Idyllwild, California: A Mecca for Hiking, Shopping, and Dining


This is a guest post by Susan Guillory of The Unexplorer.

In the summertime, I tend to stay put in San Diego. It’s too hot to go anywhere, and we have amazing weather in Southern California. But occasionally I wander within a few hours’ proximity for a short weekend getaway. This June, I visited Idyllwild, just a mountain away from Palm Springs. And yet, it’s as far away personality-wise from sleek Mid-Century Modern Palm Springs as you can get!

I love Idyllwild for its rustic quirkiness. It’s a tiny mountain town that attracts tourists (including plenty of bikers) year ’round, and the people are incredibly friendly. Here’s the appeal of a weekend trip to Idyllwild in Southern California.

1. You Can Hike

suicide rock

On my last visit here, I hiked to Suicide Rock with friends. With an elevation gain of 1853 feet, it’s one of the taller mountains in southern California and perfect for training for high-altitude hikes without getting on a plane. Some of the trails around Idyllwild are on the Pacific Crest Trail (hello, Cheryl Strayed fans), and some are harder than others.

This trip, because I was recovering from being sick, we didn’t get very ambitious in our hiking, but we did amble around the trail behind where we stayed, the Idyllwild Bunkhouse.

(By the way, I highly recommend the Bunkhouse. It’s rustic and roomy, and there are back porches looking off into the woods that make you feel like you’re a million miles from civilization.)

2. You Can Eat and Drink Well


For a town with a population just under 4,000, there are a surprising number of great restaurants in Idyllwild. Of course, they’re also catering to visitors. We ate lunch at Fratello’s, feasting on ravioli, cannoli, and salad. Then we sauntered over to Idyllwild Brew Pub for a pint. It had opened since I last visited, and I was pleased to see locals and visitors alike packing the place.

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Dinner, though, was a highlight. I’d been to IDYology on my last trip — not once, but twice — and was delighted when co-owner Kelli Cooper invited me and my friends for dinner.

A phenomenal band (Tongue and Groove) was playing a wide variety of cover songs that had us singing along at our cozy outdoor table on the back porch. This restaurant is all about the experience; the inside is decorated like a hipster’s hunting lodge, and the outside has whimsical features like a dreamcatcher hanging from a tree and a pot filled with succulents.

The staff went over and above to make us happy, plying us with dishes like mac and cheese, fried pickles, and the best damn tater tots you’ve ever had.

3. Don’t Forget Shopping!

bubba's books

Idyllwild’s commercial district is a large circle that you can wander around in a few hours, depending on how many of the dozens of fun shops you decide to visit. The selection is a wide variety: everything from Trump gag gifts to clothes to crystals to mukluks for those chilly Idyllwild winters.

There are a few thrift stores in town, too, and my favorite is Bubba’s Books. Located next to IDYology, this place is a hoarder’s dream. The man who runs the place, presumably Bubba, will talk your ear off as you carefully pick your way through precariously-stacked paperbacks. There’s also an inexplicable collection of ephemera, some possibly collector-worthy, while others (like the VHS collection) will likely remain in the shop for eternity.

I like visiting Idyllwild because it gets me out of city living and disconnects me from my phone for a bit (cell phone service is pretty much nonexistent through much of town, so give up trying to upload photos of you in front of the bear statue on Instagram.) Idyllwild is a step out of time, and that is something I think we all need now and then.

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IDYology provided a comped meal for my party, though all opinions are my own.