During the western expansion of the United States, the Mormon Road cut right through the San Bernardino mountains and led pioneers through the Little Bear Valley Area. By the late 1890s, growth in the Southern California Valleys below had many looking for an ideal reservoir in the hills, and work began on the site of what would become Lake Arrowhead. It took until the 1920s, however, for the project to see completion after being beset by legal challenges and ownership changes. The name "Lake Arrowhead" comes not from the shape of the resulting lake, but from a rock formation on the face of a nearby mountain, rooted in Indian lore. The dam builders had their sights set on developing a new resort enclave to take advantage of the new waterfront vistas.
With the edition of a movie theater, restaurants, hotels, and golf courses, Lake Arrowhead soon became a Hollywood playground catering to stars and the Los Angeles wealthy, with luxury beach front estates and subdivisions with houses for residents and vacationers. Many films were also shot on location on and around the lake. During World War II, when gas rationing prevented most tourists from making the long, far less fuel efficient drive to the town, service members took their rest and recuperation leaves there in the peace of the mountaintop.
Life at 5,000 feet presents some challenges to consider: for one thing, you'll be one of the few residents of the greater LA area to experience, like, actual seasons. Including winter. That's the one with the snow. You'll want your own set of wheels here and it's best if they are 4-wheel-drive (though most residential areas and major roads will have plow service). As mentioned, your biggest competition will be vacationers renting spots for a week or a month at a time. You'll have to be eagle-eyed to leap on what you want. A lot of houses for rent will be cabin-like and wood-covered, so we hope you like that kind of decor.
These days, Lake Arrowhead is still a sought-after community offering a respite from urban life below. It's mostly a vacationers town, though there are a good number of part-time and full-time residents. You should pick up that "sought-after" means popular means supply and demand may or may not be your friend. The best time to look for houses or apartments will be in the spring, after the winter weather has passed but before everything fills up with summer tourists--or the calendar opposite in the fall.
There's a collection of lakeside communities ringing the lake. Here are some of the favorites in town:
Cedar Glen: One bedroom houses up to five bedroom, vacation homes, populate this area on the southeastern side of the lake. Enjoy the outdoors you've probably come searching for in this woodsy local.
Lake Arrowhead: The largest population center, you'll be close to its popular Village and find condos for rent here of the one or two bedroom variety. You'll also find some homes for rent, but make sure you have your resources in order because some of these areas are fairly exclusive and luxurious.
Blue Jay: Nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest, Blue Jay Village is about one mile from the southwestern shore of Lake Arrowhead. You'll find a few apartments for rent and a cabin or 1 bedroom house available.
Lake Arrowhead Village is the closest thing to a city center here. It's a shopping center featuring both locally owned boutique stores and chain outlets, along with restaurants and a supermarket. In the summer, the Center Stage features free concerts in the mountain air. Come to think of it, the stage features holiday concerts in the winter as well.
Speaking of the winter--skiing and boarding are available in nearby resorts like Bear Mountain and Snow Summit over at Big Bear Lake (the regions other, larger lake, that is a short drive away and well worth visiting, too). You can take a snowshoe tour in town or a guided winter hike. Don't miss the chance to partake in that quintessential winter pastime: ice skating at the lovely town outdoor rink.
When the weather warms, you'll have the whole lake at your disposal and all of the fun that comes with it like swimming, water skiing, sunbathing, boating, or just strolling along the waterfront. There's even a paddle boat tour available on the Lake Arrowhead Queen. We hear the tour guide is a real cut-up. Enjoy the mountain breezes as he lists the movies made in the area like The American President and LiLo's last great film, The Parent Trap remake.
Escape the sun with a meal at Woody's Boathouse Restaurant or maybe a treat from Razzbearies (get it?) Bakery and Cafe, located in Lake Arrowhead Village.
Lake Arrowhead is also one of the few Southern California towns with an honest-to-god, changing-leaves autumn--a season not to miss in the gorgeous mountain playground.