernardino Mountains, all of which are staffed by volunteers. And yes, you can climb to the top!
These historical towers rise above the mountain treelines, where volunteers can spot fires beginning in their early stages from miles away. The Strawberry Peak lookout tower is located just off highway 18 in between Twin Peaks and Rim Forest.
This is a great outing to do on an especially clear day, when you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Things to Do in Lake Arrowhead in Summer
If you visit Lake Arrowhead during the summer months, there are even more things you can do in addition to the list above.
The months of June, July, August and early September are warmer months in the mountains, so they’re the perfect time to enjoy the best summer activities in Lake Arrowhead.
No matter what sort of outdoor activity you’re looking for, chances are good that you can find it in Lake Arrowhead. From hiking to biking, rock climbing and boating, there are so many outdoor things to do in the summer that it can be hard to choose!
If you love mountain biking, check out the miles of bike trails at Skypark. The park has trails for beginner to advanced riders. Bike rentals are also available if you didn’t bring your own.
Another great place for mountain biking is Rim Nordic Ski Area. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the area’s extensive trail system is open to bikers, with equipment rentals available as well.
If you’re looking to do some rock climbing, Skypark has a 12’ climbing wall that is perfect for both beginner and advanced climbers alike.
Summer in Lake Arrowhead is the best time to do water sports and activities. Since the lake is privately owned, planning to do one of these activities is the best way to get out on the water.
Have you always wanted to try water skiing? There’s nothing like being out on a boat on a warm sunny day, learning to stand up and keep your balance while being pulled by a boat.
At the McKensie Water Ski School, you can do exactly that! Open from Memorial Day weekend through mid-September, McKensie has been giving water skiing lessons on Lake Arrowhead for over 70 years, so odds are good that you’ll be standing up on your own after your first lesson.
If water slides are more your jam, there’s a gigantic one on Lake Gregory that is calling your name. Plunging into the cold water is the perfect refreshing activity for a hot summer day in the mountains!
Explore the Best Hiking in Lake Arrowhead
Hiking is one of the best things to do in Lake Arrowhead, especially in the summer, and there are some amazing hikes in and around the area. Amidst the acres of the San Bernardino National Forest, you’ll find hiking trails for every skill level. Here are some great hikes to choose from:
Recreation Passes and Permits
Pro tip: before you hike in Lake Arrowhead, make sure to check if permits are required to park at the trailhead. Many trails and parking lots in the area require a National Parks Adventure Pass to park.
If you don’t have one, you can buy one at the Visitor Center, or a handful of other shops in the village.
You can also use a National Parks Annual Pass if you are a pass holder.
Heaps Peak Arboretum
Heaps Peak Arboretum is a short, easy 0.7 mile nature loop that will give you a brief introduction to the flora and fauna of the mountain area. It’s a great hike for hikers of all skill levels, including kids. Expect to see plenty of blue jays, and changing leaves during the fall.
Heart Rock Trail
This easy 1.3 mile loop trail is named for the heart-shaped rock formation you’ll see at the end of the hike. It’s a short but scenic hike to the furthest point on the trail, where you’ll see the namesake rock formation alongside a 25ft tall waterfall, which is usually visible only during the spring season.
Devil’s Hole to Hot Springs
If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, check out the Devil’s Hole to Hot Springs hike. This is a 6 mile long, challenging trail that is part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
The trail wanders a scenic route alongside some of the area’s best swimming holes, past Aztec Falls, and culminating at Devil’s Hole where you can cool off with a swim.
Ride the Scenic View Chairlift
Just because you’re visiting Lake Arrowhead in the summer doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the chairlifts at the ski resorts! One of the coolest things to do in Lake Arrowhead is take advantage of the area’s skiing infrastructure for the purposes of hiking and sightseeing.
Snow Valley Mountain Resort offers summer passes on its scenic view chairlift, which you can ride to the top of the mountain, enjoying the views along the way. Once you’re at the summit, there are a number of hiking trails around the peaks that you can explore.
Play the Golf Course at Lake Arrowhead Country Club
Bring your golf clubs to Lake Arrowhead and enjoy a round of golf at the Lake Arrowhead Country Club. The 18-hole championship course is open during the spring, summer and fall.
