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Idyllwild is a popular getaway for Californians seeking refuge from their hectic lives. It was only a matter of time before the rest of the U.S. discovered this serene sanctuary town located on the western slope of the San Jacinto mountains about an hour’s drive from Palm Springs.
Idyllwild is surrounded by national forest lands, and the scenic area has been a favorite locale for filming television shows and movies for many decades. The opening scene of the popular TV show “Bonanza” was filmed in and around the San Bernardino National Forest. If you look closely, you can picture the Cartwright family riding into the show’s opening scene.
Elvis fans recognize the community as a stop on a sacred mecca to find the king. From his birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi, to the mountains of California, tour buses rock and roll following in his footsteps as fans seek out the filming location of “Kid Galahad”, one of the 31 movies Elvis made. You can learn more about the filming of that movie and some of the many other movies filmed in this locale at the Idyllwild Historical Society Museum.
The small cabin is a short walk from downtown. It includes exhibits pertaining to the history of the community as well as a large exhibit devoted to Tahquitz Rock featuring the progression from vintage to modern day climbing tools and equipment. Tahquitz Rock is challenging, to say the least, and is considered one of the best free climbs in Southern California.
The mountain setting naturally lends itself to an array of outdoor activities. In addition to rock climbing- camping, hiking, mountain biking and bouldering are all popular pastimes in Idyllwild. If you’re looking to get away from it all, you can do so in the many parks, trails and scenic vistas in this quiet town.
You won’t find big box stores or chain restaurants here. This quiet, mountainside community is home to locally owned shops, boutiques and restaurants. Locals and visitors alike relax at Higher Grounds, the locally owned coffee shop. While you’re there, you can wave hello to Max, the unusual mayor, whose paws-itive outlook has served the community well. Mayor Max II and his two deputies can be seen making the rounds, especially where treats like pizza and ice cream are involved.
Enjoy an excellent meal at one of the bistros- Restaurant Gastronome is our favorite. The establishment offers rustic mountain elegance and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The wine list allows you to find the perfect complement to your meal whether you’re dining indoors or out. No need to worry about the calories you ingest. After lunch, you can tour the nature center and historical museum before tackling one of the trails for some recreational exercise.
If you have a day to explore, grab a coffee and spend time meandering through the eclectic mix of shops where you’ll find anything from antiques, to clothing. Or browse among the many galleries for handcrafted pieces of art.
If you can stay longer, you can fully immerse yourself in the artsy, outdoorsy culture of Idyllwild. Accommodations range from camping to comfortable B & B’s to exquisite vacation homes with stunning views. I’ll warn you though, if you’re anything like me, one visit to Idyllwild won’t be enough.
Have you been to Idyllwild? If not, what do you think you’d enjoy most?