Travel Guide: Lake Arrowhead

I am so excited to finally be sharing this post with you guys!  As some of you may know my family has had a home in the Lake Arrowhead area since I was 4 years old and I consider Arrowhead my hometown.  Between childhood visits for Holidays, moving to the area when I was 10, and all the time I have spent in the beautiful mountain town as an adult I feel a total connection to the ambiance, the people, and the places.  While Arrowhead hasn’t been my full time home in about 5 years we still spend many Summer weekends and Holidays escaping the desert in favor of majestic trees, quaint shops, and local restaurants.

First things first, let’s just get this out of the way.  Lake Arrowhead is a private lake meaning unless you are a property owner in an area referred to as “Arrowhead Woods” you will not have boat access to the lake.  I wish I could say I’m sorry that not everyone has access but honestly, it is part of what makes the lake so special.  I know that on any given Summer weekend as I head out on a friend’s boat I will know virtually everyone else on the water and it will be a big party.  Now, I know you are probably thinking “cool, so great you get to enjoy the lake but what’s there for a non local to do?”.  I’ve got you covered.

Where to Stay:

 

*images via Marriott.com & Airbnb.com

Options for hotels are REALLY limited.  As in, there is only 1 full service resort in Lake Arrowhead.  There are also plenty of charming vacation rentals and quaint B&Bs.

Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa

If a full service experience is what you are craving then I suggest booking a stay at the only resort in town.  The Resort offers a full service Spa, gym, a lakeside dining experience at Bin 189, In Room Dining, and beach access from their private beach.  The Resort does offer limited water access including fishing, boat tours, and kayaking which is great for those looking to access the water.

Rates starting at $159

Saddleback Inn

The Saddleback Inn is definitely more of a rustic mountain inn complete with fireplaces in some rooms and a history dating back to 1919.  The Saddleback is located at the entrance to the Village and is walking distance to the heart of Arrowhead and it’s restaurant features karaoke Tuesdays and Fridays which is THE place to hang out like a local.

Rates starting at $125

Pine Rose Cabins

Located a short drive from Lake Arrowhead proper in the town of Twin Peaks is Pine Rose.  These individual cabins are located alongside a small creek and feature exposed beams, oversized fireplaces, and beds made of log posts.

The Fox Den

This Airbnb is honestly so chic!  It features a more minimalist vibe with clean lines and plenty of natural light.  The home has a private dock with paddle boards for guest use (another great way to see the private lake).

A-Frame by the Lake

What mountain getaway is complete without a vintage inspired A-Frame cabin?  This one is located in nearby Skyforest and has 2 bedrooms perfect for a weekend escape.

Morning Woods A-Frame

If you love the idea of a kitschy A-Frame and also crave lake rights (yup, lake passes to the beach clubs are included) plus the perfect Instagram backdrop look no further than this gem that was recently featured on Apartment Therapy.

Road Trip Cabin

Can’t get enough of those A-Frames?  The creative mind behind Shop Road Trip recently purchased and updated a 1950s A-Frame complete with a hot tub perfect for a romantic weekend at the lake.

For more vacation rentals also check out Arrowhead Property Rentals.

Where to Eat:

I remember when my little town had about a dozen Mexican restaurants and a handful of pizza places with a sprinkle of fine dining….my how that has changed!

Belgian Waffle Works

I think the best way to describe this spot is LEGENDARY.  The line for weekend brunch is overwhelming but worth the wait for homemade waffles with a lakeview.  I also love the Ponderosa Salad and BBQ Bacon Burger for a midweek lunch.

Papagayos

Pops is sort of an institution in Arrowhead for it’s strong drinks, filling Mexican food, and friendly staff that feel more like family than servers.  My go to order inside: Clyde’s Pink Margarita, Flautas (don’t forget extra ranch and raspberry chipotle!!) or the Shrimp & Avocado Salad (with the shrimp grilled).  Once Summer rolls around and the lakeside patio opens up I am all about the Skinny Margarita and Shrimp Tacos…all day, every day.

Stone Creek Bistro

Stone Creek is located a quick drive from Arrowhead in nearby Aqua Fria (in the original location of Papagayos) and is worth the drive for their innovative bistro cuisine, wines, and craft beers.  Stone Creek has become a favorite dinner spot in the last few years and I highly recommend a visit.

Puglia

If you are craving a beautiful dinner of authentic Italian then head 10 minutes out of Arrowhead proper to the nearby town of Aqua Fria to Puglia.  The owners of this newer spot are originally from Puglia and share their native dishes with locals and visitors.

