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Idyllwild is set within one of the most beautiful areas in Southern California.
You’ll find it nestled within the San Jacinto Mountains, surrounded by unique rock formations, tall pine & cedar trees, and of course, mountain peaks.
Situated just 109 miles (175km) from Los Angeles and only 113 miles (181km) from San Diego, Idyllwild is like stepping into a different world.
With such spectacular scenery, awesome hiking trails, and plenty of great tourist attractions, it’s no wonder it’s such a popular destination.
This town has so much to offer in terms of family-friendly, pet-friendly, indoor and outdoor activities.
Here is a complete guide covering some of the best things to do in Idyllwild, California.
14 Best Things To Do In Idyllwild, California
Explore The Mount San Jacinto State Park
Mount San Jacinto State Park covers an impressive 14,000 acres and is home to over 50 miles of hiking trails.
As the name suggests, the park encompasses the iconic Mount San Jacinto, which is the second-highest peak in Southern California.
Once you head into the park, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into paradise as you wander past forests, outcrops, and along meadows.
Exploring Mount San Jacinto State Park is without a doubt one of the best outdoor things to do in Idyllwild.
With its variety of flora and fauna, dramatic scenery, and trails — allow yourself a good amount of time to explore this spot!
Visit Idyllwild Nature Center
Idyllwild Nature Center is one of the top places to visit in this scenic town.
The center offers a variety of guided tours and environmental education programs that help people learn more about this special area.
These tours generally focus on the area’s flora and fauna with its gardens, the culture of the native Cahuilla, and the backstory of the San Jacinto Mountains.
However, the tours can also be adapted to suit personal interests, which is convenient for large groups.
The Idyllwild Nature Center also hosts various seasonal events each year, including Wildflower Day, and Lemon Lily Restoration Day.
Not only that, but you’ll find a variety of trails in the center’s vicinity. This makes it the perfect starting point to explore Idyllwild.
Visit Idyllwild Regional Park
Located on the outskirts of town, Idyllwild Regional Park is another popular place to visit.
The park covers an area of 202 acres and offers endless open space, scenic forests, and several hiking trails.
It’s the perfect place to reconnect with nature and escape the hustle and bustle of California’s large cities.
There are five hiking trails in total, and each one offers panoramic views and spectacular scenery, so it doesn’t matter which one you choose!
If you’re looking for something a bit more daring, then try your hand at rock climbing.
The huge granite boulders within this park offer the ultimate challenge!
You’ll also find a meadow area at Idyllwild Regional Park, which is perfect for picnics.
Walk Around Lake Fulmor
Lake Fulmor is another of Idyllwild’s top attractions, and it’s something you can’t miss out on if you’re looking for outdoor activities.
Lake Fulmor is an artificial lake that spans 960 feet in length and is found just off State Route 243.
The lake is incredibly scenic as it’s surrounded by forestry, and you can even find several giant sequoia trees here!
Not only is Lake Fulmor stunning, but it’s also a popular spot for birdwatching and wildlife watching.
If you’re lucky, you might get to spot the California tree frog, mule deer, ground squirrels, and the colorful Steller’s Jay.
There is also a short trail that runs around the lake’s circumference.
The spot is also popular for fishing, with the numerous fish in its waters.
So if you’re wandering what to do in Idyllwild for a full day, consider this lake.
Go Overnight Camping
There are a variety of places to camp in and around Idyllwild.
Backcountry camping is the top choice if you’re looking for an into the wild experience.
It’s the perfect way to go off the beaten track and enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of Idyllwild.
The beautiful landscapes are a good reason why the city offers some of the best summer camps for kids in all of California.
However, you may need to get a permit depending on where you plan on camping.
If you’re looking for something a little less wild, then head to one of the nearby campgrounds instead, although these may have fees.
Some of the best choices include Idyllwild Campground, Stone Creek Campground, Hurkey Creek Campground, and Lake Hemet Campground.
The Living Free Animal Sanctuary
Visiting the Living Free Animal Sanctuary is one of the most rewarding things to do around the area.
The Living Free Animal Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that helps cats and dogs who need a second chance!
The organization’s mission is to rescue animals who would, unfortunately, be put down in public shelters.
Taste Different Wine At The Middle Ridge Winery
If you’re looking for a break from the outdoors, head to the Middle Ridge Winery.
The grapes used here are from some of California’s finest vineyards, including Blue’s Creek Vineyard.
You’ll find plenty of delicious wines to taste during your time at the winery, including NV Merlot, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc, and even sparkling cocktails.
Not only is it famous for its award-winning wines, but the property is beautiful.
The tasting room is truly special, and you can find some incredible artwork.
So, if you’re looking for a wine tasting experience while in the city — this is the perfect place.
Eat At Cafe Aroma
If you’re a big foodie, then eating at Cafe Aroma is a must during your visit to Idyllwild.
