Going to the mountains? Here are some favorite spots
With the snow pack melting and warm summer days ahead, a lot of California's
getaway travelers are starting to plan those warm weather trips to the
mountains. Hiking trails will be clear of snow soon, and the fragrant pine trees
and colorful spring wildflowers beckon those who yearn to be back in the woods.
Whether it's the Sierra-Nevada range to the north or more localized mountain
destinations like the San Bernardino Mountains in the south, California has an
abundance of places to experience the Great Outdoors. The state also has many
small towns — each with its own distinct character and charm -- that cater to
those city folk wanting mountain getaways. Here are some of our favorites:
While nearby Mammoth gets most of the attention because of its world-class
mountain and facilities, June Lake really is one of the state's most scenic
vacation spots. The "June Lake Loop" area, just east of Yosemite Park, probably
should have been included in the national park — its dramatic mountain faces,
pine forests and sparkling lakes make it just that beautiful.
Driving into June Lake we were reminded of those pretty little hillside towns
you come across traveling through the Alps. The first views of June Lake on this
bright sunny day looked like a travel poster for Swissair. With the cragged
snow-topped mountains in the distance, Highway 158 winds its way along the
blue-green lake where anglers spend considerable time in summer persuading
good-size cutthroat trout to jump aboard their boats. Since it was mid-week, a
wide, perfect beach was being under-utilized by just two teen-age girls content
to bathe in the ample sunshine.
A couple miles farther we rounded a corner to enter the town itself, a tiny
community with lots of cabins and vacation-style residences serviced by just a
handful of restaurants, a pizza joint with just enough room for one table and
two chairs, and a couple of general stores that are always fun to browse when
passing through these small settlements.
Just a few miles down the highway, past Gull Lake and just before Silver
Lake, we came to the Double Eagle Resort and Spa, our accommodations for the
night. Located just at the edge of the mountains and an easy stroll to Silver
Lake, the resort apparently was designed to fit in with the numerous upscale log
homes in the immediate vicinity. Picture Aspen or Vail and you get some idea of
the setting, although this enclave of homes is tiny by comparison.
Actually, the Double Eagle is considered one of the world's top 10 spa
resorts. The Creekside Spa offers 40 types of spa services, including massages,
facials, body wraps and whirlpool treatments.
But when we're in the mountains we prefer the exercise that comes from
discovering the many trails in the area or walking to various points of
interest. In such gorgeous surroundings, we just feel like we're wasting our
time in the area if we're not outdoors. Accordingly, we spent much of our time
exploring trails and walks near June Lake. At the top of our list was a two-mile
hike to Rainbow Falls, a spectacular site with its 101-foot drop. During our
June visit there was still a bit of snow on the trail, but the views from the
trail of both the falls and the valley were well worth the effort.
For more information on mountain getaways to June Lake and the surrounding
area, contact the June Lake Chamber of Commerce at
www.junelake.org or phone 760-648-7584.
A little over an hour's drive from San Diego's beaches and big-city
attractions is a place that will transport you back through time and offer a
glimpse of post-Civil War life in San Diego County. A trip to the small town of
Julian also will take you through terrain that, at times, seems more like the
Sierra-Nevada range than the foothills east of California's southernmost
We'd like to say the trip to Julian is a road less traveled, but the truth is
that Julian is a popular day or weekend trip for not only San Diego residents,
but Southern California motorcycle and sports car clubs who find these curvy,
scenic roads especially well-suited for their frequent excursions. If you like
crowds and a certain kind of electricity, visit on a weekend; otherwise a
weekday visit can offer a quiet respite from bustling city life.
Whether you come from the LA area through Warner Springs, or from the San
Diego area through Ramona, the drive to Julian takes you through mountains —
well, okay, maybe large hills if you come from real mountain areas — and
valleys and meadows, and then along forested hillsides as the two-lane road
snakes its way up to Julian's 4,000-foot elevation. The driving is not
treacherous; it's just interesting. The views change from minute to minute as
you pass farmhouses, horse ranches, cabins and the occasional outpost diner.
The Julian business district, in fact, is only about three blocks long and
four blocks wide, although you'll find sporadic businesses outside of the
downtown area. Most of the buildings downtown are historical in some sense —
many dating back to the post-Civil War period when the town was founded. It
actually became a town when displaced Confederate veterans headed west to find
unsettled land. The town was named after Mike Julian, one of those early
settlers. In 1869, gold was discovered and, by 1934, the region had produced up
to $5 million worth of the precious metal. Later the town's residents took
advantage of the rich local soil to produce many different crops, and foremost
among those was apples. Julian apples began to win national awards in places as
far away as Chicago.
Today, the town of Julian is known for its apples and a tourist ritual is to
enjoy a fresh-baked apple pie and ice cream at one of several local eateries.
For a town with just a few hundred souls, Julian has an unusual number of
bakeries and pie shops such as Mom's Pie House, where visitors stop for their
obligatory treat. The other shops in Julian run the gamut from tacky tourist
shops to crafts of all types to the normal small-town fixtures like hardware and
For more information on mountain getaways to Julian, contact the Julian
Chamber of Commerce at www.julianca.com or
Okay, Lake Arrowhead is not a remote mountain village, and it usually does
not come to mind when discussing isolated places to commune with Nature. But it
is a great place to find hiking trails, pine and cedar forests and a picturesque
mountain lake -- and it's all within a two-hour drive of downtown Los Angeles.
We went to Lake Arrowhead to spend a weekend at the newly renovated Lake
Arrowhead Resort, the biggest and best-located resort in the area. If your idea
of a mountain getaway is a rustic cabin or tent camping, then this is not your
place. A full-service, upscale resort, this is for mountaineers who don't want
to stray too far from creature comforts.
Aside from the obvious charms that come with a mountain lake plopped in the
middle of a scenic forest, Lake Arrowhead has a fun business district called the
Lake Arrowhead Village. Not your typical shopping center, the village somehow
combines high-end boutiques with tourist shops and carnival rides to appeal to
just about any type of person who may visit.
There also are plenty of hiking trails in the Lake Arrowhead area — trips of
various lengths and degrees of difficulty. The lake is at 5,100 feet elevation
and is nestled in a forest of pine, cedar and dogwood that give way occasionally
to excellent views of the San Bernardino Mountains. A very easy trail to start
with is at the Heap's Peak Arboretum, easily accessed on Highway 18. This
half-mile interpretive trail identifies some of the 2,000 species of flora and
nearly 400 species of fauna found in these picturesque mountains. You'll enjoy
views that offer a reminder of why the Lake Arrowhead area has been chosen as a
backdrop for so many motion pictures. There also is a special kids trail that
shows what various animal paw prints look like. And just up the road are several
trails in the Big Bear Lake recreation area.
For more information on mountain getaways to Lake Arrowhead, contact the Lake
Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce at 909-337-3715 or visit
Photo credits: Cary Ordway, Sandi Ordway
(Editor's note: CaliforniaWeekend.com is California's leading source of information on getaway travel in the Golden State. Visit the site often to find the latest getaway specials, a comprehensive list of resorts and lodgings and to use the Getaway Machine travel calculator to match up your needs and preferences with exactly the right lodgings and location.)
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