Climbing & Hiking Trails - 11 min read

10 Best Hiking Trails in Lake Arrowhead (For Novice Hikers!)

Town and Tourist

Town and Tourist, Updated November 2, 2022

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Lake Arrowhead is a great spot to go hiking. Located two hours from Los Angeles and about three hours from LAX airport, this is a perfect day trip from LA. Most of the hikes in this area are considered easy or moderate so beginners to advanced hikers will be able to enjoy the area. 

There are plenty of great hikes in Lake Arrowhead, but we think these are the 10 best hiking trails in the area. You will find plenty of variety in both scenery and difficulty levels, making this a very popular place to hike in Southern California. You’ll be sure to find the perfect hike in Lake Arrowhead.

We put together this quick overview of our favorite hikes in the area. Hopefully, you will find one, or even a few, that you want to get out and enjoy! Let’s jump in and check out these beautiful hikes in Lake Arrowhead. 

Adventure Pass

One thing to note is that all of these hikes require a California Adventure Pass to access. The pass costs $5 for a daily pass or $30 for an annual pass. The annual pass will give you access to the four national forests in Southern California and has unlimited uses for the year. 

Bears

Be aware that Lake Arrowhead is bear country. While it is perfectly safe to enjoy the area, make sure you don’t leave food out while camping and try not to wander too far from the trails.

If you see signs of bears, stay on high alert and make as much noise as you can to scare them off. It may be a good idea to carry bear spray if you are hiking in some more secluded areas. 

1. Will Abell Memorial Trail

Credit: Matthew Ayers / AllTrails

This is the most popular hiking trail in Lake Arrowhead. You will find a 1.9-mile loop that should take you about an hour to complete. The hike is considered easy but there is some elevation gain so wear proper shoes. 

You will be surrounded by trees and wildlife as you hike through the trail. There are also some beautiful views of the surrounding area along the way. The trail has lots of shade to help keep you cool but the heat can still be strong so be prepared. 

The trail is generally pretty easy to find but there are offshoots along the path that may make things confusing. Be sure to pay attention of your direction if you are going off of the trail.

Dogs are welcome and the hike shouldn’t be too difficult for most kids. There is plenty of parking available as well. 

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.9 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 419 feet

2. Little Bear Creek Trail

Credit: David Harris / AllTrails

Little Bear Creek Trail is another relatively easy hike for those who want to add a little bit of distance. This one is about two miles out, and two miles back, making it four miles in total. The first half of the hike is mostly downhill so you will face 774 feet of elevation change on the way back to the start. 

The hike has several narrow sections that can have some thorny overgrown brush so it would be a good idea to wear pants. We definitely recommend wearing solid hiking boots as well to keep your ankles protected when hiking on the rocks.

This trail doesn’t have a ton of shade so it is best to wear a hat and be ready for the heat. It is usually lightly traveled so there’s a good chance you will find some solitude.

There are a few places to camp along the way if you want to make it into an overnighter. This trail is dog and kid-friendly, just keep the overgrown brush in mind and keep them out of the thorns. 

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 4 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 774 feet

Related Read: 19 Best Hiking Trails in San Bernardino

3. Dogwood Campground Loop

Credit: Paul L. / TripAdvisor

This is an excellent loop for those who want a longer hike without too much difficult elevation to tackle. Those who want to get some exercise and enjoy nature at the same time will love this trail. Most of the trail is under the cover of trees so there is plenty of shade to help keep you cool. 

This hike takes you around the Dogwood Family Campground so you won’t be too far from civilization. There are a few bathrooms in the campground that you can use along the way.

This hike is great for kids and dogs as well. It is also a great way to enjoy the pine and cedar trees that tower over the area.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 3.8 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 465 feet

4. Metate Trail

Credit: Micah Lugg / AllTrails

This is another lightly traveled trail in Lake Arrowhead. Metate Trail is a two-mile out-and-back trail that should take you about an hour to complete.

Most of the elevation is confined to a 0.2-mile section that gets fairly steep but won’t last long. On the way back, that steep climb will be downhill so be prepared with good shoes. 

This trail doesn’t have a ton of tree cover so don’t expect to find much shade to protect you from the sun. The top of the hill provides some cool views of the surrounding area and there are plenty of trees, rocks, and wildlife to enjoy during the hike. 

If you want to extend the hike, there are plenty of spurs on the trail that you can explore, or simply stay on the main trail for the listed distance. This one is great for kids and dogs, so the family is sure to enjoy it. 

One of the most unique features of this hike is the many rocks that have holes in them. These rocks were used by the natives to grind acorns and other grains. So there is a little bit of history to accompany all of the nature that you’ll find!

