Nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains above Palm Springs, Idyllwild combines small-town charm with breathtaking views. Adjacent to Pine Cove and Fern Valley, Idyllwild is an unincorporated community and the largest among its neighbors. The village is surrounded by alpine vistas and wildlife, making it a go-to destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Idyllwild attracts nature lovers during all four seasons, but autumn is an especially beautiful time to visit.
Tahquitz Peak via Devil's Slide Trail, Credit: All Trails
One of the best ways to enjoy the fresh autumn air in Idyllwild is by hiking in its lush forests. San Bernardino National Forest, Cleveland National Forest, and Mt. San Jacinto State Park are each in easy proximity to Idyllwild, making the area perfect for lacing up your hiking boots and getting outside. These recreation areas each offer suitable trails to people of all fitness and experience levels. Mt. San Jacinto is one of the more popular destinations near Idyllwild, and there are various routes that can get you there. You can find more detailed information about the area’s popular hikes on AllTrails, but below is a sampling of our favorites to check out during the fall.
Deer Springs Trail
◾ There are a few hikes in Idyllwild that incorporate the Deer Springs Trail, but none is as popular as the path to Suicide Rock. The Suicide Rock via Deer Springs Trail is a highly trafficked 6.7-mile out-and-back hike with more than 1,800’ of elevation gain. Considered to be moderate in difficulty, this route is perfect for checking out seasonal wildflowers, birdwatching, and taking in a spectacular view from the top.
Devil's Slide Trail
◾ One of the most popular destinations on the Devils’ Slide Trail is Tahquitz Peak. This 8-mile hike is one of the most heavily trafficked in the San Jacinto wilderness area, so plan ahead and go early—especially on weekends, when the parking lot often reaches capacity. While considered to be moderately difficult due to its elevation gain, novice hikers may find this route to be quite strenuous. All your efforts are sure to be rewarded, as this trail includes a historic fire lookout and gorgeous views.
Idyllwild South Loop
◾ The Idyllwild South Loop is a short trail at just 2.3 miles round trip. It features an abundance of flora and beautiful views of the San Jacinto Mountains. This trail is ideal for early fall as conditions in the snowy months make it too dangerous for casual hikers. Despite being short, the Idyllwild South Loop is considered a moderate hike due to some rocky and steep portions. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes if you plan to take this route.
Marion Mountain to San Jacinto Peak
◾ Marion Mountain to San Jacinto Peak is a strenuous 13.8-mile out-and-back trail. This is the shortest route up to San Jacinto Peak, but you’ll climb 4,000 feet of elevation in under six miles. Beginning in San Bernardino National Forest, the trail then crosses into San Jacinto State Park. In addition to the stunning views from the peak, this trail follows a river, which provides all the water you’ll need and picturesque respites along the way. It is best done in the early fall months, as wintry weather can make for a more treacherous journey. As you gain elevation, the weather will cool drastically, so pack for colder temperatures regardless of the weather when you begin.
Autumn is the perfect time to take advantage of the pristine camping areas in Idyllwild. You can camp near Lake Hemet in the Garner Valley, or choose a more remote spot in one of the nearby national forests or state parks. No matter where you are, you’ll enjoy crisp fall temperatures, beautiful starry skies, and stunning mountain views. Some of the camping grounds near Idyllwild include:
◾ There are 50 camping sites at Stone Creek, which is part of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. The park provides water, toilet facilities, and fire rings. There are several trails branching off of campsites, making them great starting points from which to explore.
◾ The campground at Marion Mountain in San Bernardino Forest has 25 sites, 16 of which can be reserved in advance. This area is open from late May through mid-November. Come for the alpine forest, stay for the panoramic sunset and sunrise views.
◾ There are several options for tent camping at Lake Hemet, all providing close lake access. They offer individual sites, either lakefront or interior, as well as group camping in several packages.
◾ Dark Canyon campgrounds are located beside a peaceful creek. There are 14 campsites, complete with fire rings, water, and toilet facilities. However, all the sites are first-come-first-serve, so plan ahead for weekends and busy seasons.
◾ Fern Basin is another popular campground in San Bernardino National Forest. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring. Reservations are required at least three days ahead of time, though some first-come-first-serve sites may be available. Check the website for up-to-date details.
◾ Black Mountain provides six remote camping sites. You can camp in a tent or in your car—and no matter how you choose to camp—you will enjoy gorgeous views of the San Jacinto Mountains and the San Gorgonio Pass area. This area is closed during winter, so enjoy it while you can this fall.
Creating & buying local art
Many artists find Idyllwild to be a creative retreat. In 1946, Idyllwild Arts was founded in the hopes of creating a space where artists could come together from around the world, their mission being “cultivating artists as citizens.” The group hosts many programs, primarily the Idyllwild Arts Academy, an artistic boarding high school. In the fall, the Idyllwild Arts Foundation offers programs for artists of all ages and experience levels. Their fall auxiliary programs include creative writing, dance, Indigenous arts, visual arts, film, and digital media, and more.
If you’re searching to buy local art, you can do so at several shops around town. Middle Ridge Winery is a combination art gallery and tasting room, and Town Gallery features a collection of fine custom furniture. Make the most of the arts scene this fall, and see firsthand why Idyllwild was featured in the 1998 book 100 Best Small Art Towns in America—and continues to be a thriving hub for artists from around the world.
Image courtesy of Idyllwild Gift Shop
On a crisp fall day, there’s nothing like taking a stroll through Idyllwild to explore its eclectic shops, many of which feature goods by local artisans. Take your time browsing at a variety of specialty stores, including:
◾ A “family store with something for everyone,” Wooley’s is the place to go for hats, apparel, footwear, and more.
◾ Coyote Red’s is “country gourmet.” Here you’ll find unique and delicious food and produce, including, Amish foods, jerky, rubs, jams, jellies, hot sauces, sweets, and more.
A Piece of Idyllwild
◾ You don’t have to be a tourist to appreciate this souvenir shop, which specializes in locally made products.
Sacred Soul Creations
◾ Sacred Soul Creations sells gifts from local artisans including, goat soaps, wire wrap jewelry, purses, paintings, pet toys and accessories, and more.
The Funky Bazaar
◾ The Funky Bazaar offers an assortment of local arts, crafts, collectibles, and curiosities, including rare first-edition books, collector-grade vinyl records, and antiques.
The Spruce Moose
◾ Candles and an assortment of bath and body products can be found at the Spruce Moose.
◾ At Credere Organics, they handcraft organic products that “nourish the body from the outside in.” Products range from pain relief solutions to skin nourishment and repair.
Idyllwild Gift Shop
◾ The Idyllwild Gift Shop is a boutique with an ever-changing inventory, so there’s always something new to see that differs from what you’ll find in other local gift shops or big box stores.
To fuel your shopping excursion, make a pit stop at Higher Grounds Coffee House or Merkaba tea house for a caffeine boost, or grab a bite to eat at Café Aroma or Mile High Café.
Image courtesy of Cochran & Miracle
Buying Idyllwild real estate
Consider purchasing Idyllwild real estate to enjoy year-round peace and quiet—and to experience the changing seasons like nowhere else in California. The real estate team at Cochran & Miracle Group is locally experienced and ready to help you navigate Idyllwild’s market with ease and enjoyment. With more than 17 years of experience, Bill Cochran and Daniel Miracle are dedicated to helping buyers find the perfect Idyllwild property for their needs. From vacation condos to family homes, if you fall in love with Idyllwild this autumn, give Cochran & Miracle Group a call today at (805) 364-1997.
*Header image credit: iStock