This mountain bistro is surrounded by forestry and is known for its cozy and relaxed atmosphere.
However, the highlight has to be its food!
Their casual brunch menu runs between Wednesday-Sunday from 10 am-2 pm.
You’ll find plenty of tasty treats on it, including berries and cream waffles, steak Caprese sandwiches, and portobello benedict.
The dinner menu at Cafe Arom runs from 4:30 pm, and some of its highlights include blackened Atlantic salmon, ribeye, and seafood pasta.
The cafe offers delicious food, a scenic backdrop, and a cozy atmosphere.
Learn History At The Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum
The Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum is one of the top places to visit if you want to learn about the area’s history.
The museum is run by volunteers that focus on preserving the history of the San Jacinto Mountains.
It’s housed in a rustic cabin from the 1930s and has a variety of exhibits, including ‘viewing Idyllwild history’ and ‘Idyllwild Inn and the Emerson Family Legacy’.
There is also an exhibit dedicated to the early climbers of Tahquitz Rock.
The exhibits rotate at the museum, but you can always take a look at the website before you explore it.
Not only will you get the chance to learn all about Idyllwild, but you also get to see some of the cabin’s original features from the 1930s.
Visit The Town Gallery
If you’re a fan of art and culture, visiting the Town Gallery should be high on your priority list.
The gallery shares its space and ownership with Idyllwild Town Real Estate and works to promote local artists.
You can find an array of artwork at the gallery where the town and its surroundings have been used as the subject.
The exhibitions naturally change throughout the year, but you’re likely to find a variety of photo prints, paintings, custom furniture, pottery, and sculptures.
During your time at the gallery, you can learn about some of the local artists.
Watch A Show At The The Rustic Theatre
When it comes to entertainment, visitors usually get their kicks from the outdoors and its beautiful trails.
However, if you’re looking for something to do in the evening, then make sure you head to the Rustic Theatre.
It’s a cozy little theatre that shows the latest movies and has been around since the 1950s
Not only is the Rustic Theatre fabulous for an evening’s entertainment, but you can also grab a bite to eat.
They sell hotdogs, burgers, and pizzas for main meals, as well as plenty of concessions.
You can even buy a glass of wine, beer, or tasty cocktails, including mojitos, mimosas, and margaritas!
Explore Humber Park
Humber Park is one of Idyllwild’s most popular parks, and it’s no surprise why!
With beautiful scenery, great trails, and the chance to explore the area’s wilderness, Humber Park has a lot to offer to kids and adults, making it one of the best tourist attractions.
Two of the most popular trails within the park are the Devil’s Slide Trail and the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail.
Both of these trails enter the San Jacinto Wilderness Area and let dogs in as long as they’re leashed.
No matter which one you choose, you’ll be rewarded with a great hike, beautiful scenery, and the chance to connect with nature.
The hikes within Humber Park vary in difficulty and skill level, and permits are required for certain trails.
There is parking available, and you’ll find toilets there too.
Enjoy The View At The Indian Vista Scenic Overlook
Head up to the Indian Vista Scenic Overlook for panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.
It’s situated on Highway 243, just 9.5 miles north of Idyllwild, so it’s just a short 15-minute drive.
The trail up to the overlook is wheelchair friendly and isn’t very tiring, and once you get to the top, your reward is some beautiful breathtaking views.
If you’re lucky, you may spot bobcats, coyotes, deer, and gray foxes, among other wildlife.
Make sure you look up every once in a while, as you might see red-tailed hawks and ravens flying in the sky.
Hike The Tahquitz Peak Trail
If you’re a keen hiker, the Tahquitz Peak Trail is a must-do during your trip to Idyllwild.
Tahquitz Peak is a granite rock formation that sits at an impressive 8,846 feet tall.
You can find a lookout tower right at the peak, which is the highest one in San Bernardino National Forest.
So, naturally, you’re rewarded with spectacular views once you’re at the top. If it’s a clear day, you can even see right over to the Salton Sea.
The trail is pet-friendly, so a great way to get some exercise in with your dog.
However, the hike up is no easy feat since you’re looking at a distance of around 8 miles (there and back).
Parts of the trail are also very steep!
Where To Stay in Idyllwild, California
Whether you’re visiting from out of the country or out of the state, you’ll find plenty of hotels, lodges, or cottages that you can stay at.
Some of the more popular resorts include The Grand Idyllwild Lodge, where you can get beautiful sights of the idyllic San Jacinto Mountains.
You can also stay at the Quiet Creek Inn, which is another quiet pet-friendly accommodation out in the mountains.
You can also find some cabins to rent at the Silver Pines Lodge.
About the Author
Mark Evans is a summer camp consultant and travel enthusiast. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California, and routinely visits other popular cities in California like Idyllwild, San Francisco, and San Jose.