When you think of a “Southern California vacation” you might think of the glitz and glam of Hollywood or perhaps Disneyland or Universal Studios. You might even think of the beach, but how about the mountains? For families looking for travel destinations off the beaten path, the San Bernardino Mountains offer a variety of adventures worth seeing while you’re in California. Here are some of the most popular destinations near the town of Lake Arrowhead, a short drive from “the valley,” but a whole world apart.
THE SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST
The San Bernardino National Forest is the place for sweeping scenic views. The forest covers 823,816 acres, most of which is federal land, and is home to 440 wildlife species and thousands of plant species. The iconic Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), which spans from Mexico to Canada, goes right through the forest and is accessible via the Bradford Ridge Path. Deep Creek Hot Springs runs right along the trail with natural hot springs and a large, cold swimming hole to enjoy in any weather. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, continue your hike in either direction for as long as you’d like.
For more information, visit: fs.usda.gov
SKYPARK AT SANTA’S VILLAGE
Looking for an excursion for the whole family? SkyPark at Santa’s Village is an outdoor adventure park that caters to thrill-seekers of all ages. This unique, year-round venue features a world-class mountain bike park as well as a variety of attractions, self-powered rides, rustic restaurants, and shops nestled in the historic Santa’s Village. SkyPark’s Northwoods offers personal time with nature as you bike, hike, fish, and climb. For the full SkyPark at Santa’s Village experience, guests can stay overnight in the SkyPark Camp + RV Resort.
For more information, visit: skyparksantasvillage.com
MCKENZIE WATER SKI SCHOOL
If you’ve never been water skiing and want to learn, McKenzie Water Ski School is the place to go. From beginner to expert, there’s something for everyone to learn. The school teaches one ski, two skis, and wakeboarding.
They offer a 2 mile course and personal instruction with over seventy years of experience.
For more information, visit: mckenziewaterskischool.com
ENJOY THE MOUNTAIN: 4WD ATV
Ever wanted to ride an ATV through the mountains? Enjoy the Mountain in Lake Arrowhead lets you do just that. You can book 1 or 2 hours for a mountain trail joyride. You can rent single quads and SBS for yourself or your whole family or pod. This is a private trip, no one else will be in your group. Choose your trip’s difficulty level and away you go! There is a maximum of 4 ATVs per group. The minimum age is 14 for ATVs. Younger kids must ride as passengers in SBS ATVs.
To book your trip, visit: enjoythemountain.com
WILLOW CREEK OHV TRAIL
Looking for more adventure off the beaten path? The Willow Creek OHV Trail is a 6.3 mile “moderate level” out-and-back trail offering great views of nature in the San Bernardino National Forest. Make sure you leave your four-legged friends at home though as dogs are not allowed on this trail. And don’t forget to purchase an Adventure Pass which must be displayed in your vehicle when using the forest for recreation.
For more information, visit: alltrails.com
BIG BEAR ALPINE ZOO
Want to see the wildlife of San Bernardino up close and personal? The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is the place. This rehabilitation facility offers injured, orphaned, and imprinted wild animals a safe haven; temporarily while they heal or permanently as they are unable to survive on their own. Every animal at the zoo has been rescued from some sort of human interaction. You will find every type of animal that lives in the Big Bear Valley, and some additional ones that respond well to this environment such as Grizzly Bears and Wolves. The zoo is open daily through Labor Day Weekend.
For more information, visit: bigbearalpinezoo.org
WILDHAVEN RANCH ANIMAL SANCTUARY
This special by-appointment-only animal sanctuary is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving local wildlife in the San Bernardino mountains. Wildhaven Ranch provides a protective environment where non-releasable wild animals can live out their lives in safety and peace. The ranch offers guided encounters with select Animal Ambassadors to learn about the relationship between animals and forest and gain the appreciation needed to protect natural resources.
For more information, visit: wildhavenranch.org
LAKE ARROWHEAD QUEEN BOAT TOUR
Take a historical tour of Lake Arrowhead with the entire family. Learn about the community’s history and fun facts aboard a historic paddle-wheel powered boat: the Lake Arrowhead Queen! If you’d like to have the cruise all to yourself, private tours or events are also available. Tours book seven days a week, and a complete 3D view of the boat can be found on their website.
For more information, visit: lakearrowheadqueen.com
LAKE GREGORY REGIONAL PARK
Located in the community of Crestline, the Lake Gregory Regional Park is a “hidden gem tucked in the cool cedar and pine forest of the San Bernardino Mountains.” The 84 acre lake offers swimming and water sports; a cool place to play in the summer heat. The lake is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Keep in mind that although this is a dog-friendly recreation spot, dogs are not allowed on the beach, at events or in any of the gated areas. Leashed dogs are permitted on trails.
For more information, visit: parks.sbcounty.gov or lakegregory.com
LAKE ARROWHEAD BREWING COMPANY
Lake Arrowhead Brewing Company is locally owned and operated. It opened during COVID (March 2020) selling to-go beers at first, but now it’s an extremely popular place for all-ages to mingle and hang out! This is a very family-friendly and dog-friendly location that also has rotating food truck selections for hungry guests. Their Pinnacles Pale Ale took gold at the US Open Beer Championship. Lake Arrowhead Brewing Co. is the official beer of the SkyPark at Santa’s Village Tunes in the Trees Summer Concert Series; sold on tap during Friday’s concerts and offered in cans/draft in the Pedal Pub year-round.
For more information, visit: lakearrowheadbrewingcompany.com
SKYPARK CAMP + RV RESORT
This beautifully scenic campground won runner up (#2 spot) in USA Today’s 10 Best Vintage Airstream Hotel 2023! SkyPark Camp + RV is located on California State Route 18, otherwise known as the scenic “Rim of The World Highway” in Skyforest, California. The Campground offers a variety of different sites to accommodate any size RV from sprinters to buses. Sites have full hookups, 50 amp power, water and waste disposal. All campers have access to the SkyPark Bath House, paid laundry, community fire pits, and free WiFi.
To book a site or an Airstream rental, visit: skyparkcamprv.com
LAKE ARROWHEAD RESORT AND SPA
The Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa is a popular destination for Lake Arrowhead travelers. The resort has luxury accommodations as well as its own private beach on the lake, pool, hot tub, spa, and fine dining options. 173 rooms, including 11 suites, are available. The resort is centrally located near the Lake Arrowhead Village with plenty of shops and additional attractions.
For more information, visit: lakearrowheadresort.com
ABOUT SKYPARK AT SANTA’S VILLAGE
SkyPark at Santa’s Village is an outdoor adventure park with year-round mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing, and open-air activities in the Skyforest section of Lake Arrowhead, California. The park resides on 230 expansive acres of natural forest with meadowlands, ponds, and an apple orchard. The village is the core of SkyPark, which includes historic log cabin restaurants and shops, seasonal entertainment, and open-air activities. SkyPark’s 7.5 miles of year-round mountain bike trails, hiking trails, fly-fishing, archery, seasonal ice skating or roller skating, rock climbing, and more are available to the public for the price of admission.
SkyPark’s conservation program includes the Henck Meadowlands Conservation Trail, Conservation Hikes, and Outdoor Educational Programs for school-age children. Each season, we offer a different themed overlay. During November and December, we transform the entire Park into Santa’s Village: the ultimate Christmas experience! And for the adventurous Guests, come camp with us at SkyPark Camp + RV Resort or “glamp” at the NEW SkyStream Resort to make your trip complete!
For tickets, visit: https://skyparksv.centeredgeonline.com/areas