12 Top-Rated Things to Do at Lake Arrowhead, CA
Lake Arrowhead is a top vacation spot in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. These mountains are often referred to as the "Alps of Southern California." And Lake Arrowhead is one of many scenic stops along the Rim of the World Scenic Byway that tours the mountain crest.
Visitors head to Lake Arrowhead for all types of outdoor activities. Boating, swimming, and fishing are popular throughout the year, particularly in the summer months. And the entire San Bernardino National Forest surrounds the water, offering activities like hiking, mountain biking, and camping. A few mountain slopes are even primed for downhill skiing throughout the winter.
Lake Arrowhead is also the place to go for comfort and class close to the shore. Lakeside cabins are in abundance, and places like the Lake Arrowhead Village offer an array of restaurants, shops, and cultural events. The lake is also home to more than one spa for a weekend of pampering.
Enjoy your next Southern California getaway with our list of the top things to do at Lake Arrowhead.
1. Visit the Lake Arrowhead Village
Lake Arrowhead Village is the central attraction at Lake Arrowhead. It's right on the southern shore, easily accessible from the Rim of the World Scenic Byway. Here, indulge in the lakeside views and several shops and restaurants that comprise this community area.
Head to the waterfront upon parking the car to take in a view of the lake. This waterfront is where the Lake Arrowhead Queen Boat Tour departs and is a staging ground for other aquatic adventures. A wide concrete pathway navigates the lakeside between the water and restaurant patios.
To return to the parking lot, turn onto Lollipop Park Lane and stroll through the lovely pedestrian corridor. This landscaped space has big-name and local shops on either side, offering a wide range of retail. It's also home to the Arrowhead Center Stage Concert Hall, home to the famous Lake Arrowhead Village Summer Concert Series.
Lake Arrowhead Village is a lively place to be, especially come summer. And crowds also throng to the village for Holidays at the Village, taking place throughout December. This month-long celebration concludes with a visit from Saint Nicholas near the end of the year.
2. Enjoy the Water at Lake Arrowhead
One of the biggest reasons to visit Lake Arrowhead is the water. Visitors find everything from powerboating to fishing and other activities like guided cruises and water-ski lessons. Visitors enjoy these activities year-round, but they are most popular in the summer months.
A valid membership and registration with the Arrowhead Lake Association are required for putting a personal watercraft onto the water, and a valid Boat Operator License. This requirement includes smaller vessels like kayaks and canoes. Boat operators have several docks and put-in places to choose from upon registering.
A more common approach is renting a boat or hopping on a chartered boat tour. The Lake Arrowhead Queen Tour Boat is a recommended guided tour, especially for first-time visitors, as the one-hour rides dive deep into the area's history. For other means of navigating the water, head to the Lake Arrowhead Resort for boat rentals.
3. Hop aboard the Lake Arrowhead Queen Tour Boat
Book a guided sightseeing tour on the Lake Arrowhead Queen for fascinating insight atop the water. This charming charter boat departs daily from the Lake Arrowhead Village and offers an hour-long narrated tour.
Inside the heated cabin of the Lake Arrowhead Queen, enjoy the narrated history of the lake as the ride cruises the shoreline. Several magnificent lakefront mansions are in view, including houses of past celebrities and current. The narrated tour also dives into the longstanding geologic history of the lake and the native cultures that call it home.
Tickets for the Lake Arrowhead Queen are available at LeRoy's Boardshop, across the dock from the boat landing. Tours typically depart throughout the day, but perhaps the best times to go are early morning or later in the afternoon. No bathrooms are available aboard.
Official site: https://lakearrowheadqueen.com/
4. Hiking near Lake Arrowhead
One of the main things to do at Lake Arrowhead is exploring outside. While numerous outlets are available to get onto the water, even more trailheads invite exploration on land. These non-motorized paths lend access to lake views, wildlife sightings, and unique rock formations.
Heart Rock is one such popular path, especially for families. Also known as the Seeley Creek Trail, this one-mile hike leads to its namesake feature – a large rock indentation perfectly resembling a heart symbol. Visitors from Lake Arrowhead reach this trailhead with less than a 10-mile drive on the Rim of the World Scenic Byway.
Other notable hikes in the area include the Nature Loop at Lake Gregory Regional Park and Deep Creek Hot Springs to the north. Deep Creek Hot Springs is along the country-spanning Pacific Crest Trail, which navigates the entire region. The North Shore National Recreation Trail is also nearby, starting from the North Shore Campground.
5. Drive the Rim of the World Scenic Byway
Lake Arrowhead is one of many scenic stops on the 110-mile Rim of the World Scenic Byway. The byway follows the rim of the San Bernardino Mountains, starting from Cajon Pass and winding to the flanks of San Gorgonio Mountain. This high-elevation drive is passable throughout the year, though drivers must carry tire chains in the winter.
Other notable stops on the highway include Silverwood Lake, west of Lake Arrowhead, and Big Bear Lake to the east. Big Bear is a popular place to visit, especially in the winter, when Big Bear Mountain Resort offers some of the best skiing in Southern California.
And for those who enjoy mile-long views and plenty of places to pull over, driving on the Rim of the World is a scenic experience. Many pullouts lend to magnificent views across the valley, which glow during sunset.
