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15 Best Things to Do in Idyllwild, California

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Located within the Southern California county of Riverside, Idyllwild, California, is a picturesque community surrounded by the pine trees of the San Jacinto Mountains and the San Bernardino National Forest.

Often called “Mile-high Idyllwild” due to its elevation, the mountain resort offers visitors the opportunity to partake in outdoor adventures such as mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, and horseback riding.

Camping, fishing, and nature walks are also part of the location’s appeal to outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Of course, there are other things to do in Idyllwild, California, for visitors who are more of the “indoorsy” type.

Art galleries, pottery shops, wine tasting, plenty of stores, and many restaurants are located in this beautiful resort town. Whether enjoying a solo getaway or part of a family vacation, you will surely find various activities you’ll love!

TL;DR

Need the gen on the best of Idyllwild right now? Here’s a quick list of the best things to do in Idyllwild, California.

  • Most significant landmark – San Jacinto Peak
  • Park to visit – Mount San Jacinto State Park
  • Free activity – Living Free Animal Sanctuary Tour
  • Activity for kids – Idyllwild Nature Center
  • Activity for adults – Middle Ridge Winery
  • Place to eat – Fratellos’s Authentic Italian Food
  • Nightlife – Rustic Theater
  • Place to stayThe Grand Idyllwild Lodge

Things to Do in Idyllwild, California

1. Climb Tahquitz Peak

Climb Tahquitz Peak

Address: San Jacinto Mountain Range, Idyllwild, CA

Idyllwild is known for its rock climbing and bouldering opportunities, and one of the most famous peaks to conquer is Tahquitz. The degree of difficulty is currently rated between 5.10-5.15, with just over 200 climbing routes snaking along its face.

The peak offers a stunning look at the surrounding area and even holds a fire lookout station due to its commanding views of the entire county and beyond. Tahquitz is Southern California’s largest rock, and new routes continue throughout the peak.

Though its original rating throughout the 1960s and 70s was only between 5.0 and 5.9, the upgrade in climbing shoes, technology, and equipment also allowed for an upgrade in the rating. Tahquitz Peak requires a permit to climb, which can be obtained at the Idyllwild Ranger Station.

See Related: Things to Do in Oceanside, California

2. Climb Suicide Rock

Suicide Rock
Image by Benjamin Crowell used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Address: San Jacinto Mountain Range, Idyllwild, CA

Suicide Rock lies just to the north of Tahquitz, and though it is smaller, it has over a hundred more routes than its larger neighbor. With an average rating of 5.11, Suicide has shorter routes than Tahquitz, with the Valhalla route being especially well-known in the climbing community.

Suicide Rock became a popular climbing location during the 1970s and 1980s as Tahquitz began to see a decline in climbers. The Stone Masters, led by John Long, was the first climbers to complete the 5.11-rated route of Valhalla in 1970. Like Tahquitz, Suicide Rock also requires a permit to climb.

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3. Hiking in Mount San Jacinto State Park

Mount San Jacinto State Park

Address: 25905 Highway 243, Idyllwild, CA 92549 (Park Headquarters)

Mount San Jacinto State Park covers 14,000 acres of land and features the highest peak in the California State Park System. At nearly 11,000 feet, San Jacinto Peak is immediately recognizable as the tallest point in the San Jacinto Mountains.

The state park offers many trails, camping sites, horseback riding trails, and overnight backpacking destinations. Its extensive trail system has dozens of hikes ranging from easy to very hard.

Each provides a different opportunity to experience a scenic overlook, rocky outcrops, alpine meadows, or some of the area’s beautiful wildlife. The most popular hike in the park is a loop of 4.5 miles that leads through Round Valley, where you can see the stunning alpine meadow and a historic 1930s ranger station.

The park contains numerous day hikes and hikes that lead to overnight campsites. Regardless of your hike, you must purchase a permit before entering the park.

This brochure provides more information on the state park’s trails and permit requirements. If you’re looking for an awesome hotel near the state park, check out the Silver Pines Lodge!

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4. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Address: 1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Thinking about a unique day trip from Idyllwind? Mount San Jacinto State Park can be accessed by car or via the spectacular Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. This tramway transports passengers 2.5 miles between the Mountain Station, located on the edge of the Mount San Jacinto State Wilderness, and the Valley Station in Chino Canyon.

