Green Valley Lake is a quiet enclave nestled in the towering pines of the San Bernardino Mountains. This spot is where travelers with a little extra gumption go, the ones looking off the beaten path.
It's not far from the family-run Snow Valley ski area, which boasts scenic slopes and updated lifts without the crowds of bigger name resorts. But Green Valley Lake is a fantastic getaway location year-round.
Summers offer ample opportunities for viewing wildlife, hiking easy trails, mountain biking, and just enjoying quiet time at a private lakeside cabin. And the local collection of artisans is solid and worth a visit all on its own.
Low-key town Green Valley Lake is 500 miles from San Francisco, a full-on, day-long road trip. So bring a friend and crank up the stereo.
Cross the bay from San Francisco and get to the 5. That's your groove down the lifeline of Cali. As you near San Fernando, bend east on CA-210 to CA-330 N/City Creek Rd in San Bernardino. Take exit 81 from CA-210 Continue on CA-330 N. Take Green Valley Lake Rd. and, well, like the road's name suggests, that's your ticket into town.
The Arrowhead Mountain Inn is a top pick for visitors to Running Springs and Lake Arrowhead. The boutique-style rooms have modern bathing facilities, including some with spa tubs or hot tubs. Guests will also enjoy TVs, sitting areas, free Wi-Fi, and access to amenities like the spacious sun deck. The courteous, attentive staff aims to please and the somewhat secluded location means that the surrounding grounds are private and quiet even in the height of the season.
Lake Arrowhead Cabin is a privately-owned two-bedroom property in Running Springs that’s just five miles from Lake Arrowhead. The large cabin features comfortable beds and a kitchen equipped with a microwave, oven, and toaster. There’s a flat screen TV, a BBQ outside, and a cozy patio where you can enjoy your morning coffee nestled in the trees. You’ll have easy access to hiking trails, picnic areas, fishing, and so much more from this quaint cabin in the woods.
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.
Rocky’s Roadhouse is a charming little deli in nearby Running Springs that’s open seven days a week. You won’t find any trendy sandwiches or gourmet salads here. Rather, it’s a quick stop that serves up hearty meats like the incredible corned beef or flavorful chicken salad on their famous bread. There’s plenty of seating both indoors and outside. Kids will love the quirky décor and parents will love the prices.
Neo’s Pizza House is a mainstay that’s open daily for lunch and dinner. It’s a casual spot that’s perfect for groups, with charming red checked tablecloths and standard pizza shop fare. Service can be a bit slow, especially during the high season, but the flavorful crust, tangy sauce, and perfect ratio of toppings on the pizzas are worth waiting for. There’s also an arcade downstairs and sports on the TV, so sip a cold draft beer and make an evening of it.
Blondie's Grille & Bar is a great local food spot between Running Springs and Big Bear on Hwy 18. It's pub food that looks and tastes more than worth your dollar, and the atmosphere makes you feel like you're at one of your home haunts. It's a family spot that serves lunch and dinner 365 days a year, but that doesn't mean they don't know their way around the breakfast platters, too.
Heaps Peak Arboretum is located in Skyforest, a short drive for visitors to Running Springs. The short, well-marked trail is an easy stroll through tranquil pine trees. Be sure to pick up one of the blue brochures at the entrance. There are more than two dozen markers along the trail that correspond with info in the brochure. You’ll leave with a better understanding of the natural plant life and why it’s important to preserve the delicate balance of the eco-system. There are picnic tables and bathrooms available. This educational activity is great fun for small children.
Wildhaven Ranch in nearby Lake Arrowhead is a wild animal rescue sanctuary and education center. Please contact them in advance – visitors are welcome but must make an appointment for a personalized tour. The ranch provides a safe, peaceful environment for animals that have been injured, domesticated, or otherwise cannot be released back into the wild. Wildhaven offers three tours.
Keller Peak Fire Lookout is about five miles east of Running Springs and not far from Snow Valley. It’s the oldest remaining fire lookout station in San Bernardino National Forest. The view from the top stretches as far as Catalina Island on a clear day. The Keller Peak Fire Lookout is a relatively easy trek and volunteers are available to welcome visitors. The lookout is open from Memorial Day through late fall and visitors are welcome between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Snow Valley is a hidden gem in southern California. Most skiers opt for the more popular resorts at Big Bear, which means the slopes and recently-updated lifts here are far less crowded. The prices are excellent for the area and the scenery is truly spectacular. Friendly staff offer lessons to beginner skiers. Advanced-expert level skiers will probably not find the terrain here to be much of a challenge, but the small resort does have suitable options to keep novice and intermediate snow bunnies happy. Snow Valley now offers night skiing.
Southern California isn’t exactly known for its cross-country skiing, but Rim Nordic is set to change that. The machine groomed trails span 10 miles, though there are an additional three miles of natural trails that are great for snowshoeing. Varying difficulty levels mean there’s something for everyone, from the easy quarter-mile Deep Creek Loop to expert trails like Big Cedar and Lone Pine. Rim Nordic doesn’t shut down when the snowfall stops. The center is open year-round and it’s an excellent place to hike or bike. The single-track mountain bike park hosts races throughout the season. Bike, ski, and snowshoe rentals available.