The Stylish Angeleno's Guide To Big Bear And Lake Arrowhead
Ask any Los Angeles transplant why they love living here. Yes, you'll get the inevitable immediate response that the "75 and sunny" default climate certainly doesn't suck, but I bet they'll also mention the fact that if they ever need a break from city life, there's a different landscape, climate, and vibe just a few hundred—give or take—miles away in any direction. Want a quiet beach? Malibu is a 45 minute drive. The quaintest little hippy farmer's market? You can be in Ojai in less time than some people's daily commute. Do you want to sample some of the state's best wines without having to trek to Napa? Dozens of incredible vineyards in the Central Coast will take you half the time. And when you're looking for cozy, cabin vibes, a two hour trip to Big Bear and nearby Lake Arrowhead will totally satisfy your craving for lodge life in the mountains.
The area, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, set amid the San Bernadrino National Forest, has long been a destination for skiers and snowboarders, but you don't have to be a snow bunny to enjoy the breathtaking landscape and the gems (literally, but we'll get to that in a second) waiting to be found here. In fact, with a few recent additions, these vacation spots are cooler than ever. Laura and Jason O'Dell of The O'Dells, a clothing line and boutique in the Silver Lake area of LA, own a gorgeous A-frame in Big Bear where they frequently escape with their little ones, and KKIBO designer Jo Abellera and husband (You Are a Circle author) Guillaume Wolf have recently relocated to Lake Arrowhead—proof that these spots are getting more and more stylish. Whether you've never visited Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead, or you've been heading there for years, it might be time to explore and discover some new places to stay, shop, snack, and more, which is why gathered a list of places you shouldn't miss.
One thing the mountains may still be lacking is a place to get a well-crafted cup of joe. Luckily, Abellera—who frequently heads back into LA to meet with stockists and teach workshops—has found a solution. "In LA we are so spoiled with great coffee places," she admits, "sadly, no such place exists in Lake Arrowhead yet. So when I need an artisanal coffee fix, the closest place is Augie's in Redlands. They roast their own beans and know how to make a proper cappuccino!" Located just 30 minutes outside Lake Arrowhead, the coffee house makes a perfect pit stop for fueling up on your way in or out of town.
Nestled amid the cutest little Alpine-style residences you ever did see is Road Trip, an expertly curated gift and framing shop that's a stylish Angeleno's dream. They'll recognize LA brands like Chaparral Studio and P.F. Candle Co. but the style of this place—hearty stoneware mugs and woodsy-scented incense mixed in with vintage finds you'd expect to see inside a cabin in a Wes Anderson movie—is just mountain-y enough to be different than anything you could find in the city.
At the Pendleton Outlet, you can save a little cash when you buy the 108-year-old brand's signature blankets, throws, pajamas and socks. The Southwestern style is perfect for California camping vibes.
If you're into crystals, don't sleep on Gems of the West, a modest little shop stocked with minerals, gems, and rocks all indigenous to the Western United States. Pick up locally sourced quartz, plus turquoise, fire opal, gold, and a few faceted stones ready to be set into custom jewelry.
Snooze In Style
When it comes to finding a place to lay your head for the night, Noon Lodge provides the stylish setting LA's cool crowd is craving. As a fashionable Angeleno herself, co-owner Lex Brooks knew what visitors wanted: kilim pillows, animal hyde rugs, inviting fireplaces, and other touches with that quintessentially mountain aesthetic, but decorated in an updated way. "We really just wanted to bring something new to the town but still honor the small town mountain feel," Brooks explains, "and we were inspired by our memories of the boy and girl scouts and the feeling of being away at a summer camp. We tried to bring in lots of those old school elements; you will find old lanterns, canteens, canoe paddles etc. throughout our cabins, all while still feeling clean and modern. We wanted to mix the feel of old and new."
In addition to sleeping in style at Noon Lodge, guests will enjoy amenities like a seasonal pool, bike rentals, fire pits, cornhole, and bocce.
What the area may still be lacking in modern, fine dining establishments, it more than makes up for with satisfying comfort food in causal, cozy settings. When Laura O'Dell and her clan are in town, they head to Saucy Mama's Pizzeria for the fast service, veggie pies, and antipasto salads.
Poke bowls and macademia nut milk lattes might not be what you'd expect to find while vacationing in the mountains, but that's exactly what you're going to find at Local, a reggae-blasting, acai bowl-serving little shack in Big Bear. LA's coffee snobs will also approve of the Groundworks brew served here, which you can sip spiked with coconut in their "Island Style" latte.
For a classic diner breakfast, Brooks is a fan of cozy spot Teddy Bear Restaurant. Favorites here include the blueberry pancakes, corn beef hash and eggs, cinnamon corn bread, and hot cocoa topped with whipped cream.
Standard bar food gets much welcome update at The Lakefront Taproom Bar and Kitchen: think jalepeno bottlecaps with housemade ranch sauce, a grilled caesar salad, or a parmesan-crusted grilled cheese sandwich. There's also a slew of California brews to choose from.
The Great Outdoors
It would be a shame to head to the mountains and not explore all the outdoor activities. For a scenic hike in Big Bear, you can't beat Castle Rock Trail, though when there's snowfall this one is a bit of a challenge. For those closer to Lake Arrowhead, Abellera recommends Heart Rock in Crestline, which features a waterfall (given there's been enough rain) and a heart-shaped pool.
If it's snow play you're looking for, O'Dell recommends Snow Summit in Big Bear. "It's our favorite mountain to snowboard on," she says, "there are several different runs to chose from depending on your skill level and the outdoor patio and grill is awesome when the sun is shining and you need to take a lunch break. The bar makes a killer Bloody Mary, too. Probably one of the best I've ever had!" At Big Bear Snow Play, you can also have some after-dark outdoor entertainment with glow tubing, in which you can whoosh down the hills amid colorful glowing lights.