Lou Eddie’s

I am not a huge pizza person (I know, I know) but I LOVE this spot in the small town of Sky Forest for a gourmet pizza and a bottle of vino.  Expect a wait and a crowd as it has quickly become a local favorite.

Lake Arrowhead Pizza Deli

Okay, this one is just a must include for many, many reasons.  First of all, if you are traveling with kids it’s awesome and has an arcade to keep them entertained while you wait for dinner.  Second of all the patio is the perfect spot for a Summer dinner with unbelievable lakeviews and live entertainment.  And finally, Belly Buster Night.  Yup, every Wednesday they serve up a salad & individual pizza for a ridiculously low price.

Lakefront Tap Room

This spot a few Summers ago and has been attracting locals and visitors ever since!  The views are stunning, the food is delicious, and the beer is plentiful!  The Tap Room serves up a variety of craft beers and specialty wines alongside gastropub inspired cuisine like beer mac & cheese, sweet potato tots (drool), and of course, burgers.

Fast Eddie’s Malt Shop

If you are spending your afternoon shopping in Top Town Crestline grab a burger and some curly fries at Fast Eddie’s.  This vintage inspired malt shop and diner serves all the burger and chicken finger faves.

Cedar Glen Malt Shop

While we are on the subject of malt shops, no trip to the mountains would be complete without a meal at the legendary Cedar Glen Malt Shop.  All the burgers are named after classic cars like an Impala or Stingray.  Don’t Miss: the shakes and malts, obvi!!

Higher Grounds Coffee Shop

Located on Lake Drive in Crestline, Higher Grounds offers visitors delicious coffee and yummy pastries.  If you are craving something a bit more filling be sure to order a breakfast sandwich to go with that latte! Local Tip: They are closed on Sunday so plan accordingly!

Where to Drink:

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There is no shortage of watering holes to fit anyone’s wish list, just don’t forget to plan for a DD or walk as Uber/Lyft is not easily available.  There is a trolley that runs from Crestline to Arrowhead on weekends and Holidays.  Check out details HERE.

The Grapevine

My favorite spot for a glass (or bottle) of wine, flights of beer, and lakeviews.

Saddleback

Tuesday’s and Friday’s you’ll find a huge gathering of locals at this steakhouse turned lounge after 9pm for karaoke.

Dogwood Tavern

If you are looking for a chic bar to sit back and catch a game this is your spot.  Want to relax with friends and shoot some pool?  Also your spot.  Want to have a few shots and take a turn at karaoke on a Thursday night?  You guessed it, still your spot.  Dogwood Tavern in Blue Jay offers something for everyone including a great wine list, full bar, and of course, all the beer you can ask for.  There is even perfect bar bites menu with options like avocado toast, steak tacos, and dill pickle chips.

And of course all of the above mentioned dining spots offer great drink options whether you prefer beer, wine, or a yummy cocktail.

What to Do:

Lake Arrowhead is certainly a year round destination and even offers the rare 4 seasons in Southern California but my favorite activities center around the enchanting Summer months.

Sycamore Ranch Winery

Bet you didn’t know you could enjoy an afternoon of wine tasting at a local vineyard in the mountains?  If you are a wine fan (like me) you must make a tasting appointment at Sycamore Ranch in Crestline.  Their 2017 Grenache just won Best of the Best by Sunset Magazine and for great reason!

Lake Arrowhead Village Concert Series

Each Summer the Village puts on free evening concerts in the Village.  The acts are typically big name cover bands like Joshua Tree, Lights, and The Spazmatics that bring great energy and get the crowd up and dancing!  There are options for reserved seating, tables, and of course, a beer/wine garden.

Arrowhead Queen

The Queen is a vintage riverboat (like Mark Twain) that takes visitors on an hour long tour of the lake.  During the ride the Captain shares history, points out significant homes, and gives everyone an opportunity to see the beauty of the lake from the water.

McKenzie’s Ski School

Another way to get out on the lake is booking a boat ride or ski lesson through McKenzie’s Ski School located at the end of the Village Peninsula.  A perfect option for beginning skiers or those just hoping for a chance to enjoy the lake.

