Hit the Road

Lake Arrowhead offers plenty for A weekend getaway

A private beach and dock is available to guests at the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, which uses the private lake with permission of the owners. Fishing and tour boats schedule their activities at guests’ convenience. Photos by Jerry Ondash“Captain” John Richardson pilots a tour boat on Lake Arrowhead where he grew up. His high-energy narrations include local gossip and stories of the rich-and-famous who reside in the lakefront the mansions, mostly part-time.The spacious lobby of the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa is at once contemporary, warm and welcoming. The resort recently underwent a $12 million renovation and is open year-round.Signs on Lake Arrowhead’s hilly, rocky and sometimes rutted dirt roads indicate the difficulty of the ride for various all-terrain vehicles, which are not allowed to ride off-road. Lake Arrowhead artist, illustrator and writer Mike Sheehan lives in the same neighborhood as mobster Bugsy Siegel’s former speakeasy, casino and brothel. This is Sheehan’s illustration of Siegel’s "Club Arrowhead of the Pines," which opened in 1929 and featured a tunnel to a brothel. Today it is the Tudor House, which features music and theater. Sheehan tired of living in Los Angeles where he worked for Disney Enterprises, then moved to Lake Arrowhead because of fond childhood memories of the area. Photo Courtesy of Mike SheehanJeep tour-driver Tiffani Ice loves living in Cedar Glen, population 552, just east of Lake Arrowhead. She and her husband lead various vehicle tours throughout the surrounding area for a relatively new rental business called Enjoy The Mountain.  This view of a small segment of Lake Arrowhead and surrounding mountains is available on Enjoy the Mountain’s two-hour Jeep tours.  A tree trunk with hundreds of holes is evidence the area above Lake Arrowhead is a favorite habitat of woodpeckers. The birds store nuts in the openings, usually one to a hole.

Stroll around the lobby and hallways of the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa and you’ll find photos on the walls of just about every notable movie star from the 1940s and 1950s that you can think of. They all had one thing in common beyond their celebrity: they appeared in well known films shot in and around Lake Arrowhead.

The film titles reach as far back as the 1930s and continue to the present.

According to the IMBd website, more than 140 movies were made with the lake and surrounding wooded hills as backdrops.

Even some television series like “House M.D.” were filmed in Lake Arrowhead.

One locale holds a heap of Hollywood history.

It’s the 23,000-square-foot Tudor House complex, built in 1928 by mobster Bugsy Siegel who entertained the film industry’s elite. Originally called Club Arrowhead of the Pines, the complex offered gambling, illegal booze and a brothel, and featured secret tunnels and its own well for making moonshine.

Lake Arrowhead was the perfect place for fun and illegal play, explained tour guide and native resident John Richardson, “because Bugsy knew it would take the cops all day to get up here. That gave him plenty of time to hide everything and everybody.”

Richardson gave up plenty of stories and gossip as he piloted the resort’s boat around the lake late one afternoon.

He pointed out many lakeshore mansions and told of their past and current, rich-and-famous owners: actor Nicholas Cage; comedian Roseanne Barr; radio personality Dr. Laura; author John Grisham; actor John Candy; the Hilton and Doheny families; the owner of Trader Joe’s; Liberace; singer Celine Dion; sportscaster Vince Scully; karate master and actor Jackie Chan; and Van Halen’s lead singer Sammy Hagar.

The list goes on, and for most of these owners, their Arrowhead properties are second and third homes. And in case you are in the market, the choice is wide. There is always a bunch for sale, and with the property comes ownership of the lake.

But there are people like Richardson whose primary (and only) homes are in Lake   Arrowhead.

“I grew up here, then left. I’ve been all over the world and I wouldn’t live anywhere else,” he declared, as he pointed out the trees, towers and bridges from which he used to jump – including a tree on a small island in the lake.

“Every time I put up my rope swing, the (homeowners) association took it down. After the seventh time, they cut down the tree. See? There’s the stump.”

The area’s second industry, of course, is tourism, because visitors know that Lake Arrowhead offers plenty for the perfect weekend getaway.

A 90-minute drive puts you in the San Bernardino Mountains and National Forest, and on the aptly named Rim of the World Highway, an amazing feat of engineering that yields breathtaking views.

The welcoming and comfortable Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa makes an ideal base from which to explore the area.

Enjoy the Mountain (ETM) offers many ways to do this – via four-wheeled ATVs, side-by-side ATVs or mountain bikes. We chose a two-hour Jeep tour with guide Tiffani Ice (yes, her real name).

She took us up, down and around the nearby backcountry to vantage points and places where three eco-zones are visible. Ice also pointed out areas burned by the 2003 fire, which took six lives, 994 homes and 91,000 acres.

Once back at the resort, it was time for a massage at the Spa of the Pines, conveniently located in the hotel building, a feature fully appreciated during the winter months.

Coming after our Jeep tour, the massage and the quiet were well timed and appreciated.

Other hotel amenities and activities are well suited to families and groups: a pool and hot tub, fishing (Richardson will take you out), and a private beach perfect for evening parties.

Bin 189, the restaurant just off the lobby, is popular not only with guests but with locals.

My husband-the-meat-eater praised the virtues of the vegan Quinoa and Portabella Stack (with shitake mushrooms, pecans and red pepper coulis).

The prime rib and the grilled salmon with mango chutney were excellent. Perhaps best of all was the large number of gluten-free choices that were clearly marked on the menu.

Breakfast even included gluten-free toast.

For shopping, Lake Arrowhead Village is a three-to-four-   minute walk from the resort.

It offers some outlet stores, sweet shops, casual restaurants and a farmers market on Fridays.

Visit  lakearrowheadresort.com for specials and discounts, or call (855) 580-8210.

E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at eondash@coastnewsgroup.com

Related posts

Hit the Road: Chile’s national parks a hikers’ heaven

E'Louise Ondash

Small gadgets can be big travel help

E'Louise Ondash

Eating our way through Napa and Sonoma

E'Louise Ondash

These gadgets help make travel experiences wonderful

E'Louise Ondash

Travel destinations an hour away from your doorstep

E'Louise Ondash

Hit the Road: ‘Addicted to Americana’ celebrates mid-century memorabilia

E'Louise Ondash