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 255 feet

Related Read: 29 Top Treehouse Rentals in California

5. Forest Overlook Of Lake Arrowhead Via Old Toll Road

Credit: Jim Arnold / AllTrails

This is a great hike for beginners or those who want to avoid bigger elevation gains. At just 1.7 miles total, it will take you about 45 minutes to go out and back. The elevation changes are minimal and should be easy for most hikers. 

The overview of the lake can be difficult to find, you may have to continue about an extra half-mile down the paved road to see it. The trail itself has lots of trees but can lack shade in many parts. 

This trail is great for kids and dogs due to how easy it is. It is also very popular for snowshoeing in the winter since it is fairly flat. There is also a good chance of seeing wildlife like birds, deer, and other small animals. 

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.7 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 68 feet

6. Arrowhead Pinnacles Trail

Credit: Cassidy Malott / AllTrails

This is another very popular trail in Lake Arrowhead. The Pinnacles is a peak that stands at 5,630 feet which is just over 1,000 feet above the start of the trail. This hike will take you to the peak and then back down the mountain to where you started over about 2.5 hours. 

The incline is steady and will definitely get the blood flowing on the way up but will be much easier on the way down. There are a few rock scrambles along the way, and with the steep decline in the second half, hiking boots would be a good idea. 

This hike is dog-friendly but might be difficult for small children. Most of the trail doesn’t have much shade so be prepared for that. The trail can be difficult to follow in some areas so make sure to pay attention.

If you wear good shoes, bring enough water, and are prepared for some heat, then this hike will be very rewarding. 

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.6 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,099 feet

Related Read: 15 Best Waterfalls Near Los Angeles

7. Sawmill Road Loop Trail

Credit: Fred Gruber / AllTrails

This loop is almost 3 miles long and has a bit of elevation gain that will be a bit of a workout. It should take you about an hour and a half to complete the hike. The hike has lots of areas of loose dirt and sand so sturdy shoes are a good idea. 

Be aware that some parts of this trail are used for off-road vehicles as well so make sure you pay attention. These areas of the trail may have ruts or loose dirt so watch your footing as well. If you stay on the lookout for oncoming vehicles, then you shouldn’t have any problems. 

Dogs are welcome on this trail but must be leashed. Most kids should be able to conquer the uphill sections as well. There is not much shade on this hike but you will likely see some beautiful nature and wildlife. 

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.8 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 528 feet

8. Bradford Trail and PCT- Deep Creek Hot Springs Loop

Credit: Adam Sisneros / AllTrails

Those who are looking for a longer hike in Lake Arrowhead will find lots to love with this trail. The hike is 14.1 miles and it takes around seven hours to complete the loop. The first half is mostly sections of downhill and flat hiking and the second half has a steady incline. 

This hike has plenty of beautiful views. You will pass rocks, trees, overlooks, mountains, and wildflowers. One of the biggest attractions is the creek and the hot springs where you can stop and swim. This trail has a section that is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. 

The hike is fairly strenuous and may be pretty difficult for inexperienced hikers. Beginners can surely tackle this trail but be prepared for a tough hike. Experienced hikers will enjoy a little bit more difficulty over most of the other trails in the area. 

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 14.1 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2,263 feet

Related Read: 15 BEST Water Parks in Los Angeles

9. HWY 138 V.O.E. Trail

Credit: Margo Butler / AllTrails

This is a relatively quick hike that will take a little more than an hour to hike out and back. The hike is only 2 miles but has a steady elevation gain for the first half which adds to the difficulty. Luckily, the hike back is downhill so it will be easier. 

This trail is great for dogs and kids. There is a ton of nature along the way. It is likely that you will spot some deer that call this area home. There is also plenty of greenery and wildflowers to enjoy. You will get some nice views of the surrounding area as well. 

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 590 feet

10. Crafts Peak Trail

Credit: Bladimir Gastelum / AllTrails

Crafts Peak Trail is about a 30-minute drive from Lake Arrowhead, but we felt that it was definitely worth mentioning. This is one of the more difficult hikes in the area but the views from the top are totally worth the effort.

Crafts Peak sits at 8,353 feet and offers stunning views, you can even see Lake Arrowhead from the top.  This hike has a pretty steady incline the entire way up the mountain which makes it fairly difficult.

Don’t be afraid to stop and rest along the way. This hike takes about four hours to complete, depending on how long you want to stay at the top. Coming down the mountain is much easier but can be tricky due to the decline. 

One thing to note is that this trail is usually closed once the first snow of the year sticks, so it is best to visit during Spring through Fall.

Dogs are welcome but smaller kids will have a tough time with the uphill. This is definitely one of the most worthwhile hikes in the area and the views from the peak are simply unbeatable!

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,584

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