Hiking

Hiking trails abound in Arrowhead for any level.  The Heap’s Peak Arboretum Trail is perfect for an easy walk or those with young kids and is just under a mile.  I love the Deep Creek Hot Springs hike but be warned, it’s a fairly advanced trail and will take a few hours to hike in and back out.  Back PLENTY of water, sunscreen, and hats especially if attempting this one during the warm Summer months.  I recommend a late Spring trip for this one like April or early May for ideal weather. The Pinnacles and Heart Rock are two more that I love to check out when I need an outdoor fix.  If you plan on doing any hiking be sure to speak to the Ranger Station for any additional information you may need.

Lake Gregory

Located about 15 minutes from Arrowhead is smaller Lake Gregory, a public lake that offers a fitness trail, fishing, kayak & paddle board rentals, water slides, and swimming/day use.  I have been going to this lake since I was 3 years old and always have such fond memories of the beach area as a kid, it’s like heaven to the little ones!  This summer they are stepping up their game with Friday night sunsets at the beach including music, a bar and plenty of vendors.

Skypark at Santa’s Village

This one makes me so excited to share!  I grew up going to Santa’s Village all the time and loved the memories my sister, friends, and I made there.  It closed it’s doors in the late 90s and sat empty for nearly 20 years until it was purchased, restored, and re-imagined as an adventure park complete with mountain biking trails, a rock wall, and ice skating rink.  I have not been back since it reopened this past Winter but you better believe we will be taking G this Summer to experience some good old fashioned fun!

Winter Activities include sledding and tubing at nearby Snow Drift plus skiing/snowboarding at Snow Valley.

Where to Shop:

Listen, I like to shop no matter where I am, even when I head home.

Lake Arrowhead Village

In addition to being the hub of Arrowhead the Village is also where you’ll find most of the shops.  There are some mainstay outlets like Bass, Jockey, and Coach plus specialty shops like Just Browsing, The Grapevine, and Three Dog Bakery and local board shop and clothing store, Leroy’s.

Encompass Antiques

If antiques, unique men’s grooming products, and curiosities from the great outdoors are your jam be sure to check out Encompass (they also carry Joshua Tree Candles!!) in their location on Lake Drive in Crestline (across the street from Higher Grounds).

Top Town Crestline

In the last year the historic area of “Top Town” in Crestline has gone through a major gentrification.  A row of vintage and antique shops have opened their doors and a new bar spot and a brewery are on the horizon.  Another new comer (and new fave of mine) is Hearth & Sage, a general store owned by LA transplants Daley & Michelle Hake. This store could easily be found on Abbott Kinney in Venice Beach with it’s specialty foods and handcrafted homegoods.  For those with the great outdoors on the mind don’t miss the newest addition to Top Town, Fort Gregory Outdoor Company.  Think campfire games, ceramic mugs, and vintage camping goods all merchandised inside a giant tent.

If more antique shopping is your jam head to Crestline/Lake Gregory for a few small shops along Lake Drive or to Sky Forest for a few shops along Highway 18.

When it comes time to grab a bottle of wine or some snacks to nosh on I always make a stop by Jensen’s.  They have hands down the best beer & wine selection on the mountain and do yummy Lobster Dinners, Crab Cookouts, and BBQ’s on the weekend.  Must Try: the artichoke jalepeno dip they make in house.  Another mountain favorite (and the store we have shopped at my ENTIRE LIFE) is Goodwin’s in Crestline.  Stop by for fresh deli sandwiches (like the Gobbler…I’m honestly drooling thinking about one right now…) and Mammoth Mountain Brewery beer before heading to Lake Gregory for the day. Pro Tip: If you time your visit just right you might even be able to grab a bottle of Pliny the Elder!

Events:

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Each year a slew of events await visitors and locals alike.  Be sure to check with the Crestline Chamber or Lake Arrowhead Chamber for events during your visit.  A few of my favorites and those I am looking forward to this year…

Corks and Hops – First Saturday of each month June – October in Crestline.  Shop, sip, stroll though Top Town then hop on the shuttle to the lake to continue the sips.

Jamboree Days – Each year Crestline celebrates the 4th with a parade, family friendly entertainment, and of course fireworks over Lake Gregory.

ALA Fireworks – Spend the day strolling Arrowhead, listening to music, and stay for the beautiful fireworks over the lake.

There you have it, some of my favorite spots in my favorite place.  If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat chances are you will be seeing a lot of this hidden gem over the next few months, we spend most of our time there in the Summer months.

As always, if you are planning a trip and would like more customized suggestions feel free to email me, I would love to share more with you!

XO, Niki

 

 

 

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