The San Jacinto Mountains are situated in the southern section of the San Bernardino Mountains. Idyllwild is a small town in the San Jacinto Mountains, east of Los Angeles and above Palm Springs. The quaint town of Idyllwild is set in a forest of pine trees, next to large rock formations. Tahquitz Rock is the large rock formation on a hillside viewed from town. It has a history deeply rooted in the that of rock climbing. It was the early 1930’s when a technical rock climbing group within the Sierra Club began climbing Tahquitz Rock. Young rock climbers, such as Yvon Chouinard, Royal Robbins and Tom Frost, frequented this area. Overall, Tahquitz is a historic destination, scenic and a great spot for adventure activities.
By plane Idyllwild is best reached via the Palm Springs International Airport, about an hour and a half drive from Idyllwild. This airport is a small airport and serves ten airlines and has 100 flights each day. Los Angeles International Airport is another option for getting to Idyllwild. LAX is about a three hour drive from Idyllwild.
From Los Angeles (100 miles): Take the 60 or the 10 to Banning. Exit the 243 to Idyllwild.
From Orange County (93 miles): Take the 91 to the 60, then the 10 to Banning. Exit the 243 to Idyllwild.
From Palm Springs (47 miles): Take the 10 to Banning. Exit the 243 to Idyllwild.
From Palm Desert (47 miles): Take the 111 to the 74. Exit the 243 to Idyllwild.
From San Diego (114 miles): Take the 15 to the 79 South, then the 371 to the 74. Exit the 243 to Idyllwild.
There are good family camping sites in Idyllwild at a few campgrounds including: Stone Creek, Dark Canyon, Marion Mountain, Lake Hemet, Black Mountain, Fern Basin, Idyllwild County Park, and Idyllwild State Park.
Idyllwild County Park is practically in town and has running water, i.e. bathrooms that include coin-operated showers. This campground is walking distance to town, located on Riverside County Playground Road. The Idyllwild Campground is just north of the town of town on Highway 243. This campground has hot showers and flush toilets, as well. A more primitive campground, The Stone Creek Campground, is six miles out of town, and has only pit toilets. Tables and fire rings are in each site. If you are a boulderer, Black Mountain Campground would be a good campground to stay in. This campground has bouldering and some short sport climbs in the area. Black Mountain has pit toilets, tables, and fire rings, but no showers.
Camping, climbing and hiking in Idyllwild is most comfortable from late spring to early fall. During winter months, snow and rain make the area very cold. Summers can bring scorching temperatures, even though the town of Idyllwild is situated between 5,000 and 6,000 feet in elevation. It is wise to check the weather forecast before heading up there, just to be sure you won’t be miserable. But, I have to say, when the weather is good, this place is beautiful. The walk-up to Suicide rocks is in the trees and the bottom of the climbs at Suicide are partly in the shade, so warm weather is a little easier tolerated than you’d expect.
I don’t have personal experience with these hotels, but they are listed online and look good to me.
My experience with the Red Kettle is that all of the locals eat there, including firefighters, always a sign of good food. The wait staff are friendly and you feel the small town feel when eating here. It seems as if many of the patrons are regulars. http://www.redkettleinc.com/
There is nothing like stopping for dinner at La Casita in town after a day of climbing. This Mexican restaurant has great food, indoor and outdoor seating and good service.
Much of Southern California rock climbing first began in Idyllwild. Good weather, good route variety and easy accessibility make this area very attractive. The largest rock formation in Idyllwild is called Tahquitz, but Suicide Rock is a popular climbing area, as well.
To get to the climbing from the town of Idyllwild, take North Circle Drive (Fern Val ley road) through town to where the road ends at Humber Park. This is the park ing area for the trailhead to rock climbing on Taquitz. Begin on the Ernie Maxwell Trail and follow it over Strawberry Creek. Continue 200 yards around a bend and along a trail and look for the non-maintained trail heading up the hillside. For the Suicide approach take the trail across from Fern Valley Road at the first water tanks. Walk down the hillside to the creek, across the creek, and up the paved road. Take a right on Forest Haven Drive, staying straight until it becomes a dirt road. Go to the end of the road and follow the unmaintained trail to the left and follow it up until you get to the base of Suicide Rocks.
The longest routes on Tahquitz are seven or eight pitches long. Nearby Suicide Rocks provide two to three pitch crack and face climbs. Most all of the climbs in Idyllwild require traditional rock climbing gear. The approaches to both climbing areas are steep, but not very long. Each has a trail, but neither are maintained. It takes about thirty minutes to reach the climbs on Suicide and forty minutes to the base of Tahquitz. Bear in mind that the elevation here is about 7000 feet, so it can be more physically demanding than you’d expect, if you live at sea level.
If you are new to climbing and would like a climbing guide, Vertical Adventures offers classes, guided climbs, and private instruction.
There is a bouldering guide featuring many bouldering spots in Idyllwild in print called, Southern California Bouldering Guide, by Craig Fry. A few good areas in- clude Idyllwild County Park, South Ridge, Relativity Boulders, and Black Moun- tain.
In Idyllwild County Park, most of the bouldering is found on the west side of the southern side of the campground, situated on a hillside. To avoid a fee for entering the campground, drive Highway 243 south of town, then take a right on Toll Gate Road at the sign for Isomata Campus. Turn right on Delano Road and drive to the end. Park there and walk north into the campground.
To find South Ridge drive south of town on Highway 243. Make a left on Saun der’s Meadow Road. Turn right on South Ridge until you are driving on a dirt road that takes you to the South Ridge Hiking Trail parking area. Find bouldering problems to the south and to the west.
Relativity Boulders are on private property in Pine Cove. It is important to be respectful when visiting this area, so land owners will continue to allow boulders to access it. To get to Pine Cove, go north on 243 out of town to Pine Cove Road and turn left. The boulders are 50 yards west of a small monument marking the location of where Speed of Light experiments were conducted by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert A Michelson.
Black Mountain boulders are located four miles up Black Mountain Road.
Hiking trails are described on the Idyllwild.com website at this link. http://www.idyllwild.com/trails.html
Information about backpacking near Idyllwild: http://www.idyllwildchamber.com/to_do_backpacking.php
There are a good number of mountain biking trails in Idyllwild. They are Hurkey Creek, Shlebski, Thomas Mountain, Coyote Run, Fobes Ranch, May Valley, Alvin Meadows, Ernie Maxwell Trail, and Sylvan Meadows.
Mountain biking trails in Idyllwild: http://www.idyllwildchamber.com/to_do_biking.php
There is fishing in Lake Hemet and Lake Fulmor. Lake Hemet is stocked with rainbow trout, and occupied by natural channel catfish, big-mouth bass, and bluegill. Trout can be fished out of Lake Fulmor. http://www.idyllwildchamber.com/to_do_fishing.php