Road Trip! Your Guide To A Perfect Getaway To Idyllwild

One of the best things about living in San Diego is the variety of amazing places to visit that are just a few hour road trip away. One of our all-time favorites is Idyllwild.

Although it’s only a two-hour drive from San Diego, Idyllwild feels like you’re in a different world. The small mountain town is situated in the San Jacinto Mountains, about a mile above sea level, and you’d have no clue that you aren’t in the Rocky Mountains.

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The close proximity to San Diego, relative ease to get there, and affordability make this charming spot one of our favorite and most frequent getaways for romantic weekends, fresh air, and getting our dose of snow!

About Idyllwild

The area has a long history of human habitation, with evidence of Native American presence dating back thousands of years. The Cahuilla people, who are indigenous to the region, used the area for hunting and gathering.

In the late 1800s, the town of Idyllwild was founded as a summer resort for people looking to escape the heat of the lower desert. The town was named after Idyllwild Park, which was established in the early 1900s as a retreat for artists and writers.

In the 1920s, Idyllwild became a popular vacation spot for Hollywood celebrities, and the town developed a reputation as a artists’ colony. In the following decades, Idyllwild became a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with many people coming to the area to hike, rock climb, and enjoy the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains.

Today, Idyllwild is a small, picturesque town that is known for its arts scene, beautiful natural setting, and charming mountain town vibe.

Getting to Idyllwild

Driving is the most convenient and direct way to get to Idyllwild from San Diego, but there are also public transportation options available for those who prefer not to drive, and you could even take a quick flight to Palm Springs and have a driver take you up the mountain if you wanted to get fancy.

We love the road trip. You’ll get some windy, mountain roads for the last 30-45 minutes, so be sure to check the weather before you go.

Driving: Idyllwild is located about 100 miles east of San Diego. To get there by car, you can take I-8 East to Highway 79 North, then turn onto Highway 371 East. The trip will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes without traffic.

Even though Idyllwild is a mountain town, just about any car will do as long as you don’t plan on doing any off-roading. However, in the fall and winter months it is a real possibility that you’ll need chains, so be sure to check the forecast carefully before you go.

Also, there are a limited number of Tesla charging stations nearby if you are driving a Tesla. Otherwise, if you are driving any other electric car you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of charge to make the trip!

Bus: There is no direct bus service from San Diego to Idyllwild, but you can take the Greyhound bus to Hemet and then transfer to the Riverside Transit Agency’s Route 79 bus, which goes to Idyllwild.

Train: You can also take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train from San Diego to Hemet, and then transfer to the Riverside Transit Agency’s Route 79 bus to Idyllwild.

Flying: The nearest airport to Idyllwild is the Palm Springs International Airport, which is about 35 miles away. From there, you can take a taxi or ride-sharing service to Idyllwild.

Weather in Idyllwild

Idyllwild is close to 6,000 feet in elevation. As a result, the weather in Idyllwild is ‘mountain weather’ – typically cooler and more moderate than the weather in the surrounding lower desert regions, and with a wide range of seasonal variability.

In the summer, temperatures in Idyllwild generally range from the mid-70s to the mid-80s during the day, with cool evenings and overnight lows in the mid-50s, making it a popular summer retreat for people looking to escape the heat.

In the winter, temperatures in Idyllwild can be quite cold, with daytime highs ranging from the mid-40s to the mid-50s and overnight lows often dropping below freezing. The town is also prone to heavy snowfall in the winter months, which is one of the reasons we love it.

Overall, the weather in Idyllwild is characterized by cool, mild temperatures and low humidity, with a wide range of recreational opportunities available throughout the year.

Where to Stay in Idyllwild

There are many options for places to stay in Idyllwild, ranging from budget-friendly hotels and motels to more luxurious vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts.


Idyllwild has a great number of Airbnb properties that are charming and suitable for a variety of budgets. This is our go-to way to find places to stay in Idyllwild – we have fun hopping on the site to explore our options.

There is a wide range, so it’s easy to find a fit no matter what kind of trip you are looking for, from a secluded romantic getaway to a family reunion, and everything in between.

Vacation rentals

There are also many vacation rentals available in Idyllwild, ranging from cozy cottages and cabins to large, luxurious homes. You can find vacation rentals on sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway, but we recommend working with one of the boutique cabin rental management businesses that operate in Idyllwild for the ‘inside scoop’.

Experience Idyllwild has some of the best cabins in Idyllwild under management, including this gorgeous, romantic A-frame (📸: @nancythebeat!

Hotels and motels

There are several hotels and motels in Idyllwild that offer a range of room types, including standard rooms, suites, and cabins. Some popular options include the Idyllwild Inn and the Strawberry Creek Inn.


For those who enjoy the great outdoors, there are several campgrounds in the area surrounding Idyllwild. The Idyllwild Campground and RV Park is a popular option that offers tent and RV sites, as well as cabin rentals.

Bed and breakfasts

Idyllwild has a number of charming bed and breakfasts, such as the Idyllwild Bunkhouse and the Strawberry Creek Inn. The Creekstone was remodeled relatively recently and is getting rave reviews as a more ‘chic’ option for those that would like some luxury during their stay.

Restaurants in Idyllwild

Idyllwild has a lot of great, charming restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops to explore. Here are our favorites:


If you are looking for something a little higher-end, but still very casual and comfortable, you can’t go wrong with Ferro. It gets our vote as the best restaurant in Idyllwild.

La Casita

This little Mexican restaurant has pretty legendary status in Idyllwild, and some of the best crunchy tacos you’ll ever taste! We make it a point to go anytime we are in town.

Idyllwild Brew Pub

Idyllwild Brew Pub has everything you want in a mountain brewpub – beer, dogs, live music, good bar food, and good company. It’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon on the patio with no agenda other than to chill.

Cafe Aroma

Cafe Aroma is consistently voted a top restaurant in Idyllwild. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a charming environment that almost always includes live music.

Alpaca Coffee & Tea

When we’re in the mountains, finding our go-to coffee shop is a must! This relative newcomer has quickly won the coffee-loving hearts of locals and visitors alike. One taste of their coffee or baked goods, and you’ll know why. But if that doesn’t do it, the cute, welcoming family that runs it will win you over for sure!

Things to Do in Idyllwild

Known for its beautiful natural setting and many recreational opportunities. Some of the most popular things to do in Idyllwild include:


Seriously. Pour yourself a coffee, glass of wine, or a cold beer, put on some music, and enjoy the mountain views and fresh air. We’ll sit on a patio for hours and do nothing…something we rarely do in San Diego.


Idyllwild is surrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains, which offer a wide range of hiking trails for people of all skill levels.

Rock climbing

The area around Idyllwild is known for its excellent rock climbing, and there are many routes available for climbers of all abilities.


The area around Idyllwild has many scenic roads and trails that are popular with mountain bikers.


The town is located near several lakes and streams that are stocked with fish, making it a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts. Make sure to get your permits!

Art and culture

Idyllwild is known for its thriving arts scene, and there are many galleries and studios in the town that showcase the work of local artists.

Dining and shopping

Idyllwild has a variety of restaurants, cafes, and shops that offer a range of local and international cuisines and products. We love strolling the ‘downtown’ with no agenda other than popping into shops, restaurants, and wineries.

See you there!

We bet you can see why Idyllwild is one of our favorites! Book a visit to enjoy the beautiful scenery, outdoor activities, fresh mountain air, and laid-back, small-town atmosphere – and it will likely become one of yours, too!

See you there!

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