It is one of the world’s longest and largest single-lift passenger tramways, with a lift of nearly 6,000 feet!

Despite the distance traveled and the elevation change, the journey from one station to another only takes about 10 minutes. The tram car has a unique feature: it slowly rotates to allow passengers to enjoy a full view of the surrounding mountain range and the valley below.

The tram runs every day of the week, though hours vary depending on the day and time of year. Be sure to check here for hours of operation before you go!

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5. Camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park

Road To Mount San Jacinto State Park

Address: 25905 Highway 243, Idyllwild, CA 92549 (Park Headquarters)

The Mount San Jacinto State Park offers wilderness campgrounds that can only be reached by hiking and campgrounds where trailers and motorhomes (as long as they are no longer than 24 feet) can be parked.

The Idyllwild and Stone Creek Campgrounds strongly recommend reservations, as spots can fill quickly, especially during the summer!

These developed campgrounds offer accessible features such as campsites, showers, parking, restrooms, and picnic areas. The Stone Creek Campground also includes an accessible trail and is a pet-friendly campground.

The Idyllwild campground welcomes dogs but is not allowed at other locations in the park, including the San Jacinto Wilderness area (except for service animals). Please review this brochure or visit the website for more information on camping and available campgrounds.

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6. Idyllwild Nature Center

Idyllwild Nature Center
Image Source: TripAdvisor

Address: 25225 Highway 243, Idyllwild, CA 92549

The Idyllwild Nature Center is located 1-mile northwest of Idyllwild and features nature walks, guided tours, and field study trips, as well as children’s activities and educational programs. Many of the opportunities offered by the nature center can take place during a scheduled appointment to provide a more personalized or specific visitor experience.

Most of the programs at the Idyllwild Nature Center focus on topics such as mountain ecology, the Cahuilla Native culture, local habitats, and the history of the San Jacinto Mountains.

In addition to the nature programs, the Idyllwild Nature Center also offers Snow Play for children and adults during winter! The Nature Center requires a fee for adults, children, and dogs (they must remain on a leash). Special events and Snow Play may require additional fees.

Please visit the website for more information on the programs and activities the Idyllwild Nature Center offers. If you’re worn out after a full day of nature center adventures, consider staying at The Grand Idyllwild Lodge just down the road!

7. Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum

Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum
Image Source: TripAdvisor

Address: 54470 North Circle Drive, Idyllwild, CA 92549

The Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum provides exhibits and historical information on life in the early days of Idyllwild, the Idyllwild Inn, and the Emerson Family Legacy.

These permanent exhibits contain documents, artifacts, and examples of Idyllwild’s economic and social development between 1917 and 1945. The museum also contains a featured exhibit that periodically focuses on another aspect of the area’s interesting history.

In addition to the exhibits, the museum also hosts various special events and has a small gift shop. The museum shop carries books about Idyllwild’s history, the San Jacinto mountains, and various other local topics.

It also offers souvenirs such as shirts, postcards, art by local artists, magnets, and water bottles. More information on the Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum can be found by visiting their website.

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8. Middle Ridge Winery

Middle Ridge Winery
Image Source: TripAdvisor

Address: 54301 N. Circle Drive, Idyllwild, CA 92549

The Middle Ridge Winery offers a unique experience where wine tasting and art combine to create a warm and artistic atmosphere. The winery hosts art gallery shows featuring pieces by local artists, including sculptors, painters, photographers, and winemakers.

The winery uses grapes from vineyards throughout California to create fine wines that locals and tourists enjoy. Wine tasting can be enjoyed Friday through Monday, beginning at noon.

Closing hours differ by day and may extend beyond the times listed on the website. It’s always a good idea to call ahead and see if the wine-tasting room will be open later than planned.

9. Mountain Pottery

Mountain Pottery
Image source: TripAdvisor

Address: 54240 Pine Crest Ave, “B,” Idyllwild, CA 92549

Mountain Pottery Shop and Studio allow visitors to take home a piece of local art with beautiful items on sale. Each piece is hand-thrown, hand-built, and one-of-a-kind, so you never know what you’ll find from one visit to the next! The friendly atmosphere invites guests to shop and enjoy the unique items crafted by the community of local artists.

