The San Bernardino mountain region is known for spectacular scenery. Stunning vistas and landscapes are dotted with pine and Douglas fir trees. The San Bernardino National Forest provides a stunning background for all kinds of outdoor activities: hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and sailing, to name a few.
On top of the natural beauty of the region, the San Bernardino mountains are home to several communities that bring culture and leisure to this stunning landscape. Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear are two of the largest of these communities. While each is a little different, each bring their own flair to the beautiful mountains they call home.
Located conveniently near Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Bernardino County, the Lake Arrowhead Big Bear area is southern California’s mountain playground. Whether you love skiing and hiking, or lounging lakeside with a cocktail, these communities have what you are looking for.
Historically, the area around Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear was used by indigenous peoples. European settlers then moved into the area and began extracting natural resources, especially timber. By the late 19th century, development had begun in both areas. First, the California Gold Rush brought settlers and miners to the Big Bear Lake area, and then a business consortium began work on a dam to create what is now Lake Arrowhead.
From the early 20th century on, both Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear began to operate more like resort communities. As Los Angeles grew and Hollywood became the world’s glamor capital, the Lake Arrowhead Big Bear area began to draw some of southern California’s most famous citizens. While Lake Arrowhead drew Bob Hope and Tony Bennett, Big Bear was visited by the likes of Ginger Rogers and Cecil B. DeMille.
Today, both of these communities offer great recreational activities, local festivals, dining options, and accommodations. While Lake Arrowhead is more conveniently located to Los Angeles, Big Bear offers a natural hot spring. The Lake Arrowhead Big Bear region remains one of the most popular getaways in southern California.
Differences between Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear
While these two communities seem very similar, Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear have a few differences. While both are located in the beautiful San Bernardino mountains, Lake Arrowhead is an unincorporated community and Big Bear is an incorporated city. Big Bear is also an additional 20 miles further away from Los Angeles than Lake Arrowhead is, so it’s a little harder to get to for a day trip.
What Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Have to Offer
Both Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear are tourist-oriented communities, so there is a lot going on in both of them. There is a little bit of something for everyone here, so outdoors visitors can enjoy their time outside while others enjoy a spa day or a great wine tasting.
Outdoor Recreation in Winter and Summer
The remarkable thing about the Lake Arrowhead Big Bear region is that it has so many outdoor activities to offer year round.
The main event is usually summer. With the wealth of hiking trails available in San Bernardino National Forest, adventurous visitors can spend days exploring the beautiful landscape. There is also a wealth of mountain biking trails.
Both Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake offer water sports as well. While Lake Arrowhead is famous for its yacht club and sailing events, it does restrict lake use for boating and fishing to residents and their guests. However, Lake Arrowhead does have jet ski tours and water skiing lessons available even for non-residents. Big Bear Lake has no such restriction, meaning that visitors can bring their own boats. Similarly, Big Bear Lake offers many more boat rental services.
Wintertime is prime skiing time, of course. With three ski hills nearby, the region around Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake has a lot to offer skiers and snowboarders. From downhill skiing, to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, to sledding and inner-tubing, the San Bernardino region affords many opportunities to get out there and play in the snow.
Fine Dining and Arts in Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake
Both Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead offer numerous fine dining restaurants. In Bear Bear Lake, the Pines Lakefront offers classic seafood and steak, and the Sweet Basil Bistro serves wonderful Italian cuisine with charming and authentic atmosphere. In Lake Arrowhead, Bin 189 is a well-known eatery that specializes in American-style cuisine.
The region is also known for arts festivals, with two in particular in the spotlight. The Lake Arrowhead Art and Wine Festival takes place in June every year. This festival attracts top-shelf wineries and renowned artists to showcase their handiwork over one weekend in gorgeous Lake Arrowhead. Similarly the Big Bear Art Walk hosts events like the Music in the Mountains music festival and the Summer Wine Walk. Both are huge hits with both locals and visitors.
In short, both Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake have so much to offer visitors. There is never a dull moment in the San Bernardino region.