San Jacinto National Forest

Idyllwild – A Small Town with Edge

A mile high in the San Jacinto National Forest is the small town of Idyllwild, California. Famous for old movies and Jazz this town still holds its small town charm even though it’s a popular tourist destination.


There’s quirky art, not one single chain restaurant and (my personal favorite) the tiny retro theater!

rustic theatre

The Rustic Theatre has been showing films since before 1950. It’s the teenage hangout on Friday nights and if you’re not into movies, they also host live local theater. Its old Hollywood meets off Broadway meets small town.

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Now of course you know our favorite way to get to know a place is to eat our way through it, and this small town did not disappoint. Our first stop was for brunch at the Gnome which serves up a special menu with fresh food and we opted in for the unlimited Champagne!

the gnome

Next up was coffee and desert at Café Aroma which was so good; we decided to come back for dinner (and the live music).

After being complete gluttons our next task: find a way to work it all off. Luckily the town is surrounded by National Forest with loads of trails and some very serious rock climbing. We hit the trails for a day hike and while we didn’t have the proper climbing gear, it didn’t stop us from trying our own death defying acts!


We were falling in love with the town and at the same time we also fell in love with our campground!

It might have had something to do with the fact it’s mid-March and early in the season so we were (almost) the only ones there. It was like our own private forest! The hiking trails from the park lead into the national forest, there’s horseback riding on site and there must be something crazy in the soil because the pine cones are ridiculously (potentially dangerously) large!


This was a hard campground to say goodbye to and we could have happily stayed for weeks. If you don’t believe us just ask the cats!


In case you didn’t catch it the first time…we love everything about this small town.  The peace and quiet, being surrounded by Mother Nature and the jazzy culture.  It’s definitly worth the gas to get up the mountain.

Have you been to Idyllwild? Got a story to share? If so, please tell us in the comments below.

A cautionary note: If your RV is over 32 feet you might want to head up the mountain through Palm Springs, yes this may be way out of your way if you’re travelling from Wilderness Lakes (Temecula Area) but the CA-74 is restricted 30’ kingpin to rear axle. Also when descending from Idyllwild if you do not have an engine brake you may want to plan a rest half way down the mountain at the pullout overlooking the Coachella Valley. This is a rapid descent and you can lose your brakes if you’re not careful.

Disclaimer:  While we were compensated to film the campground (thanks Encore!)…all of our experiences and opinions are not purchased and are still our own.

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (19)

  • glenna. ewing

    I live there every summer from 1955 to 66 my brother worked at the Ranger Station ,. We lived in the camp grounds behind the city fire station. We use to swim Idyll Hoff swimming pool. Played miniature golf there too! As young kids. I remember the Barker and Novak families, we all use to go horse back riding down by the State camp grounds, Best Times of my family’s lives in those summer months. Glad to see in over 60 years it has changed very little.

  • Susie Sooz

    If you make it to Washington DC, check out Ching Ching Cha in Georgetown for the best pescatarian meal around and DELICIOUS tea! Not quite high tea, but really wonderful!

  • Mary

    Use the turn outs to let the locals pass. They know the roads well. 🙂

  • Stacy G.

    I live in the Temecula area and have done some camping in the San Jacinto mountains but we will spend our first trip in Idyllwild this coming 4th of July. We are very excited as this should be our maiden voyage for our first RV purchase! 🙂

    • Be very careful and take is slow coming down the mountain, its a very long and steep grade. Have fun, Idyllwild is one of our favorite places for sure!

  • Pamela McArthur

    My heart was in my throat watching the Mountain Fire reports. Idyllwild is one of our favorites places … we’d go up for brunch every Sunday to escape the summer desert heat. But never took McTraveler and toad up … at 65′ feet we just didn’t want to risk it.

  • Carol

    We love it up there. The small shops. Homemade pizza. In town square plaza on the second floor there is a really cool shop that even has some Asian foods dishes and utensils. Its cooler up there also. Enjoy. Stop by the ice cream n candy shop too.

  • cindy

    Hi Guys! Never heard of the town but it sure looks like we should check it out!

    • YES YOU NEED TO GO! Love that place and can’t wait to return.

  • mary van

    Beautiful area! I will definitely have to check this out the next time I am out that way. I saw snow in some of the photos but you had short sleeves, strange weather!

  • Pat

    REALLY nice photos! We’ve been to Idyllwild and really like it. We also like another RV park in the Idyllwild area called Silent Valley. We did make a great find there. The original Idyllwild to Banning road that goes over the mountains still exists. It’s dirt barely maintained and BEAUTIFUL!

    Those large pine cones, especially the light colored one are great for campfires. Lot’s of sap in them.
    Great post guys!

  • Oh, and you got to meet the mayor of Idyllwild. Just voted in about a year ago.

  • Awesome! I’m glad you guys liked it. It’s one of my most favorite places, and THE favorite for CA. We were there last year about the same time, and the solitude and weather were just perfect. Great article, pics, and video! See ya!

  • Great article and video. Thanks for the tips on getting there. Keep up the good work!

  • I really enjoyed your video. We will definitely add it to our list of places to visit. Thanks.

  • Kristine & Rudy Ortega

    Looks fun! I think we need to plan a trip to Idlywild.

  • You guys are so funny. I Love your videos ! Have not been to Idlywild.

    • You MUST go, we absolutely loved it. Other than the random threat of snow I just don’t understand why there weren’t more people up there, the weather was absolutely gorgeous while we were there.


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