Update to post from 4/27/2012:
One of the questions that we get fairly often is “What are the differences between Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead?” One of the reasons that people sometimes ask this question is probably because they are looking at all kinds of different sites such as Realtor.com, Redfin, or (God forbid) Zillow and see various price ranges that don’t seem to make sense. First, the most important difference is that Lake Arrowhead is a private lake and Big Bear is a public lake. This means that, even if you own a property in Lake Arrowhead, you aren’t allowed to use the Lake unless you also own lake rights (only available in Arrowhead Estates) and your short-term renters (less than 30-day rentals) are not allowed to use it at all, even if you have lake rights. Therefore, some properties seem less expensive because the owners don’t have the right to do anything but look at the Lake. In Big Bear, on the other hand, anyone can use the Lake (whether they own land there or not). There are also other restrictions on Lake Arrowhead (such as no jet skis), but this is really the most important. There are also very different areas of Arrowhead from lakefront to Crestline, just as in the Big Bear area, where you can spend $600+/sqft for a property right on the Lake, down to $350/sqft in the more outlying areas which are 10-15 miles from the Lake and resorts. Another important difference is the altitude. Big Bear is at approx. 6800ft which explains why we have 320+ days of sunshine a year. Even when it is raining in Los Angeles or San Diego, it is often sunny up here because we are usually above the cloudline. That’s why we have one of only a handful of Solar observatories in the world in Big Bear! It’s also why you may have experienced what seems like the worst fog you’ve ever seen in your life while driving up through the Lake Arrowhead area. Because of their lower altitude, they are usually right at cloud level, so they are literally in the clouds many days when it is perfectly sunny in Big Bear. Also, because of the lower altitude, Lake Arrowhead is usually about 5-10 degrees hotter in the Summer. Finally, the closest ski resort to Arrowhead is Snow Valley, which is about a 30min. drive with no traffic or weather (and much longer with – I’ve actually heard of people taking 4.5hrs to get from Lake Arrowhead to Big Bear in the winter); whereas Big Bear has two resorts right within its city limits (Bear Mountain and Snow Summit). Along with the private lake, this is the main reason why properties in Lake Arrowhead typically do not make as good vacation rentals. In summary, if you want a full-time property that you can commute to San Bernardino more easily from and/or are not concerned with rentals and lake use, Arrowhead may be the choice for you; but if you want a property with good vacation rental potential, proximity to the ski resorts, and lake use, Big Bear is probably the better choice.