Mountain Pottery is also a studio that offers classes on Saturdays, Sundays, and by appointment. Instructors will assist each guest as they work to create a piece on the potter’s wheel. The studio will then glaze and fire the pieces, which can be picked up a few weeks after the lesson.

This activity perfectly brings home a piece of your Idyllwild visit that you crafted yourself! Visit the shop and studio’s website to learn more about the items for sale and the classes offered.

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10. Idyllwild Regional Park

Idyllwild Regional Park
Image source: TripAdvisor

Address: 54000 Riverside County Playground Road, Idyllwild, CA 92549

Idyllwild Regional Park provides over 200 acres of beautiful scenery that can be viewed while enjoying one of the five hiking trails, staying at one of the eighty-eight campsites, or picnicking at one of the many tables provided.

The park offers some of the best outdoor activities in the area for hiking, climbing, biking, and exploring. It is a pet-friendly location, so you can bring your puppy pal to enjoy it all with you!

Idyllwild Park provides campsites access to restrooms, coin-operated showers, potable water, picnic tables, and fire rings. A camping fee is required for anyone staying at the campground. A day-use permit is required for everyone else who enters the park. Idyllwild Park also hosts seasonal events such as Snow Play during winter. An additional fee may be required for such activities.

Please visit its website to learn more about Idyllwild Regional Park and its many outdoor activities. And, if you love the mountain ambiance of Idyllwild but don’t want to spend the night outdoors, consider staying at Walden in the Wood, surrounded by trees, fresh air, and stunning views instead!

11. Lake Fulmor

Lake Fulmor

Address: Off State Route 243, Idyllwild, CA 92549

Another of Idyllwild’s California tourist attractions for outdoor enthusiasts is Lake Fulmor. With a smooth, mirror-like surface, Lake Fulmor offers beautiful scenery, an easy walking trail, fishing, and picnicking. The serene environment, combined with the tranquil feel of the surrounding pine trees, makes this an ideal location for a quiet afternoon or evening getaway.

Some wildlife spotted on the loop trail around Lake Fulmor includes tree frogs, dragonflies, ground squirrels, butterflies, and Steller’s Jays. Within the lake itself, Rainbow Trout may be found (if the fish have been recently planted).

This peaceful lake offers mountain recreation for those who enjoy a slower-paced, less strenuous outdoor experience. Lake Fulmor is available for day use only, and an Adventure Pass is required for entry. Visit the Lake Fulmor website for additional information on fish planting and seasonal events or updates.

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12. The Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail

The Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail

Address: Fern Valley Rd, Idyllwild, CA 92549

The Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail is a well-known hike and one of Idyllwild’s best places to visit. It begins in Humber Park and descends 700 feet over 2.6 miles. It is considered an easy, scenic hike that crosses streams to the bottom and offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

The hike is popular amongst amateur and professional botanists alike, as many different species of trees line either side of the trail. Since this hike winds into the San Jacinto Wilderness Area, it is open to foot traffic only, and bicycles are not allowed. There is also a minimal fee required to access Humber Park. For more information on fees and hours, check the website.

13. The Indian Vista Scenic Overlook

The Indian Vista Scenic Overlook

Address: Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Highway, Banning, CA 92220

If you don’t mind traveling a few miles outside Idyllwild, you can visit the Indian Vista Scenic Overlook. Located 9.5 miles northwest of the mountain resort, the overlook is ideal for spotting wildlife while enjoying the magnificent scenery.

Red-tailed Hawks and Ravens are often found flying overhead, while several lizard species enjoy sunning themselves on the nearby rocks in warmer months. Patient visitors may also be rewarded with a sighting of some of the larger wildlife, which includes the gray fox, coyote, deer, and even bobcats.

For those who enjoy studying flora and fauna, the Indian Vista Scenic Overlook has many tree and plant species, including Chaparral and Oak. More information on the area status, hours, and conditions can be found by visiting the website.

