Any list of Southern California destinations needs to have Crestline in bold. This small mountain town sits nearly a mile up in the San Bernardino Mountains, has a different air. Literally. It stays about 20 degrees cooler than its neighbors, calling all comers when the heat of SoCal sizzles.
Surrounded by nature, this is a prime, off-the-beaten spot for lake and forest fun: swimming, boating, fishing, hiking and biking. You can head to the North Pole, a.k.a. Sky Park at Santa's Village, to crank it up with rock climbing and ziplining, too. In the winter, click into skis and let it ride. Crestline is a year-round outdoor adventure.
Crestline is a seven-hour rock-and-roll down the 5 to SoCal, and located north of San Bernardino. Take the fast lane down the 5 until you reach CA-138, about a half-hour south of Bakersfield. Head east to Lancaster and point south, sticking with CA-138 until you bend your way to a fork in the trail at Old Mill Rd. in Crestline.
Take the left (Old Mill Rd.) if you're ready for Lake Arrowhead. If you are feeling like stretching your legs, hang with 138 for another mile and follow the signs to Heart Rock Trail. Get out, get up and breathe. Otherwise, Lake Arrowhead is only 10 gently meandering miles, taking Old Mill south to east on Lake Dr. That will become Lake Gregory Dr., and will pull you south until you run into CA-18/Rim of the World Hwy.
At Crest Park, turn north to Lake Arrowhead on CA-173. You're in the home stretch.
Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa is a four-star hotel that offers everything a visitor to Lake Arrowhead is looking for. It is located among majestic pines that surround a private lake and offer the wildlife watching seclusion a getaway from life's hustle is all about.
The North Shore Inn in Crestline gets darn near a perfect rating. Its only a one-minute walk from the beach at Lake Gregory. There are guest BBQ grills on-site for those summer grill outs, but being only 13 miles from Snow Valley Ski Resort when winter action calls is pretty handy, too. The North Shore offers free Wi-Fi.
Saddleback Inn is located within the San Bernardino National Forest, and is only a short stroll to the lakefront and village. It has guest rooms with fireplaces and has an on-site restaurant. Saddleback rooms feature hot tubs, free Wi-Fi and hot breakfast daily.
The Crestline Cafe serves up American yums, a cozy local diner-type of spot with friendly faces and good atmosphere. They run all day with big menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But you can also order up some takeout when you've got a day of adventure ahead, or are just winding down and feel like refueling in front of the TV at your hotel. It's a perfect spot for dessert and coffee, too.
RoadHouse Pizza lines up the five-star reviews. The owners come from pizza country out East and have brought the know-how with them. RoadHouse is the best spot in the area to grab a pie and pitcher of beer for a laid-back meal. Sizes are good and prices are right.
The Grill at Antlers Inn in nearby Twin Peaks is the hidden gem of fine dining, serving up ambiance, friendly smiles and a menu that makes choosing a tough task -- all in an unassuming log cabin. The seafood -- even sushi -- get top reviews but you can't go wrong with the steak, the desserts, the drinks ... There are many reasons The Grill at Antlers Inn gets the love it does, from locals and travelers, alike.
Fire lookouts are one of those unsung roles to many people, but Strawberry Peak Fire Lookout is a tremendous opportunity not only to get amazing views -- as far as the Pacific on a clear day -- but to meet the volunteers on the job and learn how they spot fires and work to coordinate quelling them before damage is done. So worth the visit!
The Lake Arrowhead Queen is steeped in local history and offers boat tours for the family. You also can grab the Queen all to yourself, if you want a private charter for a special event or for no reason at all. Ticket prices are reasonable and can be bought at LeRoy’s Boardshop, located dock-side in the Lake Arrowhead Village near the boarding area for the boat tours.
Heart Rock Trail is a must-do in this area. It's a one-mile easy hike. In winter, it can get a bit slick but hikers of all ages tackle it. But there are limited parking spots at the trail head proper. Early risers get the worm. Feel like sleeping in, no problem. You'll get to stretch your legs just a little bit further. It's all worth it to see the heart rock.
Heaps Peak Arboretum is an incredible spot to take in nature without working up a sweat. Loads of information and natural beauties are at your fingertips and within reach from the friendly and super-knowledgeable staff.
If you've got a year-round jones for jolly old St. Nick, SkyPark at Santa's Village is the place for you. But don't be fooled into thinking it's all about the big elf. While SkyPark at Santa's Village is a North Pole-themed attraction, it also is home to adventure. Dive into the forest for a day of biking, hiking, fishing, archery, rock climbing or ziplining. This might well be the ultimate mashup of the great outdoors and the North Pole life.