People use words like cozy, quaint, and paradise to describe Lake Arrowhead. Others call it the "Alps of Southern California." But surprisingly, it takes less than two hours to get there from Los Angeles.
You'll find lots of things to do at Lake Arrowhead, but before you start packing for a weekend of water play, you need to know its weird little secret: Arrowhead is a privately owned and run by the Arrowhead Lake Association. To use its beach clubs, hiking trails, and marina, you must live in Arrowhead Woods, be the guest of a resident, or stay in a rental there. Otherwise, you will have to drive to Lake Gregory, which is smaller but has lots of ways anyone can enjoy the water.
At 5,100 feet elevation, Lake Arrowhead had distinct seasons, but it's a more popular destination in summer and winter. Activities that are restricted to one season are labeled in the list below. If you plan to go in winter, it's likely to snow. Before you start your trip, you need to know the rules about snow chains in California.
In the summer, you can take a boat tour around the lake. Not only is it a fun way to see things, but the tour guide is so funny they could hold a part-time job as a standup comedian. Buy your tickets near the dock at LeRoy’s Boardshop in Lake Arrowhead Village.
Get Active Outdoors
During the summer at Snow Valley, you can go mountain biking and hiking. And they can even take your bike up the hill on a ski lift. Skypark at Santa's Village isn't just for Old Saint Nick. It also includes a Bike Park and a wide range of other summer outdoor activities. If you want to get out into the woods, use the map of Arrowhead Ranger District Trails to find hikes from easy loops to challenging treks.
Wildhaven Ranch isn't a zoo, but a conservation organization that preserves non-releasable local wildlife. When you go there, you might see deer, raccoons, eagles, foxes, and orphaned black bears.
It may sound like a place to take the kids, but children less than five years old may get bored, and it is not recommended for toddlers.
Reservations are required, and you can make them through their website. Weather permitting, they are open year-round on Saturdays.
Learn to Water Ski
McKenzie's Water Ski School can teach you to wakeboard or water ski barefoot or on one or two skis. They can work with everyone from total beginners to more experienced skiers who want to improve their skills. Go to the Ski Dock at Lake Arrowhead Village to reserve your training time. They operate from the end of May through the end of September.
In the spring, you can fish for bass, carp, catfish, crappie, sunfish, and trout. Both Lake Arrowhead and Lake Gregory are stocked regularly, to make it more likely you can actually catch something.
Fishing in Lake Arrowhead is allowed if you have access or try nearby Lake Gregory, where you will pay a small fee for a day of fishing. Anyone age 16 or older needs a valid California fishing license (which you can get online) for either lake.
From mid-May through early September, Lake Arrowhead Village sponsors summer concerts that feature tribute bands from whose music spans from the Beatles to Bruno Mars. Take lawn chairs and enjoy free seating, or you can reserve a table or seats on cement steps.
If you get nostalgic for an old-fashioned Christmas, try Santa’s Village. It’s open on selected days from late November through early January. Besides meeting Santa and the elves, you can go ice skating, watch a puppet show, have breakfast with Santa, or drink tea with Mrs. Claus.
The village is just a short drive southeast of Lake Arrowhead Village. Admission is charged.
Enjoy Snow Play
Snow Valley Ski Resort is the closest ski resort to Lake Arrowhead, about a 30-minute drive east. Besides skiing, they also have a sledding area. Snowdrift Snow Tubing Park provides the snow tubes (fat inner tubes with handles). The park is about 12 miles east of town on CA Highway 18. Admission is by cash only.
Lake Gregory is smaller than Arrowhead, but it is open to everyone, no matter where you are staying. You can swim in it, enjoy the attractions at the waterpark, and rent almost any kind of boat or board that you can think of. It's in the town of Crestline, about a 20-minute drive west of Arrowhead.