Visiting Fall In Lake Arrowhead

Mountain Medicine

We need a relaxing getaway. Well, “need” may be a strong word. This year we’ve gotten to travel and even to play, but it’s been mostly city-type stuff. We need someplace we can just chill out and escape the world. We need to catch our breath between our somewhat stressful summer and fall through the holidays, which is shaping up to be a full schedule of excitement.

Andy had mentioned the idea of Lake Arrowhead ages ago, and I am really missing fall. After living in the Pacific Northwest for 20 years, I’m That Girl that gets all excited about apples, changing leaves, and pumpkin spiced lattes. (Check out my recipe for pumpkin spice syrup!) The rest of the year, give me palm trees and beach sand.

VRBO “Vets”

Now that we have dipped our toes in the VRBO world with a great experience last winter renting a cabin in Julian, we decide to go for more of that cabin life. So four nights in a cabin at Lake Arrowhead it is.

We don’t have a ton of experience with the VRBO thing, but here’s what we’ve learned so far. We appreciate your tips in the comments.

Quick Recap: VRBO Tips

  1. Set your budget, factoring in taxes and fees.
  2. Are you traveling with a pet?
  3. View ALL the photos of the cabins you like.
  4. Read the list of amenities.
  5. Read through the reviews.
  6. Read the rules.

And the latest tip we picked up: pack a VRBO box!

Get a plastic tote or other box, and pack it with things you can’t live without. We like coffee, and the last cabin had a broken French press. So we bought a travel French press on Amazon for our box, as well as our favorite coffee.

Our plan is to fill our box with necessities as we become more frequent VRBO travelers.


The winner of our VRBO winnowing process is a cozy studio cabin called “Brimara!” It’s dog-friendly and fits our budget. And it has a wonderful outdoor space, perched on a hillside, surrounded by trees, with a view of the lake through the pines from the big covered deck. The owner is very prompt in communication.

We don’t plan to cook this trip, so the small kitchenette with a tiny refrigerator is just right for morning coffee and evening charcuterie and wine. We’ll get all our big meals from restaurants.

Private Lake Arrowhead

Lake Arrowhead is a sleepy resort mountain town nestled high up in the San Bernardino National Forest. It’s a 100% private lake, meaning all the land surrounding the lake is owned; there are no public lands. This private property, man-made lake provides the privacy to be a playground for Hollywood, with many A-List residents past and present.

The stunning lake scenery has been the setting of several TV shows and movies, including the Shirly Temple film Heidi. It is a very dog-friendly town (more on that below), with plenty of activities for the whole family.

The Long and Winding Road

From our home, we have about a two-hour drive drive north. It is pretty chill until we begin to ascend the winding highway drive through the San Bernardino National Forest, on a stretch of road called The Rim Of The World.

Yup, Lake Arrowhead is way up there!

As we swirl upwards doing hairpin turns with steep views over the edge, I start to get woozy and so does our dog, Farnsworth. He has a habit of getting carsick and barfing. But what a good dog! He makes the trip without blowing his doggie cookies! BUT… halfway up the drive, he lets go a HUGE freak fart! The car is filled with such a foul stench, we might need to clean poop from the back seat! We need to pull over and check, get out of the car, calm down, and enjoy the view.

The San Bernardino airport code is SBD. Coincidence?

Farnsworth and I are now calm.

Our Cabin: The Perfect Hideaway

When we pull up to the cabin, we are pleasantly surprised. Walking down the path to our home for the week, the view of Lake Arrowhead through the trees is our first wow! Then we notice the outside area, spacious yet cozy, with a spectacular view.

Our first glimpse of our view for the next few days.

Inside, we find a cozy, clean studio with a kitchenette, sitting area, queen bed, and small (but very clean) bathroom. It’s very cute!

Getting settled-in. 500 square feet isn’t much more than our car!

I better snap photos before we burrow in and spoil it!

Good Timing

We arrive at wine and cheese hour. (On vacation, any hour can be wine and cheese hour!) So I get to work setting up charcuterie on the deck.

The weather is warm and sunset is just a few hours away. Our cabin has plenty of throw blankets, wine glasses, and battery operated LED candles, which add nice ambiance and are a wise idea for safety.

Our charcuterie spread.

We settle-in on the spacious patio, arranging the scene for the evening (actually for the week). We turn the picnic table into our buffet table. Next, we set up pillows and throw blankets on two chaise lounges with a small table between them so we are extra comfy, and have a safe place for food and drinks.

Now we’re ready with a perfect view! This is where we will spend our evenings watching the sunset and the stars pop out. And our mornings reading, sipping coffee, and mimosas, loving the quiet and fresh air!

