In this Destination California, we sent KTLA’s Wendy Burch up to Lake Arrowhead to find out why the travel brochures call this place the “Swiss Alps” of Southern California.
Lake Arrowhead is nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, and its town surrounds the Lake Arrowhead Reservoir. It was called “Little Bear Lake” until around 1921, when the Arrowhead Lake Co. bought it and changed its name to Lake Arrowhead. All of the neighborhoods are private, which means those who want lake access need to know somebody with a lake house — but Wendy managed to find a few ways to go jump in the lake anyway.
She suggests one of your first stops be to book a cruise aboard the Lake Arrowhead Queen. It’s a one-hour tour that gives you an amazing look at the shore and some of the huge homes — many of them with a rich Hollywood history.
“Passengers love to look at all of the celebrity houses. Many can’t believe these are people’s second homes,” Capt. Craig Jasgur said.
Over the years, celebrities like Doris Day, Lucille Ball, June Lockhart, Dick Clark, Liberace, John Candy, Roseanne Barr, Heather Locklear, Mark Harmon and Patrick Swayze have called Lake Arrowhead home.
And while not everybody can afford property by the lake, it’s a shopper’s paradise at the Arrowhead Village. Wendy — known for her love of shopping — says she could spend the whole day wandering through the shops. Her son Brady Burch is a big fan of Mr. G’s for Toys, which is full of favorite classic toys as well as puzzles, books and souvenirs for all ages.
For lunch, Wendy recommends driving to LouEddies Pizza, which she says serves some of the best pizza she’s ever tasted. “Locals love it and tourists crave it,” Wendy says.
It’s authentic New York-style pizza, made to order inside a quaint, 100-year-old cabin along the Rim of the World Highway. LouEddies opened in 2013, when Louise York and Eddie Hillary bought the neglected historic property at Willow Woods. They restored the log cabins so customers could enjoy the forest and eat pizza surrounded by age-old pines. Their handcrafted gourmet pizza has become so popular, it was listed last year as one of Yelp’s top 100 Best Restaurants in America.
For those looking to elevate the Lake Arrowhead experience even more, Wendy suggests heading straight to Skypark at Santa’s Village, known for the nostalgic feeling it evokes in visitors. Families have been making Christmas memories here for generations, but some may not know that when the new owners took over the place in 2016, they expanded the park, making it 230 acre of outdoor adventure.
The location comes alive with activities in the summer, including roller-skating, archery, ax throwing, fly fishing and miles of mountain bike trials.
“It’s really important for families to get outside right now, and if you are feeling you need to get out and experience fresh air right now, we have that,” said Michelle Johnson, co-owner of Skypark.
“Plus, during COVID, we are only taking limited reservations, so there is plenty of room for everyone,” Johnson said.
Wendy recommends that visitors make an overnight reservation at the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa. There is no other resort like it in the San Bernardino Mountains, she says. Each of their 173 rooms have a real rustic elegance.
The resort has all of the amenities, including a private beach and a dock for fishing. The resort’s restaurant, Bin 189, dishes up California cuisine that is fresh, seasonal and delicious.
“We like to tell our guests, if you don’t have a home on the lake, you always have one with us,” said Matthew Weiss, the resort’s marketing director.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the origins of Lake Arrowhead’s name. It has been updated.