See Related: Things to Do in Riverside, California

14. Living Free Animal Sanctuary

Address: 54250 Keen Camp Rd, Mountain Center, CA 92561

Animal lovers may be tempted to add a new member to the family after visiting Living Free Animal Sanctuary! Founded by Emily Jo Beard, a lady with a serious love for all life on Earth, Living Free Animal Sanctuary is in the neighboring Mountain Center about 10 minutes down the road. This marvelous animal sanctuary famously rehabilitates and rehomes cats and dogs with love and care.

They’re constantly looking for volunteers and new pet parents and are available for tours, too! They also operate a wonderful therapy program, pairing veterans with Mustangs as part of a transition process.

Vets can relax and learn horsemanship amid gorgeous surroundings with War Horse Creek. And they are gorgeous surroundings. But it isn’t all good looks and fluff, babies – there’s history here too!

Living Free Animal Sanctuary is in the corner of California, once home to the Cahuilla Tribe, and many archeological artifacts remain. The Sanctuary has made painstaking efforts to preserve these finds and honor the heritage of the Cahuilla.

15. Rustic Theatre

Rustic Theatre
Image by Randy Heinitz used under CC BY 2.0

Address: 54290 N Circle Dr, Idyllwild-Pine Cove, CA 92549

Founded as an awesome side gig in 1952 by husband and wife Nina Mae and Glenn Froehlich, Rustic Theatre is arguably the unique movie theater in California.

From the outside, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a lodge or cafe. However, inside this unassuming building, you’ll find a gift shop, a cafe serving favorite pub foods, and a compact movie theater with comfy chairs to sink into!

They have frequent showings of the latest blockbusters, a classic movie club, and an odd live performance here and there. You can check their calendar to see what’s up.

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How to Get Around Idyllwild

By Car

As a mountain community, Idyllwild, California, has little in the way of public transportation. The best way to navigate the mountain resort is by car.

Since many tourist attractions and popular destinations lie off the main road, a car is the surest way to access all the places you want to visit. Do yourself a favor and get a car sported ahead of time with someone like Kayak.

For Seniors

Forest Folk provides an Idyllwild Shuttle Service for seniors within the Idyllwild, California, mountain communities. It offers free transit to and from specific locations in the area, with days and times changing depending on the season. Check their website for the latest updates and schedules.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Though the tramway can’t help you get around within Idyllwild, California, it can access the high country wilderness by linking Palm Springs with Mount San Jacinto State Park. It also provides a spectacular scenic overlook while traveling between the tram stops in either direction.

The tramway operates most days of the year, though times vary depending on the season and day of the week. Check the website before you travel to ensure the trams are operational.

Places to Stay in Idyllwild

1. The Grand Idyllwild Lodge Top Recommendation

Discover a hidden gem in Idyllwild, California – the Silver Pines Lodge. Set in a picturesque location among tall pine trees, this lodge offers a unique and peaceful getaway. Guests can enjoy accommodations with free WiFi and private parking, as well as access to a fitness room.

2. Silver Pines Lodge

Nestled in the hills of Idyllwild, Silver Pines Lodge is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This historic lodge, built in the 1920s, offers breathtaking views of Strawberry Creek and the surrounding mountains. Guests can enjoy free Wi-Fi, cable TV, and a refrigerator and microwave in each room.

3. The Creekstone

The Creekstone is a unique boutique hotel that offers visitors a chic mountain retreat in Idyllwild. Our newly renovated hotel features 9 stylishly designed rooms, 7 with manzanita fireplaces, and a lively drawing room for Idyllwild’s sophisticates and adventurers. The perfect place for a romantic getaway

FAQ

What is Idyllwild, CA, known for?

Idyllwild is perhaps best known for its stunning surroundings, including the Mount San Jacinto State Park, the San Bernardino Mountains, The San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild Park, and Lake Fulmor. However, it is also known for the knotty pine furniture handcrafted in the area and was highly popular throughout the mid-1900s. Many cabins feature these pieces, which are now considered highly collectible.

Is Idyllwild, California, worth visiting?

Yes! There are so many incredible hiking trails, biking trails, environmental education programs, nature center activities, and outdoor experiences that you will definitely want to visit Idyllwild, California! The Middle Ridge Winery, local art galleries, and amazing restaurants like Fratello’s give you excellent reasons to enjoy the day or weekend here!

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