Southern California is hot during the summer, and the beaches are crowded. An alternative is to drive up into the mountains, where the temperatures are often twenty degrees cooler. Above San Bernardino, Lake Gregory Regional Park is a lovely place to spend an afternoon; the town of Crestline has lodging and dining for those who want to relax for a weekend or longer.
The lake is easily reachable from all of Southern California’s urban centers. From the 210 freeway in San Bernardino, Highway 18 winds up the mountain. At the top, the way to Crestline is well-marked. In less than two hours, residents of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties can be enjoying the cool mountain air.
Officially within the city of Crestline, Lake Gregory is an artificial lake, built by the Works Progress Administration in 1938. It boasts 84 surface acres, and is circled by a 2.5 mile fitness trail. Officially one of San Bernardino County’s regional parks, the lake offers public recreation (as opposed to nearby Lake Arrowhead, where access to the water is restricted).
A 2.5 mile fitness trail circles the lake, and walking this path is a perfect way to spend time. The track meanders under montane forest, offering views of the lake and the surrounding vacation community. Visitors who bring picnic food will find many places to park themselves and perhaps watch birds or other wildlife while they eat. Stellar’s Jays are common, as are different kinds of ducks. The path also offers fitness stations for those who wish to be more active; joggers are often seen along the trail. There are many areas where one can simply set up a beach chair under a tree and spend the afternoon reading or journaling.
The swim beach area, which has a nominal charge, offers plenty of fun. A water park area floats on 13,755 square feet, offering swings, jumps, diving, and waterslides. The lake is tested often for cleanliness, and offers opportunities for both strong swimmers and those looking for shallow water play. Kayak, Stand-Up Paddleboards, water tricycles, and small motorized boats can be rented by those wishing to explore past the swim beach area.
Fishing is popular recreation here. The lake is stocked with trout, and a valid fishing license is required. Specially tagged fish are released into the lake at regular intervals, and those who catch these fish win money. Various fishing events are scheduled throughout the year.
Those looking for a beautiful mountain location for a wedding or special event can rent the San Moritz Lodge, which has room for up to 250 guests. Indoor and outdoor events are both popular. There is a catering department which can plan a banquet or reception.
When visitors tire of lake recreation, there are restaurants and a small shopping district within the town of Crestline. A small market sits across from the lake, and offers a deli in addition to groceries. There are also restaurants in the area, which range from casual eateries to fine dining. Small shops are present, offering the opportunity for browsing or shopping.
Those who want to stay the weekend in the Crestline area may choose to rent cabins, look for vacation rentals by owner, or stay at the Lake Gregory Inn across the street from the swim beach. This is a special place; built on many levels, the complex has a funky mountain feeling. The rooms themselves are beautiful and luxurious, many with fireplaces and views of the lake. The owners are knowledgeable about the area, and can give recommendations for special events, dining options, and recreation beyond the lake’s many gifts.
Families with teenagers and nightlife lovers, be forewarned: there is none in this area. Those without interest in hiking and water play may not find much to interest them here. A weekend at Lake Gregory comes with a focus on nature and relaxation.
Disclaimer: I have visited Lake Gregory and the Inn for quick vacations. I paid for admission and lodging with my own money.