Day Trip: Idyllwild, CA

Idyllwild, CA

As all of us who are local to the Coachella Valley know, the desert heat during the summer months can be brutal, so taking a day trip to nearby destinations like Idyllwild is a great way to escape the heat a bit, and explore a close-to-home area.

In this post, I share a day trip to Idyllwild and offer readers five things to do while there. But first, let’s talk about traveling up to Idyllwild and the roads to take there from the desert.

Traveling to Idyllwild

If traveling from the Greater Palm Springs area, it is best to take the back way from the city of Palm Desert by accessing Highway 74 off of Monterey Avenue, up to State Route 243–otherwise known as the Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Highway–to reach the much cooler and super quaint town that is Idyllwild.

Taking this route makes for about an hour of travel time and comes with plenty of twists, bends, and tight curves along the mountain bend. However, it is full of vista points and beautiful views along the way that are worth the winding drive.

Travel to Idyllwild

Scenic Highway 74 & Vista Point Views

I have to admit, I am not a fan of the road going up to Idyllwild or coming down. Going up and coming down Highway 74 is my least favorite thing about the trip, but that’s just because I am not a fan of roads with sharp turns either. However, once I get over the driving aspect of it all, I am good to go and truly enjoy the views the drive offers, as well as the beautiful valley sights below.

The Vista Point located on Highway 74 overlooks much of the desert floor, giving view to numerous desert cities below. From up there, the Coachella Valley looks so different, and can be appreciated on a much grander scale.

Vista Point Highway 74
Highway 74
Highway 74

As you ascend up Highway 74, you will come across all sorts of new sights that include large boulders and rocks, wildflowers, green shrubs and trees everywhere, as well as beautiful mountain ranges and ranch properties.

Highway 74
Highway 74
Highway 74
Highway 74

Likewise, as you come into town, you’ll notice a much cooler climate, encounter lovely cabins galore, tall pines, and more mountains of course.

Highway 74
Highway 74
Idyllwild, CA

What to do in Idyllwild

Visiting Idyllwild is a relaxing experience in so many ways. The town is small and easy to get around, with available parking found all throughout.

If visiting for the day, here are five things to do while in Idyllwild:

1. Grab a Treat or a Bite to Eat

Choose from a number of different restaurants while in town that range from American cuisine to Mexican foods, as well as deli goods and café treats.

One restaurant that stands out is Jo’An’s Restaurant & Bar, which offers both indoor and outdoor seating, serving up delicious BBQ options, all cooked to perfection. Choose to sit outside and enjoy free live performances in the BBQ and Beer Garden.

Jo'an's in Idyllwild, CA
Jo'an's in Idyllwild, CA
Jo'an's in Idyllwild, CA

After lunch, head on over to the Candy Cupboard and enjoy vintage and novelty candies from your childhood, ice cream or shaved ice, hand-dipped desserts, or homemade chocolates.

Candy Cupboard Idyllwild, CA

2. Explore or Shop Around

There are so many amazing finds while shopping around town, and you never know what see or buy next while visiting.

The Village Centre offers a variety of shops to explore that include an art gallery, a camping store, a sports fan shop, as well as a gift store where you take a piece of Idyllwild home with you, among other things. You can also make your way over to The Village, a shopping area that offers 12 shops to peruse through.

Idyllwild, CA
Idyllwild, CA
Idyllwild, CA
Idyllwild, CA

3. Sip Some Coffee or Tea

Higher Grounds Coffee House is a must stop while in Idyllwild that brews fresh-roasted beans from Idyllwild Coffee Roasters, and offers a large selection of drink options. These options include espresso drinks, teas, cold brews, smoothies, coffee-free drinks, and seasonal favorites. They also offer a number of baked goods and treats to enjoy while there.

Higher Grounds Coffee House
Higher Grounds Coffee House

4. Get Artsy or Catch a Movie

Earth 'N Fire

If you’re more the artsy-type, then head on over to Earth 'N Fire, an art store open to all ages where you can paint your own pottery. The best part about this place is that you can create your own piece of art and bring home a souvenir from your visit!

Rustic Theatre

The Rustic Theatre in Idyllwild is the cutest, little movie theater I have ever come across, featuring movies everyday at specific time periods. If interested in seeing a film while in town, check out the theater’s site in advance to plan your trip accordingly.

Rustic Theatre Idyllwild, CA

5. Embrace the Outdoors

Idyllwild is the perfect spot to enjoy a weekend picnic, or take in the sights and fresh air while hiking. To plan a trip and experience the great outdoors Idyllwild has to offer, check out Idyllwild.com for trail ideas, and the Riverside County Parks website for tips on trail safety and rules.

Idyllwild, CA
Idyllwild, CA

With so many options and things to see, you’re set to have a great time while exploring Idyllwild, no matter what you do.

Comment below to share your experiences in this quiet town, and share any other day trip ideas you would like me to explore as well!

Notes by Cin