A Weekend Warrior’s Guide to Idyllwild, California

California | Idyllwild | United States


​Idyllwild, California » Pronounced Idol-wild or Idle-wild


Nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County, Idyllwild is the largest of three unincorporated adjacent towns, with Pine Cove and Fern Valley.  


Before this trip, I had never heard of Idyllwild, let alone could I point it out on a map; however, I had a pleasant time exploring this quaint town. 


Unlike Big Bear, my usual “I want to be nature-y and be out in the wilderness location of choice”, Idyllwild is centered around hiking and relaxing. It is the perfect weekend getaway for anyone in San Diego, Orange County or Los Angeles looking for a vacation.  I would say it is more like the mini Yosemite of Southern California.  


Read: A List of the 59 US National Parks






Suicide Rock

» The Hike «


On this trip, John and I left San Diego at 5:30am and drove with the rising sun.  It’s been a while since I’ve woken up that early. I have to say it is nice to see the new morning when darkness turns to light.  


Starting the morning with a hike #OptOutside Click To Tweet


We arrived at Idyllwild at 7:30am.


Online we had read that you needed to get a permit to hike Suicide Rock (Check out other trails) but we found out that there’s only certain ones you do need to get their $5 Adventure Pass and a simple yellow slip pass was all we needed, though we didn’t see anyone check it on our hike.


The hike we went on was called Suicide Rock and it is one of the four hikes that branch off from the Deer Springs Trail. It is 3.35 miles up and 3.35 miles down giving it a total of 6.7 miles roundtrip.  


Idyllwild hiking sign to Suicide Rock, Strawberry Junction, Little Round Valley and Mt. San Jacinto Peak


Since it is a up and down kind of trail, it is a bit tiring in the beginning since you are going up the entire first half, but on the upside or rather the down, once you finish summiting the hike it’s all downhill on your second half, making this a moderate hike in my book.


Close up picture of a tree at Suicide Rock, Idyllwild, California



Suicide Rock, Idyllwild hike trail with Justine


Suicide Rock, Idyllwild hike trail during fall


Suicide Rock, Idyllwild hike trail during fall


Suicide Rock, Idyllwild hike trail during fall


Suicide Rock, Idyllwild hike trail during fall with mountain in the back


Suicide Rock, Idyllwild hike trail during fall


Suicide Rock, Idyllwild hike trail on the stone steps with Justine sitting


Suicide Rock, Idyllwild hike trail with Justine walking down


The hike is nicely shaded and has views that you just can’t help but to stop for a few seconds, drink some water and breath it all in.  My favorite part of hiking during fall is seeing the changing leaves, the golden touches surrounded by green, reminds me that it is actually autumn because living in Southern California you forget it’s November with the summer like heat.


During lunch we were provided a beautiful view.


Suicide Rock, Idyllwild mountain top with John looking out the valley





It took us a total of about 5 hours (including the countless stops to take pictures and the time it took to eat lunch).

The Town

» The Town «


Idyllwild has a darling town center with little shops, restaurants with live music and deer statues everywhere.


Painted deer statue at Idyllwild, California downtown square


We visited the center for dinner the first night and lunch on our second day.


We opted for the fast food the first night at a restaurant called CJ.  It’s a family owned dive with everything from Mexican food to American food. I ordered a Hawaiian burger and John ordered the breakfast burrito. I don’t know if it was just because I was hungry from the hike or what, but it was really good, very tasty.  Everything was fresh and crispy from my burger to the fries and they used real eggs in the breakfast burrito because you know some places put that egg substitute instead. The owner and his daughter were very nice even though we came close to closing (They close at 5pm).


Burger and fries


For lunch the following day we ate at Idyllwild Bake Shop & Brew. I had seen it on Yelp and it has a 5 star rating, this establishment bakes all it’s goods in-house and they have local beers brewed with some interesting flavors (cereal stout anyone?).  We ordered a pair of sandwiches, chicken pesto avocado and BBQ chicken, which also includes a bag of chips, and though they appeared to be small, they were quite filling.


