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Lake Arrowhead vs. Big Bear Lake: Why Big Bear is Better

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

lake arrowhead vs big bear lake

Exploring Mountain Retreats: Comparing Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake

Lake Arrowhead vs. Big Bear Lake

Both incredible Southern California getaway destinations, Big Bear Lake sits only fifty minutes from Arrowhead Lake.

Both lakes are resort spots nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California, only 2 hours from Los Angeles and San Diego. Tourism is high in both, and millions of people visit each year. Although both of these spots most certainly have plenty of fun to be had, one is most certainly better than the other, not that Midnight Moon Cabins is biased or anything of that nature.

There is substantial (and objective!) data to back this claim up.

Here’s a few of our criteria to help us decide Lake Arrowhead vs. Big Bear Lake:

  • Private lake vs. Public lake

  • Size of the lakes

  • Winter Activities

  • Vacation vs. Homeowner

Size of the Lakes

Just looking at a map, the most obvious difference between the two is how much bigger Big Bear Lake is, and while bigger isn’t necessarily always better, in this instance, it most definitely is.

Arrowhead Lake is 2.2 miles long. Big Bear Lake is a man-made lake 7 miles long with several marinas. These marinas offer boat rentals, jet ski, kayaks, and pontoon boats for rent by the hour or the day.

Lake Arrowhead vs. Big Bear Lake

Private vs. Public

The biggest difference between the two lakes is that one is a public lake and the other is a private lake. Unless you’re a homeowner on Lake Arrowhead, I think you’ll agree with us that the public is certainly better. How else would we get to enjoy the lake otherwise?

Unlike Big Bear Lake, which is open to the public, Lake Arrowhead is entirely privately owned, making it a much more affluent location. While traveling past the large, luxurious mansions can be quite the experience, it lacks the rustic charm found in the mountain community of Big Bear.

Another drawback to Lake Arrowhead being privately owned is that virtually all access to the lake via the docks lining the shores is reserved for only the property owners. However, visitors can still charter boat tours or the beach clubs during the summer but many locals consider Arrowhead a private lake and want to keep it that way.

Hiking, Biking, & Outdoor Activities

Also, with the limited space, much of which is taken up by gated estates, there aren’t nearly as many hiking trails, and the ones that are there aren’t as great as the ones we have in Big Bear. If you’re interested in getting some fresh mountain air on a trail, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Big Bear and surrounding San Bernardino National Forest.

When it comes to mountain biking, Big Bear has all the best locations.

Due to the increase in trails, Big Bear Lake is also a better place to partake in horseback riding.

Same goes for water sports, like water skiing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, and wakeboarding. Unless you own property on Lake Arrowhead, it’s a pretty tough spot to enjoy a day trip on the water. Although, on Big Bear Lake, everyone is welcome!

big bear lake mountains

Winter Really Only Comes to Big Bear

At nearly 7,000 feet, Big Bear Lake has a much higher elevation than that of Lake Arrowhead. During the winter, snowfall is typically plentiful for any snowboarding or skiing for visitors to enjoy. And when the natural snow won’t quite cut it, Big Bear has plenty of artificial snowmakers to fill in any gaps to keep the snow play going all winter long. We also have not one but two ski resorts to keep skiers especially happy.

Lake Arrowhead has none of that, and in fact, it rarely has enough snowfall to do any sort of winter fun. Snow Valley is about a thirty-minute drive away, but if you’re going to be traveling that far to partake in some skiing or snowboarding, you may as well drive the extra twenty minutes to get to Big Bear Mountain, where all the real fun is.

Vacation vs. Homeowner

Lake Arrowhead certainly has its charms, especially if you’re looking for a second home or a place to spend your retirement, but if you’re looking for a great getaway, either during summer or winter, then there’s really only one choice: Big Bear Lake has so much more to offer.

The real estate in Lake Arrowhead, from the lake to the village, is really high end. You’ll be able to find incredible houses lakefront but you need to be ready to spend quite a bit for it. If you’re most interested in buying a lakeside property, Lake Arrowhead is a great choice. Due to its privacy, Lake Arrowhead is a much quieter location.

For those that would rather take part in a family-friendly vacation or a romantic getaway, we recommend you visit us at Big Bear. Here, you’ll have plenty more to see and do on your vacation.

The Winner: Big Bear Lake

back interior cabin

Put simply, Big Bear has it all, from snowboarding during the winter to dirt bike racing during the summer.

Throughout the year, the region has all sorts of festivities for vacationers to enjoy: fireworks in July, an antique car show in August, Oktoberfest during, well, October, everyone’s favorite Turkey Trot each year in November, practically every month has a different event to enjoy. And that’s separate from all of the other activities you can dive into freely throughout the year.

Lake Arrowhead might also have plenty of beautiful sights and relaxation, but much of that is exclusive to residents of the area. So, if you’re looking to buy some property and settle down, then perhaps give Lake Arrowhead a consideration.

However, if you’re looking for a fun getaway for a few days or even a week, then Big Bear Lake will have plenty for you or your entire family to do.

Your vacation wouldn’t feel like a real mountain getaway without a cozy cabin to come home to, a cabin so nice you might not ever want to leave.

Complete your mountain experience in Big

Bear with a blazing fire, warm apple cider, and an unforgettable cabin stay. All of our Cabins are located 5 min from the Big Bear Resort and walking distance to Mountain transit.



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