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LA’s mountains are glorious year-round, but spring, when wildflowers bloom and nights remain chilly enough for a fire, is especially delightful. Three dominant mountain ranges—San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto—stretch behind LA, putting a handful of alpine towns within a three-hour drive of Downtown. The ones suited for a weekend getaway are Idyllwild, Big Bear, and Lake Arrowhead.
In these towns, it’s easy to find modern conveniences like groceries stores and Wi-Fi, but those seeking solitude can be easily satisfied too. Despite their proximity to the city, they can feel a world away. It’s not just the starry skies and sugar pines. The laid-back high-altitude villages maintain their own offbeat charm and identities.
High above Palm Springs, Idyllwild is the farthest from Los Angeles, but the least commercial, with art shops and a quaint bakery and chocolatier. Lake Arrowhead is the closest and most populous. Big Bear, a former gold mining boomtown now best-known for skiing, has a spa and steakhouse. All are within a three-hour drive, and vacation rentals are plentiful.
This shingled little dwelling is perfectly simple, ideal for a no-frills getaway for two. It has a knotty pine-lined interior and a petite kitchen. For more space and privacy, it can be rented with the connecting unit downstairs. The top portion rents for $102 nightly.
Equipped for six guests, this popular A-frame (an Instagram favorite that has been featured in Sunset Magazine) was built in the 1960s and is outfitted with two patios, a hot tub, wood-burning fireplace, and a “fun” spiral staircase. A seasonal stream, likely to be flowing after a rainy winter, runs through the property. The nightly rate is $339.
“A completely unique architectural wonder,” this handsome cabin is perched atop boulders and boasts dazzling nighttime views of city lights. The one-bedroom, one-bathroom minimalist residence features soaring ceilings, a “protruding granite wall,” fireplace, “hand-built lighting,” and hot tub. It rents for $238 per night.
This classic cabin was built in 1922 and has stained glass windows and a native rock fireplace. It shares two acres—populated with “seasonal roses, lilies, sweet peas, [and] wild strawberries” and a “burbling creek”—with a full-time residence and a rentable trailer. The nightly rate is $239.
Furnished with midcentury-modern inspired pieces, this sweet and stylish little A-frame with a vintage oven, knotty pine, and exposed brick gets lots of natural light. On the wood deck, soak in the hot tub and peep a little view of the lake. It rents for $228 per night.
This 1870s cabin retains the look of a vintage homestead, and its owners of claim it’s the oldest wooden building in Southern California. Inside, there’s a typewriter, 1930s oven, clawfoot tub, and “a hand-built stone hearth.” It rents for $189 a night.
“This isn’t your Aunt Sally’s stuffy cabin,” reads the listing copy. Agreed. It’s more like your hipster brother Chet-with-a-mustache’s retro-inspired cabin. The two-bedroom home in Big Bear is filled with midcentury modern-inspired furniture and a stone fireplace. Plus, it provides super easy access to to a couple of different forest trails. The nightly rate? $200.