Road Trip: Rim of the World Scenic Byway

Ben Clatworthy looks out over Big Bear Lake, California, March 8, 2017.
Ben Clatworthy looks out over Big Bear Lake, California, March 8, 2017.
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By Michele E. Buttelman 

A short drive from the hustle and bustle of the Santa Clarita Valley, an entirely different landscape emerges in the mountains, lakes and scenery of the Inland Empire.  

Head east from the SCV and take a California road trip along the 110-mile-long Rim of the World Scenic Byway, nicknamed for its stunning views along the cliffs of the San Bernardino Mountains. Here are a few stops to make along the way, culminating at Big Bear Lake. 

This is a beautiful road trip you can make year-round and see new sights in every season. Just remember to pack your chains in the winter.  

Trainspotting in Cajon Pass is a popular activity at the Summit Scenic Overlook of Highway 138.
Trainspotting in Cajon Pass is a popular activity at the Summit Scenic Overlook of Highway 138. Courtesy Visit California.

Embark on the Rim of the World 

The Inland Empire byway begins at Cajon Pass, on State Highway 138 between the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains.  

From the SCV take the Antelope Valley Freeway to state Route 138 east to the Interstate 215 at Cajon Junction. Continue on Highway 138 to the Summit Scenic Overlook on your left.  

This unpaved overlook offers views of Cajon Pass, home to Interstate 15 and four railway lines. This location is popular with railroad fans. 

The California Southern Railroad, a subsidiary of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, was the first railroad to use the Cajon Pass as a route through the mountains. The rail line through the pass was built in the early 1880s. Today, the Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway, the successor to the Santa Fe, use this pass to access Los Angeles and San Bernardino. At this overlook you can view a high volume of trains and noteworthy scenery; it is a popular location for railfanning. 

At 12077 State Highway 138 in Hesperia, you will find the Silverwood Country Store. A great stop for bait, ice, gas and snacks.  

You are well on your way to the “Rim of the World.”  

Make the most of photo-op-ready turnouts, like Silverwood Lake Overlook off State Highway 138, which offers a view of the sparkling lake. 

Paddleboat and kayak rentals at Lake Silverwood.
Paddleboat and kayak rentals at Lake Silverwood. Courtesy Lake Silverwood Marina.

Silverwood Lake State Recreational Area 

The Silverwood Lake Recreational Area, 13990 Sawpit Canyon Road, Hesperia, CA, 92345, offers fishing, swimming, boating, camping and a marina for visitors.  

It is a popular destination during summer weekends.  

At an elevation of 5,100 feet, Lake Arrowhead is called the Alps of Southern California.
At an elevation of 5,100 feet, Lake Arrowhead is called the Alps of Southern California. Courtesy Visit California.

Recharge at Lake Arrowhead 

Take a detour on State Route 173 to relax in this quaint town with a deep-blue mountain lake. Stay the night at Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa, where you can kayak across the lake, roast s’mores on the shore, or get a massage.   

You can also find many cabins, or vacation homes for rent, many with spectacular lake views.  

Nestled in the magnificent San Bernardino National Forest, surrounded by pine, cedar and dogwood, Lake Arrowhead is at an altitude of 5,100 feet. 

The Arrowhead Queen boat tour is a fun way to learn the history of the area and see spectacular scenery.
The Arrowhead Queen boat tour is a fun way to learn the history of the area and see spectacular scenery. Courtesy Arrowhead Queen Boat Tour.

The area is described as the “Alps of Southern California,” and known as “the best kept secret on the West Coast.” It is a stunningly beautiful, cozy mountain resort paradise featuring hiking, backpacking, camping, bicycling, lake tours, water and snow skiing, ice skating, fishing, horseback riding and more, depending on the season.  

Hike a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, about 7 miles from the lake, or take a steamboat ride on the Arrowhead Queen to view the lakefront homes and learn about the history of the area. Purchase tickets at LeRoy’s Boardshop, located dockside in Lake Arrowhead Village near the boarding area for the boat tours, 28200 CA-189, Lake Arrowhead, CA, 92352.  

Tickets: $26.95 per adult, $24.95 per senior (65 and older), $19.95 per child (2-11 years old), free age 1 and younger. Weekday departures 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.  Weekends are every hour on the hour 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.  

Water sports are a popular activity on Big Bear Lake.
Water sports are a popular activity on Big Bear Lake. Courtesy Visit California.

Play at Big Bear Lake 

Return to State Route 18 and head toward Big Bear Lake Village. Embrace the Alpine scenery on the western side of the Rim of the World Byway. 

There are many lodgings available at Big Bear Lake, as well as a wealth of activities.  

Ben Clatworthy looks out over Big Bear Lake, California, March 8, 2017.

Visit www.bigbear.com for information on everything to see, where to stay, where to eat and what to do. Order a free visitor’s guide on the website.  

Big Bear Lake likes to remind visitors it offers “Four Seasons of Recreation.” Snow sports dominate the winter but depending on the season, a few other Big Bear Lake activities include: 

Big Bear Speedway & Ropes Course 

42825 Big Bear Blvd. 

Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 

The ropes course is a new aerial adventure where you balance on ropes, cross bridges and climb through obstacles. The go-karts reach speeds of up to 30 mph on a 1/5-mile open-air racetrack filled with hairpin turns and S-curves. 

Pleasure Point Marina 

603 Land Lock Landing 

Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 

This is a favorite destination for family fun on Big Bear Lake. Rentals include pontoon boats, kayaks, pedal boats, fishing boats, stand-up paddle boards and jet skis.  

Gold Rush Mining Adventures 

40016 Big Bear Blvd.,  

Big Bear Lake, CA 92315 

Family fun where you can pan for gold and gemstones, dig for fossils, experience the “cosmic cave” and more.  

Before You Go, Hike Castle Rock Trail 

Before heading home to the SCV, get one more awesome view in the Big Bear area on the popular Castle Rock Trail, a sometimes-steep 3-mile hike.  

The forest-lined walk takes you past huge granite boulders as you ascend through Ponderosa pines, white firs and incense cedars to get a panoramic view of Big Bear Lake.  

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