Close to the city, but remote enough to see the stars!

A Dog’s Life

Farnsworth is all set up too. Our cabin host thoughtfully provides a blanket for dogs, but Farnsworth always travels with his own dog bed and blanket. He also has all his favorite treats and toys. He gets to work exploring the grounds.

Farnsworth settles in on his first night at Lake Arrowhead.

Besides throw blankets for dogs, the host supplies dog bowls and baby gates to keep pets contained. Farnsworth is not the kind of dog to take off, but chasing birds, squirrels, and chipmunks might be tempting.


Breakfasts are on the deck. The blue jays are quite lively in the morning, and so much fun to watch! Our first morning views of the lake include bald eagles soaring and water skiers whizzing by. Andy is in charge of coffee while I set up breakfast.

Breakfast on the deck.

On the breakfast buffet, we have croissants, jam, brie cheese, fresh fruit, and mimosas. We are in no big hurry to get moving in the mornings, so we linger on the patio for hours. We are so relaxed.

Exploring Lake Arrowhead Village

We happen to be here on an off-season week, so we start out having the lakeside village to ourselves. But workers are quietly setting up for Oktoberfest, so as the week progresses, the town begins to fill up. Apparently, Lake Arrowhead Oktoberfest is something to experience!

Lake Arrowhead Village is the big shopping and restaurant area in town.

Most of the shops, restaurants, and activities are dog friendly. This gets Farnsworth’s approval. He gets FOMO and does not like to left out of any of the fun.

Farnsworth is concerned: Darcy went into Honey Habits, but will she ever come out?
(No, that’s not her in the doorway.)

In the summertime, water skiing is a big thing on the lake. There’s even a water skiing school during the warm months. It’s late September, so that’s closed for the season, but we can still get on the water.

We highly recommend you take the Lake Arrowhead Queen Boat tour. It is a one hour, kid-and-dog-friendly cruise around the lake with spectacular views you could not otherwise get. Our friendly Aussie Captain recounts the history of how this man-made lake was formed, and points out beau coups celebrity houses, some with associated saucy stories.

We really get a sense of how big the lake is! The water is pristine and beautiful. The evergreen forest is dotted with trees just starting to turn fall colors.

Good Eats

There are quite a few great restaurants in the village and surrounding areas, and most welcome dogs. As I mentioned, we have a picnic basket full of breakfast and wine-and-cheese treats to make relaxing in the morning and evenings easy, but we want to sample some of the local cuisine. Here are a few of our favorites.

Let’s start with “wow,” Jetties on the waterfront in Lake Arrowhead Village! There’s a lovely view of the lake and boats floating by, and the food is fresh, tasty, and colorful.

We begin with cocktails. Andy does his classic Old Fashioned, but I must have the Lavender Lemon Fizz: dry gin, lavender syrup, and lemon with a hint of fizz! I need to try making this at home.

Jetties’ Poke Nachos are amazing!

We order Poke Nachos to share for lunch. Andy orders the Seared Mahi Mahi Salad. I have the Peach and Burrata Salad. Both our plates are loaded with fresh field greens.

Mine has grilled peaches, fried breaded burrata cheese, tomatoes, picked onions, basil, and sweet crunchy candied almonds tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. It is so good, and very refreshing on this warm day!

Andy’s Mahi Salad has an Asian vibe and reminds us of a salad we love at one of our favorite La Jolla spots. We devoured the poke nachos too. Nothing is left!

The Tea and Coffee Exchange is a great place for coffee and pastries. They also have crêpes, gelato, and paninis, as well as a selection of coffee beans and teas. I pick up some of my youngest daughter’s favorite tea for Christmas. (Shhhh, don’t tell her!)

Another notable restaurant not in the village but just a short walking distance from our cabin is The Cedar Glen Malt Shop, a cozy ’50s-style diner serving burgers, malts, and fries. Malts are always better than shakes! All their burgers are named after classic cars of the diner era, and the Malt Shop is decked out in music and car memorabilia.

The menu at Cedar Glen Malt Shop is fun!

I’ll take a ’58 T-Bird (a traditional burger made with a turkey patty) and a vanilla malt. Plenty of crispy fries to share with Farnsworth back at the cabin. Andy can’t resist the burger akin to one of his Portland faves, the Nomad. That one comes with peanut butter and bacon, and he asks that it also include a nice dill pickle. And he gets a chocolate malt.

Amusing Hoops of Fire

Lake Arrowhead is all about relaxing, but it’s private. We also want to do some exploring and walk some trails.

Our cabin comes with a pass for hiking around the lake since it is actually private property. All lake and trail access is behind locked gates. We are instructed to check in at the Arrowhead Lake Association. So we drive there to pick up our wrist bands that give us access to the lake.

