Idyllwild: Hikes, Food, Shopping, Lodging and Activities

Idyllwild 1Located in the San Jacinto Mountains, the small town of Idyllwild provides a nice escape from busy mountain towns like Big Bear. Boasting everything from hiking and outdoor activities to shopping and eating, Idyllwild has something to offer everyone. I have been here multiple times, so I decided to collect my must do hikes, food, shopping and activities that I would recommend on a visit to Idyllwild, check them out.

Lodging

Strawberry Inn

My personal favorite place to stay in Idyllwild is the Strawberry Creek Inn. This nine room cabin style bed and breakfast has rooms designed to mimic differing styles from English countryside to modern. While the rooms are fine, the main reason to stay here is the big meeting room they have where you can just sit by the fire with a book, listen to music or indulge in the snacks they make fresh each night.

Strawberry Inn Interior

The staff (Rodney and Ian) are super friendly, and Rodney even graduated from culinary school and put out his own cookbook (meaning you know the food is good). All this to say I spent many nights enjoying flatbread by the fire while catching up on Game of Thrones and the breakfast that greeted me each morning was equally spectacular and included in the price of the room. It is a nice place to stay that I have no problem recommending.

Hiking and Biking

My two favorite hikes in this area are the hike up to Tahquitz Peak and the hike to Suicide Rock. While Suicide rock is easier than Tahquitz Peak, both require being in decent shape as there is a lot of elevation gain in the 6 to 8 miles each requires. I like the Suicide Rock hike as it takes you to a great overlook of Lilly Rock (the big granite rock you can see from downtown Idyllwild) and through a lot of Manzanita bushes.

Lily Rock

The hike to Tahquitz Peak is harder but provides a beautiful vista as well as a fire overlook on top of the massive granite mountain. Both will require at least a half day, but the trailheads can be accessed within 10 minutes of the city center.  If you are looking for a hard hike, I would suggest SoCalHikers San Jacinto summit from Marion Mountain trail which will take you to the top of a 10,000-foot peak but will take all day.

Idyllwild The Hub

If you are into biking, there are a ton of great trails as well from beginner to advanced. Even if you don’t want to go out in the wilderness, you can always rent a bike from The Hub and just ride around the town as well.

Food

In this food section I am specifically talking about all of the great snack options this city has to offer and not the restaurants, that is another section. Like the plethora of art galleries, this town also has a lot of amazing snack shops to offer, here are my favorites.

Grandpa’s House of Jerky

Grandpas Jerky

This small jerky store has everything from gator to kangaroo jerky. While I am not an aficionado, it was still a great place to try something new. The only problem is they do not have samples, so you have to buy what you want to try.

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Honey Bunns & Joe Bakery (Closed now, check out Town Bakery)

Hunny Bunns and Joe bakery

Home of the best sticky bun I have ever had, Honey Bunns is a must stop in Idyllwild. Everything is good here, I sampled the bagels, cookies and cinnamon rolls but the sticky buns were to die for.

Sticky Bun

Higher Grounds

Mile High Coffee House

A great little mountain coffee shop, Higher Grounds has a relaxed atmosphere that feels much like a log cabin. The tables even have checkerboards on them so you can play a game while indulging in a drink. They had a lot of specials while I was there and a mocha with black cherry, Ghirardelli chocolate was amazing. I would easily come here often if I lived in the area.

Coffee and Checkers

Candy Cupboard Candies

Candy Cupboard Candies

This tiny candy shop had a lot of amazing chocolates for someone with a sweet tooth or even someone without. I had the salted caramel with habanero, the sweet, salty and spicy was a super unique experience that I really enjoyed. Try it if you like that type of thing.

Chocolates

Idyll Awhile

Idyll Awhile

A nice little wine bar in the middle of town, Idyll Awhile prides itself on good music and good wine. What they don’t tell you is how good the cheese and fruit board is. That plus a glass of wine is the perfect recipe for a relaxing evening.

Wine and cheese plate

Shopping

Antique Gifts & Collectables

Antique Shop

I loved this little shop at the top of Circle Dr. While it is only open Fri, Sat, and Sun it has a room FULL of fun antiques. The old record collection was especially amazing and I ended up taking home more then I planned.

Antique Shop Idyllwild

Ink Used Books & More (possibly closed as well)

Idyllwild Book Store

I love to read and own old books, so I had a great time browsing this unique bookstore. The best part about it is that they did not stick with the traditional book labelings of nonfiction and fiction and went with areas called “Pure BS” and the best sellers area called “stuff they want you to read.” A fun place to walk around and pick up a book to read.

