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Trip of the Week

Lake Arrowhead: Mountain Retreat

August 02, 1987|MICHELE GRIMM and TOM GRIMM | The Grimms of Laguna Beach are authors of "Away for the Weekend," a travel guide to Southern California.

When you're looking for some summer fun in the water, along with peace and quiet, forget the beach and go straight to Lake Arrowhead.

The lake itself is private, the azure treasure of homeowners who surround its 14-mile shoreline. But you're invited to join in the water activities available to the public at Lake Arrowhead Village.

Visitors can go swimming, boating, fishing and water skiing, and join an excursion vessel for a narrated tour of the lake.

The modern lakeside village has a variety of shops and restaurants and is host to a first-class resort, Lake Arrowhead Hilton Lodge. Until Labor Day it features a children's recreation program with nature hikes, beach games, fishing, arts and crafts and ice skating.

Sawmill, Log Homes

A century ago only a sawmill and a few log homes existed in a wooded area called Little Bear Valley. Then the president of Procter & Gamble bought the valley to turn it into a reservoir. A dam, completed in 1911, created Little Bear Lake amid a forest of fir, cedar and pine trees.

By the next decade it was decided to use the water for recreation instead of irrigation and the lake was renamed for a nearby mountain rock formation that resembles an arrowhead. Lake Arrowhead Village was established in the 1920s and became known for a steeple-topped pavilion where big bands played.

Fifty years later the village had become dowdy and too small to serve the lake's residents and visitors, so it was purposely burned down (except for the landmark pavilion). In its place is the new village that spreads over 38 acres, including a two-level shopping and restaurant complex and the Hilton resort.

Get there from Los Angeles by driving east on Interstate 10, then turning north on Interstate 215 toward San Bernardino/Barstow. Follow the freeway direction for Highland Avenue/Mountain Resorts, California 30, and take the Crestline/Lake Arrowhead exit, Waterman Avenue, which is California 18.

The highway winds up the mountain and into a national forest; the original road was built by Mormons to haul timber to their settlement at San Bernardino in the mid-1800s. Turnouts offer aerial views of the valley below, unless obscured by summer smog.

At the top, continue on California 18, also named Rim of the World Drive, then turn left on California 173 to Lake Arrowhead. Follow signs to the village and park at the lower level.

The most scenic and relaxing way to become familiar with the lake is to board the Arrowhead Queen for a 50-minute tour. From the 60-passenger pseudo-paddle-wheeler you can view the grand homes that overlook the water, some the former hideaways of Shirley Temple, Doris Day and other Hollywood folk.

The excursion boat departs on the hour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Adult fares are $7, weekdays $6. Children 5 through 12, $3.

Village Marina

The Arrowhead Queen sails from the village marina, where you also can rent boats (visitors cannot launch private boats on the lake). A pontoon party boat with driver costs $75 an hour; powerboats for water skiing cost the same on weekends, $60 weekdays. Fishing boats with motors are available, too. Contact Arrowhead Sports at the marina, (714) 337-2553.

Lake Arrowhead Village has a sandy bathing beach and picnic area overlooking the lake. Admission is $4. You'll walk past Norman-style buildings with shops and dining places to reach the beach at the end of a short peninsula.

A popular all-day eatery is Heidi's, named after the 1937 movie filmed in this area, which once was touted as the Swiss Alps of America. Overlooking Yacht Club Bay is Chantecler Cafe Roma, which specializes in Italian dishes for lunch and dinner.

Near the marina and also at lakeside is the newly named and informal MacAfees. Its menu features barbecued chicken and ribs and bargain prices. The fanciest place to dine is Beau Rivage, a gourmet restaurant in the Hilton. Beau Rivage also serves a Sunday champagne brunch from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

For late-night entertainment, visitors can join local folks at Rodney's in the lodge, where live music begins at 9 p.m. except Sundays and Mondays.

The Hilton Lodge is the anchor accommodation of the village. It has expanded from 175 to 257 rooms, suites and villas since opening in 1982. Guests have privileges in the Village Bay Club, a fitness center at the lodge that includes a pair of racquetball courts.

You can lounge in the sun around the lodge pool or use the Hilton's private beach at the water's edge. At 7:30 p.m. guests gather on the sand for an hour of recorded symphony music.

To help parents relax, the Hilton has a summer program to keep children occupied with a variety of activities every day except Sunday. There's a morning program for kids 3 to 5 years old and an all-day program for ages 5 to 13. The staff will also entertain children in the evening while their parents are dining.

Children 16 and younger stay free in the same room with their parents at the lodge, where double room rates are $110 to $180 and suites $195 to $645. Sunday through Thursday there's a special room rate of $89 a night; two nights cost $159. Ask about the eat-free program for children 10 and under. For Lake Arrowhead Hilton Lodge reservations, call (714) 336-1511.

Just across from the village you can stay in the cottages and chalets of the Saddleback Inn-Arrowhead, a historic hostelry that was attractively renovated three years ago. Double rates $90 to $140, suites $180 to $300. Call (714) 336-3571 for reservations.

Round trip from Los Angeles for alpine and aqua adventures at Lake Arrowhead is 160 miles.

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