Running Springs Area Farmer’s Market and Artisan Faire
If you’re looking to do some mountain retail therapy, the Running Springs Area Farmer’s Market and Artisan Faire takes place every Saturday morning from May through November.
In addition to the fruits and vegetables you would expect at a farmer’s market, you can also find handcrafts, skincare, jewelry and artwork all from local vendors.
Things to Do in Lake Arrowhead in Winter
Are you planning to visit Lake Arrowhead in winter? As a mountain resort town, Lake Arrowhead is the perfect winter escape. The snow usually starts to fall in December, and continues through January, February and March.
It’s hard to believe that you can find a charming, snow-blanketed village so close to the warm beaches of Southern California. There are so many fun activities and things to do in Lake Arrowhead in winter. Check out a few of the highlights:
Skiing and Snowboarding at Snow Valley Mountain Resort
Some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the area is at Snow Valley Mountain Resort in Running Springs.
As southern California’s oldest continually operating ski resort, Snow Valley is one of four ski resorts in the area and sits at over 6,000 feet above sea level. It’s got great runs for beginner skiers and also offers ski lessons for adults and kids.
In addition to ski runs, there’s also a chairlift-serviced sledding area on Snow Valley Mountain.
Sledding at Snowdrift Snow Tubing Park
Speaking of sledding, another great spot to check out is Snowdrift Snow Tubing Park. At the park, you’ll fly down beginner, intermediate, or advanced slopes on fit-for-purpose inner tubes that you can rent by the hour.
This is a great activity for kids and adults alike, and a great way to experience snowy slopes if you prefer not to ski or snowboard.
Rim Nordic Ski Area
Downhill skiing usually gets all of the attention, especially in California. But if you’ve never tried nordic, or cross-country skiing, Lake Arrowhead is a great place to give it a shot.
Not only is cross-country skiing an amazing workout, the experience is almost like the alter ego to downhill skiing. A slower pace, peaceful surroundings, and use of different muscle groups make nordic skiing a completely different experience.
The Rim Nordic Ski Area is the only cross country skiing area in southern California, and has a groomed trail system that is perfect for both beginners and advanced skiers. Skiing lessons and equipment rentals are available as well.
Holiday Activities at Santa’s Village
Between the months of November and January, Santa’s Village at Skypark comes to life with so many things to do.
Holiday activities at Santa’s Village include ice skating at the Silver Bells Arena, visiting Santa’s house, cookie decorating and crafting with Santa’s elves, and even gazing at the village of lights after the sun goes down.
Best Places to Stay in Lake Arrowhead
If you’re visiting Lake Arrowhead for the first time, you might be trying to decide where to stay. Here are a few recommendations:
Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa
The Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa is the most luxurious hotel accommodation option in the area. In addition to guest amenities like a spa and outdoor pool, many of the guest rooms feature gorgeous views of the lake.
Staying at the Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa is one of the best ways to access the lake, since guests can use the resort’s private beach. The resort also has an outdoor pool and hot tub with gorgeous lakefront views.
Even if you don’t stay in the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, I recommend visiting for a drink or a meal, to take in the lakefront views.
Castle in the Forest
If you really want to step up your luxury game in Lake Arrowhead, check out the Castle in the Forest.
Let’s just say that the name is 100% accurate. A hidden castle at the crest of the San Bernardino Mountains, you can rent this property for over $3,000 per night.
Since there are limited hotels in the area, the majority of people visiting Lake Arrowhead stay in a vacation rental. There is quite a large variety of vacation rentals available in the Lake Arrowhead area, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a rental that meets your needs.
In general, vacation rentals tend to be more cost-effective than hotels in Lake Arrowhead. Parking is limited in Lake Arrowhead, so make sure to take note of whether the rental has parking included, and if so for how many cars.
Pro tip: check out vacation rentals in nearby Crestline, the community surrounding Lake Gregory, where you are likely to get more for your money. Crestine is only a 10-15 minute drive from Lake Arrowhead.
Special Events in Lake Arrowhead
There’s always some sort of special event going on in Lake Arrowhead! Here are a few of the most popular special events in Lake Arrowhead throughout the year.
Summer Concert Series
Every summer, the village hosts a summer concert series that runs from May through the first part of September.