Hey, neat! We have a view that includes the building where we get our wrist bracelets!

This is where things get complicated. We have interrupted Marla’s ice cream sandwich.

Marla saunters up to the desk to help us. She requires both of us sign in via separate emails and set up passwords. Then we choose the day we want to walk the lake. Then we pay $10 each for our bracelets.

Marla may be looking through this window all day, right back at us!

Today is Tuesday, we would like to take our walk on Thursday morning. Marla insists that she must be the one who installs our bright yellow wrist bands right now! We are not allowed to have our bands and put them on ourselves on Thursday. We do not want to wear bright yellow paper bands for the next 3 days! We are informed we will have to come back on Thursday. Of course, this is after we paid.

This sham transaction has taken so long, we have missed our last chance today to board the Lake Arrowhead Queen. Marla is unmoved by this fact. I guess that is what we get for interrupting her ice cream sandwich.

As we’re walking away, Andy says, “It’s worth the 20 bucks just for the story!”

These are the types of fish in well-stocked Lake Arrowhead.
But only for residents! Not for you.

And that may be the moral of the story: they don’t want anyone walking on their trails! They make it difficult on purpose, to maintain privacy for lake homeowners. Honestly, if we paid this kind of money for privacy, we would want that too.

Lesson learned: Lake Arrowhead is for relaxation.

Rim of the World Side Trip: Big Bear Lake

It’s Thursday, and we decide Marla can keep our wristbands.

Instead, we head about 40 miles east to Big Bear Lake. Several people have highly recommended we check it out.

It’s a beautiful drive to Big Bear Lake, barely visible in this shot.

We have made a good choice! The drive on Highway 18 through the San Bernardino National Forest is very scenic. We’re treated to miles of views with the first signs of fall beginning to pop. We pull over several times to gawk.

Obligatory selfie!

When we arrive at Big Bear Lake, we are ready for lunch. Our VRBO host recommended Big Bear Lake Brewing Co. for lunch. Awesome tip!

BBLBC has outdoor seating that welcomes dogs. Our server, Kelly, is very friendly. We start with a deep fried Avocado Bomb. Kelly recommends an apple pie hard cider for me, from Julian Cider.

The Avocado Bomb is indeed da BOMB!

For lunch, I shoot for healthy with a Portobello mushroom burger and sweet potato fries. The burger is juicy and includes lettuce, avocado, tomato, and bell peppers on a nice toasty bun. The sweet potato fries are, get this, crispy and tossed in SUGAR! So much for healthy. They are so good with the apple pie cider, I can’t stop eating them!

My lunch with sweet potato fries, brilliant in full sun!

Andy does not kid himself and dives into a decadent lunch. He straight up orders the burger called The Widowmaker! And it comes by its name honestly: bacon, fried egg, cheddar, etc. with Siracha aioli.

Andy orders The Widowmaker. Let’s hope not; I don’t want to drive!

The town at Big Bear Lake is cute, with lots of shops. But we feel like nature and a lake walk. We head to the north shore of the lake.

We’d love to see the Stanfield Marsh Boardwalk Wildlife and Waterfowl Park, but it’s very dry due to a long hot summer.

Instead we opt for the Alpine Pedal Path. This 3.2 mile path along the lake is bike, dog, and pedestrian friendly. It is a very pretty walk even with lake water being low. Farnsworth even gets a chance to do a little digging.

One Last Excursion

I am dying to check out some apple farms in the area! We set it aside for the ride home. We first fuel up with lattes and pastries at The Coffee and Tea Exchange in Lake Arrowhead, then head down the winding highway to Oak Glen.

There are several farm stands, but we pick Los Rios Rancho for an afternoon of all things apples.

This is a good pick, very family and dog friendly! They have both farm stands and U-pick orchards, as well as a pumpkin patch, cider press, animals, and hay rides. At the stands you can find gourmet treats, ciders, and bags of apples (in case, like us, you don’t feel like picking).

I am so excited! It has been a long time since I have had an apple shopping freakout! We end up with a huge jug of cider, apple butter for LuLu, and 9 lbs of apples: Pippins, Lulu’s favorite for pies, Golden Delicious, Andy’s fave, and Braeburns for me. There is going be a lot of pie baking when we get home.

This is a great place to spend the day and wrap up our relaxing vacation. They have a large green space for picnics and kids to play on. Bring a picnic lunch or hit up their snack stand for BBQ and sandwiches after you work up an appetite gathering apples.

Our bounty: Braeburns, Pippins, and Golden Delicious apples!

I am fully satisfied with our stay in Lake Country and our day in Apple Country. Now we’re ready to get back to reality.