The small township was once an artist’s colony. Mountain travelers in the 1800s came to the Big Bear Valley through Fawnskin on the rough road by stagecoach and later motorcars. Several other names were temporarily chosen for the North Shore village including Cline-Miller, Bald Eagle Valley, Big Bear Village, Oso Grande and Grout.
The village has always been an attraction to vacationers seeking a retreat from city life in its mountain terrain. Several hundred homes are in the forested mountainside adjacent to the forest.
Gold miners, loggers and hunters were drawn to the adjacent Holcomb Valley during the 1800s. One urban legend is that some hunters discovered deer (fawn) skins stretched out to dry in the sun. Hence, the area became known as Fawn Skin and later Fawnskin.
Fawnskin was once the hub of lakeside acivity, serving as a stagecoach stop and tourist attraction with hotels and dining. The town includes the Fawn Lodge, built in 1917, but now closed. The Pedersen Saw Mill, which lies just west of the lodge, and the historic post office which lies to the east of it, which is now a private home rental. Downtown Fawnskin has some of the oldest buildings in the valley.
Once popular for camping, the Lighthouse Camp and Landing is the only surviving north shore camp from the 1920s. Hanna Flats and a YMCA camp located within the forest above Fawnskin remain favorites of vacationers.
Fawnskin events include the comic Doo Dah Parade, the Loggers’ Jubilee and the Fawnskin Festival. The town also claims the only "honest" election in the nation: anyone can vote for the Fawnskin Mayor, votes are donations of a quarter. The candidate who wins is the one who raises the most money. Hence, the town "buys" their politicians.
In 1998, the multi-million dollar Big Bear Discovery Center was built and plans to expand. The facility is operated by a partnership between the US Forest Service and the San Bernardino National Forest Association. The grounds around the center are the projected new home for the Big Bear Zoo, presently located at Moonridge on the south shore.
A variety of celebrities live in the area. Two publishers operate out of Fawnskin and several writers live there full time including Bradley L. Winch, Diana L. Guerrero, Rita Robinson, and William Sarabande. Actress/singer Shirley Jones and her husband actor/comedian Marty Ingles also own a home in Fawnskin. Marty Ingles and Shirley Jones created Fawn Park in downtown Fawnskin to prevent development. This park has been closed since July 2006 due to a dispute between Marty and the residents. The small area contains other parks such as the Old Miller School House Park, Dana Point Park, and the Don Conroy Memorial Park.