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Artspresso Gallery

Artspresso Gallery

While there are a ton of art shops in this community, I like my art a little more on the modern side. This shop was perfect for me as it had a lot of really unique pieces. They were outside my price range but not too expensive that I would have felt ripped off for what I was getting. Even if you are not buying something, it is worth a stroll.

Idyllwild Art

Restaurants

Cafe Aroma

Cafe

When you ask anyone in the town where to go for dinner, they will tell you Cafe Aroma. This small, quaint restaurant is always busy (helps it can’t hold more than 20 people) and provides a fine dining experience, at least 15 dollars a person. They have a lot of Italian options and bring you bread with fresh garlic, oil and vinegar as a starter. The restaruant itself is decorated like a small library, a nice place for a romantic meal.

La Bella Montagna

Bella

My other favorite restaurant in Idyllwild is the new La Bella Montagna. This Italian place has a great atmosphere which is cozy but not to cozy like Cafe Aroma. They have amazing Italian food with large portions and a friendly staff. My favorite things here are the bruchetta appetizer and the canoli dessert, both worth trying. So there you have it, my list of things to do in Idyllwild, California. I would love to hear from others what I missed if you have a favorite spot or hike in the area, feel free to leave them in the comments, and if you are going up to visit for the first time plan to have a relaxing weekend.

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Get Directions to Idyllwild

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  • Jeff Hester

    I love the Suicide Rock hike, and Humber Park to Taquitz (they used to hand out “Squirrel Cards” and the fire lookout). For a longer, more challenging hike, I’d add the Marion Mountain trail to Mt. San Jacinto (http://socalhiker.net/2010/06/mt-san-jacinto-via-marion-mountain/).

    And for food? My favorite apres-hike respite is found at Arriba’s. Good Mexican food and a big outdoor deck so you don’t scare off the non-hiking customers.

    • Nice recommendation! I haven’t been to that one before so I will have to check it out next time I am up there!

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  • Great town! My friends own the HUB they are such great people and strong mountain bikers!

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  • Gerry High

    Thanks Josh for the wonderful words about our Artspresso Gallery. We learned about your blog when a woman came to our shop and said the reason she came up was your blog. Please stop in and say hello when your up next. Thanks again.
    Celeste and Gerry

    • No problem happy I can send someone there! I really do enjoy the gallery and will be sure to say hello next time I am in the area!

  • Tiffany Henness

    Thanks for the write up! I’ll be heading out there twice this year. Very helpful. 🙂

    • No problem, I love this small mountain city, hope it helps you find some good stops.

  • Glenn Warren

    Hi Josh! I’m an Idyllwild local. Love your post here — very well done. Thanks for loving the town; truly, there’s a lot to love here. A quick note: where the coffee house photo and write-up are shown (the picture says “Coffee House”), that is actually called Higher Grounds. Mile High Cafe is a nice restaurant in town, though not the one you wrote about there. Best Regards!

    • Thanks for the comment, I have updated the post to include that fix! Let me know if there is anything else I should add!

  • Neil Webster

    Was in Idyllwild this past weekend. Had read your blog and took notes. Friday night my wife and I went to Idyll Awhile. Enjoyed the cheese board and a delightful Covey Run Riesling. The live music was awesome. Saturday morning we hit Higher Grounds for some coffee and walked around town. Found that Honey Bunns & Joe Bakery had permanently closed. However , were delighted to find Town Bakery. The sticky buns awesome, and easily big enough for two people. Town Bakery also serves breakfast, which looked great and is likely the best price in town for breakfast. Found out that Ink Used Books had also closed permanently, but you can find lot’s of books in the antique shops and thrift stores. I located two by Louis L’Amour. I found a great spot for pizza, sandwiches and more at the Idyllwild Pizza Company, really good! A little south of town center on 243 is Tacos Los Gorditos. Great authentic Mexican food, the real deal. We capped off our weekend with a hike on the Ernie Maxwell trail, great scenery. Looking forward to returning to Idyllwild in the future.

    • Thanks for the great comment and the updates. I noted in the post the two locations that you mentioned were closed and your recommendation of Town Bakery. I can’t wait to go back up and visit this spot again myself as well!

  • Rubina Saakyan

    Hi there!

    We are off to Idyllwild! Thanks this helps!! It’s our first time so now I have an idea where to look and make stops 🙂 Wanted to see if you or anyone you know has dog friendly places to go to in Idyllwild ps enjoying your other travel blogs! You’re great

    • Thanks for the comment, it has been a few years since I have been up there so let me know how it is! Unfortunately, I don’t know of any great dog-friendly spots but if you find some let me know and I will add that info to the post