6. Ski Down Winter Slopes near Lake Arrowhead
While Southern California isn't always associated with snow, the San Bernardino Mountains have plenty throughout the winter months. And visitors to Lake Arrowhead hit the slopes in less than a 15-mile drive.
Snow Valley Mountain Resort is the closest ski resort to Lake Arrowhead. This family-friendly downhill destination features 240 acres accessible by 12 chairlifts. The terrain caters to all experience levels, with a large beginner area and steep black-diamond runs from the top of the mountain. Snow Valley Mountain Resort is also home to popular night skiing on the weekends throughout the winter.
Another downhill option in the area is Big Bear Mountain Resort. This other popular SoCal ski resort is a bit farther west on the Rim of the World Scenic Byway, less than an hour's drive from Lake Arrowhead. It comprises two mountains: Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, and it's well regarded for its massive collection of park features, including over a dozen terrain parks.
Read More: Top-Rated Ski Resorts in California, 2022
7. Wander around Heaps Peak Arboretum
Heaps Peak Arboretum is a beautiful day-use area in San Bernardino National Forest, less than a 10-minute drive from Lake Arrowhead Village. And with gardens, hiking trails, and interpretive information throughout, this 30-acre space provides an easy way for families to connect with the forest.
An information booth sits at the entrance of the arboretum. Volunteers staff this booth on the weekends and throughout the week in the summer. They offer valuable insight into the arboretum and the surrounding San Bernardino Forest, including other notable places to visit.
The arboretum itself deserves ample attention. Gardens and gazebos near the entry lead to the one-mile Sequoia Trail, which circles the arboretum. Along the trail, miles-long views present themselves alongside interpretive information about the surrounding flora.
Official site: https://hparboretum.com/
8. Dive into History at the Mountain History Museum
The Mountain History Museum is the primary repository for the Rim of the World Historical Society. It's within a restored firehouse near the lake's west shore and covers a comprehensive history of the entire mountainous region. Displays at the museum showcase historical photos, artifacts, and several easy-to-read information panels.
Topics at the museum range from native cultures to logging and include a touch of Hollywood. Casual observers can tour the museum within 90 minutes, though curious historians could spend more time.
The museum is typically open on the weekends, outside of the winter months. Check the official website for the most current operating hours.
Official site: https://mtnmuseum.org/
9. Pamper Yourself at Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa
Head to Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa for a true getaway. This luxurious place to stay offers accommodations, dining, and plenty to do during the day. This all-inclusiveness caters to a full vacation experience without leaving the property. But with a lakeside location next to Lake Arrowhead Village, there's plenty to see within a short walk.
Guest rooms and lakeside suites constitute the room selection at Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa. These accommodations include comfortable decor that stylishly reflects the surrounding mountain environment. Many rooms also come with breathtaking views of the lake or San Bernardino Mountains.
Guests at Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa have access to a private beach. Other resort activities include in-house massage treatments or having a date night at the BIN 189 Restaurant.
10. SkyPark at Santa's Village
SkyPark at Santa's Village is an adventure theme park less than three miles from Lake Arrowhead Village. This year-round facility has a long history in the area dating to 1955, lending to many childhood memories for long-term residents of SoCal. The park has opened and shuttered its doors a few times in the last 60-plus years, and in 2016, it sprung back better than ever before.
Today's SkyPark at Santa's Village features many outdoor activities like ziplining, rock climbing, axe throwing, and a pedal car adventure course. It's also home to an impressive mountain bike park with many trails. A single price of admission grants entry to all the park's attractions.
SkyPark is open year-round, but the winter is perhaps the liveliest time to visit. Seasonal tourist attractions like an ice-skating rink and Santa's Village spring up between November and January. This winter season is also when the park is aglow under thousands of Christmas lights.
Official site: https://skyparksantasvillage.com/
11. Catch a Show at the Tudor House
The Tudor House is another historic attraction turned modern purveyor of entertainment. This opulent venue is tucked into a neighborhood off Arrowhead Villa Road. It dates back to the 1920s, before the Great Depression. Its most notorious history quickly followed, including prohibition-era entertainment and rumored mobster management.
Since the 1950s, The Tudor House has been a legal source of entertainment and a popular performance space. Live music takes over the stage at least once a week, with various acts ranging from speakeasy jazz to rock n' roll cover bands and nationally touring artists.
Several other events at the Tudor House also draw a crowd. Reservations are recommended for the famous Sunday Brunch, and the same goes for the monthly Mystery Dinner Theater. And the property is a common spot for private events, including workshops, retreats, and corporate getaways.
Official site: https://www.tudorhouseentertainment.com/
12. Visit the Inland Empire
The Inland Empire comprises the large metropolitan area at the southern base of the San Bernardino Mountains. The region primarily centers around the cities of San Bernardino and Riverside. This vast swath of city streets and highways is easily accessible from Lake Arrowhead, with less than a 30-mile drive down the mountain.
San Bernardino is one of the largest cities in the Inland Empire and one of the closest to Lake Arrowhead. It offers a different pace than Lake Arrowhead vacations and different temperatures at more than 4,000 feet lower in elevation. A few of San Bernardino's best attractions include the National Orange Show Fair and Glen Helen Regional Park.
The sunny streets of Riverside also beckon. Here, hike to the top of Mount Rubidoux for an incredible view, or catch a movie at the Van Buren Drive-In Theater. And if you're looking to spend the night, The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa offers a historic and luxurious downtown place to stay.