Over Easter weekend, we decided to switch things up a bit and take a long weekend into the mountains of southern California! Specifically, we went to Lake Arrowhead to have some quality family time. I want to try something a little bit different for this travel piece and split our adventures up as a day by day walkthrough of what we did Friday through Sunday, and you could too. My hope is that in turn you can use this as the basis for your own Lake Arrowhead guide! Let us know how you like this format compared to other travel-based articles we have written.
GUIDE TO A WEEKEND IN LAKE ARROWHEAD, CA
Where to Stay
Lake Arrowhead is an unincorporated little town that mostly consists of private residences. With that being said, you won’t find access to any of the “beach” areas of the lake itself unless you stay at Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa. We booked a stay there for the weekend, and the grounds made the bit higher of a price completely worth it to us. We lucked out and arrived early and ended up with an upgraded room with a lake view because of it. They were very accommodating! We were surrounded by natural beauty the entire trip, and there was not a minimum stay requirement like a lot of the nearby inns. If you ask the front desk for robes, you can chill like a king too—we are super cheesy and love matching, so this was a must! If you are looking to purely enjoy Lake Arrowhead, then the Resort & Spa is the best option in my opinion.
Nearby mountain towns include Crestline, Twin Peaks, and Rimforest. There are places to stay in these as well, but most are small and privately owned with a minimum stay. Bigger cities that are about 30-45 minutes away include San Bernardino down in the valley and Big Bear further up into the mountain range. The latter is more of a tourist destination so has plenty of accommodations and its own recreational activities to keep you occupied, while San Bernardino is a large city. The point is: there are plenty of options depending on what you are looking for! If you have any questions or need help, please just reach out to us!
Below you will find a guide to what to do on a weekend trip to Lake Arrowhead, California, based on what we actually did as a family of three that loves the outdoors and lives a few hours away.
Plans for the weekend
1. Arrive into the mountains as early as you can and head into Crestline, California in order to hike to Heart Rock.
Head to Camp Seely and continue on the one-way dirt road (carefully) until you find somewhere to park. There are a couple different pull outs, and as it gets busy, you want to be sure you are there as early as you can be and that you don’t park in a way that could make you blocked in! We had a ranger tell us we might not be able to leave if we didn’t get back to our car quickly because of the way we were parked… There was not another soul in sight when we arrived on a Friday, but it was a total rookie mistake as even during the week it started to become crowded quickly!
Finding the hike: There is a trail off of this road that you can find on AllTrails called Heart Rock Trail by locals. The hike is less than 2 miles long, and is supposed to be a tight loop. There was not any phone service when we were there, so be prepared for that by downloading the trail ahead of time. We weren’t sure where to go, so had to keep walking down to peek at the water to see if we were there yet, and we also did out and back on the trail. Eventually, there was a large fallen tree in front of us on the trail and lots of big rocks to the right. We climbed down the rocks and alas! The heart carved rock and waterfall was found!
We had so much fun picnicking by the sound of fresh water crashing, and if you explore the area more you can climb down behind the falls and heart rock to a beautiful little pool, perfect for little ones to splash a bit in! Our one year old had a blast! Be sure to clean up any trash you may have, be safe, and help fellow adventurers find the area that are passing by. It’s a great way to start your weekend 😊 You can find tips on hiking with an baby or toddler here.
2. Head to Lake Arrowhead Village for lunch and a bit of relaxation strolling through the shops.
It’s time to head to your actual destination after the hike is finished, and there is no better way to begin than at the center of town in Lake Arrowhead Village. The Village is a unique, outdoor mall that has plenty of shops and dining locations to whet your appetite. Papagayos is a Mexican cantina with a lakefront patio that draws a lot of people in, but if you aren’t feeling up to that there are other options such as The Grill at Lake Arrowhead and Belgian Waffle Works. All have good reviews online and seemed to create satisfied customers. As far as chains go, there is a Subway and McDonalds. The storefront that we found coolest was Jurassic Fossils, so be sure to check that out!
3. Depending on whether you are travelling with kids or not, now is a good time for a cruise or miniature theme park.
If you are not travelling with any small children (though I should note that children are allowed!), the Lake Arrowhead Queen can take you on a boat tour around the lake, offering a perspective of the area you would not be able to see otherwise. You can buy tickets at Leroy’s Sports on the waterfront, and the leisurely cruise runs all year round.
