If you are searching for what to do in Idyllwild, California, you have come to the right spot! We’ve been to travel destinations across the world, but there’s something about the picturesque town of Idyllwild that gives it a special place in our hearts. The perfect escape from Southern California’s traffic and daily grind, Idyllwild is the place to go for a vacation full of unwinding.
The town is nestled in the San Jacinto mountains, so you can expect it to be surrounded by plenty of pine trees, stunning rock formations, and, of course, mountain peaks. There are a plethora of adventurous things to do in Idyllwild.
What to Do in Idyllwild
Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures like rock climbing, hiking, and horseback riding, or a more laid-back, rejuvenating experience like nature walks or sleeping under the starry sky, Idyllwild has it all!
Keep reading for our list of what to do in Idyllwild, California — so your itinerary prioritizes everything that is a must to try in this picture-perfect community.
Places to Stay in Idyllwild
Sure, you’re looking for things to do in Idyllwild, but you may also be looking at hotels, cabins, lodges, etc. During our trip, we stayed at the Grand Idyllwild Lodge, and couldn’t be happier with our choice. Be sure to check them out if you’re looking to stay in a grand lodge nestled in pristine nature and mesmerizing vistas. It is truly the best place to stay in Idyllwild. You can read more about that experience here.
Appreciate Nature At The Mount San Jacinto State Park
Start your trip the right way by marveling at the indigenous plants and animals in the San Jacinto State Park. It stands almost two miles above sea level and provides endless sightseeing and photo-clicking. There are also camping and motorhome opportunities available for folks looking for an extended stay at the park. Its visitor center, the Idyllwild Nature Center, has a plethora of exhibits and environmental education programs. It also hosts special events, like Lemon Lily and Wildflower Day.
Also, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is just a short distance away, so if you’re in for a gondola ride over these scenic towns, you know where to head next.
Hike To The Top Of San Jacinto Peak
San Jacinto is one of the tallest peaks in Southern California (10,834 feet). Hiking its 12-mile trail will put your fitness to the test and provide an adventure-packed experience. However, it’s a hike recommended only for experienced hikers. You can do it in a day — or take up an overnight adventure, camping at the Little Round Valley Campground.
Idyllwild offers other hiking experiences such as Lake Hemet and Idyllwild Park. A hidden gem— Lily Rock, aka Tahquitz Rock. Lily Rock sits at 5,300 feet with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. It’s a bucket list destination for hiking.
Do a Coffee Tasting
Sip on world-class coffee at the Black Mountain Coffee Roasting, which roasts its own small-batch coffees sourced from around the world. They only serve cold brews and pour-overs — you can have a coffee-tasting flight (one cold brew, three pour-overs) worth $10 by booking it online beforehand. If you’re looking for a latte or milk tea, Alpaca Coffee & Tea is where to head.
Have a Massage at The Idyllwild Wellness and Waters Massage
The Idyllwild Wellness and Waters Massage is the best place to relax to unwind while experiencing the magic of certified, world-class massage experts. They offer plenty of massage packages, such as the Kangen Water massage and Ayurveda Bodywork. No matter which one you choose, you will feel your worries melting away!
Camp Amongst Pines at The Marion Mountain Campground
The Marion Mountain Campground sits at the foot of the San Jacinto mountains — so it’s a great campsite if you wish to hike to the summit. There are 25 campsites, each with their own picnic table and fire ring (with a grill). The campsites are open from late May to mid-November. During your stay, you can spot Steller’s Jays and mountain squirrels. Be sure to watch out for mountain lions and black bears!
Satiate Your Sweet Tooth
El Buen Cacao sources cocoa beans and makes its chocolate locally, right in the heart of Idyllwild. Be sure to sip their hot chocolate and try their chocolate-dipped Turkish figs. You can also take the latter as souvenirs for loved ones back home.
If you’re more of a baked goods person, try the cinnamon sugar donuts at Amelia’s Donuts & More Bakery Cafe. They also have gluten-free, dairy-free, and keto options.