The concerts take place on the center stage, right in the middle of the Village and primarily feature cover bands. Think Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan and 80’s pop hits. If you’re able to visit Lake Arrowhead during one of these concerts, I highly recommend it!
Fall is a great time of year to visit Lake Arrowhead. Not only can you see fall foliage in the mountains, but you can also celebrate the beginning of autumn with Oktoberfest!
Beginning mid-September through the end of October, Oktoberfest at Lake Arrowhead is a lakeside biergarten featuring live music and (you guessed it) a ton of different kinds of beer.
It’s a free event, so tons of locals and visitors come out to enjoy the fall festivities on Saturdays and Sundays.
The year-end holidays are one of the most popular times to visit Lake Arrowhead. The area is blanketed in snow, and there’s always more on the way.
There are so many special holiday season activities at Santa’s Village alone, that you’ll feel transported to a winter wonderland the moment you set foot in the park.
From crafts and cookie decorating with Santa’s elves, to riding the Northwoods Express Train and ice skating in Silver Bells arena, there is nowhere like Santa’s Village to experience a magical winter wonderland.
free printable travel resources
PACKING LISTS + PLANNERS
Get ready for your next adventure with my free printable travel planners and packing lists – the perfect companions to make packing a cinch and keep you stress-free!
Map of The Best Things to do in Lake Arrowhead
To make planning your trip a bit easier, the map below includes all of the locations for the activities listed in this guide.
Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting Lake Arrowhead
To help you plan your trip, here are answers to the most common questions about visiting Lake Arrowhead.
Is Lake Arrowhead worth visiting?
Lake Arrowhead is absolutely worth visiting. The mountain scenery, clear blue lake, and endless opportunities to enjoy nature so close to the urban sprawl of Southern California make Lake Arrowhead the perfect getaway.
Unlike other mountain communities in the Los Angeles area, Lake Arrowhead is just so easy to get to! It’s only a 30 minute drive up the mountain, yet feels incredibly remote and unique once you’re there.
Is there public access to Lake Arrowhead?
Lake Arrowhead is privately owned by local homeowners, so public access to Lake Arrowhead is limited.
If you want to enjoy the lake, try taking a water skiing lesson, or checking out nearby Lake Gregory which is accessible to the public.
What is the best month to go to Lake Arrowhead?
Lake Arrowhead truly is a 4-season destination, so in terms of the best time to visit, it really depends on what you want to do while you’re there.
Winter in Lake Arrowhead
For the best experience at Santa’s Village, visit Lake Arrowhead during December. The mountain will be crowded and more expensive, but it really is a special time of year, particularly for little kids.
If you plan on skiing, sledding, ice skating, or snowboarding, visit between January and April.
If you want to do water sports, biking or hiking, visit Lake Arrowhead during the warmer months.
Summer in Lake Arrowhead
The summer months tend to be quite crowded in Lake Arrowhead, especially on the weekends. But since so many of Lake Arrowhead’s best activities are outdoors, the warmer weather makes summer a wonderful time to visit the area.
If you can, try to avoid the holiday weekends of Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day when crowds are in full swing and prices go up dramatically.
What is the best part of Lake Arrowhead?
The Lake Arrowhead area is relatively compact, so regardless of where you stay, it will be easy to get around.
That said, the southern shore of the lake is better connected to the other mountain communities, and has the most available to visitors in terms of restaurants, shops and activities. For that reason, if it’s your first time visiting Lake Arrowhead, I recommend staying on the lake’s southern shore, close to the village.
How far away is Lake Arrowhead?
It’s easy to get to Lake Arrowhead from almost everywhere in Southern California, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs.
Lake Arrowhead is 1.5 hours from LA, 2 hours from San Diego, and 1.5 hours from Palm Springs.
One of the best things about Lake Arrowhead is that unlike other mountain destinations in Southern California, the “mountain” (code for windy) part of the drive to Lake Arrowhead is only 30 minutes. The short drive makes getting to Lake Arrowhead incredibly efficient, yet you feel as though you’re in another world once you arrive.
These are the best Lake Arrowhead Activities!
I hope that this guide has helped with planning your trip to Lake Arrowhead. It’s a magical escape, and you’re sure to enjoy your mountain getaway, no matter what time of year you visit.