Meanwhile, if you have young ones with you, Lollipop Park might be a unique stop on your itinerary! It certainly wasn’t as pleasing to the eye as we imagined, but our tot got to go on his first solo ride on none other than a miniature train ride—which he loved! It gets pricey since it is run like a carnival, so maybe warn your kids in advance that they can only choose one or two things to do.
4. As the day becomes evening, check into your hotel!
After checking in to the hotel and getting belongings quickly to the room, the pool and hot tub is the perfect place to relax for the rest of the day. Tip: Always bring a room towel down to the pool, even if just one for all to share, to be safe! We also always bring our son his own towel entirely since he has such bad eczema and sensitive skin. We have the rotten luck of having someone grab the last pool towel as we get down to the spa area almost every single time we stay at a resort, and outside in the mountain air the breeze will likely be a bit chilly (though refreshing!) Take a shower, order in some food, and enjoy a likely restful night.
1. Grab a swimsuit and head to some water recreation.
If staying at the Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa, this is the perfect time to hang out on their little private beach. There are kayaks for rent, or you can go fishing if you are more in to that instead. Young kids will enjoy throwing pine cones or rocks into the water and watching it ripple, and you can’t go wrong with a nice walk along the waterfront and through the grounds of the hotel.
2. Eat a quick lunch and maybe swim again before heading to Heaps Peak Arboretum.
Heaps Peak Arboretum is one of Lake Arrowhead’s beautiful gems. It is technically in Skyforest, and you will need an Adventure Pass for $5 displayed in your car window. If the booth is open, you can purchase the pass there, but I would suggest grabbing one from the visitor center in Lake Arrowhead Village. They can also point you in the direction of other activities and outdoor hikes you might enjoy there! The arboretum has an animal tracks path that is fun for kids, and is described as a “mountain oasis of natural beauty.” You can find Sequoias and an abundance of native plants on the mile path, and listening to the many different birds sing was our favorite type.
3. Eat dinner at Road House Pizza
This pizza place doesn’t look like much, but it is yummy! They earn a major bonus in our book, too, as they were very accommodating to our son’s anaphylactic peanut allergy. The only thing that was not in the clear were their mozzarella sticks because they couldn’t find anything to prove they were not cross contaminated at their manufacturer; they were so patient and understanding trying to keep our kiddo safe! We ordered the Primo Combo pizza, and enjoyed every single bite.
4. Take an evening hike or roast marshmallows on the beach.
Admittedly, we didn’t get the chance to do either of these things as planned since our little one was completely exhausted, but they would be the perfect ending to a fun day! Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa has a fire pit right on the beach, along with reclining seats. Time to unwind!
1. Watch the sunrise over the mountains.
This is pretty self-explanatory and always a necessity in our books on any weekend vacation. Pack up, throw a jacket on, and watch the beauty. Then, head to the Resort’s café for delicious coffee (or hot cocoa!) and a treat before taking a quick stroll and getting ready to head out.
2. Visit Rim of the World
This leg of our trip was Easter morning before taking the lengthy car ride home, and we thought there was no better way to spend it than hiking the Rim of the World Lookout. Parking was closed so we had to park across the highway, but it was worth it! We were the only ones on the hike the entire time we were there, and the fog early in the morning made it more magical than I could begin to express.
3. Head on home!
As they say, the journey is more important than the destination sometimes. At the very least, it is of equal importance. Soak it all in. Pull off on those random stops. Blast the music loud. Let your hair blow in the wind.
*If you have more time to spare, you might want to consider the extra detour of a drive to check out Big Bear! Why not?!
We had a relaxing and family fun filled weekend in Lake Arrowhead. There is not a huge list of things to do there, but there is enough. It is a perfect place to unwind, and we felt so much of an escape from city and suburban every day life being on those mountain hikes. The highlight of our trip was hands down the Rim of the World hike, though. It was simply incredible to be alone, just the three of us, in a foggy wilderness on Easter morning.
Have you been to Lake Arrowhead? If so, what is your must-do? If not, did we convince you it is time to take a trip? Let us know any feedback you have below in the comments, we would love to chat! If you would like to reach out for collaboration, visit our contact page.