Photograph Scenic Views From Indian Vista Scenic Overlook
The Indian Vista Scenic Overlook provides a fantastic vantage point to the San Jacinto Mountains and the distant Salton Sea. It is situated on the Pines Scenic Byway, so be sure to spot it as you carve through Highway 243 (on your way to Idyllwild). Bonus points if you stop by to click mesmerizing photos of songbirds, bobcats, and coyotes.
Marvel At Local Art At Idyllwild’s Galleries
Idyllwild has various galleries where you can appreciate local art. Two of our favorites are Mountain Pottery and Artspresso. Mountain Pottery also offers small hands-on pottery wheel classes on weekends (11 AM to 12:30 PM), charging $75 per person. Additionally, the Art & Wine Walk is an annual weekend in Idyllwild that supports and showcases the best of wineries and local artists.
Speaking of wine, if you are looking to grab a bottle or chat with someone who is non-intimidating, head over to Middle Ridge Winery. We grabbed a bottle while we were in Idyllwild to take back to the Grand Idyllwild Lodge and enjoyed it while taking in the snow-capped mountain view.
Find Collectibles At Its Cute and Quirky Shops
Idyllwild may not be the top destination for shopping, but its one-of-a-kind stores will help you find collectibles to cherish for a lifetime. Situated in a charming purple cottage, Merkaba has all the loose-leaf teas you’ve dreamed of. For personalized gifts and souvenirs, A Piece Of Idyllwild is where to head. The vintage candy store, Candy Cupboard, is perfect for grabbing handmade chocolates and novelty candles for the family at home.
Learn About History At The Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum
Want to add some more to your list of what to do in Idyllwild? Learn about the early days of this small town in the Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum through exhibits, documents, and artifacts. The museum also hosts special events and has a small shop containing books on Idyllwild’s history, shirts, postcards, magnets, and local art.
Activities for Kids
If you have kiddos with you, you may be thinking, are there things to do in Idyllwild that are fun for children? Sure there is. There is an amazing playground at Idyllwild Regional Park- 54000 Riverside County Playground Road. Plus, many of the hiking trails have some easier paths for kids, supervised, of course.
Grab a Delicious Bite At One Of Idyllwild’s Eateries
We don’t blame you if you want to stay nestled in your lodge, but if you’d like to step out for a bite, Idyllwild will do you good. Here are a few of your top options:
- Mile High Cafe (American diner food)
- Ferro (Italian dinner near a cozy fireplace)
- La Casita Restaurant (Mexican food)
- Red Kettle Restaurant (American breakfast)
- Cafe Aroma (American dinner with live music)
- Higher Grounds Coffee (coffee and tea)
- Fratello’s (wood-fired pizza)
Day Trips From Idyllwild
While you are in Southern California, you must visit Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. We, being from the East Coast, had to take full advantage of what we could do while on the West Coast. Read all about our adventures in Southern California here.
All Set To Visit The Idyllic Idyllwild?
And there you have it, folks! Our list of what to do in Idyllwild comes to a wrap. In a nutshell — the most significant landmark is San Jacinto Peak, the best park is Mount San Jacinto State Park, activities for kids can be found at the Idyllwild Nature Center, while adults can enjoy camping at the Marion Mountain Campground.
And, as per our experience, the Grand Idyllwild Lodge is the best place to stay.
There is something truly magical about the San Jacinto Wilderness area, and Idyllwild captures the perfect place to enjoy it!
So, are you ready? Pack your bags and snag all those cherishable experiences Idyllwild has in store for you!
FAQS | Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! First, we wouldn’t have created this blog post if we didn’t think it was worth it, but, if you have the time, definitely take the trip to Idyllwild from Palm Springs.
We found it easy to adjust, though you can definitely tell there is a difference in the air circulation. Note, we both got nose bleeds during our time in Idyllwild and Palm Springs but were told it is common when you are not accustomed to the climate.
You do drive up the mountains from Palm Springs. It is beautiful, and yes, I (shannon) get motion sickness so I took a non-drowsy dramamine before the drive and I was fine.