There is also a small cinema that only shows one movie at a time three times a day (3pm, 4:30pm, 7pm).  John and I are movie goers but wasn’t interested in watching Inferno, the third installment of the Da Vinci’s Code series.  I would love to go next time to see how big, or small, the theater is.


A hidden gem for John was a small shop with sports memorabilia.  We were passing by and saw that this store had 1990s NBA player cards, along with baseball and football cards. John being a basketball kind of guy, I purchased him two player packs for a dollar each.  


John smiling while holding two basketball trading card packs

Mountain Casita

» The Accommodation «


For accommodations, I found this cute little Airbnb, Idyllwild Mountain Casita, that was perfect for our short one night trip.  Breakfast on the porch was great way to just relax, soak up some vitamin D and not worry.  


Our host Cheri was amazing!  She did a wonderful job answering our questions and providing a place that had all our basic necessities. There wasn’t wifi… OH NO! But honestly I didn’t care for it, it’s always nice to just unplug and not stare at my phone.  But if you are in dire need, I still had signal on my phone and there’s always the coffee shops in town.


Receive $40 travel credit from Airbnb! YAY!

County Park & Lake Hemet

» The Detours «

County Park

I purchased a beautiful postcard from one of the shops in town and after some googling, John and I found out that the picture was taken at a park five minutes away.  We jumped into the car and drove to the County Park where we found yellow trees, but not the cool yellow tree path pictured in the postcard. This was still a photo opt, so John frolicked like he did at Suzie’s Farm in San Diego and I took a basic throwing leaves picture


Justine throwing yellow leaves at County Park, Idyllwild, California Justine smiling and playing in yellow leaves at County Park, Idyllwild, California John frolicking in County Park, Idyllwild, California field like a graceful gazelle


Postcard of County Park during the fall with yellow leaves, at County Park, Idyllwild, California



Read: Frolicking in a Field of Sunflowers | Suzie’s Farm | San Diego, California


Frolic like a graceful Gazelle Click To Tweet



Lake Hemet

Lake Hemet is about a fifteen minute drive from town and it’s just a regular lake. Funny thing about this lake is that there is a section fenced off for people with passes, and that section is full of trees with yellowing leaves. However, if you look around the rest of the lake there are no yellow leaved trees in sight, not even across the street of the fenced area! Suspicious! We parked on the outside of the fenced area were we saw other people fishing, having a picnic and just walking around.


John in pink shirt, smiling in front of Lake Hemet


Justine looking back while at Lake Hemet


» Thoughts «


Idyllwild is a great weekend getaway if you live in Southern California, an alternative to going to Big Bear or Yosemite if you want that forest, wilderness vibe.  It’s a 2 hour drive from Orange County and San Diego and an hour from Palm Springs. I highly recommend this vacation spot for people who want a remote, small town feel and outdoorsy, hikers.  Suicide Rock is good for people who want a beautiful mountain top view and is okay with a moderate trail. You should bring snacks, maybe lunch if you are doing a morning hike and lots of water, account about 4 and half hours to complete.  Next time I come back, I’ll definitely want to try a different trail. Another hiker suggested the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail as an alternative, easier hike. As for places to stay, I’m not sure about hotels or motels but there are plenty of Airbnb’s that you can book at reasonable prices.


Suicide Rock, Idyllwild hike trail with Justine walking down beer Totem with Justine and John in the middle of Idyllwild center





















Budget Friendly | Unique | Nature


Thanks Idyllwild!




» Experienced: November 12, 2016 – November 13, 2016 «

» Last updated: May 16, 2018«


The Iridescent Wings by Justine Alonzo


Tags: 2 Day Guide | Hiking | Weekend Getaway | Weekend Warrior | Wilderness Destination

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Justine is the founder of The Iridescent Wings, a blog all about chasing an adventure near and far. She is a Southern Californian and gives local tips on LA, OC and SD, from her favorites to what's trending. You can also catch her on a flight to other parts of the United States, Europe, Asia and beyond.
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